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Kanye West Declaring Jesus As King: Legit or A Joke?

Written By Aaron Di Placido, Australia

There’s a popular saying in some circles about a Christian’s journey of transformation called “progression over perfection”. This saying comes to mind when I think of my own journey in Christ, but most recently it has also come up a lot when discussing none other than artist/producer/rapper/pop culture icon Kanye West.

Over the past week, there have been countless articles, videos, and reviews breaking down the release of Kanye West’s latest album, Jesus Is King. Kanye is one of the most popular and influential artists of the 21st century, so any time he releases an album—it is a big deal.

It’s no surprise then, that when West announced that he had become a born-again Christian and would be releasing a gospel album—less than 12 months after he had released I Love It, a song that is perhaps his most raunchiest to date—a vast amount of criticism and hype surfaced across the globe.

The world’s biggest artist who is renowned for vulgar lyrics and explicit thematic elements within his music would be creating an album about . . . God?

It had to be a joke, right?

After hearing this announcement, my initial response was to question his faith: “Surely, he can’t be a Christian?”, “Even if he is, he doesn’t know the first thing about God to create a gospel album”, “He’s going to lead so many astray”.

I immediately had to catch myself from allowing these thoughts to fester. As is written in James 4:12, “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?”

It is incredibly prideful and foolish to judge another person’s faith, especially when I have never met the person before. Yet, it is also incredibly easy for all of us to do that on a whim—simply based upon personal thought or public appearances, rather than looking to the Word for guidance in our response.

What I found most interesting though was that, I, as someone who has been following Kanye’s work, never once judged him as harshly as I did when he became a Christian. This is a man who had been abrasive at awards nights, called himself a god, and even named an album Yeezus. And whilst I had my own opinions, none of them met the magnitude of doubt and skepticism than when he announced his faith.

That made me realize that perhaps I had subconsciously set a standard in my mind about who’s deserving of salvation—and who isn’t.

Thinking it through, I was reminded of all the past wrongdoings and mistakes that I have made, and continue to make. While they aren’t publicized like West’s have been, I have still sinned—regardless of who was watching. In spite of all that, I know in my heart that I am forgiven because I have placed my faith in Christ.

John 5:24 is straightforward in communicating the truth that believing and accepting Christ leads to forgiveness of all past sins: “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.”

On top of this, we have seen riddled within history incredible transformations of even larger scale. Think Saul (also known as Paul) who went from killing Christians to being one of the most devout and passionate martyrs of the faith in the book of Acts. As Paul himself later wrote in 1 Timothy 1:15, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came in to the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.”

Through this line of thinking, Kanye’s story of redemption and discovery of Christ is a lesson in not allowing our judgmental thoughts to take hold when we look at the lives of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. It can be so easy for us to put ourselves on a pedestal and to accept our own forgiveness from God, but not His forgiveness of others. When we do so, we limit God’s ability to transform the most broken of people even though He has forgiven us for our wrongdoings.

 

What Would Jesus Say?

When we catch ourselves in these thoughts, the best place to go is straight to the Word. To ask ourselves, what does God say about it all? Through our own reading and reflecting, God wants us to be able to stand for his Word, yet to never judge others in their journey. In Matthew 7:1-4, Jesus famously speaks of the need for us to remove the plank in our own eye before the speck of dust in our brother’s eye. This serves as an incredible reminder for us to consistently allow God to work in our hearts, instead of focusing on the wrongs of others—or what God could be working in their hearts.

When Kanye’s album Jesus is King dropped, global response has been centered around Kanye’s faith, and Christians and non-Christians alike have been contending over whether his faith is legitimate.

This is exactly what we shouldn’t be doing.

Continuing on from Matthew 7:4, Jesus says in verse 5, “. . . first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (emphasis mine). Sometimes, we can forget that final line. Jesus was telling us that once we have been humbled by our own sin, we can then help those whom we have perhaps slandered or judged in the past.

This is something we as Christians can live out to those who have yet to come to know Jesus as a demonstration of His grace. That despite someone’s past and how they have lived their life, we still love, pray for, and reach out to them. What an encouragement this will be to those on their spiritual journey, to see that there are people willing to help them through their struggles!

