From Yeezus to faith in Jesus?
If you haven't heard yet, Kanye West has released a new album titled "Jesus Is King". Yes, you read that right. The self-proclaimed Yeezus who once uttered blasphemies such as "I am a god" and littered his albums and covers with sexually-explicit themes and excessive hubris is now a professing Christian with an album that fits in somewhere between gospel and hip-hop.
The outpouring of album reviews range from ruthlessly skeptical to pleasantly surprised as Kanye belts out Scripture-influenced lyrics about his newfound faith and the struggles he's wrestled with in life. He told the devil, "I'm going on strike", he calls his fans to follow Jesus, saying, "Raise our sons, train them in the faith", he calls listeners to "Use this gospel for protection", and rounds out the album with "Every knee shall bow, every tongue confess, Jesus is Lord" (alluding to Philippians 2:10-11). These are the actual lyrics from his album.
His interviews have been much like his album. When asked by Jimmy Kimmel if he was a Christian artist, he paused and then responded, "I'm a Christian everything!" In other interviews, he speaks of being delivered into the Kingdom of God and finding Jesus. His pastor, Adam Tyson, has not only preached the gospel at Kanye's Sunday Services, but he also attested to Kanye's profession of faith and the meetings where they have been discussing Scripture and his faith. I'm incredibly encouraged by what I'm seeing!
What Are We Supposed To Do With This?
The responses to Kanye's album and profession of faith have ranged from overwhelming support and excitement to rigid skepticism. I was very skeptical of the Sunday Services and figured Kanye was just trying to start a movement using God's name. Seeing the cost of his Yeezy's and "Jesus Is King" clothing have some questioning if he is just trying to profit off of Jesus' name. The concerns are certainly reasonable considering there are $260 shirts and $20 pairs of socks (some of these prices include a digital download of the album, which is worth ~$10).
However, after watching interviews and listening to the album, my skepticism has turned into optimism. I'm hopeful that Kanye is a legitimate Christian, and I have prayed for him. No Christian is perfect, and new Christians have a lot of pruning that has yet to be done, but his zeal for God seems to be according to the knowledge the Lord has given through the preaching and counsel of Kanye's pastor as well as his personal Bible reading.
I'm not Jesus, I don't know Kanye's heart. Friends have asked me if this is simply another egocentric grab at money. I sure hope not, but I don't know for certain. As I've pondered the situation, I'm reminded of a passage of Scripture that gives me the freedom to rejoice in "Jesus Is King" and Kanye's new path:
"Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice."
I don't know Kanye's heart. For that matter, I don't know anyone's. But I know one thing, if the true gospel is being preached then I can rejoice. When unbelievers stream the album and hear the outro, they hear one of the greatest truths in all of the universe: "Jesus is Lord". They are hearing the truth that "who the Son sets free is free indeed" (John 8:36). They are hearing that we need Jesus to give us grace, to heal us, to strengthen us, and much more. They are hearing that the gospel is our protection. It doesn't sound like envy, rivalry, or selfish ambition to me, but it could be.
We Can Rejoice When Christ is Proclaimed
Ye may not be a deep theologian. He may not know all the depths of the Trinity, the dual natures of Christ, or perhaps even how the Holy Spirit powerfully works in the lives of believers to make us more Christlike. But one thing he proclaims loudly is, "Jesus is Lord". He says, "God is King", and that he was never new until he knew of the True and Living God, Yeshua (Jesus' name in Hebrew). Christ is being proclaimed in this album.
I'm thankful that Paul spoke of his opponents, saying, "Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will" (v. 15). Why? Because even if Kanye is just doing this for the money and this is his greatest troll yet, I can still rejoice. Why? Because, "whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice" (v. 18). Whether it's Kanye, Lecrae, Shai Linne, or any other rapper, if Christ is preached, I can rejoice in the message even if the messenger is rapping from selfish ambition, envy, or rivalry.
I'm not naive enough to think that everyone who picks up a microphone and speaks about Jesus is saved. We see rappers mention Jesus and the Bible from time to time without evidence of life change. If Kanye is just using this to build his brand and use Jesus to do it, God will shine light on Kanye in due time. However, professing Christian rappers have walked away from the faith. Pastors fall from grace. Bestselling authors are denounce their books and place their trust in something or someone else. Entire denominations are departing from the Word of God to accommodate to the culture.
God Doesn't Need Us
God doesn't need Kanye West. He doesn't need Shai Linne. He doesn't need Lecrae. And He certainly doesn't need me. He doesn't need anyone. Let me repeat that for those in the back row: God doesn't need any of us. He doesn't need John MacArthur, John Piper, Tony Evans, or your favorite podcast preacher. H.B. Charles wisely said, "Christian celebrity is an illusion". If we're looking at Kanye as some Messiah who will usher in the golden age of Christianity, we've missed the point. Jesus is King (Psalm 2). But that doesn't mean we can't celebrate an influential man's conversion.
It seems that God has saved Kanye, and it's incredible. The angels in heaven rejoice at the salvation of one sinner saved Luke 15:7). Millions of people will be hearing Christ proclaimed through the music of this broken vessel. Of those millions, we don't know who God could be drawing to faith in Himself through him. We can rejoice that the gospel is God's power for salvation (Romans 1:16) and that sometimes God even chooses to speak truth through wicked men and their donkeys (Numbers 22-24).
Time Will Tell
Jesus has a parable that sheds light on all humanity. In Matthew 13:1-23, he describes a man who sowed some seeds. Some of the seeds were eaten up by the birds. Others sprang up quickly in rocky soil but were scorched to death by the sun because they had no roots. Yet others grew up among thorns and were choked out. Finally, some seeds landed in good soil, grew up, and produced grain.
We are all pictured in this parable. Some of us will have the gospel quickly taken away by evil one. Others will spring up quickly but fall away due to persecution. Yet others will have the gospel choked out by cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches. Finally, some of us are like the seeds sown in the good soil, hearing the gospel and bearing spiritual fruit. We are all one of these types of soil, but only time will tell.
In due time, we will see more evidence of what is happening in Kanye's heart. I'm hopeful that He has truly experienced the blow of the Holy Spirit bringing regenerating life to his soul. God already knows, and He isn't surprised either way. The same goes for each and every one of us. Let's extend the same grace to Kanye that we had extended to us in the early days of our walk with Christ.
Have you, in your analysis of Kanye West's heart and motives, examined yourself to see if you are in the faith?