“God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
John Calvin famously said, “The human heart is a perpetual factory of idols.” If the heart is a factory of idols, then that makes social media the perfect shop display for men to showcase their idols. Never has man’s insatiable desire for the praise of others been more evident than with the dawn of the social media age.
But the temptation of caving into this pervasive motive is no less real for the believer than for the unbeliever. In fact, seeking status has become something of a permissible sin in some spheres of the church, so long as one seeks status among other Christians. Brothers and sisters, we must reorient our thinking.
Scripture totally condemns all forms of pride, and even a cursory reading of Proverbs will remind us that God despises the arrogance of men. The pursuit of “Christian stardom,” which is an oxymoron, is a covetous pursuit and an idolatrous endeavor. It is antithetical to true worship, and every one of us must be on guard against this tendency.
Before diving into this subject, we should make a distinction. It is one thing to seek to influence others for the glory of God, and it is another thing to seek to be famous for the glory of self. It is one thing to advertise a new book or product, and it is another thing to advertise self as the product. Discernment is required when dealing with this subject.
He Must Increase and So Must I
This is the unattainable goal of the aspiring Christian celebrity: He must increase, and so must I. But we cannot worship God while seeking to make a name for ourselves. The attempt to do so is the attempt to serve two masters. We will either seek the pleasure of God, or we will seek the pleasure of man. Choose your master.
We know what John the Baptist truly said: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). John the Baptist understood that Christ’s magnification was inseparable from his own minimization. To attempt to exalt Christ and self at the same time is like attempting to inhale and exhale at the same time. It cannot be done. Worshiping Christ not only means acknowledging Christ’s supremacy; it means acknowledging our inferiority.
Viewing the Kingdom as a Competitive Space
Who is the greatest? That was the subject of argument in the ninth chapter of Luke’s Gospel. Despite having heard Jesus preach about denying self and following Him, the disciples quibbled about this matter from the selfishness of their hearts.
But Jesus offers a profound correction:
“But Jesus, knowing what they were thinking in their heart, took a child and stood him by His side, and said to them, ‘Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me; for the one who is least among all of you, this is the one who is great’” (Luke 9:47-48).
The kingdom of God is not a rat race. There is no rank of who’s who in the church. Heaven does not measure us by follower counts and book deals. His kingdom is called The Upside-Down Kingdom for a reason. The economics of His kingdom are entirely different than the economics of the world’s kingdom (Matt. 5:1-12).
Christians do not compete with one another; they prefer one another before themselves. Christians do not seek the trophies of men but a crown from Christ. Christians do not seek center stage; they seek to play whatever role to which God has appointed them.
Exploiting the Cross
Consider the fact that one can do “Christian” activities for their own glory. This phenomenon often happens when believers seek status with men. That which is supposed to be an act of worship aimed at heaven’s throne now becomes a hollow deed done in the name of Christ for the sake of self, as with the Pharisees (Matt. 6:1-18). When such becomes the case, God is no longer an end but a means to an end. We exploit the gospel of Christ to grow our own platforms.
In this way, seeking prominence in the church is really worse than seeking prominence in the pagan world. The pagans do not hide the fact that they seek fame and notoriety, yet when we participate in ego-centered self-promotion, we tend to hypocritically hide our motives behind our seemingly good deeds. We attempt to justify our wrong motives with our right actions, and ironically, our wrong motives nullify our actions altogether.
Thomas Watson speaks pointedly to this serious issue: “Ambitious men may sacrifice their lives to purchase fame; these are the devil’s martyrs.”
The cross is not a hoist for us to lift ourselves. The cross of Christ beautifully depicts the ego-crushing reality that the supreme, sinless Son of God died for the redemption of our unworthy, sinful souls. Consider your calling (1 Cor. 1:26-31).
What can we do to combat this cancerous culture in our personal lives? Much can be said, but I will submit three Biblical antidotes.
Rest in God’s Sovereignty
Remember that God is the playwright. The Lord sets up and takes down (Dan. 2:21). To be popular is not a sin, but seeking popularity is another story. God’s decision for your role in His plan is the right decision and a kind decision. Be content. Trust Him.
Resolve to Mortify the Sin of Self-Promotion
Offering true worship is worth relinquishing every accolade and accomplishment from this world if such actions are required. One smile from our Redeemer exceedingly outweighs all the frowns of man. Therefore, do everything necessary to kill the sin of selfish ambition.
If deleting apps, temporarily stepping away from potential avenues of self-promotion, or saying no to certain opportunities is what you need to kill this sin, do not hesitate. Christ is worthy of your wholehearted worship, and if God has revealed this sin in your life, repent, confess, and turn to Christ. He is faithful and just to forgive and cleanse (1 John 1:9).
Return to the Joy and Fulfillment of Christ
Our innate desire for acceptance is not wrong when rightly sought. The pursuit of acceptance only becomes sinful when we seek acceptance in the wrong places. If you are in Christ, you are accepted, beloved, and adopted by the Father because of what Christ has done for you. You have living water springing up within you. Friends, the God of all creation calls you sons and daughters. Rejoice! The glories of knowing and worshiping Christ far exceed any book deals, blue check marks, podcast invites, or conference gigs.
There is no ladder climbing in the kingdom of God. There is no place for self-promotion in His church. Such pursuits distort our motives and rob God of true worship. Seek the pleasure of your Creator. Drink from the sufficiency of Christ. Make His name known.
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In the last seven years, Nick White has fulfilled the roles of a church planting pastor in Boston, Massachusetts, and a senior pastor in New Hampshire. He possesses a Bachelor of Theology degree from a small Baptist college and is also certified in Expository Preaching by The Academy for Expository Preaching in Dallas, Texas. Nick is happily married to Chelsea and is a father to two daughters, Grace and Abigail.