• on August 23, 2017

More Than: Our Popularity

by Daniel Burton

It is a strange world that we live in where things like “the amount of followers we have on social media” dictates a sense of value.  We watch as celebrities become popular on the internet and count their followers as if that is an impressive feat.  We custom tailor our social media posts to ensure we get the maximum number of likes, we ask people for shares, follows, and retweets.  Honestly, I would love to say I am above this, but it is still a personal struggle having installed plugins on the website that allow me to track the number of people that visit a particular page and the highest traffic times.  But, before you get freaked out about that, understand that this is standard for most websites you visit.  The value of our message and to a certain extent ourselves is based on the amount of people we can get to hear and appreciate our message.  Should anything jeopardize our standing in that sense, it needs to go.  Ultimately, though, this messages stands in stark contradiction to the Gospel.

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

Mark 8:34-38, NIV

Following Jesus Christ comes with a great cost.  But, more importantly, it comes with a great reward.  Maintaining the image that the world finds acceptable leads to the forfeiting of our eternal standing with God.  The values of the world and things we are directed to chase and endure are incompatible with the richness of following Christ.  In the end, we all have the same choice to make; which will we follow?  Will we choose to follow the ambitious path of being acceptable to the world, or will we choose to rest at the feet of Jesus, knowing full well our faith and hope is in Him for all eternity?

Faith in Christ is Detrimental To Your Popularity

When it comes to following Christ, the world stands in stark contrast to the path we take.  The things we would have to do to gain popularity with the world usually entail losing our right standing and pursuit of righteousness.  “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19, NIV) One of the less popular promises is the sheer fact that following Jesus means that we will most assuredly be hated by those who don’t.  The worldviews are incompatible for a peaceful coexistence.

How others view us is important but not at the expense of faithfully following Christ. Click To Tweet

How others view us is important but not at the expense of faithfully following Christ.  For however hard it may be to give up popularity with the world, keep in mind what we are gaining.  The offer to follow Jesus is an issue of our life.  We may lose popularity with the world, but we will gain the everlasting love and relationship with the Most High God.

The Plan of God Is Established Since Before You Were Born

The ways God views us goes beyond our popularity or the influence we have, so much so that the plan for our life was sealed and set even before we were born. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5, NIV) Even when we were no one, literally and figuratively, God’s thoughts turned towards us.  The plan of God for our individual lives started before we were born. In no sense were we able to earn it for we were not in existence yet.  This is the depth of God’s love.  God craved a relationship with us out of his infinite love before we were born.

The plan that God offers us to take hold of extends beyond the fleeting finality of life and into an eternity with Him. Click To Tweet

Popularity is incredibly fleeting.  Those who like us one day may not like us another. Followers on social media will one day fade.  We, too, will one day die and become a memory and very few will be remembered in history.  This is the beauty of God’s plan.  While we may fade from history, Jesus seeks to establish our eternity. The plan that God is offers us to take hold of extends beyond the fleeting finality of life and into an eternity with Him. From the beginning of time, God’s plan for us was to give us hope and a future.  The plan of the world will end in our death.  The trade of that Jesus describes in Mark 8, when viewed through the lens of eternity is simple; follow God with every ounce of your being, follow God.

Discussion Questions

  1. What does Jesus mean when he makes the comparison between gaining the world and forfeiting the soul?  What does this look like in our everyday life?  Where does this come up in your day to day?
  2. Why do we crave popularity and likes?  How is popularity and acceptance different than love and commitment?
  3. What is your reaction to Jeremiah 1:5?  How does it feel to know that God has had plans for you before you were born?
  4. How does the love of God supersede the popularity of those around you?
  5. Where do you feel God’s plan is leading you this current year?

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