I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think. –Romans 12:3
Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.
It is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.
–2 Corinthians 10:18
It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor than to divide the spoil with the proud.
Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.
Ever since I was in fifth grade (1998), I wanted to be a famous rock star. I’ve never really thought of that until now, but its sadly true…the famous aspect of it. I know that it was about that time that I got interested in music:–especially grunge and alternative rock and heavy metal. Bands like Nirvana, The Smashing Pumpkins, and harder bands like Metallica. I really liked the music. Then my mom got me an electric guitar: a red Ibanez GRX40. I didn’t really play it that much for several years, because the guitar lessons guy just taught me to pick “Ode to Joy,” and it was very boring and simple stuff. I really wanted to play the kind of music I liked, such as Green Day or something. I really just liked listening to my albums or the radio, but sometimes I would goof around with my guitar.
By the time I was in 9th grade, I had just become a Christian, and was now getting into secular nu metal bands like Soulfly, Korn, Coal Chamber, Limp Bizkit, etc–sadly, it took me years to stop listening to the ungodly and profane lyrics of these bands. Only sometimes do I still listen to Soulfly, only the songs that don’t cuss, and mainly its for the guitar aspect. Max Cavalera–a totally unsaved heathen–and the frontman for Sepultura and Soulfly–became my guitar hero in high school and college. At the same time, I was a growing Christian and trying to follow Jesus Christ. Max Cavalera and Jesus Christ were my two biggest influences in high school. One represented the flesh, I suppose, and the other the Spirit. I developed my ability to play Max’s songs with what were called “guitar tabs”:–this was not learning to play guitar in the classical sense, but just for fun, just for metal…it was all power chords, based on mashing the top two strings all along the fret board, with a special tuning called “Drop D.” I listened to Christian rock and metal bands too, such as P.O.D. and Living Sacrifice, but to me, they were not as good as Max’s stuff musically; I even got a black Warlock guitar with EMG pickups for a strong metal sustain sound…just like Max. So, in high school, I really developed a love for metal. Just the sound of the music got into my soul and helped me express my frustrations: much like blues music helps down-and-out black people express their frustrations. My family didn’t understand it, especially the screaming aspect; and they thought it was annoying. But it really was an outlet for me: and I think that was healthy.
Somewhere in the background, however, I had this picture in my mind of me performing in front of thousands of people with my metal band: and being famous. It’s not a thought that I would have too much; sometimes when I would be practicing in my room; or maybe when I was laying down to go to sleep…I would imagine myself standing on a stage in front of a crowd, and everyone cheering me on. My interest in metal and Cavalera’s songs was strictly musical; I was entertained and occupied with it; I locked myself in my room for hours playing it; imitating it; and making my own kind of metal songs like that. Really, I just liked playing the music. But…in the background of my passion for that music, I admit, there was this ungodly idea: wow…what if I made it big? What if became a famous musician? Wouldn’t that be cool? I could become a famous rock musician for Christ, like Living Sacrifice at Cornerstone, or like P.O.D., and be a real witness for Christ. Now I know how to label that thought: VANITY.
When I was a junior in high school, a guy in my computer class named R. J. recruited me for his band. He was a drummer; and we would play together after school at his house. We practiced Soulfly’s song “Tribe” a lot; and got pretty good at it, and some girls came by to listen to us once; we tried recruiting a bassist, and there were a few takers, but nobody permanent. Then the issue of lyrics came up. I wanted to write metal songs about the Christian life; but R. J. labeled himself as more of a “Deist”; and I was disheartened by this, because I never thought it through this far. I was doing a sort of “friendship evangelism” thing on him, but I realized at that point, that I would have to compromise my standards if I continued with this. Then R. J. told me that he just had sex for the first time with some girl, and I knew this was all wrong; so, I told him thanks for the opportunity, but I had to step out. He was sad to see me go, but he understood. If I had continued with R. J. long enough, I think we could have become a local metal band based around NC State University, but I would have totally lost my witness for Christ through compromise of my newfound Biblical morals. Afterwards, I advertised for members of a Christian metal band, but had no success in finding anybody. I found one drummer, but he was too committed to the Norma Jean-style (around 2002) to want to play my Cavalera-style music. It was the fear of Hell that kept me from going back to R. J. and pursuing my personal dream of having a metal band.
In the midst of this, people at church would tell me occasionally that God was calling me to be a pastor; and I came to believe it, because as I read the Bible and as I listened to my pastor on Sundays, I developed a feeling of wanting to preach. But the subject matter I wanted to preach on would be salvation from Hell, the Day of Judgment, and other such things impressed on my mind by the Holy Spirit as I read the Scriptures. What I later discovered was called “holiness preaching” in college, and demonstrated by Leonard Ravenhill on sermonindex.net. Ravenhill confirmed the calling of God in my heart to be a preacher of righteousness ever before I knew what it looked like. I would read Colossians 3:5-10, and I knew I wanted to be a pastor or preacher when I grew up: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” In the latter 2 years of my time at UNC Pembroke, 2006-2008, I sadly discovered that many pastors treat “holiness preaching” in much the same way that R. J. treated my lyrics: with disdain. This is due to a carnal trend in ministry called the Seeker-Sensitive Movement, which has been going on since the 1980s.
Thanks be to God that He gave me a fiancé, Rebekah (now my wife), who had the foresight about the corrupt and morally compromising practices of denominational church leaders, because of a bad experience she just had at her former college. I was given a glimpse at the carnal and ungodly inner workings of suave, yet unrighteous men, and how they run things when confronted by a preacher of righteousness: they fire him. The past seven years have been a real test of my integrity. And, so far, by the grace of God, I have been passing the test. At times I have wanted to give up, but I know by faith that someday I will be a pastor, and be able to preach things like Colossians 3:5-10 and not get fired for it.
The first time I was tempted with vanity, or the desire to be famous, it was with the secular metal band in high school.
The second time I was tempted with vanity, was in 2009, when Mark Virkler endorsed my e-book How to Experience God, and Destiny Image Publishers wanted to publish it–a Christian “vanity publisher,” on the condition that I travel from church to church selling my book, and letting it be sold in the churches, their bookstores, etc; and that I pay them $3,000 for printing.
The third time I was tempted with vanity, was recently with a Youth Pastor job where I could have had the praises of men, but I would not have been allowed to preach on Hell, repentance, or holiness.
When you are tempted with vanity–the desire to be famous–know that it will always cost you something moral; your conscience will be compromised somewhere, and God will frown on it. But if you stay on the straight and narrow path, then you can rest in the promise of Scripture: “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever” (Daniel 12:3). Rather than be a rock star, I want to be a righteous star: a saint.
Years I spent in vanity and pride,
Caring not my Lord was crucified,
Knowing not it was for me He died
Mercy there was great, and grace was free;
Pardon there was multiplied to me;
There my burdened soul found liberty
By God’s Word at last my sin I learned;
Then I trembled at the Law I’d spurned,
Till my guilty soul imploring turned
–“At Calvary,” by William Newell