JESUS IS KING
Kanye West has been a symbol of the sin culture of 21st century America. His name is often associated with the vain idols of our day, including money, sex, drugs, fashion, and a relentless pursuit of fame. His entire career has been built on music which has served as a mouthpiece for blasphemy, sacrilege, and the idolatry of our day.
But now, a radical transformation has happened. A new Kanye has emerged. A man who once proclaimed the emptiness of the world has come to proclaim the truth – that Jesus is King. He has come to embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ and calls himself a born-again Christian. And it is out of this experience that Kanye has released a new album entitled Jesus Is King.
For the first time in my life, I have been blasting Kanye on repeat. And it has been so good for my soul. I have been overwhelmed – even moved to tears – as I have listened to his interviews and his music. Watching someone become captivated by the simplicity and majesty of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ is so refreshing and encouraging to see. Especially when that someone has the platform that has been availed to Kanye.
But not everyone is convinced. Many have expressed concern or even complete doubt about the validity of his conversion. And as always, social media has been overrun with opinions and reactions to the music, and more frequently, to the new Kanye.
So how should Christians respond to this public proclamation?
WE SHOULD RECOGNIZE THAT GOD SAVES SINNERS
Kanye’s past is truly irrelevant when measured against the saving power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul calls himself the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). To ever suggest that Kanye – or anyone else – is too far gone to be saved is to radically diminish the power of the gospel and the work of Christ on the cross. This is exactly who God is and exactly what God does – a God who saves sinners. Every single time a sinner repents and comes to faith in Christ, the miraculous new birth occurs. While it may appear more miraculous in some cases, the reality is that all dead souls being brought to life are equally worth shouting our praise to God.
WE SHOULD REJOICE WHEN SINNERS REPENT
When someone comes to faith in Christ, the immediate reaction for Christians should be to rejoice. This is what the angels in heaven do (Luke 15:10). A proclamation of the gospel based on repentance and faith which culminates in the public confession that Jesus is King is worth celebrating. I think this is epitomized so well by one of Kanye’s songs on this album, when he proclaims, “To whom the Son set free is free indeed. He saved a wretch like me.” And this is immediately followed by a chorus of repeated “Hallelujah!” shouts from fellow believers. We should rejoice when sinners repent, whether that repentant sinner is a coworker, a family member, or a famous rap artist.
WE SHOULD EXAMINE FRUIT TO SEE THE VALIDITY OF THE CONFESSION OF FAITH
Of course, we do know that many have made this type of confession before. Celebrities have frequently claimed to come to faith in Christ but have quickly fallen away. The same phenomenon happens on a shockingly routine basis in many evangelical churches today. This is explained well by the parable of the sower as taught by Jesus in Matthew 13. In this parable, the seed falls on four different types of soil – on the path, on rocky ground, among thorns, and on good soil. Three of these four soils (rocky ground, thorns, good soil) actually yield some apparent fruit. But only one (the good soil) is fruit that lasts. This is the true believer. In other words, we may see fruit in someone’s life at first, but if it doesn’t endure then it is not authentic. In the end, a healthy true bears good fruit and a diseased tree bears bad fruit (Matthew 7:16–20).
While we don’t have a long track record from which to examine at this point in Kanye’s walk, we can see some tremendous indicators of the beginning of good fruit. For one thing, he is publicly proclaiming that Jesus is King, including the powerful lyrics, “I bow down to the King upon the throne, my life is his it’s no longer my own.”
WE SHOULD REMEMBER JUSTIFICATION COMES BEFORE SANCTIFICATION
One of the most refreshing observations about this public display of faith is that Kanye is not merely parroting Christian church culture. He is not demonstrating some sort of conformity to a Christian sub-culture. Rather, he is displaying a powerful inner transformation of his heart. There is a childlike faith and dependence on Christ that we should all strive for in our Christian life. And Kanye has captured that with his straightforward message.
But there is still a little (beautiful) messiness with Kanye. The album isn’t perfect. The interviews aren’t perfect. But that’s okay, because Kanye is new in the faith. Let us not stifle the loud, passionate cries of a new believer. Instead, let us remember that sanctification takes time. And more importantly, let us remember that his goal is to be conformed to the image of the Son (Romans 8:29), not to the Christian sub-culture of the church.
WE SHOULD PRAY FOR HIS DISCIPLESHIP AND PERSEVERANCE IN THE FAITH
Those of us in the faith are constantly attacked with spiritual warfare. But someone with the platform of Kanye will be attacked in ways that many of us can’t relate to. Our prayer for him should be that he remains connected to the local church and continue to grow in his discipleship. We should pray for him as he leads his family and as he lives out the new Christian life under the microscope of the world – a world watching and waiting for him to fall. I am reminded of the introduction of many of Paul’s letters to the local churches, where he often encourages the believers to continue in the faith and to know that he is praying for them. May that be the attitude of Christians everywhere who pray that he might persevere in the faith.
WE SHOULD NOT PUT OUR FAITH IN KANYE
Finally, we should remember that our faith is not in Kanye or any other spiritual leader. Our faith is in the God who saves. Kanye is just another one of us now – one who trumpets the truth that Jesus is King. Our faith should not be in Kanye or in anything he says. Our refuge is in the Lord, not in man (Psalm 118:8–9).
In a recent interview, Kanye was asked why he named the album Jesus is King. His response was simple: “Because Jesus is King.” Praise God for that answer. Because that is the simple but powerful truth that changes lives.
And no matter what happens in the days ahead, one thing is absolutely certain – Jesus is King.