Kanye has started a brand new life of discovering Christ, and while we have no say on the legitimacy of his faith, I am encouraged to see that Jesus is King is personalized in communicating his own stories of struggling with faith, and large portions of the album praise and uplift God. Tracks like “Selah”, “Closed on Sunday” and “Use This Gospel”, praise and worship God for His ability to use us despite our sins, knowing full well “my life is his and not my own”.

We are all on a journey of progression over perfection, Kanye West included. Therefore, let’s not tear apart the album trying to search for evidence as to whether Kanye is an authentic Christian or not, but be reminded that even the most fallen of us can be saved. And regardless of our past wrongdoings and mistakes, God deserves all the praise for His amazing grace to us.

God Isn’t Done With Your Story Yet

Growing up, I lived in great fear of my abusive father. I was neglected, beaten, and abused. His treatment convinced me that I was unwanted—a burden hardly worth being tolerated.

By age 15, this led me to become very embittered and depressed. I felt rejected, and covered up my incredible loneliness and pain with an angry protective mask.

Void of love and acceptance, I often questioned why I was alive, and whether my life even mattered. Somewhere deep inside, there was a part of me that longed to know that there was more to life than the hard, angry world that surrounded me.

As long as these questions about purpose remained unanswered, the emptiness I experienced persisted in a deep way. But when I found the answer to why I existed, there came a change so radical, things haven’t been the same since.

 

The dead, lonely end the world led me to 

As I grasped for purpose, my natural inclination was to turn towards what the world offered. So I sought my identity through sports and girls. I chased fulfillment through alcohol and drugs, and found temporary escape through music. I looked to bottles of vodka for peace, and another high from drugs to give me relief from my pain.

Of course, the relief never lasted long. I kept trying to convince myself that these worldly pursuits would help me, when in fact, they left me feeling more confused about my purpose in life—endlessly caught in a dangerous cycle of addiction that only left me empty.

 

At the end of myself, I finally looked to God

Through years of building up anger and bitterness against God and everyone, I had ignored the efforts of those who tried to share the Good News with me. But I eventually found myself desperate for something—anything—that could help me make sense of my life. And that desperation led me to reconsider the gospel I had distanced myself from. I had tried nearly everything else, and knew how deeply these things had failed to give me meaning. Perhaps it was time to give Christianity a chance.

From a point of despair, I was drawn to the rich promise Jesus makes, of a life of fulfillment and complete satisfaction in Him. I longed to experience that in my own life—to have a taste of the water that wells up to eternal life (John 4:12-14).

Finally, at age 16, I received Christ into my life and began a life-long process of learning how Jesus is the source of life and the answer to my quest for purpose.

 

A new creation in the same circumstances

However, once I accepted Jesus, my circumstances remained the same. Drugs and alcohol still beckoned me. My father was still abusive, and offered nothing resembling love or acceptance. Yet, while my circumstances remained unchanged, things couldn’t have been more different on the inside.

The difference lay in the reality that I no longer felt imprisoned by the situation I was in. Since Jesus had saved me from the confines of sin, He welcomed me as an adopted child, offering the unconditional love and acceptance that I had been so desperate for (1 John 3:1). Through redemption, He gave me hope for a life outside the traps of fear and cycles of addiction.

Though accepting Christ wasn’t a quick fix for all of my problems, it cut to the core of many of the deep struggles I had about identity and purpose. God taught me how to overcome the lures of the things of the world, and instead, to look to His Word to understand that I was made for Him (Colossians 1:16), and His purposes!

How God is still helping me understand my purpose

As I continue my journey as a Christian, God is constantly exposing ways that I rely on things apart from Him to understand my place in this world. Recently, I’ve had to work through the temptation to look to the applause of men for affirmation of the work I do in church. Instead of looking to others, I remind myself that in trying to make sense of who I am, or what I do, I must look to Christ. Because Christ is the reason I am. He is the one who sacrificed His own life—to offer us a way to come back into relationship with the very One who created us.

