Recent news in Christianity at the time I am writing this surrounds the alleged conversion to the Christian faith of a prominent secular musical artist: rapper Kanye West. I don’t normally involve myself in discussions of this nature, as most of the time they are gossip, which is what about 99.9% of what I see people saying on both sides of the discussion seems to be (Note: I do not have a real statistic, my point is not to give a real statistic but to emphasize that most of what I see people saying appears to be gossip). So why put out a statement at all? Because more than most other times where a prominent cultural celebrity has professed faith in Yeshua (or “Jesus”) as their Messiah/Savior I have noticed some very interesting things come to light as a result of Mr. West’s claimed conversion to Christianity.
Essentially, this is not really a statement about Mr. West, or any other celebrity in popular culture who may have ever professed a faith in Yeshua, but rather it is a statement regarding the responses I have seen by Christians. The reality is that both sides of this matter have extremely valid points and at the same time those points are completely irrelevant until we actually see lasting fruit from Mr. West’s claimed conversion. So what I want to do is take a brief look at a couple of the statements or general thoughts I have seen expressed about this matter and consider what they are saying not about Mr. West but about Christians and Christianity today.
Are Christians Being Gullible, Again?
Not so long ago another celebrity secular rapper, Calvin Broadus Jr. who is better known by his stage name “Snoop Dogg”, released a “Gospel” music album. There wasn’t a whole lot said about it. Some people, typically those who tend to lean more toward a liberal view of Christianity and The Bible, purchased the album and told everyone how great it was that someone like “Snoop Dogg” would create a “Gospel” record. Other Believers seem to have simply ignored it.
One thing I have heard from some preachers is that “Snoop Dogg” was getting high on drugs after his tour for the “Gospel” album had come to a close, and possibly even after shows on the actual tour. Now, I do not know how much truth there is to that, but what I do know is that it would not be the first time such things have happened. Modern Christianity in America is littered with so-called “celebrity converts” who ultimately left a huge black stain on the Christian faith and caused many to just give up on their faith altogether because all they see is this type of hypocrisy.
So what about Kanye West? Should we be skeptical or cynical of him because others before him have professed faith in Messiah Yeshua (even if under the moniker “Jesus Christ”) only to become an embarrassment to the Body of Messiah?
Of course I do not believe at all that we should judge a man based on the actions of others. Such a thing simply would not be at all biblical.
So how should we approach the alleged conversion of a man who just a short time ago was quite influential in Satan’s Kingdom? After all, as some have noted, West went from saying “I am god” to “Jesus is King”.
We should treat him the same way we should treat any convert to the faith. What should never happen is for a man like this to be immediately put onto a platform where he is suddenly viewed as an authority on The Bible. He is not. He is at best a novice in the things of Scripture and the ways of God’s Kingdom. His conversion may be genuine, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t prone to misleading the masses instead of inspiring them to embrace the faith if a proper Bible-based process is not followed.
The Damascus Road
A wonderful point I saw stated is that we should not be so quick to judge the conversion of Kanye West because of its possible likeness to the Apostle Paul’s conversion experience. The thought continued that certainly many in the first century were skeptical about how genuine the conversion of Paul actually was considering that he was leading the charge to murder the followers of Yeshua up until his experience on the road to Damascus, where he was going with the intent to persecute the community of Believers there.
This sure does seem like a provoking thought. After all, it is very much worth considering that God would take a man like Kanye West who declared himself to be a god and, just like with Paul, use someone once so evil to do one of the greatest works for God’s Kingdom that has ever been witnessed. There is, however, one major issue I see with this.
In Galatians 1:11-24 we find Paul sharing the story of his transformation from being a hater of Yeshua’s followers to becoming one of the most zealous of all Yeshua followers. In this record he states that upon the experience along the Damascus road, he spent three years in Arabia and then returned to Damascus.
In my studies, I have come to a conclusion that there is a strong possibility that during this time Paul was actually being ministered to in the community at Qumran, where the elusive Jewish sect called the Essenes lived. This is the same community that the famous Dead Sea Scrolls are attributed to. There are indications that many in the Essene community had already come to faith in Yeshua, and there are also theories that the Essenes had a strong influence on early Messianic faith.
