What Would Jesus Say to... Part 1
What Would Jesus Say to Britney Spears?
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
November 3, 2002
Britney Spears was born on December 2, 1981
to proud parents Jamie and Lynn Spears.
Growing up, she appeared at local dance venues and church choirs. She
knew from the beginning that she wanted to perform. At the ripe old age
of 8, she auditioned for The Mickey Mouse Club, but was turned down
because she was too you. So off to New York young Britney went to study
performing arts and star in the lead role in the off-Broadway
She eventually re-auditioned for The Mickey Mouse Club at the age of 11
and was accepted, appearing on the show for two years. After leaving
the show, she began to pursue her solo music career. At the age of 15
she was invited to performed in front of 10 representatives from Jive
Records and was signed immediately.
Her first album “Baby One More Time” was released on January 12, 1999
just after her 17th Birthday, and debuted at the #1 spot on the
Billboard charts. It never left the top ten for a full year, selling
over 11 million copies in that year. The album contained not just one
but four hit singles. The album went platinum 12 times over, making
Britney the youngest artist ever to achieve this.
Her second album was released in May of 2000 entitled, “Oops!... I Did
It Again”. And oops, she did it again. It had more sales in the first
week than any other female artist in history – over 1.3 million copies.
Her third album simply titled “Britney” was released about a year ago
in November of 2001 and didn’t sell quite as well as her first two
albums. But it was still good enough to shoot it straight to the top of
Even if you don’t follow music and never turn on the TV, you have
probably heard of Britney Spears. And if you don’t recognize her name,
then you’d recognize her music. You can’t go anyplace without hearing
it playing in the background. In fact, while we were bowling last night
I noticed one of her songs come on.
Her songs have included such hits as:
- Baby, One More Time
- (You Drive Me) Crazy
- Oops!... I Did It Again
- Don’t Let Me Be the Last To Know
- I’m A Slave For You
- I’m Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman
She has won almost every award she could be eligible for, including:
- Best Female Solo Artist
- Best Dancer
- Best Female Video
- Viewers’ Choice Video Award
- Album Artist of the Year
She has performed at:
- the 2001 Superbowl
- The 1999, 2000 and 2001 Video Music Awards
- The 2001 and 2002 American Music Awards
- The 1999 MTV Video Music awards
- The 2001 Billboard Music Awards
- And everyplace else, it would appear.
She even sang with Michael Jackson at the Michael Jackson Tribute
Concert this past year.
She hosted the 2001 American Music Awards, has had several TV specials
of her own, has written two books, and this year starred in her first
In 2001 she signed an endorsement deal to do commercials with Pepsi,
with the first one debuting during the Academy Awards. The deal will
net her upwards of 10 millions dollars US.
She has appeared on the cover of:
- Entertainment Weekly
- Rolling Stone
- Teen People
- TV Guide
- and many, many more…
She’s been named by…
- Teen People as one of the 21 hottest
starts under 21
- E! as one of the top 20 entertainers
- People Magazine as one of the 50 most
- and this year by Forbes as the number 1
most powerful celebrity in the world
Not bad for someone who celebrates her 21st
birthday next month.
So the question is, what would Jesus say to someone like Britney? What
I want to do over the next few minutes is share with you five things
that I think Jesus would say to Britney Spears, and see how they apply
to us, too. You can use the notes provided in your Sunrise Update to
What Would Jesus Say to Britney
Britney, I made you special.
You’re unique. You have talents. You have charisma. You have abilities
and a persona that nobody else has. I made you special. In fact, I made
you in my image.
Genesis 1:27 (NLT)
So God created people in his own image; God
patterned them after himself; male and female he created them.
Britney, God made you. He loves you. You are his masterpiece.
What does it mean to be created in the image of God? It means a lot of
things, but let me highlight three of them this morning.
- You have the ability to choose.
Britney has a song out called “I’m a Slave 4 U”. I think Jesus might
say, “Britney, you don’t have to be a slave to anyone or anything. You
don’t have to conform yourself to the pressures and expectations of the
music industry. You don’t have to fit into a mold to be a marketable
commodity. You are made in the image of God. You can think and reason
for yourself. You can be your own person. You are special, you are made
in the image of God.”
- You crave relationships.
Right now, Britney is supposedly taking a six-month break. She’s still
doing a few things here and there, but she’s trying to limit the things
she’s involved in for a while. In the current issue of Rolling Stone
Magazine, this is what she says about things that might be encouraging
her to take this break. She says:
“It's really weird, because you're a star, and everything is about you
all the time – and I'm tired of that. I want to have a different
perspective. And not have all my family and all the people I know
working for me. I want to hang out with my friends and be a nobody.
Because that's how you become re-inspired. Do you understand what I'm
~ Britney Spears
God Himself craves relationships. I don’t want to get into this too
much this morning, but we know God as the triune God, the Trinity.
