Whitney Houston – More Than One Reason to Mourn

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I agree with so many others that Whitney Houston had an uncommon measure of God-given talent. In today’s world of media hype and shallow stardom, she stands as one of the few who possessed a truly magnificent voice. Most would be envious of her success, but more and more we are seeing that in the shadows of fame linger deadly forces intent on ensaring the unsuspecting.

I spent some time the other night watching Nightline’s tribute to Whitney and a number of interviews highlighted the sadness of the situation. I couldn’t help but feel as though they weren’t just talking about Houston’s untimely death, but also the precipitous fall of her amazing career in conjunction with the downward spiral of her personal life. It is indeed all very sad, but I also see an underlying sense of tragedy that I just can’t seem to shake.

How is it that Whitney Houston could cut her teeth singing Gospel music, but never fully comprehend the power of the Gospel as it gives freedom over the power of sin? I don’t say this to be critical of Houston herself, for by no means is she alone. (Elvis Pressley quickly comes to mind.)

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The temptations that accompany fame can be intense, but the roots of these types of problems go far deeper than the natural eye perceives. I honestly don’t think that most church attenders truly understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In a very real sense this means that the typical pastor also struggles to comprehend and communicate the transformational power of the Gospel. Of course, we all have much to learn, myself included, but as a whole it seems to me that we can do much better than we are.

A transformed life begins with a clear understanding of the Gospel of grace:

“. . . because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth . . . .” Colossians 1:5-6 (NASB)

An incomplete or errant understanding of grace creates so many of our problems. Some churches emphasize grace as the unmerited favor of God, and that it is. But grace is also the God-given life-force enabling us to do all that God calls us to do, including living in victory over the power of sin. This doesn’t mean that genuine Christians will be perfect, but that sin becomes a self-centered choice rather than an enslaving compulsion.

Photo by Mark Strozier - CC BY 2.0

The Gospel of grace is not to be equated with a Get Out of Jail Free card enabling us to do as our hearts desire and still go to heaven. The amazing power of grace renders sin powerless, and living by faith is essential because only through faith are we freed from pride and able to abide in grace.

But beyond selfishness, sin has traps to which entertainers are especially vulnerable. It’s here perhaps that our greatest measure of ignorance lies. Human nature strives to exalt itself by attempting to live up to standards of all types, whether they be moral or identity related. We simply don’t realize that the power of death quickly envelopes those who attempt to forge their identities in the furnace of human performance.

The undiscerning reader may think that I am judging Whitney Houston’s salvation. I am not; that issue is way beyond me. It’s her personal downward spiral I am addressing, and not for the purpose of condemnation. In many ways I feel as though the church has failed Whitney, Elvis and a host of others. Sure, all are ultimately accountable for their own actions, but I can’t help but wonder how much pain and death could be spared if only we better understood (and thus lived) the dynamics of God’s amazing Gospel of grace.

There is more to God—so much more—than any of us are experiencing. Let’s turn our hearts to dig deeper into His truth and we’ll find ourselves celebrating hope much more than we’ll be mourning death!

For a more in-depth look at these issues, please refer to a 15-minute video clip about grace from The Search for Me identity series and the following resources on my Hidden Trails blog page: Your Promise and the SfMe Audio Files.

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12 thoughts on “Whitney Houston – More Than One Reason to Mourn

  1. Hello Bob, nice article. I am not aware of her being a Christian…? I do think our Post-modern culture, and the post-modern gospel that sometimes goes along with it has much to blame with many modern problems. What I mean is that a person can claim they “believe” in Christ, but never really “live like they believe or claim”…I don’t know Mrs Houston, but I am not reading any hints that she had much of a confessional faith…and I admit, I have never listened to her music, so perhaps that is where she confessed Christ.

    Live like you believe and confess…I came home today because I believe I have a family, and I believe in my address, (borrowed from Mr. Friel)…but indeed there is something to that statement that I can’t get out of my head, but post-modern culture seems disengaged from this axiom.

    Long ago, well not too long 1962-63, Truth corresponded to reality. Believing in Christ corresponded to a CHANGED LIFE…now a days, we throw awards, honors, trophy’s, and verbal bouquets to folks who are just doing what the are supposed to do–take 911 responders…each family received over a 1,000,000 dollar check because their loved ones did their job–well amen. Perhaps they deserved it much more then some….but we throw the “Christian” label out just as quick. Yes, God will have the final say, but I want to live, like I believe, and may I add, like I profess–Jesus is LORD.

    1. Thanks, Bob! I don’t know a lot about Houston’s background–only that she grew up in the church singing Gospel music. I’m sure that post-modernism plays a role in our problems, but I also think that we as Christians don’t give enough attention to understanding the Gospel. It seems like somewhat of a crazy statement, I know, but I believe we’re too quick to make assumptions based on commonly taught concepts. We still have much to learn about the role of law-based moral and social righteousness when it comes to daily living.

