It was one year after I graduated from high school that I experienced an infusion of passion for Jesus Christ. He took me from nominal (lukewarm) Christianity to a fiery, passionate faith that I could not keep to myself. I was consumed with zeal for Christ and His interests and my life would never be the same. I enrolled in Bible college so I could know His word. I evangelized almost everywhere I went. Even my “art” became my primary means of engaging in “at-home” missions. Hip hop provided a perfect opportunity to “spread everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him” (2 Cor. 2:14). Like Paul, truly to live was Christ and to die was gain (Phil. 1:21), and I knew that all of me was set apart for Him. Admittedly I could be a little “over-the-top” at times but it was clear—I was on fire for Jesus!
Perhaps you remember our Lord Jesus saying that it was “zeal for the Father’s house” which consumed Him. Zeal is a fiery passion and “consume” is what it does—compelling you to act on behalf of something or someone. It is a burning passion, which always leads to decisive action. This, in fact, is what caused Jesus to first get offended by injustice and consequently to flip the tables and whip people to drive them out of the temple (John 2:13-17). It was zeal for God’s glory and His people that stirred up a young David who was just delivering lunch to his brothers when he became aware of Goliath’s disrespectful threats. This “shepherd” who was simply out “running errands” as an obedient son, suddenly found himself pulled into a fight with the disrespectful giant (1Sam. 17). Furthermore, zeal for God’s cause set ablaze the by-standing Paul as he “observed a city full of idols.” This caused his spirit to “be provoked,’” and prompted him to begin preaching all over the place—“in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be ther” (Acts 17). Generic “zeal” fires you up; “godly zeal” fires you up on behalf of Jesus Christ. Those who have Christ’s interest in mind above all else can attest to this. Concerning this truth, John Newton says it best,
“they are no longer their own, they would not be their own; it is their desire, their joy, their glory, to live to Him who died for them. He has won their hearts by His love… The glory of His name, the success of His cause, the prosperity of His people, the accomplishment of His will, these are the great and leading objects which are engraven upon their hearts, into which all their prayers, desires, and endeavors, are directed.”
“The glory of his name,” “the success of His cause,” “the prosperity of His people”… these are our compelling concerns. They are so weighty! Not “our name” but “His name.” Not “our cause” but “His cause.” Not just “ourselves” but “His people” are the matters for which we will preach, create, suffer, lose, labor, and strive. Indifference is not an option and silence is too difficult. Like Jeremiah the prophet, “If I say, ‘I will not mention Him, or speak any more in His name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot” (Jer. 20:9). Zeal pulls otherwise easy-going people into the battle and this is why believers were given the Holy Spirit. The boldness needed to respond zealously as a sheep among wolves takes power from on high. In Christ we have that Spirit, and in Him we have that example. Let us fan into flame the gifts given by the Spirit (2 Tim. 1:6).
I can honestly say that lately these things have been consuming me in a renewed way. Even my own sin and my own worldliness bothers me because they impede my ability to be singularly devoted to these passions. Grace is amazing and the Spirit is with us. I know I’m not alone. That’s why I’m re-engaging in a two-sided ministry of the gospel. I plan to proclaim Christ to the culture, while loving and laboring with my family in Christ in full view of the on-looking culture. Through music, preaching and teaching, writing, and prayer, I hope to be the ambassador that God has called me to be. As His ambassadors, let’s standup and represent! Keep your brother in prayer. Grace and peace.
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The Lox and Diddy. Nas and Jay Z. Camron and the rest of Dip Set. Juvenile and Cash Money. And now, Fat Joe and Fifty Cent—man!!! I must admit. I find myself continually struggling with envying secular hip hop’s increasing track record of high profile reconciliation cases. Their beef was public, their battles intense, their hatred unrestrained, but then a day came when they not only “squashed” their beef, but publicized it! All who witnessed the hostility also got to witness the reconciliation. I am so jealous! Those without the gospel should not be more known for high profile acts of forgiveness and reconciliation than we who are Christians. Yet, I’m afraid that this is the case.
Fat Joe and Fifty intentionally united before the BET Hip Hop Awards as an official demonstration of their truce. They both say they did it because it was the desire of a mutual friend who recently died—Chris Lighty. Man, that got me thinking—we should have a greater incentive—it’s the desire of a mutual Savior and Lord who died and rose!