One example of this is a theory about the author of a series of songs called by some “The First Christian Hymnal” titled The Odes of Solomon. These songs, according to scholars involved in studying their history, were written potentially in the first century—it seems they were almost certainly completed by the end of the second century—by a convert out of the Essene community. Thus, it would not at all be out of line to contemplate the possibility that the Essenes, particularly those who had embraced a Messianic view of Yeshua, had been a primary influence on Paul during these three years.
It is also worth noting that, just prior to his full conversion to faith in Yeshua, Paul was educated to the highest levels in the Torah. He was trained under the great Gamaliel in the famous Hebrew school known as the House of Hillel. He knew The Word better than most in his day and I would dare say perhaps better than most Christians, including leading Christian scholars, throughout the whole of Church history.
In contrast, as I have noted, Mr. West is at best a novice in Scripture and a completely new Believer coming not out of one of the best Bible schools in the land but out of a demonized branch of the secular music industry. There is no indication presently that Mr. West has any intention of disappearing for three years to be trained by the best Messianic Torah scholars available today. He, instead, is leading large public gatherings he calls his “Sunday Services”. It also seems that “well-meaning” pastors are elevating this man to a place of influence. All indications are that this is premature and could easily backfire.
I am not saying that Mr. West is not called to be a very real and prominent leader in the Body of Messiah. In fact, a minister who has garnered a lot of attention recently, Jeremiah Johnson, has put out a prophecy that West, along with President Donald Trump and secular music artist Justin Bieber, are all to be used mightily of God. A genuine conversion by West would certainly make such a prophecy seem likely to come to pass. What I am saying, however, is that there is a clear process in Scripture and if the process is not followed, even the best intentions can have a horrible outcome. I’ll talk a little more about how that process works in a moment.
Living In The Spirit
I want to change gears for a little bit as I move toward closing out this brief message. As I said, I am more interested in addressing Christian chatter about this issue than talking specifically about Mr. West. The fact is that there is no possible way anyone can know now or even 50 years from now, should Mr. West continue in his current trend, whether or not he is really saved. Only God knows now or at any future time if a person is saved and only at The Judgment will a person find out if they made it. After all, a person can renounce their faith, and they could even do so five minutes before their departure from this world. Also, there have been those who did a really good job of deceiving Christians into thinking they are genuine “servants of God” for their own personal gain. So debating about whether or not a man or woman is really saved is really one of the dumbest things I see Christians doing.
The Apostle Paul gave some good advise in Philippians 1:18, addressing those who proclaim the Gospel because they are genuine servants of God and those who do so for personal gain: “But what does it matter? Only that in every way, whether in dishonesty or in truth, Messiah is being proclaimed—and in this I rejoice!” In other words, just be glad people are having The Gospel shared with them and let God deal with those who are deceiving His Body. If someone gets genuinely saved out of all this, it will be Kanye West’s problem if he ultimately ends up in hell, not yours.
All that said, one thing that I have seen come out of all this is some professing Believers who have said that they just don’t like rap music or that the music album released by Mr. West immediately following his professed conversion, titled Jesus is King, is “not their cup of tea”. This brings up a deeper issue regarding those who are speaking about Mr. West and whether or not he is truly saved—as well as whether or not these people sharing their opinions are really saved.
One of the biggest problems I have seen in the lives of professing Believers in God and followers of Yeshua is that they simply do not live in The Spirit. They may have spiritual experiences, they may have genuine encounters with The Spirit when in prayer or worship, but they don’t live in The Spirit. I have found that one of the biggest indicators of whether or not a person is living in The Spirit is found in how the professing Believer approaches music.
I don’t know how many times I have heard a Christian/Believer hear a song written and sung in worship to their King and say something like “well, I don’t like that song, it’s not my style”. These people are not listening to the music in The Spirit, but with the natural mind. This is also why some Christians think nothing of listening to the music of secular artists like Katy Perry who has openly professed to have sold her soul to Satan or Beyoncé who is currently holding a demonic “Beyoncé Mass” promoting feminist humanism and where she is being elevated like a deity (look into it, the website for these events says that they are based on the life and music of Beyoncé, as opposed to a service focused on Yahweh and Yeshua). Such “professing Believers” who enjoy listening to secular music that defies the God they claim to serve don’t listen to music with their spirit, the same way they don’t live in The Spirit, and I would wonder if a person capably of listening to such music is even saved at all.