When we get caught up in the busyness of life, there are a thousand ways to lose sight of this. In order to carefully re-center my thoughts when I find myself straying, I’ve started a practice of pausing and praying. I ask God to silence the loud noise of my surroundings, which only offers loud, false hope. I ask Him to help me listen to His still, small voice that calls me to Him. In these moments, I’m reminded that God is all I have ever needed or longed for. Even if briefly, I can be still and rest in knowing that He is God (Psalm 16:10).

And this helps me remember one of the freedoms we have in Christ—freedom from the pursuit of seeking satisfaction from the things of this earth, from being failed by jobs and relationships, or whatever else we are tempted to define ourselves by. I have found peace in knowing that true eternal satisfaction is found in praising and worshiping God.

It’s my hope that I can encourage others to find hope in the freedom Christ offers—freedom which allows us to turn from self-indulgent pursuits, and to worship God freely with grateful hearts and satisfied souls.

ODJ: restored

July 16, 2015 

READ: Romans 5:1-11 

Our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son (v.10).

Bob Goff travelled to a country where he witnessed extreme human rights violations. In response, he chose to live out the call of Isaiah 58:3 by seeking justice on behalf of the oppressed. Goff founded Restore International to “fight for freedom and human rights, working to improve educational opportunities and to be helpful to those in need of a voice and a friend”. For more than a decade, Restore has helped to free those in bonded labour and sex trafficking, along with other exploited men, women and children in select troubled countries.

The definition of restore is to “return (someone or something) to a former condition, place or position; to repair or renovate so as to return it to its original condition”. In Romans we read of the ultimate restoration: the relationship between God and man. Though we were originally intended for relationship with Him, our sins separated us from our Creator (Colossians 1:21). Yet, “when we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners” (Romans 5:6).

Jesus didn’t shed His blood for us because of our goodness but to demonstrate God’s love for us “while we were still sinners” (v.8). The blood of Christ makes us right in God’s sight and saves us from spiritual death. And a relationship with Him that was severed by sin can be restored as we believe in Jesus and accept His gift of salvation.

Paul wrote that “our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies” (v.10). And now “we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God” (v.11). We’ve been restored!

—Roxanne Robbins

365-day-plan: Mark 6:14-29

MORE
What relationship was restored and unified in Ephesians 2:14 as a result of Jesus breaking down the wall of hostility? 
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According to Colossians 1:13, from what has God rescued you and to what has He transferred you? How has the restoration of your relationship with God affected your relationships with others? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODJ: new way of seeing

June 4, 2015 

READ: 1 Peter 3:3-6 

Clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within (v.4).

God has given me new things to treasure and value since I left America for Uganda 6 years ago. Some of the interests and things that I truly enjoyed before moving to my new ministry have, to my surprise, been replaced. I haven’t even missed American football—my favourite sport! Nor have I missed many things that my birth country’s culture suggests are necessary for fulfilment, significance and happiness.

In Africa I’ve discovered beauty in watching the face of an impoverished child light up after receiving a gift of clothing, in witnessing a mother as she loves and cares for her sick child, in seeing a starving child share his meager food portions with a sibling, and in hearing children express gratitude in being able to attend school.

Among the poor in Sub-Saharan Africa I’ve gained deeper understanding of “the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God” (1 Peter 3:4). I have better understood how this type of loveliness, observed by pure and reverent living, pleases God more than “the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewellery or beautiful clothes” (v.3).

Though the meek aren’t exclusively found living in poverty in Africa, it’s here that I more strongly grasped that the humble are blessed and “will inherit the whole earth” (Matthew 5:5). It’s in this place that I more deeply appreciate that “God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (v.4). I also found greater comfort in God’s promise that He “blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied” (v.6).

God provides what we need to grow in faith—including encouragement from Scripture that causes our hearts to grow in confidence and hope. By His work, we’re better primed to see beauty—and all of life—as He does.

—Roxanne Robbins

365-day-plan: Jonah 3:1–4:11

MORE
In addition to kindness, tolerance and patience, what are some attributes of God that Romans 2:4 says we can see? 
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How does your view of beauty differ from God’s? How can you begin to better realise His values in your thinking and choices? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)