Lessons from the Life and Death of Michael Jackson

Saturday, 15 August 2009 15:36

Communion Message July 19, 2009 by Richard Beadle - Song Leader and Broadcast Journailst in the Carribean

1 John 2:15-17

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”

When someone dies, it brings their life, death and eternal future into sharp focus; we think about God’s expectations, Jesus sacrifice for us, and whether or not that life was pleasing to God. It also calls us to stop in our tracks and examine our own lives, and figure out what we can learn from theirs.

This has been my experience since my greatest musical icon died a few weeks ago. I’m pretty sure I’m not Michael Jackson’s “biggest fan ever”… but I’ve been called that. I’ve never listened too closely to the many rumors about him, because in spite of all the craziness and misery surrounding his personal life, I respected and loved him for his music, his talent, his incredible performances, his ground-breaking, record-breaking videos and record sales. I collect his records, videos, concerts, photos – I study his dance moves and performances… I have performed, and many times still reminisce about performing as MJ.

My “Smooth Criminal” performance was described by some of my friends as “the most believable MJ imitation ever!” done while I lived in Jamaica, for an ICC Teen Ministry concert back in 1990. A few years later, at a mid-week service “Chariot Ride”, many people were visibly moved when I performed “Man in the Mirror” after our evangelist Sam Manning called our friends to make a decision to become disciples of Jesus.

So a few weeks ago – on that fateful Tuesday, my wife and I sat in our car wait to begin a dance session we teach, and my heart stopped when I got the call from Jamaica. It was my younger sister Janice, who is a disciple and together with her husband lead a family group in Jamaica. She had heard our older sister Suzanne scream out – and went to see what was wrong, and saw the news report – “Michael Jackson is dead”.

The first thing she did was call me. First thing I did was call my friend and discipling partner, our evangelist Kirk. Kirk quickly checked CNN… “No,” he reported “he’s not dead. But they say he’s in a coma, in hospital”. I called back home, spoke to my sister, started to breathe, and quietly started to pray as I lead my dance class.

One hour later, the phone rang again, another call from Jamaica. This time, it was my best friend Andrew Smith. Most people know Andrew as the reggae entertainer ABIJAH. I know him as a MJ music collector and fan. “Yes Richie… it’s confirmed – MJ is dead.”

That evening, and many others after that, I’ve cried – following the news reports, watching the memorial service a few Sundays ago, checking up on the investigations and allegations into the drugs that may have killed him, like everyone else.

But as a Christian – my thought process has to go deeper. What can I learn from his life, that can help me in my own – really help me be more committed to God?

In Luke chapter 4, when Jesus was tempted by the devil, in verse 5-7 it says:

The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, "I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours."

That is what Satan promised Jesus over 2000 years ago, and it is what he still promises us today. He promises us the whole world, all its riches, all the money and success, all the fame, and the fans, all the comforts and luxuries… all the things that we desire at many levels. The problem is, our desires for many of these things, can encourage us to live contrary to God’s expectation of our lives. They encourage us to “bow down and worship Satan”.

The question that Jesus faced is the same one we ask ourselves today… “Is it worth it?”

Jesus knew the answer to that, so he tells us in Luke chapter 9:

Luke 9:25-26

“What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”

It certainly wasn’t worth it for Michael Jackson. Soon after his death, for the first time ever, they released a video of the infamous 1985 Pepsi commercial footage, where Michael’s hair caught on fire during the filming. In front of 3,000 fans, you can see him dancing down the stairs, for almost ten seconds, not knowing his hair is literally engulfed in flames, before anyone rushes to help him. Before being rushed to the hospital – you can see the entire middle of his scalp, bloody and red from second and third degree burns.

The accident seems to have resulted in a life of intense pain, and possibly lead to an addiction to pain-killers, that may have eventually taken his life.

Imagine being the greatest pop star the world has ever seem, called the greatest dancer in the world – and not being able to dance, sing or perform without intense pain – having the whole world at your feet, and living day to day longing for relief? He had certainly gained the whole world, but even though he made millions, it came at too high a price.

As Jesus said: “What good is it…if - to gain the whole world, you have to lose or forfeit your very self?”

Before the accident and the world-wide, cult-like fame, Michael had tried to be different. He grew up as a devout Jehovah’s Witness, and even into the early to mid-80’s, would go door to door with his sister Latoya and other Jehovah’s Witness, but in disguise, trying to share what he believed in, trying to balance his religious beliefs with the double-life of an entertainer – and the king of pop would reportedly get many doors slammed in his face. However, after “Thriller”, and then the accident – this godly focus would all but disappear from Michael’s life.

But I also believe he probably had many opportunities to turn back to God. I remember one specifically… back in the 1990’s another Michael Jackson rumor would spread like wild-fire around the world. But it didn’t make it to the tabloids – but just within the ICC. A brother had invited Michael Jackson to bible talk. Disciples around the world were asked to pray that he would come, that he would study the bible – that maybe, he would take the opportunity to become a disciple of Jesus. He didn’t.

How much different his legacy might have been – we can’t know. But there are a few lessons we can learn.

  1. Firstly, are we yielding to the temptations to go after the world – and putting ourselves in danger of losing or forfeiting our very selves?

  1. Secondly, have we become too ashamed of Jesus and his words – to open our mouths and give everyone a chance to hear the gospel of Jesus love… whether it’s the man or woman in the bus beside us, our neighbors and friends, our co-workers, or people in high positions of power, or famous and popular people who come into our lives?

Remember that both those things are condemned by Jesus: going after the world, and forsaking him; and, being too ashamed to talk about him. If so, God will be ashamed of us.

The central theme of the “good news” is that Jesus died for everyone… and everyone deserves a chance to hear the gospel that has been entrusted to us, through our acceptance of Jesus sacrifice on the cross.

Let us remember, and recommit ourselves to honor Jesus sacrifice every day, by making a difference in these areas. Too often, we have seen the devastating result of what Satan promises, many times over. But we also know how good the gospel is - what Jesus has to offer – the true promises of God evident in our lives! So let us encourage one another, and everyone else… to take up our cross daily, and follow him.posted by Jerry Maday

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