Joel Osteen - Taking Your Image Off The Throne
I want to talk to you today about Taking Your Image Off The Throne. It’s easy to go through life making decisions based on what people will think. How will this make me look? Will this be impressive? Will this gain me more followers? Will they approve me? When we live image-driven, we can’t be real, we can’t be authentic. We have to hide this weakness or they may think less of us. We have to play up to this person to stay in their favor. We have to drive this, wear this, be seen with these people. We spend so much energy protecting this image we’ve created. There’s nothing wrong with looking good, being successful, carrying yourself with confidence. That’s all healthy. But where it crosses the line is when you become driven by your image. You run everything through the filter of how it’s going to make you look.
Jesus said to the Pharisees (Matthew 23:5), "you do everything for show". You wear these long robes to look better than others. You give in front of people to be impressive. You sit in the best seats, so you’ll be well thought of. None of those things in themselves are bad: to wear nice, to be a giver, to have a good position. The issue was their motives. They were doing it all to be seen, to impress people, to build their ego. The problem with living image-driven is it will wear you out. The pressure of trying to keep up with people, impress your friends, look better than your neighbor, hide how you feel, act like everything’s okay when it’s not. That’s not sustainable.
The reason some people are so stressed, run down, is they have their image on the throne. They’re doing thing to protect how they’re seen. But you need to take your image off the throne, and put God back on the throne. You don’t have to perform. You don’t have to pretend. You don’t have to keep up with your friends. If they only accept you if you perform to their standards, they’re not true friends. It's such a freedom when you can be real, be vulnerable, not worry about what other people think. That’s a treadmill that never stops. It’s a sure way to drain your energy, stop for your creativity, steal your joy. Paul said in Romans 8:29, "we should be conformed to the image of Christ". But I’ve found if you’re obsessed with your image, you can’t be conformed to His image. If you’re always thinking about what people think, "Is this going to be impressive? Will they approve me?" then, you’re not going to become who you were created to be.
Friend of mine works in the entertainment industry. He’s very popular. He has a dynamic personality. He’s seen is strong, talented, successful. In the movies, he plays action heroes. He’s the good guy saving the day. Hosting television shows, he’s so friendly, so likable, big smile. But he told how he became obsessed with his image; what people thought about him, how he looked? He always projected this image of success, strength, being so happy. The problem was: it was all a façade, he was pretending. In real life, he was falling apart. His wife was leaving him, he struggled with an addiction. He didn’t like who he was. But everyday, he would put on that mask, "Gotta make sure I look good today". People would see him on the streets, "Hey, man, I love you. You’re so great in that movie." He’d give them a high five, "Thank you so much." But the whole time, he was thinking, "I’m not great. I’m depressed. I’m hurting. I’m lonely."
He was so obsessed with his image, He couldn’t be real. He wouldn’t let anyone see who he really was. One day, he did what I’m asking us to do. He took off the mask. He quit pretending. He got honest with himself. Got the help he needed. He went to a recovery program and broke the addiction. He got help in his marriage. His wife who had left him, she came back home. Today, they’re happily married with their children. He’s healed. He’s whole. None of this would have happened if he’d kept hiding behind the image he was projecting.
I’m not saying you have to tell people all your issues, announce all your secrets. What I’m saying is: you don’t have to hide. You don’t have to pretend, worried about what people will think. The ones that look like they have it all together, can I tell you? They have issues too. Everyone is dealing with something. There’s no shame in saying, "I need help. I’m not what I look like. I’m struggling. I’m hurting. I’m broken." It takes humility to take your image off the throne, to not worry about what people think, to not live trying to impress, trying to gain their approval. So much better to be real, to be vulnerable.
In the story of the prodigal son, the young man asked his father for his inheritance early. He left home and wasted it all, partying, living wild, making poor decisions. When the money ran out, the only job he could find was working in a hog pen, feeding hogs. He got so desperate, he had to eat the hog food to survive. The scripture says (Luke 15:17-18), "when he came to himself, he said, 'I will arise and go back to my father’s house.'" If he was living image-driven, he would have never gone home. He would have thought, "I’m not going to let anyone see me in this condition, down, dirty, working in a hog pen. I’ve got an image to protect. I want them to think I’m happy, successful, on top of the world." But as long as you’re pretending, as long as you’re wearing a mask, you won’t get the help that you need. Like this young man, you have to come to yourself. Not who you pretend to be. Not the image you’ve created, not who other people think you are.
