Whether we claim to be a “Christian rapper,” a “Christian hip hopper,” or just a “plain Christian,” the question should be asked of us, “just how Christian are we?” The best Christian rappers are not just good rappers but, good Christians. The best Christian hip hoppers are not just cool hip hoppers but, good Christians. The best “plain Christians” are not those who have perfect church attendance, but those who live all of their life submitted and obedient to Jesus Christ. This is my burden and focus in 2007—the amping up of real Christians who are potent in their Christianity! Will the real Christians please stand up and stand out? Christian crowds are now easier than ever to amass. We’ve got our own celebrities, our own festivals, our own award shows, etc. Through the right marketing and promotions we can “do it big” these days, but in the midst of all of this I’m still plagued with the question, “just how Christian are we?”
This almost sounds like a trick question because it seems impossible to judge something like this. How do you judge how Christian someone is, or how Christian you are? I’m not sure that a “right answer” will be agreed on, but certainly we should be able to answer how much of the essentials of Christ’s character and concerns are easily detected in us? Out of the darkness of secular culture God has clearly snatched for himself individuals and placed them into a union with His Son Jesus Christ. After this transfer, a lifestyle change is supposed to visibly and tangibly demonstrate the difference being in Christ makes. Christ is supposed to take over a person and live his life out through them. Therefore, I look to my generation and ask “just how Christian are you?”
I labor missionally in the hip hop-saturated urban sphere on behalf of Jesus Christ. In the last decade I have personally been apart of, and a witness to the continued improvement of artistic skill among this group. The improvement of skill is just as difficult to “judge” but most people who have followed the journey of Christian hip hop would probably agree with me. But while I have to admit that there has been an improvement of skill on the mic and the drum machine, I have not seen an equally impressive improvement of Christian character and kingdom concern. We are excelling in ministry giftedness, but not necessarily as much in spiritual weightiness. Due to the stereotypical image of hip hoppers (saved and unsaved), it has been my personal aspiration to display weighty Christianity, and not simply hip hop skill. The necessity of this was never more illustrated than during the rise of Craig Lewis and similar critics. Since his attacks against Christian hip hop and the Christian hip hop community, it becomes even more apparent that Christians must display robust Christian-ness whether they are hip hop or not. Let’s look at some things that should be true of us as Christians living in an age of religious compromise.
Our Christian-ness Should Be a Public Affair
Christians are “cities on a hill which can’t be hid” not under-cover agents (Matt 5:14). According to Jesus Christ in Matt 5:13-14 Christians are considered “light” and “salt” partly because both their presence and the absence are readily detectible and significantly impacting. If it is not obvious that you are a Christian, then you are probably not, or you have a Christianity that is weak in its Christ-aroma. Many Christians, especially in the pop-world have learned how to keep their Christian-ness so undercover that nobody either knows that they are a Christian or no one cares. One of the most harmful and deceptive beliefs that exists among believers, especially those who want worldly acceptance, is the idea that Jesus can be buried deep in our heart and only peek His head out if someone expresses interest in our personal religious beliefs. This is the sentiments of many Christian artists who have very little public boast in Christ, very little mention of Christ, very little public dealings with Christ, but declare that backstage or “on-the-side” they are slipping Christ into the picture. Jesus Christ did not redeem a people so that they could sneak Him into the party. He is not meant to be slid through the cracks, but rather to be broadcasted loud and clearly by those of us that he has redeemed (delivered). Our faith is not a private matter, but a public affair. The Lord Jesus is to be our boast and our life, and we are to be his proud and public representatives—on and off the stage. In 07 let us not have a Christianity that is so private and personal that it never affects the public or the corporate surrounding. As Christian artists, as well as those of you who may be Christian celebrities, let us not just be known only for “backstage exploits”, but let us have “onstage exploits.”
Spiritual Affections Should Dominate our Passions
The struggle to live as though dead is a universal struggle for all of God’s people. Regularly we see our natural affections being nurtured and displayed more than spiritual ones. Our natural appetites are fed more than our spiritual ones. Zeal for earthly passions eclipse zeal for heavenly realities, and knowledge of earthly topics far exceed knowledge of theological topics. Too often Christians are diesel in their craft, but frail in their faith. They are the geniuses and “Einstein’s” of their vocations, but remedial in their grasp of the biblical realm. Church youth groups run the risk of falling into this category because today’s youth programs are entertainment heavy, but doctrinally skimpy.
I pray that 2007 we will depend on the Spirit to boost our godly affections and decrease our longings for “worldly” delicacies. Let us spend more time in the Scriptures than TV, and spend more time in cyphas around God’s word than cyphas around other things. As diligently as we study for a degree, let us diligently show ourselves to be approved workers who do not have to be ashamed. As the world marvels at our skills and abilities, may heaven rejoice to see our faith and devotion to Him who sits on the throne.
Christ’s Followers Don’t Fade, They Keep Following.
Are we marching to a different beat today? In regard to this world, I hope so, in regard to the faith, I hope and pray not. Christianity is a relay race—a faith that is passed down and passed on. We will never outgrow the need and the command to join the saints through the ages whose lives were built on personal and corporate prayer, worship, assembling with the saints, evangelizing and discipling, grappling with the Scriptures, and engaging in acts of kindness (Acts 2:42-47). We’d better not start replacing these Christian basics with beats, rhymes, hobbies, and business-moves that are supposedly for Christ’s benefit. It is real easy to hide out in the ministry today, because ministry can be big business today. For some, they never had it so good until they started “doing ministry.” The sad thing is that I meet so many people that see themselves in ministry that neglect the fundamentals like corporate prayer, studying the Scriptures in community, and faithfully assembling with the saints. I did not learn Christ this way.
