Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? - Matthew 16: 24-26 (ESV)
It seems that every 6 months or so pop star Justin Bieber says the name of Jesus and the Christian establishment fawns as if they were adoring fans. Anyone who dares to say differently or point out the obvious is deemed a hater, or judgmental, or a Pharisee. Please realize beloved that it is only out of concern for the actual salvation of Justin Bieber that I would bring it up at all. If I did not care, I would let it all go. I would just smile and wink like seemingly the majority of Christianity who likes the idea of having someone so prominently in the world say the name of Christ more than they are with making sure he actually is saved. This is also not meant to blame Justin Bieber. When your church is Hillsong you get a watered down, carnality friendly, social media gospel. You get sound bite Christianity. That is to say Scripture stripped of all of its proper context so that it is easy to swallow and easier to regurgitate. We have all heard it before. Everything is "I love Jesus and I hate religion. God is all about relationship not being pushy. It is not about do this and don't do that. He first loved us! If God be for us then who can be against us!" The problem is that is not the gospel. That cannot actually save anyone. Maybe it will make people feel better in this life. Maybe it has the power to make us feel invincible down here but it is not the true Gospel which is the only power unto the salvation of all men, including pop stars.
The latest interview Bieber has given was to Complex magazine. It was a revealing interview painting a picture of a young man who has been through a lot personally. Broken hearts, lost loves, betrayed by people he trusted. I am sure most can relate and it is interesting to note that 100 million dollars does not exempt you from the pain of this life. Since the article came out I have seen Christian leaders hail Mr. Bieber and his pronouncement of faith and love for Jesus. Since this was about the third such time however, I was admittedly skeptical enough to actually read the interview that it appears many skipped. Saying you love Jesus does not mean you even know Him beloved. Remember the Bible say you can believe in vain:
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, - 1Corinthians 15: 1-4 (ESV)
I want us to pay close attention to these verses beloved because Paul does not only explain that we can place our faith in the wrong gospel but that we can stand in that wrong gospel believing it is right. It can look similar, sound pious, and have all the sound bites we like but it is believing in vain. The word vain is where we get vanity from. It is essentially believing in ourselves and a gospel that fits us instead of the real Gospel. Paul even provides for us the brief outline of the real Gospel. That Christ died for our sins in accordance with what the Bible says, was buried and rose on the third day. Is this what Justin has been taught? Let's turn to the interview:
"There's a lot of really weird stuff going on at churches. You ever flicked on a channel and a late-night church show is on? Sometimes it's like, "You better do this or you gon' die and you gon' burn in hell!" And you're like, I don't want anything to do with this. I'm the same way. I'm not religious. I, personally, love Jesus and that was my salvation. I want to share what I'm going through and what I'm feeling and I think it shouldn't be ostracized. I think that everybody should get their chance to share what they're doing or where their journey is headed, whether they're straight or gay or what they believe in. We're in a place now in 2015 where people have gotta be open-minded. I actually feel better and more free now that I know what I can do and what I can't do. My voice, I'm not gonna let it not be heard anymore. I'm gonna use my voice for a reason. I think that people, as soon as they start hearing me saying I'm a Christian, they're like, "Whoa Justin, back up, take a step back." Also, I do not want to shove this down anyone's throat. I just wanna honestly live like Jesus. Not be Jesus--I could never--I don't want that to come across weird. He created a pretty awesome template of how to love people and how to be gracious and kind. If you believe it, he died for our sins. Sometimes when I don't feel like doing something, but I know it's right, I remember, I'm pretty sure Jesus didn't feel like going to the cross and dying so that we don't have to feel what we should have to feel. What Jesus did when he came to the cross was basically say, "You don't have to feel any of that stuff." We could take out all of our insecurities, we could take away all of the hurt, all the pain, all the fear, all the trauma. That doesn't need to be there. So all this healing that you're trying to do, it's unnecessary. We have the greatest healer of all and his name is Jesus Christ. And he really heals. This is it. It's time that we all share our voice. Whatever you believe. Share it. I'm at a point where I'm not going to hold this in." - Justin Bieber in Complex Interview
Where do we start? Jesus did not die on the cross so we wouldn't have to feel insecure or to take away our pain, fear and trauma. He died for our sins otherwise we would have been going to hell, the very place Justin dismisses at the start of this quote. This is the time we all share our voice no matter what we believe? Where is that in the Bible? If the inclusionary language of everyone being on their own journey sounds familiar that is because it is exactly how his pastor, Carl Lentz responds when asked why he will not comment on sin issues. Are we getting this today? This is how Justin Bieber has been taught. Love Jesus, say you love Jesus, don't worry about doing what He says. I know many at this point will object because he is "young in the faith", so maybe he doesn't understand doctrine. Fair enough. I do not expect a new born to be able to walk. We all should know what we were saved from however. We should know that there is only one journey we all are on and that journey ends in hell unless we place our saving faith in Jesus Christ. Well, perhaps he can at least look back humbly upon the mistakes he had made in the past. I am sure we all think back and thank God for delivering us from ourselves. What about Justin?