Second Corinthians 3:18 says, "with unveiled faces we reveal the glory of God." As long as your face is veiled, as long as you’re wearing a mask, you won’t see God’s glory, you won’t see the freedom, the wholeness, the abundance. Why don’t you take off the mask? "Well, Joel, what will people think if I’m not perfect? If I still struggle in this area, if I need help?" You know what they’ll think? They’ll think you’re real, they’ll think you’re brave, they’ll think you’re honest. And sure, some would judge, some may look down on you, but what they think about you doesn’t stop your destiny. Quit worrying about what they think. It’s always going to be someone that doesn’t understand you, that won’t be for you, and tries to make you feel small, but there will be other people God has ordained for you, that will be there to help you, to bring you out of the struggle, to lift you when you’re down, to speak victory when you feel defeat.
When the young man returned home, the father who represents God was there with open arms. He hugged him, kissed him, put a new robe on him, new shoes, gave him the family ring that represents authority. The other brother was kind of jealous of all the attention. He didn’t like this brother being celebrated. When you take off your mask, when you get real, you’re vulnerable, some people not accept you. They may find fault, they like seeing you down so they look better. But your Heavenly Father, the one who matters, he accepts you, he’ll restore you, he’ll put a new robe on you, he’ll help you break the addiction, he’ll deliver you from what’s holding you back, he’ll give you friends that will celebrate you, friends that will be for you.
Yeah, you may have a few walk away, a few that judge you, but you don’t need them in your life. They were just out what you could do for them. True friends, you don’t have to wear a mask. You don’t have to pretend. You don’t have to hope that you can measure up. They accept you for who you are, not for how you look, how you perform, who you know.
I like this phrase I heard, "What you think about me is none of my business." People can think anything they want. It’s a free world. But your part is to make it none of your business. You don’t have time to worry about everyone’s opinion of you. You have a destiny to fulfill. You have an assignment to accomplish. It’s not going to happen if you’re image-driven, if you’re making decisions based on other people’s opinions, how will this make me look? Truth is: no matter how hard we try, someone is going to judge, someone is going to talk about you, someone’s not going to like you. You can spend all your time trying to win them over, performing perfectly, doing whatever they please, but it will never enough. Don’t waste another day trying to get their approval. You don’t need them to validate you; Almighty God has already approved you.
Pastor, friend of mine, has a teenage daughter. She got pregnant when she was 15, and he was so upset. He felt like he had failed as a parent. He’s a good man. He’s a great ministry. He came to me with tears in his eyes, tell me about it. He was so concerned about how I would respond, and what I think less of him. But I’ve learned to not judge people. Everyone is on a journey. The mercy you show others is the mercy that will be shown back to you. When you’re tempted look down on someone, "I can’t believe they did that. I can’t believe he still struggles in that area", just remember, if it was not for the grace of God, that could be you. It wasn’t just your own strength, just your own choices, it was the mercy of God keeping it from you.
He was very appreciative of the grace that I showed him, but he was still concerned about what people were going to think, and how it was going to look, and who was going to start talking. I told what I’m telling you: You can’t control all of that. If you live trying to protect your image, keep everyone happy, hoping they’ll understand, then you’re going to be frustrated. Life happens to us all. You don’t have to explain yourself to everyone. You don’t have to convince people to try to be for you. The ones that are judgmental won’t show you any mercy. You can be sure they have issues too. They have things they’re dealing with that they’re not telling you about. There’s no shame in being open and honest. The enemy would love for us all to hide behind mask, go around pretending, acting like we’re perfect, making sure nobody sees our flaws, projecting this image that we can’t live up to.
Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:2, "we refuse to wear mask and play games. We keep everything out in the open, the whole truth on display." Do you need to take off a mask today? Do you need to quit pretending, hiding what you need to deal with? Like the Pharisees, doing things for show, trying to create this image of who you are, instead of just being who you are? How many people are living for this image? "This is who I want you to see me as: someone greater, smarter, prettier, more popular", when the truth is: who God made you to be is the best you. You don’t need the image, just be you. You’re made in the image of God. You already have the best image. You don’t need to pretend. You don’t need to do things for show. Live to please people. Having their approval is overrated. It doesn’t move you toward your destiny. Be confident in who God made you to be.
This is where Saul missed it. He was the first king of Israel. He was tall, handsome, he looked like a king. God chose him from obscurity. Didn’t come from a prominent family, wasn't raised in wealth and influence, suddenly, he was thrust into a position that he never dreamed possible. He started out good, doing what God asked him to do, but over time he made the mistake that’s easy to make. He started letting what people thought, how he would be accepted influence his decisions. 1 Samuel 16, God gave him specific instructions to wipe out all of the Amalekites. Not to spare anyone or anything - the leaders, the animals, the flocks, the supplies, but to destroy them all. He went and attacked, he obeyed that part, but instead of destroying everything, he spared the king, he kept the best cattle, the best sheep, all the supplies.
