When one door closes, another one opens.
Last night, I went to D.A.R. Constitution Hall1 and saw Nas and Lauryn Hill. Two of my favorite artists ever, together. It was amazing. Scored tickets in the 6th row as well, it was incredible. They both had full bands with them and just killed it, completely. Lauryn did a version of Ex-Factor with a heavy rock influence complete with crazy solo that blew me away completely. It was just an awesome show.
One thing that struck me was how many things they both sang and said from the stage that would get an amen in a lot of churches. Things I’ve heard in churches, that they probably heard in church themselves. Lauryn practically reads from Ecclesiastes in “Everything is Everything”.
Everything is everything
What is meant to be will be
After winter must come spring
Change it comes eventually
Or consider the plea she makes for her man in “Ex-Factor”. It begs to be turned on its head and used in a message.
Cry for me, cry for me
You said you’d die for me
Give to me, give to me
Why won’t you live for me?
There were a number of lyrics that I heard as though I’d heard them for the first time and it got the wheels going. There are so many things that they’re saying that you could give a bold endorsement of. The one that got really stuck in my head was Lauryn’s track “Lost Ones”.
Now, now how come your talk turn cold
Gained the whole world for the price of your soul
Tryin’ to grab hold of what you can’t control
Now you’re all floss, what a sight to behold
Wisdom is better than silver and gold
I was hopeless now I’m on Hope road
Every man want to act like he’s exempt
When him need to get down on his knees and repent
Can’t slick talk on the day of judgement
Your movement’s similar to a serpent
Tried to play straight, how your whole style bent?
Consequence is no coincidence
Hypocrites always want to play innocent
Always want to take it to the full out extent
Always want to make it seem like good intent
Never want to face it when it’s time for punishment
I know that you don’t wanna hear my opinion
But there come many paths and you must choose one
Here’s the thing, though. As church-like and as true as some of these lyrics may ring, they’re not the Gospel. There’s a lot of Christians who have only ever heard things like this. Stuff that’s true, that’s Jesus-esque, but is not the Gospel. Lauryn and Nas might have some great things to say, might have some wisdom you can put into practice, but they can’t save you.
You can use the Bible to preach like this. You can use it to support statements that are true, that are fun to hear, that get people excited, but ultimately lead to nothing. This is what Paul is talking about when he writes to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4.
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
Does your preaching make much of Jesus? Does your life make much of Jesus? When you read the Bible are you looking for what it says about you or Jesus? The Gospel has to be the through-line of every part of our lives. Otherwise, you’re building a “cistern that cannot hold water.”2
Joel Olsteen was just on Oprah leading everyone in optimism and positive thinking, but nowhere near the cross.3 I was amazed by how large the crowd was for this show. And they’re just eating it up. Loving every second of it. Positivity is really popular. The Gospel, the Jesus that says “No man comes to the Father, but through me,” not so much sometimes…
What do you do when everyone around you is cheering on some empty, Christ-less moralism that aims to make people feel good above all else? Well, what would L-Boogie4 say?
You might win some, but you just lost one.