The Gospel doesn’t make bad people good; it makes dead people alive
For many Christian artists, the Gospel has gone out of style. In some cases, it's even seen as a negative thing. It may never be said that explicitly, but the Gospel is seen as “too intense” or “fundamental” or “old-school,” somehow less sophisticated, and not appropriate for our modern times.
This mentality has paved the way for a Christian art culture that focuses on messages other than the Gospel. Today, it’s more about life transformation or inspirational testimonies. We love to hear about alcoholics or drug addicts who came to Jesus and are now free of their addictions.
Hear me clearly, when you surrender your life to Jesus he changes you, and when He does, we should celebrate that. But God is more than another approach to behavior modification. A person can overcome addiction in many ways. Some go to therapy, some take medication, others try meditation, and others simply rely on willpower and discipline. This may sound controversial, but Jesus is not the only thing that can change your behavior - thankfully He does so much more than that.
Tullian Tchividjian in his book Surprised by Grace wrote “The Gospel doesn’t make bad people good; it makes dead people alive. That’s the difference between the gospel of Jesus Christ and every other world religion.”
People do not need another self-help, life improvement plan. They need to be made alive. They need to be reconciled to their Creator and forgiven for the bad things they’ve done.
Sadly, we have been selling people short by limiting Jesus to a program for behavioral change.
Taking on social issues is another popular substitute for the preaching the Gospel. Coming to Jesus means taking on His heart, and it is undeniable that God’s heart breaks for the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the “least of these.” To be like Jesus is to step into the fray and make a difference. It means pouring our lives out for the widow and the orphan. Despite the lack of recognition, Christianity has always been a major force for social good. Throughout history, Christian men and women have stepped up to fight for equality and justice.
I believe that Christian artists need take part in the effort to rid the world of poverty, suffering, and inequality.But social justice and the Gospel were never meant to be separate pursuits. In Christianity today, we have created a false dichotomy. Either you do good works, or you share the Gospel. I think this is a misunderstanding. Good works are grounded in, motivated by, and back up the Gospel.
I understand the attraction to social justice efforts, and in no way am I minimizing their importance. But, without the Gospel, there is NO social justice.
You want to end poverty. Preach the Gospel! The only way we will end the systemic corruption and greed, that leads to poverty is through the heart transformative power of the Gospel.
Do you want to end the sex trade? Preach the Gospel. Only the transforming power of the Gospel can bring conviction and repentance to millions of men and women whose lustful appetites perpetuates and fuels an entire industry of exploitation and slavery.
I want to believe that deep down all artists who are followers of Jesus want to use their art to make a difference. But what I have experienced is that only through God’s power unleashed through the bold proclamation of the Gospel will any significant change be possible.
I believe it's time that Christian artists start sharing the Gospel again. This doesn't mean we must cram it into every word of every song. We need to love those God has called to, and learn to speak in a relevant way. But I have seen in over ten years of using art and music in ministry that when you are willing to lift up the Cross, God moves, and lives are changed!