The next day, the prophet Samuel showed up. Saul greeted him, said so excitedly, "I did what the lord commanded. We won the victory." Samuel said, "if you did what he commanded, why do I hear those sheep? Why do I see those cattle?" Saul said, "oh come on, Samuel. I just kept a few so our people could enjoy them. I didn’t destroy the supplies, we can use them in the future. Besides, some of these sheep, we’re going to take and sacrifice them to God." Started making all these excuses, all these reasons why he didn’t do it. Samuel said, "Saul, obedience is much better than sacrifice." Verse 24, Saul finally admitted why he didn’t fully obey. He said, "I did not follow God’s commands for I was afraid to the people, and instead, did what they demanded."
How many of us are like Saul? We know God has told us to do something, we feel that impression down in here, but we have to please the people. Someone may not understand, they may think less of us, they may leave us out of their group. Saul’s attitude was, "I have to perform for my popularity, to keep my followers, my friends, have to do what they want, impress, pretend, hide, I have to keep this image of." The problem with living image-driven is: you can’t please God and please people all of the time. Sometimes, God will ask you to do something that’s not popular, that people don’t understand, that your friends don’t accept, that cause coworkers to look down on you. "You mean, you won’t go party after work? You think you’re too good for us, don’t you?" If you’re image-driven, you’ll say, "No, I’ll go, I don’t want you to think less of me." But if you’re by your purpose, you’ll say "No, thanks. You’ll have to go without me. I have a destiny to fulfill." You’ll be more interested in pleasing God than in pleasing people.
Because Saul was a people pleaser, because he wouldn’t fully obey, he lost the kingdom. What could have Saul become if he had not lived image-driven, worried about what people think, trying to impress, to perform, having to pretend to win people over. None of that moves you forward. Be driven by your purpose. Be more concerned about how God sees you than how people see you. He’s the one that matters.
When my father went to be with the lord and I stepped up to pastor the church, there were a lot of people telling me which direction to go, and who I should become. They were good people, they loved me, but one wanted me to go this way and another that way, another take the church this way. There were so many voices that I was confused. I thought "I don’t even know who I am." When you’re always trying to please people, you can lose who you are. My personality type is "I want people to accept me. I want them to like me." I had to do what I’m asking us to do. I got quiet before God. When I searched my heart, I knew what he was leading me to do. The problem was: it was not what some of them wanted me to do. I had to decide: am I going to be who they want me to be? Or am I going to be who God wants me to be?
I had to disappoint a few people in order to not disappoint God. Some of them looked down on me, few criticized, couple left the church, said I would never make it, but I think it’s turned out okay. It’s better to please God than to please people. Don’t let squeeze you into their mold. Take your image off the throne. What other people want you to be, having to perform to keep their friendship, pretend to stay popular, impress to be like - that’s too much pressure to live under. It’s hard to be something you’re not. It’s hard to keep everyone happy, wear different mask, pretending, depending on who you with. You know what’s easy? Being you, being real being vulnerable. What makes it complicated is when we put our image on the throne instead of having God on the throne.
When we’re obsessed with our image, so much time and energy is spent trying to please others, trying to look good. We end up like the Pharisees doing things for show. "Let me impress them, this will make me more popular." When the truth is: doing what God’s asking you to do, being who he made you to be, that’s where the is, that’s where the anointing is, that’s where the power is. When you take off the mask and live as the authentic you, he’ll shine down his favor, take you further than you’ve ever dreamed.
Saul was rejected as the king. Samuel chose a young man named David to be the next king. One difference between Saul and David is: David wasn’t image-driven. He didn’t spend his time worried about what other people thought, trying to please everyone. His focus was on fulfilling his purpose. One time, the Ark of the Covenant, was a large box that represented where God lived, it had been taken from the Israelites. They’ve been trying to get it back for months. Finally, David was able to recover it. He brought it back to Jerusalem.
It was a big celebration. The scripture says (2 Samuel 6:14), "David danced before the Lord with all of his might." There’s great shouting, trumpets blowing, music playing. Right in the middle of it all there’s David, putting Michael Jackson to shame, dancing, celebrating, worshiping, praising. Now, David was this respected, influential leader. He could have thought, "I need to be more reserved, proper, and sophisticated. I can’t let these people see me show an emotions, praising with all my might. They may think I go to Lakewood, that I’m one of those happy, joyful, victorious people."