Think of all the genres of music there are today, the list is probably in the hundreds. I ran some Internet searches and here are some of the genres of music I found: Rock and Roll, Country, Classical, Bachata, R&B, Rap, Reggae, Soca, Praise & Worship, Calypso, Contemporary Christian, Light Rock, Reggaeton, Pop, Industrial Rock, Heavy Metal, Salsa, Jazz, Gospel, Blues, Techno, Disco, Electronic Dance, Gospel, Ska, Bluegrass, and Merengue. These are but a handful of genres I could find that are popular in the United States at the present time, not to mention the many cultural genres of music around the world.
In God’s Kingdom, in The Spirit, things are much more simplified. When approaching music in The Spirit there are two genres or types of music: That which glorifies God and that which does not. If you are filled with God’s Spirit and live in The Spirit, then your approach to things like music would be drastically different. You would be fully capable of listening to any style or genre of music if it glorifies God and you will love the songs because in The Spirit they are anointed and glorify God. In contrast, if you are living in The Spirit and listen to music in The Spirit then you will not have any desire to listen to songs, whether secular or “Christian”, that do not glorify God. And in case you are not aware, there is a lot of music being produced under the banner of “Christian” or “Gospel” today that is full of humanism, secularism, compromise, and the like and does not glorify God at all.
Let me add something as a side note here, so nobody is tempted to take what I have shared and turn it into goofiness that it is not meant to be. Living in The Spirit doesn’t mean you cringe and get all super-religious when you walk into a grocery store or some other public setting that is playing worldly music that you know defies God. What it means is that the music simply doesn’t interest you and you just tune it out. It would be as if there is no music even playing. That has been my experience and it can be yours as well if you learn to live in The Spirit.
My point in all of this is that Kanye West produced music record that appears to glorify God, and from looking at the lyrics myself it probably glorifies God better than a lot of the music being produced by so-called “Worship Artists” today. If the music glorifies God then, just as Paul said in Philippians 1:18, it matters not whether or not the man who made the music is genuinely a part of the Body of Messiah or just out to make money on gullible Christians.
Keeping The Fire Burning
Reports I am getting from people who have either listened to the full album, read the song lyrics, or both, are saying that Kanye West’s Jesus Is King record is powerfully anointed. Some have said that just reading the lyrics brought them to tears.
Now, let’s be clear about something. I do not believe that the ability to invoke an emotional response is any indication of an anointing. I have seen entirely too many con artists preying on Christians who are capable of invoking an emotional response, and as such they are able to take advantage of people with ease. Emotional responses are no indication of an anointing.
It is my opinion, for example, that Messianic recording artist Joshua Aaron is by far one of the most anointed worship musicians alive today. I have met him, talked to him, and I can see that he is a man of great character in the Kingdom of God. He lives in Israel by the Sea of Galilee, in the same general area where our Messiah, Yeshua, lived and did most of His ministry. His songs blend Hebrew language and culture into them, but are still very much tailored to an English-speaking audience. He really does use his gift for the glory of God in a way few I have seen do and he has a long and established history at this point to back up my claim that he carries a genuine anointing in the Holy Spirit.
As far as Mr. West, he has none of this. But that’s really not a fair comparison. One thing I can tell you both from my own personal experience and witnessing many others is that when a person is first converted and genuinely receives the real Holy Spirit in their life, they have a fire on the inside of them that burns at its greatest intensity. This is not to say that a person’s fire weakens as they grow and mature in the faith. Like a natural fire, it needs to be controlled and established to sustain itself.
If you’ve ever watched someone build a fire, they start with tinder—typically something like loosely balled up newspaper, dried grass, cedar bark, or something else that would ignite quickly. This is a critical step in the process. But this part of the process also happens very quickly and if the next steps are not followed, the fire will burn out and die just as quickly.
After the fire is ignited, kindling wood needs to be added to establish the fire for long-term sustainability. This is like those three years Paul spent in Arabia. His fire was ignited, and now it needed to be established for sustainability.