There is only one God, but He exists as three persons: God the Father,
Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. So God Himself lives within
relationship. And he created us to live within a relationship with Him
and with each other. So it’s natural for us to want to know God. And
it’s natural for us to want to have friends that we can just hang out
with and be ourselves around. That’s the way God designed it. We’re
created in His image.
- You are creative.
Genesis 1:1 (NLT)
In the beginning God created the heavens
and the earth.
John 1:1-3 (NLT)
In the beginning the Word already
existed. He was with God, and he was God. He was in the beginning with
God. He created everything there is. Nothing exists that he didn't make.
God Himself is creative. And Britney, since she is created in the image
of God, is creative in her music, in her dance moves, in her concerts.
Whether you enjoy what she does or not, she is creative. Now, I’m not
saying that Jesus would claim original artist status for songs on
Britney’s albums. How Britney uses her creativity is part of her
ability to choose. It’s her free will.
But I think Jesus would claim credit for giving Britney the desire and
ability to creatively express herself. Britney claims that she knew at
an early age that she needed to make music. And I think that desire and
whatever gifts and abilities she has came from God.
You know what? God made you special, too. He made you in His image.
That’s why you can choose your own priorities and make your own
decisions. That’s why you crave to know God. And that’s why you express
yourself in a way that is unique to you. God made you, and He’s pleased
Britney, I admire some of the standards you set early in your career.
When Britney first exploded on the scene, a big part of her fan-base
was with pre-teen girls. And for a while there Britney maintained a
pretty wholesome image. She recognized that there are worse things than
being seen as an innocent girl next door.
In fact, the whole Christian community applauded her when she publicly
stated that she was a virgin and intended to remain so until she was
married. I think that was a terrific standard and a great example to
set for others. I don’t know if she’s been able to stick to that or
not, and she’s chosen not to talk about it anymore. But I hope she’s
been successful at keeping that standard.
Another singer who held to the same standard was Jessica Simpson. She
grew up in a Christian home with Christian standards. And she it made
no secret that she intended to remain a virgin until she got married.
Three months ago she reaffirmed that on Entertainment Tonight and as
far as I know she stuck to it until she got married last weekend.
Another standard Britney set dealt with the lyrics of her songs. When
Britney decided to record the song “Born to Make You Happy” she
requested that the writers change the lyrics. The original version
contained sexually explicit lyrics, and Britney felt she was too young
to be singing it. So at least for her first couple CDs you can read the
lyrics and not find anything too offensive, and parents applauded her
Britney has also set high standards of excellence for herself. She has
a great work ethic. She wants to do the best she can do. And I think we
can learn something from that. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to do
things with excellence.
I think Jesus would be pleased with these standards.
But these standards can be hard to maintain, especially in the high
pressure entertainment industry. It can be hard for all of us. What are
some standards that you may have set for yourself? What values have you
decided are important to you? How are you doing?
Britney, when you falter, you can always come back again.
Throughout her career, Britney has often referred to her faith in God.
She comes from a Southern Baptist background and got her start singing
In the message this morning, this is probably the point I had the
biggest struggle with. Why? Because I don’t know Britney Spears. I’ve
never met her, probably never will. So I’m not really in a position to
judge whether she’s fallen away from her faith in God or not. From what
I see and hear, it appears that she has at least faltered in her
convictions or lowered her standards.
It’s no secret that she’s trying to shake the good girl image she had
when she started. And to do that, she’s recording some pretty racy
songs and shooting some revealing and provocative videos. Her
photo-shoots with magazines deal more and more with her sexuality. In
fact, when putting together PowerPoint for this message I had a hard
time finding pictures that I thought would be appropriate. Plus, the
language she’s using in interviews and in conversations is becoming
According to YM Magazine, she has a fake ID so she can drink and get
into bars. And last year she was caught giving some of the paparazzi
the finger. Knowing the paparazzi, they probably deserved something,
but giving someone the finger is a crude and obscene thing in our
Let me ask you something. How many of you know at least one person
named Peter? Put up your hand. One of my best friends is named Peter.
In fact, let me give you 10 seconds to think of as many Peter’s as you
can. Just to yourself, think about how many Peter’s you know.
How many thought of at least 2 Peters? 3? 4...
In the Bible, Peter was a disciple who followed Jesus. When Jesus was
arrested and was taken away to be tried and eventually executed on a
cross, Peter followed at a distance. He loved Jesus, and didn’t want to
let the people take Jesus away. But he was also scared of what might
happen to him if people found out he was a friend of Jesus’. In fact,
when confronted by someone who thought they recognized Peter as one of
the disciples, Peter denied he even knew Jesus and then ran away and
cried because he had denied even knowing the most important person in
After the resurrection, Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him. Three times
Jesus asked this, and all three times Peter assured Jesus that he did.
And Jesus forgave him, and trusted him to be a leader in the early
Let me ask you another question. How many of you know at least one
person named Judas?
Not as popular a name, is it? Why? Both Peter and Judas betrayed Jesus.