Lately I have been more keenly aware of the new generations of believers who are learning what it means to be a Christian from those of us that have been screaming about Jesus Christ over the microphone. Just when we were ready to kick our feet up and enjoy the work of other committed Christians, the call for us to join the work came from on high. That is why I pray that our lives will demonstrate what our lips say. If we tell people that they should pray may they be able to see us in intense prayer. If we tell them that they should be a solid participant in a particular community of God’s people, I hope that we are such participants. If we tell them to rally with other believers and form solid community with them, we should be doing the same. In regards to the Christian basics, there is no need to march to a different beat. We are the leaders of today and tomorrow, so we must begin leading today. For those who have been sucked up into the grind of Christian hip hop, or just “civilian affairs” we must not allow the daily grind to hinder our spiritual grind. Selah—pause and think about that.
Christ’s Followers Refuse to Be Sons of Pharaoh
Since They are Sons/Daughters of God?
Christians reject worldly exaltation in order to heighten their chance of remaining faithful to God, and keep a connection with the people of God. (Heb 11:24-25). Their motivation is like Moses’ in Hebrews 11:26, “He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt….” In this age of “Christian celebrity-ism” it is hard to imagine this being many people’s desire. From celebrity pastors to singers and actors—so few Christian celebrities deflect human exaltation that if someone does it, they are looked at as “over-doing it,” or being needlessly offensive. This idea of tempering one’s personal exaltation is not radical however, but it is actually rather Christ-like or Christian. Moses rejected pharaoh’s throne so that he could please God and lead His people. John the Baptizer rejected an opportunity to ride the wave of his own popularity which he was gaining as Messiah’s forerunner (Jn 1:19-21). Jesus would not let the crowd make him their kind of king, but chose to remain faithful to the mission of the cross (Jn 6:15). Warning! The world has plenty of money, power, and respect to offer us, but it comes with a hidden cost. We must not be afraid to let their exaltation go, so that we will receive God’s exaltation in due season (1 Pt 5:6). When God grants us legitimate exaltation among the people of this world we must use it for godly purposes. I know—this is easier said than done.
As believer in Jesus Christ we will often be offered opportunities to improve our earthly situations by gaining favor with the world. It’s no secret that when the world likes you, they will support and even exalt you (Jn 15:19). However, Jesus said that the world didn’t like him but, rather hated him (Jn 15:18). So the only way for the world to hate Jesus, but like those of us who belong to Jesus, is by us making some sort of compromise. By luring us away from Jesus and his despised people (true believers), the world begins to tolerate us because the smell of Christ that was once on us begins to fade. Once the world makes a once despised Christian a “star”, it becomes more difficult for that Christian to live out basic Christianity. The pressures of staying liked, and doing well will take its toll.
The world is known for digging into God’s pot of believers and luring them out from the community of faith into the “den of snakes”. The world recruits from God’s stash and then employs them for the devil’s work. Before long, the Christian celebrity is forced to primarily exist among the other worldly celebrities that are apart of the same godless “world.” Over time the Christian develops tighter relationships, and greater solidarity with the godless “stars” of show biz, than they have with the “regular” Christians of the world. I see this frequently, and may never get too many “amens,” but this is a trustworthy statement. “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are…” (1 Cor 2:26-28). Let us be careful to stay grounded in the community of faith, and monitor how much human exaltation we accept. Too much is spiritual toxic.
Christ’s Followers Make God’s Priorities Their Priorities.
Christians prioritize God’s passions over their own, and therefore alter their personal pursuits in light of His revealed plans. God has passions and we have passions. God has plans and we have plans. The question on the floor is, “when our plans and passions clash, who’s gonna win?” I know we would quickly respond by saying “God of course,” but this is no usually the real. I find that it is rare for those of us with “American appetites” to yield our passions in order for God’s to prevail. God has provided examples of people whose personal priorities were not separate, but one with His priorities.</P>
- What made Nehemiah take a leave of absence from his lofty job in the king’s palace and journey to the ruins of Jerusalem to rebuild the city wall?
- What made the postexilic community of Israel leave the prosperity of the Persian Empire and return to the rubbles of Jerusalem?
- Why did God send the prophet Haggai to rebuke His people about their failure to rebuild His temple?
These people’s passions had become one with God’s. God had revealed a dominant passion for both the city of Jerusalem, and the temple in Jerusalem. While God loves cities in general, He has revealed a special love for Jerusalem. While God empowers all mankind to do many great things, He provided special empowering grace for the building of the temple. He has always given a greater measure of grace for the accomplishing of His priorities, however, sometimes God’s people ceased to make God’s passion their passion.
Today God has a special passion for His glory, His church, Hs mission, and His gospel. Of course many other things are good in God’s sight, but not many things rival these passions of God’s. These priorities should become the individual and corporate priorities of every believer. There is so much to say about these, I’ll stop and save it for another time.
May this year be a year of dedication to God’s passions and not just our dreams. This is what Christians do—they do the will of the Father. How Christian are you? Answer this question this year by the choices you make, and the passions you pursue. Can we get back to the fundamentals of our faith? Being cool is cool, but being Christian is essential. In 2007 let’s go to war together, contending for the faith once for all entrusted to the saints (Jude 3).