Youtube, arguably, is mankind’s most groundbreaking discovery in the study of effectively wasting time. Sometimes referred to as “The Vortex,” Youtube contains the potential to render ineffective the world’s most learned minds. The world of Youtube can be a terrifying place. But, occasionally and in moderation, Youtube is good for a laugh.
Such is the case with one of the current trends. By searching this blog post’s title in Youtube, you can find a list of videos that strategically insert John Cena, a WWE superstar, into every conceivable moment in pop culture history (give or take). John Cena, for reasons unknown to me, has become a name that stands out among the rest, and the online world is bringing him great glory. People find inserting him into random situations hilarious, so they continue to throw him into everything from tv shows to prank phone calls, sharing Youtube videos galore in the process. People praise what they love.
In Philippians, Paul, who loves Jesus, points to the glory of Christ as he writes,
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Here, Paul notes Jesus’ humility, urging his followers to walk with the same humility. Paul goes on to write that Jesus’ humble sacrifice and obedience led to his high exaltation and glory. God exalted his name above every name because his is the only name worthy of exalting.
I love this truth. Jesus Christ is Lord, and no other name will ever compare to his. No matter how famous John Cena may become, there will always be a name he won’t surpass. Granted, I don’t think anyone seriously believes that John Cena is more important than Jesus, and I doubt Cena is trying to make a bigger name for himself than that of Christ. But I think we as followers can easily get tripped up as we try to promote the names we love.
Take John Calvin, for instance. Calvin was a major player in church history, his work in the Reformation still echoing down to today’s writing and preaching. I did a research paper on Calvin not long ago, and I grew to love his devotion to the Word of God and his passion for truth and doctrine. He, like all Christians, was not without error, but God used him greatly. As I was researching Calvin, I was really impressed with how humble he was concerning his death. One source I read stated that, “His wish was to be buried at an unknown place without witnesses or ceremony in the belief that the glory of God should not be overshadowed by honoring people” (see the bottom of this post for the full citation). Calvin recognized the preeminence of Jesus’ name, and he was willing for himself to be forgotten if Jesus would therefore be lifted higher. This guy understood humility.
Fast forward a few years. I first heard about Calvinism in college. I began listening to men and women who claimed that title, but I didn’t know much about the man behind the name. Of course, Calvinism isn’t strictly tied to Calvin’s teachings; modern understandings of the term relate more to the work of the Synod of Dort and other progressions of the original works. But, as Calvin’s name was still in play, I grew to think of Calvin as a legend, a theological giant. I began to imagine that Calvin’s word must be law, that his understanding of Scripture must be superior to all others. Then I researched Calvin for that paper recently, and I found something a bit surprising: he was just an ordinary guy. Sure, he made a massive impact on theology, and his devotion to truth is a major inspiration. But he also had some massive faults (I’m thinking specifically of the Servetus incident). As I read from Calvin’s life and work, I recognized that there are great lessons to be learned there, but I also recognized the danger in immortalizing men. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I’d put more stock in Calvin than was right. I’d moved beyond healthy respect, and I was beginning to idolize the words of a man who wished to serve the Lord and pass away silently. And Calvin isn’t the only case of this. I’ve idolized John Piper, Matt Chandler, C. S. Lewis, A. W. Tozer, and a number of other ministers. With each of them, I’ve lost focus on their message for their delivery, their Lord for their work.
Of course, there is much to be gained from faithful leaders. I’m not against learning from brothers and sisters in the faith. What I’m trying point out is how easily I (and, I assume, we) can slip into sin, letting helpful ministers become unhealthy idols. I’m trying to call myself back to a sincere devotion to the Lord Jesus above any other name. As Paul pointed out in 1 Corinthians, such ministers are only servants; Christ is the focus. I want to learn from great men and women of faith without praising them more than is right. As we seek to walk faithfully through life, let us remember that neither John Calvin nor John Cena can be the name above all names in our hearts, no matter how worthy of respect they may be. That title is reserved for only one, and we would do well to keep him ever before our eyes, following his example above all other models.
Quotation by: Alexandre Ganoczy. Translated by Jeff Bach. “Calvin, John” in The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation. Volume 1. Edited by Hans J. Hillerbrand (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1996), 237.