When I was growing up, television still showed cigarette commercials. In the midst of those, though, there was one public service spot that was particularly memorable. It showed scenes of a loving father and his little boy, around five years old or so. As the dad painted the house on his tall ladder, his little boy slapped on a few brushstrokes from his smaller one. As the dad drove the convertible and stuck out his hand to indicate a turn, the little boy did the same with his toy steering wheel and a hand out his side of the car. When dad washed the car with the garden hose, the son squirted water on the wheels with a water gun and wiped it with a rag. Each scene ended with a voiceover that said, “Like father, like son,” with playful music in the background. And when they took a walk and sat under a tree, the father took out a pack of cigarettes, lit one, and then carelessly laid the pack between himself and the boy. And, of course, the son picked up the cigarettes, looked into the pack, then looked at his father, while the voiceover said, “Like father, like son? Think about it.”
Of course with our great level of sophistication today, that spot seems quaint and old fashioned, but it was so powerful that it ran from September 1967 until 1982. That’s 15 years of “Like father, like son.” Why did it resonate so powerfully? Because it made people stop smoking? Probably not, though it might have made some parents think twice before laying a pack of cigarettes within easy reach of a five-year-old. No, its power was in its root message: “What the father does, the son will do.”
Jesus said something remarkably similar in John 5:19. While being attacked yet again by the Pharisees for healing on the Sabbath, He said: “I assure you: the Son is not able to do anything on His own, but only what He sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, the Son also does these things in the same way.” In that one incredible statement, Jesus essentially whisked us out of the audience and brought us behind the scenes of His entire earthly ministry. People had been following Him by the droves for years, watching Him do miraculous and wondrous works. But suddenly, Jesus does here what no good magician does- He revealed His secret. That’s because He wasn’t a magician, He was a Son! Jesus never intended to wow the crowds with great feats of prestidigitation, He was trying to model for us what would soon be available to us through the Holy Spirit. He was showing us what sons and daughters do! They live out of intimate relationship with God Himself.
This, dear reader, is the antidote to Christian Celebrity Syndrome. In our orphan hearts, not knowing or believing that we can have the same power of God that we see in our spiritual heroes, we follow them around like a suckerfish on a shark. We have birthed and nurtured a cult of spiritual stalkers, hoping that if we follow a certain “anointed one” around to enough conferences and get prayed for enough times, that maybe at the next conference they will call us out of the audience and proceed to give us their mantle, Elijah to Elisha, right there in front of God and everybody, and finally, we will have the recognition we deserve. And yet they never seem to notice us, except to seem a little nervous because they see us everywhere they go.
This must stop, and the revelation of your identity as a son or daughter of God is the answer. When you see that your value is in who you are, not what you do, you will find that you no longer have the need to impress anyone. When the only person whose smile matters is the Father, you will find that there is really only one star on the stage– Jesus, the Only Begotten Son.