"Honestly, I think the pissing in the bucket wasn't as big as people made it seem. Just because, dude, think about it. Imagine, you hear that f*cking Ozzy Osbourne pisses backstage. Immediately, "Oh, he's a freaking rock star!" As soon as I do it, "He's being a brat." Dude, what is bratty about pissing in a bucket? I had to go piss--we all have to pee. The bathroom was like on the other side, and the dude in the club was like, "Just pee here." He told me I could and it wasn't like I was being disrespectful. I feel like that was pretty ostracizing--bigger than it should've been." - Justin Bieber in Complex Interview
For those who may be unaware, after the last time he told the world he loved Jesus he was caught backstage at a club urinating into a mop bucket and not caring too much that people objected. I am sorry but this does not sound like someone understands the fundamentals of right versus wrong let alone the humility that should come from being a follower of Jesus. To feel as if you were the victim for your choice to publicly urinate after you had made a public declaration of faith in Christ worries me at the least. But in the effort to not appear unfair, let's see if he at least understands the nature of the relationship we should have with our Lord and Savior:
"It's like a girlfriend. If I have an awesome, bomb girlfriend, I'm gonna wanna show her off and go around and tell people my girl is the sh*t. I'm not gonna cheat on her because she's the best. It's like with God: The whole thing with religion is you present yourself holy and bring your offerings so that God can bless you, when the whole point of the relationship [should be], "No, I'm gonna do this because he loves me. I'm gonna do this because he's amazing and not because [I] have to, [but] because [I] want to." That's the whole thing with religion that's been throwing off the people. It's not a "have to." It should be just like a personal relationship. Like, "Hey, I love you because you first loved me. - Justin Bieber in Complex Interview
Beloved this is a staggeringly poor understanding of the relationship we are to have with Jesus. It is however what is taught throughout the "friend of God" theologies in this country. That God is your buddy. Or your wingman. Or your hot-bomb girlfriend that's the "#*#@." All the while demonizing what actual relationship is by throwing religion out. God instituted religion. Jesus bemoaned all the time why do we bother to call Him Lord and then not do what He says. It is not the "whole religion" thing that throws people off. It is the "whole sin" thing. God is not amazing because He is our girlfriend. He is amazing because He died for our sins. Beloved, this is not an exercise in picking on Justin Bieber. I feel badly for him because I fear he has been sold a false gospel and a false christ. A gospel of "me" and a hipster christ who makes us feel so much better about ourselves. No more insecurities. No more worries. Don't worry, be happy. Well who wouldn't want to talk about that god? A God who makes everything about you. About who you are. About what you have to carry. About what you sacrifice"
" I feel invincible like, nothing is bigger than God. If God's for me, who can be against me? That's helped me in a lot of situations where I feel judged. It gives you confidence and you can carry yourself in a cool way, but it's not cocky. It's a confidence that's a godly confidence. That's what I always want. I wanna be loved for being a good dude and for being confident in myself because I know who I am and what I carry and what I sacrifice." - Justin Bieber in Complex Interview
Rock star Jesus understands that confidence is sexy and image is everything. I chose to end with this quote for a reason beloved. We are not good dudes. We are very bad dudes, which is why we need Jesus. This should not be the quote from someone who has put their faith in Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. Unless you have confused Christ with your valet. Or your publicist. Or your girlfriend. When we realize what Calvary really is we should be left wanting to know who He is, what He carried, and the reality of His sacrifice.
I dare say I doubt that Justin Bieber has heard the key verses preached at Hillsong NY. That is because they are not very user friendly. They do not break down into trite sound bites that make us sound pious while we explain how that time when we pissed in the mop bucket at the club was really just blown out of proportion. Or the time we were arrested for DUI. Or the time we were caught drag racing. Not when Jesus came to take all of our insecurities away and make us reflect profoundly on our own sacrifices.
Unfair say you? Realize that all of the events I just listed occurred AFTER he made a public declaration for Jesus. There was even a rumor that Hillsong was going to let him preach. Before you say this time is different please realize that all of the quotes seen here were taken from the SAME interview that everyone has been so giddy about this past week. I understand the draw. To have someone with that kind of international platform in the world profess Christ? That would be awesome. I am just saying that maybe we ought to be more concerned with Justin than how we can leverage his celebrity. We are all on that journey beloved but there are only two destinations. There is a broad path and a narrow way. I am sure we all pray that Justin has found the narrow way but when I read this interview, I am not a belieber yet.