      1. Hi bob.

        you are indeed correct when you said “Christians don’t give enough attention to understanding the Gospel”
        I, too wonder over the years as I was involved in different churches, denominations. The pastors neither knew what the gospel really is, much less than a church member.

        preachers, on T.V. or off stage seems to be preaching a different gospel. even today. only a few handful of gospel preachers are really preaching the true gospel, the gospel of grace. the gospel itself.

        I have been in the church for decades, and believe me or not I came to the grace revelation one 2 yrs ago. I must say I became a Christian 2 yrs ago.

        contrary to the popular thinking, that when someone sings “amazing grace” is a christian or all who attends church are Christians, my view is different. not everyone in church is considered Christian.

        while I may sound “judgmental”, but pastors seem to be ignorant of the gospel.
        they have disregarded the grace of God over a Law, obedience based message that cannot make one righteous.

        seems, i got carried away.. long post.

        grace and peace

      2. one more….. 🙂

        there is so much morality teachings, feel good messages, works based messages preached. Pastors have either become
        1. Stand up comedian preachers
        2. Motivational speakers

        the message they preach, obviously are like that of the world.

        but the message we preach is the gospel.. the Grace of God. Jesus. our message is God’s love to us.. not our Love to him.

        we are after heart transformation, not behavior.

        grace and peace

      3. Interesting comments for sure! I think that one of our problems is that church leaders are justifiably concerned about behavior modification. If a children’s church worker is hanging out at the bars and getting drunk, the door is opened for unnecessary trouble and confusion within the congregation. There is a genuine need to get that worker to cease with the drunken behavior. The question is how to accomplish the task? If we don’t understand the Gospel, legalism seems like the obvious answer to behavior modification. The problem is that legalism keeps people immature and leads to more sin in the long run.

        I believe many pastors don’t preach grace because they are afraid that undesirable behavior will only increase. Again, this reflects an incomplete understanding of the Gospel. Grace truly understood is a grace that truly transforms. Again, I believe that we need to put much more attention to comprehending the Gospel than we currently do.

        Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  2. Good comments…Interesting term…> “Behavior Modification” …sometimes I take this view when I analyze myself or my children or others. My oldest son is always offering me advice on Grace…apparently I may be missing something….

    I know if you get Grace down to a degree, your Behavior modifies to a more Christ-like look…It just sort of works that way without holding your breath, or someone offering you candy and toys for being good

    Not to get off topic, but our discussions (me and my son) are on Free Grace vs Lordship Salvation…(I am Lordship) he is Free….I am still wrestling with this, much like many of us wrestle with CALVIN VS ARMINIUS…

    1. Bob, your statement: “I know if you get Grace down to a degree, your Behavior modifies to a more Christ-like look” hits on the very point I am trying to make. And your last paragraph isn’t off topic at all. Biblically speaking, this should not be a “free” vs. “Lordship” proposition. We are indeed free in Christ, but the outward work of grace is an intense love and respect for Christ. Paul well understood his freedom in Christ, but continually positioned himself as a bondslave because of his deep love for the Lord.

      Bob, you’re obviously a thoughtful guy and I think you would really enjoy my Search for Me identity series. I think it does an excellent job of laying out these concepts. (I also touch on the sovereignty vs. free will issue in Chapter 3). You’re free to stream the “Audio Files” from this blog site or to download them for a reasonable cost from our web store. I think you’ll find the effort more than well worth your time!

  3. There may have been some hope for Ms. Houston. I found myself reading an article the other day at work out of boredom. Supposedly, she felt the time was near and began to quote Scripture. She expressed her desire to see Jesus. What was truly in her heart, only God knows but maybe there was some hope.

    1. Meghan, I’m with you on this. There is so much we don’t know about her life in recent years. I think it best to not make judgments about her eternal destiny and to just believe for the best.

      1. Thanks Bob, that sounds like the thing for me to do. I need to finish John MacArthur’s book, Gospel According to Jesus (Lordship) first, and then would enjoy exploring that CD series.

        Those are very intriguing areas. I do agree that the more you fall in love with Christ (just reflecting over my walk) the less legalistic you seem to become. I still list to the legalism side, I can feel the need for balance, the right side of my brain has many philosophical abrasions from listing so “Lawfully” (of which I have failed miserably) –I look forward to listening to your materials–Balance makes for better travel–my hope.

        Thank you for the timely suggestion

      2. Bob, another thought to pique your interest: I agree that the need for balance is huge, but I don’t see it as a balance between grace and legalism–that would be like a balance between truth and error, which isn’t really balance at all. The balance of grace is more like riding a bicycle–our goal is to stay in grace and not fall off. But what we’re often missing in our thought process is the significance of the law of love as a Christ-given motivation for our actions.

        Understanding all of this truly does make for “much better travel.” Again, I think you’ll really enjoy the SfMe series!

      3. Thanks Bob, no I don’t want to fall into legalism anymore then I already do. As soon as I can, I look forward looking/listening to this material, as I can tell by your responses– your “on to something”, that I clearly need a big dose of.

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