Remember these words spoken to disciples by the Lord Jesus, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; … So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matt. 5:21-24). Note how He even demands that we pause our religious routines until we close the gap between estranged brothers and sisters.
As stripes are to a zebra, the identifying mark of all believers is love. The Lord Jesus said “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn. 13:35). If anything is going to distinguish us in the eyes of the on-looking world, may it be our eagerness to publicize our love for one another. Almost everyone will amen this, but what does “love” look like? According to Rm. 5:8, God demonstrates His love in that while we were still sinners, Christ died. That’s the beautiful picture of the kind of love that demonstrates we are chips off the “Jesus block”—dying for someone you’ve got a right to have beef with. Even more, God doesn’t just forgive and “turn the page,” or forgive and or move on, but He closes the gap and revives the relationship. He doesn’t agree to go separate ways. He makes the two one, having broken down the wall of hostility. Eph. 2:14, “For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” Yes, the standard is higher for those of us in Christ. See that? Christian rappers, or rappers that just so happen to be Christians—either way, the Lord Jesus said “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn. 13:35).
I’m sure that this is why I’m rocked off these secular examples of enemies coming back together and being seen publicizing their reconciled togetherness. Tuesday night (10/2/2012), my envy intensified as I read the profanity-filled comments of the people on thisis50.com and sohh.com. Even they could appreciate this idea of “beef being settled.” They praised 50 Cent and Fat Joe for their inspiring act of reconciliation and some even begged for further gestures of unity from the two. If I wasn’t rooted by grace I would want to be a part of what they seem to have going. That may sound absurd, but with every reconciliation that happens in the secular rap scene, I’m inspired to hope on behalf of my own context. Much hurt, pain, offense, and beef not only exists, but has been publicly witnessed. Where are our “success stories” of how the gospel mended us? Why am I jealous of people devoid of the Spirit, who do not have the gospel as their hope, do not acknowledge Christ as their example, or the Bible as their instruction manual, but have numerous high profile reconciliations to tout. How much more eager should we (urban Christians of hip-hoppish persuasion…LOL) be to obey the gospel in a similar way.
Reconciliation looks good no matter who it is. It is news worthy, and the media rightly covers it. Not only is it glorious, but it’s essential for God’s people. Sometimes I think people too casually act like reconciliation is optional. It may feel that way for the reconciler (though it’s not), but I assure you from experience, it does not feel that way for repentant sinners. Repentant sinners hope for 2 Cor. 2:7—that people who have been turned off by the sinner would, … “turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.” Some say, “Yeah, but just because you forgive a person doesn’t mean you have to ‘hang out’ with that person again”. God’s forgiveness results in regained fellowship. The beauty of what happened in the case of the secular rappers I mentioned at the beginning was that they not only “ceased fire” but reconvened.
Christians are divided on this but forgiveness and reconciliation are “two wings on a plane.” They are distinguishable but you can’t get anywhere without both of them. I am now convinced that forgiveness is actually easier than reconciliation because forgiveness can so often stop at a “claim,” while reconciliation is an action (often a very difficult one). How often have you heard people insinuate “reconciliation” would be nice, but it’s understandable if it doesn’t happen. In my opinion, too many believers sanction permanent “walls of hostility” and permanent “separation” supposedly because “Paul and Barnabas went separate ways.” To be honest, this terrorizes me, and has at times depressed me. What if the sinner was left unreconciled and “afar off?” The gospel truth is that as costly as it was, Christ brought sinners near by His blood. According to 2 Cor. 5, Christ reconciles, and entrusts us with the message and ministry of reconciliation (5:18-19).
All this to say, I’m jealous similar to Asaph in Psalm 73, except I envy their truces instead of their material prosperity. I’ve been reflecting on the numerous rappers that “squashed their beefs” publicly, and even offered it to the hip hop community as a gift of inspiration and hope. I want that for those of us who name the name of Christ. It would be hot if, in addition to being known for progressing in skill, production quality and performing arts, we were known for gospel living. Gospel living is not just gospel preaching, but actually modeling what the cross really accomplished. Like the song so beautifully declares…
Your blood has washed away my sin—Jesus thank you
The Father’s wrath completely satisfied—Jesus thank you
Once your enemy, now seated at your table—Jesus thank you