After the fire is fully established, it can be maintained with fuel like a large chunk of wood. Perhaps you have heard the phrase “throw another log on the fire”. This saying comes from the act of literally throwing a large piece of wood on an established fire. Once the fire is set, the only thing that needs to be done is to periodically put a new log on the fire because it is hot enough to ignite a large chunk of wood with no additional effort. You simply “throw another log on the fire” as needed.
Now, back to the beginning of this process, I mentioned how the initial igniting of the kindling is the most intense flame. That’s because a single spark literally explodes as the tinder materials catch on fire.
When a person first comes to genuine faith in Messiah, this is the same thing that happens in their spirit. They burst with joy and want to tell everyone how they found the greatest thing they have ever experienced in their life. This is an awesome time for the Believer and that initial flame can certainly draw others to come to be set ablaze themselves. We should never try to quench this fire, but sadly if Mr. West is truly submitted to God that is what a lot of Believers are doing—throwing water on what they should be fueling.
At the same time, when a person is converted they need people to come alongside of them and disciple them the same way a person needs to work with a new flame to build an established fire. This is what does not appear to be happening with Mr. West and what certainly does not happen, from what I have witnessed, with the overwhelming majority of Christian converts. This is the reason why the great revivalist Leonard Ravenhill felt that not even five percent of professing Christians are truly born-again and why the Missionary Evangelist Paris Reidhead said, after his ministry did a study, that only 1 in 200 people are still living a Christian life of any kind two years after responding to an altar call.
The bottom line is that Christians should quit worrying about whether or not a celebrity “really got saved”. If it is a concern, instead of voicing your opinion to the public, why don’t you pray for that person in private? More importantly, why don’t Christians concern themselves with their own faith walk? After all, when people go around and either publicly slander or promote a celebrity who came to a recent conversion to Messiah, they are really only showing that they are themselves potentially not even saved. A saved person doesn’t bash a potential convert, and at the same time a saved person doesn’t blindly follow the crowd and whatever is trending in cultural Christianity.
Not so long ago I wrote a lengthy article titled: Are You Saved? I would suggest taking time to read it before expressing an opinion on someone else’s salvation. After all, statistically speaking, all indications are that most professing Christians today are not saved and those who read my article are likely to find out that they are among that majority. But if you are serious about living for Messiah, reading such a message shouldn’t scare you at all.
I want to challenge anyone who has read this message, regarding things like the alleged conversion of a man like Kanye West with a question: Who cares if he is the real deal or not? The only person who should be concerned with that is The One who has the ability to look at the heart. If you are human, than Kanye West’s relationship with Messiah is not your concern. We have but two assignments in this life: 1. Obey Father’s Torah ourselves, and 2. Tell others to follow Father’s Torah. There is no third mission to concern ourselves with what people do with the message we proclaim to them. In fact, Yeshua told us that if people receive the message we are to receive them, but if not we are to walk away shaking the dust from our feet. That act of shaking the dust off our feet is an act of literally saying “To hell with you then!” I know that’s a phrase viewed as cussing today, and normally it is. But the act of shaking the dust off your feet is basically telling those who reject the Whole Good News of Yeshua and Torah that if they want to go to hell instead, you won’t stand in their way. You’ve fulfilled what Yeshua told you to do by sharing The Gospel.
Here is my advice to people debating about things like the conversion of Kanye West: Stop trying to appear so holy! Typically people who do that are not. You don’t appear more holy by condemning people who actually believe a man like Kanye West really could give his life to Messiah. Neither do you appear more holy by believing that he is saved and lashing out against legitimate concerns that he is not ready to minister to people or that this situation is not being handled correctly by those who actually do have a spiritual influence into West’s life.
What should we be doing? If a situation like this is something you feel passionate about, you should pray. You should pray for Mr. West that he would grow in Messiah. You should pray for those Christian leaders he has surrounded himself with that Holy Spirit would guide them. You should pray for those attending his “Sunday Services” that they will not be misled by anything said or done in these gatherings. And you should pray that Holy Spirit will control the situation and guide this man to embrace the whole Word of God. What you should not do is offer your opinion of anyone’s salvation to the general public.
~Blessings And Shalom~
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