But David didn’t have his image on the throne. He didn’t run his worship through a filter of what people would think. When he saw the goodness of God, even though he was the king, he didn’t hold back. What he didn’t know was his wife, this was King Saul’s daughter, she was watching him dancing, praising, showing all this emotion, and she was offended. She looked at him in scorn, disgusted. When David got home, she let him have it. She said, "what were you doing out there dancing like a fool, showing your legs? Don’t you know you’re the king? You have an image to withhold? You’re supposed to be prim, proper reserved."
That was the mold she was trying to put David in. David said in effect, "I love you, but I wasn’t dancing unto you, I was dancing unto my God. I was thanking him for the great mercy, the great favor that he shown me." He went on to say (2 Samuel 6:21), "I’m willing to look like a fool to express the goodness of God in my life." David was saying, "you may look down on me, but that’s okay. My image is not on the throne. God is on the throne. I’m not going to be who people want me to be, I’m going to be, who God wants me to be."
Notice the difference between King Saul and King David: Saul was a people-pleaser, David was a God-pleaser. Saul had his image on the throne, David had God the throne. Saul was driven by his image, David was driven by his purpose. Don’t be a Saul and miss your destiny, be a David. And like with David, sure, there will be people that try to put you in their box, convince you to be who they want you to be. If you’re not strong, if you’re focused on having people approve you, you live to impress them, you’ll end up letting their image of you become a reality.
And sometimes it not our own images, it’s other people’s images. Your friend wants you to be this, your cousin wants you to be that, your neighbor wants you to be this other. Be respectful, listen to advice, but don’t let anyone talk you out of what God put in your heart. You have a responsibility to become who he created you to be. When you come to the end of the life, he’s not going to say, "why weren’t you more like your cousin? Why weren’t you more like your co-worker? Why weren’t you more like your friend?" He’s going to say, "why weren’t you who I created you to be? Why did you let people squeeze you into their mold? Why did you live pretending, wearing mask, hiding when you needed help, acting like everything was okay?" Take the image down, and step up to who you were created to be.
Few years ago, a minister I know called me. He’s much older than I am, he’s very well respected, and very influential. And he’s very strong and very opinionated. He started telling me how to use my influence, what I needed to do, and where I needed to change, and how if I didn’t do it this way, it wasn’t going to be right. I’m very nice, I’m very kind, but when it comes to my destiny, what I believe God has called me to do, I’m very strong. As hard as he came at me, as forceful, as certain as the authority, I went back at him with that same authority. I was respectful, but I told him, "when I come to the end of my life, I’m not going to answer to you. What your me does not bear witness with my spirit. I know what God has called me to do. I'mma run my race with purpose, with integrity, with compassion."
If my image was on the throne, I wouldn’t be worried, "Was he going to think about me? What if he doesn’t approve me?" Some of these situations are test. Are you going to live to please others? Or are you going to live to please God? I don’t mean to never take advice, to be disrespectful, but you have to be strong when it comes to other people putting their demands on you, trying to squeeze you into their mold. You can hear from God about your life more than any other person. God is not going to tell someone else everything about your destiny. Others may confirm it, they may encourage you, but the Holy Spirit lives in you, he’s your guide, your counselor, your helper. Trust what you’re hearing on the inside.
In the scripture, three Hebrew teenagers wouldn’t bow down to the king’s golden idol, and he’s going to have them thrown into a furnace. The idol is described as a golden image. It was actually an image of King Nebuchadnezzar. It was a physical thing, but I believe there’s a spiritual principle. The teenagers wouldn’t bow down to an image. How many of us today are bowing down to an image? The image we’ve created, what we project, what we want people to see? Or maybe it’s the image others have created, squeezed into their mold? It’s time to stop bowing down to that image.
Like Paul said, we’re not playing games. We’re not pretending. We’re taking off the mask. That’s too much pressure. The reason some people are run down, worn out, not enjoying life, is they have this image to keep up. You have to be five different people: one for your neighbor, one for your spouse, one for your friends, trying to please everyone, keep them happy. Do yourself a favor: take your image off the throne, and put God back on the throne. Quit bowing down to that image. If you’ll do this, I believe and declare: weights are going to lift off of you. You’re going to live freer, happier, more fulfilled, and you’re going to become all you were created to be, in Jesus name. If you receive it, can you say amen?