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Lecrae: ‘Following Jesus Wasn’t Just About Me’

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The following is an excerpt from What Did Jesus Ask?, edited by Elizabeth Dias and published by TIME Books, available from Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Read other excerpts from the book here.

“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”—Luke 6:46

This is a serious question for Jesus.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,” Jesus said in Matthew’s Gospel, “but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”

In Scripture, when something is repeated, especially a name, it shows an emotional connection, a deeper sense of meaning. When David mourned over his son’s death, he cried, “Absalom, Absalom.” There was a sense of passion behind that.

As followers of Jesus, it is easy to feel that emotional connection to God and yet still not do what he says. This is a good diagnostic question for any Christian to ask—at the end of the day, does my life reflect that I have embraced Jesus as the Lord of it? It is easy to want to hold on to our own lives. We want purpose, a sense of doing the right thing. “I’m cool with some of the Gospel stuff,” we say, “but just not in certain areas of my life.”

I heard this question clearly when I graduated from college. My graduation was an amazing moment for my family, my community. In my early childhood we lived on a subsidized income, with government assistance—at one point when I was growing up, my mother was making $14,000 a year. Now I had made it out of the hood, so to speak.

But when I graduated, I felt a pull inside me, calling my attention to the fact that people in the urban community, people in the hood, needed a vision for what they too could become. I knew that I could be an example. I faced a question: Do I move back?

I remember a friend challenged me with Jesus’ words: “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” All signs pointed to my moving into this urban community. I knew that it was frowned upon. “Man, you moved on!” I could hear people say. But I felt like I had to lay my volition down. I really felt burdened to do this, that it was really something that God would have me do.

And so I moved into Binghamton, one of the toughest areas of Memphis. And it wasn’t a “Yay, this is awesome” moment. It was a difficult time. There were multiple murders that I had to wrestle with, and all kinds of different issues that I had to put up with. But the fruit of it is still being produced.

Kids who were 11 at the time had the odds stacked against them. Now they are 18 years old and they are enrolled in school, and they are upstanding members of their community. When I first moved there, I met kids who had never seen a wedding before. For them to see my wedding pictures … they had never seen anything like it.

It painted new pictures for them, new paradigms and a new value system. It helped them say, “Wait—I didn’t know we could go to college. I didn’t know I could think about any of these things, but seeing your life has made this a reality.”

Following Jesus wasn’t just about me. It was about them. Laying my will down for Jesus was laying my life down for others.

I can go to Ferguson, Mo., to advocate for justice, I can give money to the Red Cross after the Haiti earthquake, and I can write Christian music, but have I ultimately given up my will? I always have to ask myself, Do I really lay down every aspect of my life?

And even when you are doing all the right things, there’s still something more. It is possible to call God “Lord,” to feel emotionally connected to faith, to do the altruistic things and still not want God.

That is what Jesus is getting at. Are you laying down your will? Or are you using Jesus to get what you want?

It comes down to something big: Do you really want God?

Lecrae is a Grammy Award–winning hip-hop artist. In 2014 he became the first artist in Billboard chart history to occupy the top album spot on both the Gospel Albums and Billboard Top 200 lists.

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