If the Apostle Paul Had a Band - Part 5
We’ve been reading through Philippians, and looking to Paul and his team to set the example for us in the art and music scene today. Paul toured all over the place, preached Jesus, and planted churches. We’ve been challenged by his love for his audience, dedication to the proclaiming of the message, and sacrifice for the cause.
You see, if Paul had had a band, they would have been different to most bands and artists today because they’d be completely sold out for Jesus. In Philippians chapter 3, Paul declares, “Indeed, I count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord.”
The church in Philippi was listening to false teachers who were distracting them from their focus on Jesus. Paul’s message to them had been simple: Follow Jesus - He is all you need. But these teachers were telling the Church they needed Jesus plus various other religious rules and traditions. In verses 3 and 4, Paul calls this “confidence in the flesh.”
We see a lot of confidence in the flesh in the music and art scene today. Often, as “Christian artists," we function like this: we have our “spiritual life” - going to church, praying before rehearsal, and things like that. And then there’s our “real life,” where we’re trying to figure out how to live like everyone else. We have to meet expectations - get more likes, more plays, more followers, bigger gigs; have better PR, new merch, cooler designs; sign contracts for greater opportunities, and so on. It’s hard to keep our focus on Jesus with all that going on around us.
I’m not saying that if Paul had had a band, he wouldn’t have had any of that. The issue here is: What is at the center in our hearts? What really matters to us? Because behind all this, there are bigger questions - about our value and worth, about success and what makes our lives worthwhile. Often, while saying our art and music are for a higher purpose, the truth is that we’re looking for recognition, trying to satisfy a deep, inner need. This is probably one of the greatest cries of our generation - we’re looking for meaning and purpose.
Paul passionately describes how he finds this meaning in Jesus alone. In verses 7 to 9, he explains that compared to Jesus, all these things are useless rubbish. He points out the difference between Jesus and confidence in the flesh. These worldly things are self-centered, and depend on our own strength, potentially leading to failure and frustration. They don’t satisfy us, don’t define who we are, and they can’t justify us before God. Only Jesus can do that.
Paul speaks pretty strongly about these things that creep in and distract us from Jesus. He explains that not only are they useless, but are, in fact, contrary to Jesus - “enemies of the Cross” (verse 18). This means we have to choose: either we trust Jesus or this striving for worldly success. Paul says that if we want to follow Jesus, we have to surrender everything.
When I was 17, I had a metal band. We had big dreams of being rockstars for Jesus. The plan was to become really famous, so that we could tell everyone about Christ. I developed a technique of playing drums and swinging my hair in circles at the same time. But I lived in a city in the South of Brazil, in an area heavy with prostitution and drug trafficking. There were kids as young as seven or eight smoking crack cocaine and sleeping on my doorstep. Every morning as I walked by, I would pray, “God, someone has to do something about this.”
Until one day I felt like He answered: “You do something about it!”
“But Lord,” I responded, “I don’t know how to talk to prostitutes and drug addicts! I’m going to be a rockstar and tell loads of people about you.” Yet, I couldn’t get God’s answer out of my head. I ended up quitting the band, giving my drum kit away, and starting a team to help people on the streets. Together, we saw God do some amazing things!
Three years later, the band No Longer Music was touring in Brazil, and I was helping out as a translator. At a certain point, David (founder of NLM) said to me: “I need a new drummer.” I tried explaining that I’d given up drumming years ago, but it was no use. From that day on, David introduced me in every church meeting we went to as his new drummer. Next thing I knew, I was back in a band, touring all over the world. But it was different now. I really didn’t care about being in a band or playing drums. All I cared about was seeing people come to Jesus.
God had a plan and a purpose for me, but I often tried getting there in my own strength, following my own selfish ambition. The first thing that had to happen for me to see God’s calling come about in my life was that I needed to surrender.
Paul knew that all he needed was Jesus. So he surrendered everything to Him, and through this discovered the power of God. In verses 10 and 11, Paul describes this surrender as sharing in the suffering and death of Jesus, so he might also then share in His resurrection and life. Surrendering means suffering and dying to ourselves, yet finally finding true life in Jesus, and being filled with the same power that raised Him from the dead.
This is huge in our “selfie” generation. It means taking a radical stand against the flow of the culture. Yet, that is exactly what is needed. If we’re to reach this global generation for Jesus, we need to surrender all we have to Him. There is no perfect strategy or great formula - we need God’s power. And to see God’s power, we must surrender.
So we have a choice to make. There are many things in life that would want to take front and center in our hearts - that want to define who we are, hold our attention and be our focus. But these things are enemies of Christ if they occupy that center place in our lives. Following Jesus means surrendering all this to Him.
Because knowing Jesus is precious, and the rest is rubbish.