4:44 Woke Me Up!

I've seen a lot of chatter and discussion about the new Jay-Z album, "4:44", that dropped about 4 days ago. There have been a lot of rave reviews about the album and how it addresses ego, financial stability and wisdom, taking responsibility for your actions, intergenerational conflicts, race and other issues that are crucial and important, for some, to culture, self-awareness and growth. Although I haven't listened to the album in its entirety, or even partially, I have researched some of the lyrics and tracks and noticed some very interesting things. And although this album can be seen as an eye-opener and one that shows the importance of vulnerability and honesty, there was something else that it woke me up to.

Now, before I delve any deeper into this, I want to dispel any ideas that I am addressing this as, what some of you like to call, a "super saint" or someone who is "holier than thou". If you know me, I am by far that person. But I am a believer. I am objective. And I do like to see things for what they are and address them for what they can illustrate or portray.

While I have formulated my own thoughts concerning these questions I have, I want to ask the believer, if you'll humor me for a moment, some of the questions that have plagued me... 

Does a gospel artist need validation from a secular artist? 
I have seen posts where a few artists have expressed their humility, gratitude and honor for being featured and sampled on this album. I then asked myself, do a lot of the ones singing about Jesus believe the power of the one they are singing about it? Do they believe that He can elevate them without being elevated by those in the world?

Yes, Jay-Z addressed some very important issues related to society and the things going on in the world now, but one of these issues led to another question...

Is it okay to be a part of something with someone who openly stands for something you stand against? 
I don't know what Jay-Z's relationship with God is like, but what I do know is what we see and hear him represent in his music. Do you think it points to Christ? Does it say that Jay-Z is saved according to scripture?

Because of who was a part of this album, I had another question... 

Do you think it is ok for Christian artists to mix and mingle "the church" with the world and say that they are trying to change lives when the message of the music doesn't point to Christ?
My question isn't triggered by a problem with Jay-Z and his musical work. Jay-Z is doing what Jay-Z has set out to do, musically and professionally and that is, to make secular music that appeals to the masses. Change the scenario with Jay-Z on a gospel artist's track and you may be able to justify the idea of bridging the gap and breaking barriers but when the tables are turned and the message isn't about Christ, it begs the question, who are you really trying to reach?

Now, that I've asked my questions, let me leave you with this...

God has called us from the world (John17, I John 2, Romans 12). He has instructed us to stay away from things that appear to be ungodly (if it points away from or contradicts God in any way, it is ungodly). He has told us to turn away from the things that can keep us unrighteous (II Timothy 3). Y'all, we don't have to reach to reach. And what I mean by that is, we don't have to stretch ourselves to a compromising position to reach the hearts of people. Is Christ not enough? If He's not enough, then that calls into question our true faith in Him and the power we claim He has. You may say, "it's just music". Yes, to you it may be, but to someone else, it may be their soul at stake. Music, television, social media, magazines and so many other outlets of expression can have a strong influence on someone's life. Just look at the impact a flyer possibly had on the mindset of those involved in the mass shooting here in Little Rock recently. 

We have to ask ourselves what's more important- celebrity or salvation? Validation from the world or vindication from sin? Money or ministry? The aftermath of the release of this album woke me up to the fact that a lot of our ministries are motivated by money and fame and not service to God's people. A lot of us are being selfish when it comes to what we want to see happen in the lives of others. We aren't thinking past our own self-gratification into the life of that soul who's crying out for help and attention. 

I'm by far not condemning secular music and artists. There are secular artists that I follow and music that has inspired me (India Arie, Jill Scott, Anthony Hamilton, Musiq, etc.) because I appreciate good artistry. But I can't go as far as to say that if Kanye invited me to lay a hook down for a record, I would accept the invitation. Simply because I know the message and lyrics I may be subjecting myself to. And if it contradicts, in any way, the message and lyrics I sing about, it can potentially damage my witness to others, especially the newly converted. 

I just ask you to consider that there has to be some separation and sanctification among the saints. If there is not, do we really need Jesus?

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