Better Than Fame and Celebrity
Better Than Fame and Celebrity
In a survey of millennials, 50% of young adults said that a major life goal was to become famous. In the past people wanted to be famous for doing something. Now, celebrity has become an end in itself. It has attained god-like characteristics. Not only do people want to be famous, they idolise those who have achieved celebrity status. This widespread interest in famous individuals has been described as ‘the cult of celebrity’.
Fame to the ambitious is like salt water to the thirsty. The more you get, the more you want. Madonna, who at one stage was probably the most famous woman on the planet, said, ‘I won’t be happy until I am as famous as God.’
Celebrity and fame are only a pale reflection of true glory. ‘Glory’ is used in the Bible to denote the manifestation of God’s presence. Glory is one of the most common words in the Bible. God’s ‘glory’ means his importance, reputation, majesty and honour.
Perhaps it is not surprising that as society moves away from worshipping the glory of God, it turns towards the worship of the ‘glory’ of celebrity and fame. We are called to worship God’s glory and reflect it, however imperfectly, in our lives.
Seek God’s gloryPsalm 26:1-12
David writes, ‘God, I love living with you: your house glows with your glory’ (v.8, MSG). King David was a ‘celebrity’ in his own right (see 1 Samuel 18:7). Yet he did not seek glory for himself, rather he led the people in giving glory to God: ‘My feet stand on level ground; in the great congregation I will praise the Lord’ (Psalm 26:12).
If you want to reflect the Lord’s glory, follow David’s example. Try to lead a blameless life (v.1). Trust in the Lord without wavering (v.1b). Try to keep your heart and mind pure (v.2). Be guided by God’s love and truth (v.3). Avoid getting too close to people who might bring you down: ‘tricksters’; ‘thugs’; ‘gangsters’; ‘double-dealers’ (vv.4–5, MSG).
Although David says, ‘I lead a blameless life’ (v.11a), he goes on to say, ‘Deliver me and be merciful to me’ (v.11b). He must have been conscious that, although he was trying to live a sinless life, he did not succeed and needed God’s redemption and mercy. Rather than claiming to be sinless, David is declaring that he is living a life of ‘integrity’ (vv.1,11, AMP), that is sincere and wholehearted for God.
Other kings at the time might have expected the people to worship them at the ‘cult of their celebrity’. But David was a worshipper of the Lord. He writes, ‘I... go about your altar, Lord, proclaiming aloud your praise and telling of all your wonderful deeds. Lord I love the house where you live, the place where your glory dwells’ (vv.6–8).
For the people of God in the Old Testament, the temple in Jerusalem was the place where God’s glory could be found. But the glory of God is supremely revealed in Jesus (John 1:14). Jesus is the new temple (2:10,21).
Further, the amazing truth is that God’s glory also dwells in all people who are trusting in Jesus. Both individually (see 1 Corinthians 6:19) and together (see 1 Corinthians 3:16), followers of Jesus are seen as God’s temple in whom the Spirit dwells: ‘Being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit’ (Ephesians 2:22).
Lord, thank you that your glory dwells among your people. I will proclaim aloud your praise and tell of all your wonderful deeds.
Reflect Jesus’ gloryMark 9:2-32
Peter, James and John caught a glimpse of the glory of God when Jesus was transfigured before them. The transfiguration came, not coincidentally, just after Jesus had asked the disciples, ‘Who do people say I am?’ (8:27). It revealed Jesus’ divine nature as the Son of God.
The curtain of time was drawn aside and the disciples saw Moses (representing the Law) and Elijah (representing the prophets) clearly alive and alongside Jesus. The disciples would have known all about Moses and Elijah. In the Judaic world, these men were the ultimate celebrities. But God is saying that Jesus is even greater than these two revered men.
When the disciples looked again, they saw only Jesus (9:8). Peter, James and John saw Jesus as we will see him when he comes again, with his glory revealed.
The word used for ‘transfigured’ is the same word as is translated ‘transformed’ when the apostle Paul writes, ‘And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed [transfigured] into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit’ (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Celebrity today is often about fame and seeking publicity. Jesus did not seek publicity; rather the opposite. He ‘swore them to secrecy. “Don’t tell a soul what you saw”’ (Mark 9:9, MSG).
Celebrity is also often associated with wealth and a luxurious lifestyle. In the life of Jesus, suffering and glory are inextricably linked. The moment he comes down from the mountain he explains to his disciples that ‘the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected’ (v.12). Jesus’ ‘glory’ was of a different kind to that which the world expects, then and now.
One thing Jesus does share with today’s ‘celebrities’ is that he drew a crowd (v.14): ‘As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him’ (v.15).
The disciples who had not gone up the mountain did not have the faith necessary to heal the boy with an evil spirit. Jesus said, ‘Everything is possible for him who believes’ (v.23). The world says, ‘I need to see first, then I will believe.’ Jesus says, ‘Believe first, then you will see.’ St Augustine wrote, ‘Faith is to believe what we do not see. The reward of faith is to see what we believe.’
The boy’s father exclaims a tension we all feel from time to time: ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’ (v.24).
Jesus heals the boy without any great ceremony or even, in this case, the laying on of hands. There is no drawn out battle but the simple power of the command of Jesus. The battle is already won through his prayer life (v.29). Again, we have seen a glimpse of the glory of Jesus.
Jesus goes straight on to speak about his suffering: ‘The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise’ (v.31).
Lord, help me today to spend time in your presence and to reflect your glory in everything I do and say.
Await an eternity of gloryExodus 39:1-40:38
David caught a glimpse of God’s glory when he entered the temple. The disciples caught a glimpse of God’s glory when Jesus was transfigured before them. When you gather together with the people of God you should get a glimpse of God’s glory.
When they had finished building the tabernacle (‘The Dwelling’, MSG) (which precedes the temple) the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting and ‘the Glory of God filled The Dwelling’ (40:34, MSG). Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled upon it and ‘the Glory of God filled The Dwelling’ (v.35, MSG).
The Glory of God was tangibly powerful at that moment. It could actually be seen ‘settling’ in the tabernacle. The Hebrew word for settling (shekinah) is sometimes used today to describe a particularly powerful or tangible sense of the presence and glory of God.
The cloud above the tabernacle, which represented the glory of God, accompanied the people of God in their travels and led them by day and by night (vv.36–38) as the Holy Spirit of God now leads you. This is the Old Testament background to the cloud in the story of the transfiguration. What Peter, James and John experienced on that occasion was a glimpse of the glory of the Lord (Mark 9:7).
Through ‘the gospel that displays the glory of Christ’ (2 Corinthians 4:4) you can get a glimpse of the glory of God. ‘For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ’ (v.6).
It is only a glimpse and one day you will see the reality itself. The apostle Paul said that this is why you should not lose heart even when you are going through difficult times: ‘For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all’ (v.17).
Lord, thank you that you are preparing us for the moment when you will reveal your full glory. Help me to see the struggles of life in the perspective of ‘an eternal glory that far outweighs them all’.
This psalm is attributed to David. I was interested that verse 1 says, ‘I have led a blameless life; I have trusted in the Lord and have not faltered.’ I wish I could say the same, but I know my life is far from blameless and there have been lots of wavers along the way. The trouble is we know that David’s life wasn’t blameless. Either he was doing very well and then got himself in a real mess, or he wasn’t doing quite as well as he thought he was. In verse 11 he says, ‘Be merciful to me.’ David knew he needed God’s mercy, and I do too.
Verse of the Day
‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’ (Mark 9:24)
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