Both of them betrayed their relationship with Him. What’s the
difference? After Judas betrayed Jesus and handed him over to be
arrested and eventually killed, Judas was overcome with guilt and went
out and committed suicide. Peter was also overcome with guilt, but he
came back to Jesus and was forgiven.
No matter what Britney may do, and no matter what you and I may do, we
can always come back to God and receive His forgiveness. Now, that
doesn’t mean we have free license to do whatever we want because Jesus
will forgive us anyway. But it does mean that when we mess up, when we
make mistakes, when we do things that hurt and betray Jesus, He’s not
going to give up on us. And if we’ll return to Him, he wants to offer
us forgiveness and restore our relationship with Him.
It would have been easy this morning to talk only about the things that
Britney has done that are questionable. It would have been easy for us
to jump on the bandwagon and condemn Britney for some of her apparent
conduct. But I think Jesus would rather encourage her and remind her of
the incredible opportunity she has to influence an entire generation. I
think He would say…
Britney, remember to set an example.
Through her music and now through her movies and interviews, Britney
has an indescribable opportunity to influence lives and make an impact.
And it’s up to her what kind of impact she’ll make.
In her first starring role in film, Britney's character was supposed to
swear. Britney ordered that the curse words be taken out so not to
tarnish her image for the younger pre-teen viewers of her movie. That
was a good thing. Now, Britney has been know to swear and has been
caught on tape using curse words. When I was preparing this message I
read a number of article and interviews, and was surprised by the
language she uses at times. But at least in this instance she
recognized her responsibility as a role model and honoured it.
Three years ago Britney decided to use her fame and influence for
something good… the Britney Spears Foundation. This foundation has one
goal… to help children. They do this through a variety of methods,
including the annual Britney Spears Camp for the Performing Arts and
fun-filled Playrooms they create for sick kids on extended hospital
Those are good things Britney Spears is doing, and a great example for
people to follow.
But, she doesn’t always set a good example. One of the criticisms
Britney faces is that she lip-syncs a lot of her songs. In other words,
in her concerts her singing is not always live. Often a recording of
her singing is played and she just dances around the stage mimicking
I think that is an analogy for the dangers that Britney faces and the
dangers we all face. How often do we “lip-sync” our faith? Britney has
often talked about her faith in God. She even thanks God in the jackets
of her CDs. She has publicly stated that she and the band pray before
their concerts. But how often does it seem that what we see doesn’t
line up with those values?
In Matthew 15 Jesus described the Pharisees this way:
Matthew 15:8-9 (NLT)
“These people honor me with their lips, but
their hearts are far away. Their worship is a farce, for they replace
God's commands with their own man-made teachings.”
These Pharisees, these religious leaders, honoured God with their lips,
but their hearts were far from Him. They lip-synced their faith.
It’s easy for us to point fingers at the Pharisees and at Britney and
accuse them of lip-syncing their faith, but how often do we fall into
the same traps? How hard is it to live for God when it might cost us a
business deal? How hard is it to live by the standards we’ve set for
ourselves when “all our friends are doing this or doing that”? How hard
is it to be faithful in our relationship with Jesus when it might hurt
our relationship with someone else?
We need to remember that we all set an example. I heard once that even
the most introverted of us will impact 10,000 people in the run of a
lifetime. So let’s be careful not to lip-sync. We all have a
responsibility to live what we say we believe. Otherwise, we’re just
hypocrites. And there are enough of those around already.
Matthew 5:14-16 (NLT);
You are the light of the world—like a city
on a mountain, glowing in the night for all to see. Don't hide your
light under a basket! Instead, put it on a stand and let it shine for
all. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so
that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
Let your light shine.
Britney, you need to perform for an audience of One.
I read one place that the goal Britney set for herself was to have
successful albums, tour the world, and become a legend like Madonna.
I read quotes from Britney where she said;
“It’s retarded, but I’m a people pleaser.”
“I’ll always care what people think about me.”
I think Jesus might say, “Britney, I know you idolize Madonna. I know
you want to be like her and have a legendary career like she has had. I
know you want to be famous and perform for huge crowds of people and
have your name in lights. I know you want to be a household name. And I
know you want this to last over your whole career and not just be a
passing fad. But when it comes right down to it, you need to perform
for an audience of One… for Me.”
There’s a saying that goes something like this:
Thoroughbreds run their own race. They don’t look at anyone else or
what anyone else is doing. They run their own race.
What matters most is not how popular we are. What matters most is not
how many people sing our praises. What matters most is not even what
kind of reputation we have. What matters most is how close we are to
One of our Core Values here at Sunrise is Intimacy with God. We’re not
here to perform for each other and show each other how good we are. We
are here to connect with God. When compared to that, nothing else
matters. Britney needs to connect with God, you need to connect with
God, I need to connect with God. We all need to keep it in perspective
that when it comes right down to it, we all perform for an audience of
of you may have faltered in your relationship with God and want to be