Saturday, April 5, 2008

Fast Train a' Comin'

On August 20, 1979, Bob Dylan caused listeners shock by recording one of several albums that seemed to indicate he had become a Christian. People were asking, "How could such an enigmatic guru accept such a simple-minded message?" Listening to Bob Dylan there can be no doubt that he is a poetic genius, and nobody aside from God can ultimately judge what's going on in his heart.

However, his seemingly short-lived faith is much like the faith so common in the church today. It is a faith often more tailored to fit record sales than a clear description of the Gospel. One of the songs on Dylan's album was "Slow Train Coming." It is sad that Dylan's "Slow Train Coming" never quite made it to the terminal. Nonetheless, know that Christ is building His church and Christianity is spreading like a fast train a' comin' in many parts of the world according to the recent Voice of the Martyrs Magazine.

I felt like shouting when reading about one wide-eyed Christian musician named Hazim. You might say that Hazim is riding that train literally. He regularly shares the Gospel by strumming his six-string guitar aboard a commuter train in Algeria. That's right . . . Algeria! When I read this I have to admit that I hung my head in shame. I wouldn't have the boldness to get on a train in America, much less a train in the fascist Islamic state of Algeria, to start strumming loud Christian hymns in earshot of every passenger on board.

This Muslim run country has been agressively attacking the presence of Christ for years. According to Voice of the Martyrs, seven house churches have been shut down in recent months and three pastors are now toiling by the sweat of their brows in labor camps. Their crime . . . worshiping Jesus. Undaunted, and staring persecution dead in the face, this believer is sharing the gospel by singing Christian hymns to Muslim passengers, who you might say are his captive audience. He says that if they notice the Christian lyrics and ask him to stop singing, he simply puts down his guitar and commences to tell them the good news of Jesus Christ.

Ironically, many artists in the US is faced with falling record sales due to his unsophistocated faith . . . faith that fizzles fast. When Hazim, on the other hand, faced with imprisonment and possibly death, continues to sing to the glory of God. Hazim may not recieve the praise of a Bob Dylan in in the US. But in God's eyes, I would imagine that Bob Dylan wouldn't be worthy of performing his opening act. But in case you don't quite agre, let's look at what what classifies as music to Christ's ears: "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matthew 5:11-12).

What kind of impact does Hazim's boldness have in the radical Islamic state he finds himself engulfed in? In recent years, we are told by Joel Rosenberg, in his book, Epicenter, that more than 80,000 Muslims have come to know Christ. In Russia alone, more than a million Muslims have come to know Christ in just the past year. In Turkey, 35,000. In France, 10,000; and India, 10,000. Even in France and Russia, these new believers will certainly be targeted as blasphemers and infidels by their own parents because the Muslim population of these countries is predominately unassimilated. Many pundits, such as Mark Steyn, have even told us that the Muslims of Europe are beginning to seem more militant than the ones found in the Arabian Peninsula where it all began.

Pray that God will wake us up as a church (Romans 13:11-13). Pray that He will arouse us from the pleasure persuing pipe-dream that has made us so impotent in the face of a dying country. If we had the boldness that God has bequethed upon our dear brother Hazim, we would certainly be persecuted, but mark my word, the Gospel would be paid attention to. It would be received so much more seriously than it currently is. The world does not need cool, retro looking "Christian" musicians who can strum an enigmatic tune that is arguably more influenced by the Dalai Lama than by Jesus Christ. The world needs the truth; the raw truth.

Jesus said in Mark 8:38, "For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels." Shame on us in allowing the sword of the Spirit to be sheathed by the shameful desire to subvert the gospel into something that is cool.

True, it is not cool to be called "socially irrelevant" and "politically incorrect." But neither is it cool to be lynched, killed and dumped into the Nile River by your own drill seargent because you refuse to be cool in the eyes of your fellow soldiers. What might I be speaking about?

Hani was a young Egyption, Coptic Christian, who loved Jesus with all his heart. While serving his mandatory stint in the military, Hani shared the gospel in the boldest way possible. He shared it by being killed as a martyr for refusing to renounce Christ and become a Muslim. Hani suffered importunately and was often interrogated, until finally he was killed at the hands of his own comrads. After being brutally beaten he was dumped in the Nile in an attempt to make his death look like a simple drowning incident. Maybe if Hani had downplayed it a little bit; kept it on the downlow, he would have been accepted . . . cool . . . relevant. Thank God he was more in love with Christ than he was with himself.

Hani's story broke my heart because of the great injustice perpetrated against this young Christian. But my heart breaks more for the condition of my own heart and for the condition of a church that is increasingly more concerned about "cool" issues like global warming than they are the global damnation that awaits a Christ-rejecting world.

Christian musicians and pastors alike must reject the seemingly ubiquitous desire to be a primadonna; the desire to be accepted like a rock-star. Christ told us to be greatly surprised if we were even accepted, much less idolized by swooning fans.

If there is anything I am certain of concerning the state of the church in America, it is the words of Peter: "For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And if the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner? Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good" (I Peter 4:17-19).


dylandevotional said...

Actually the most popular song from Bob Dylan's Slow Train Coming was "Gotta Serve Somebody" a top 10 hit and Grammy Award winning song now covered by artists to numerous to mention. Three years is an awfully long time to preach and perform nothing but gospel material for an artist of Mr. Dylan's Stature. Indeed as a Jew he was brave enough to do that. He continues writing Christian themed music to this day. One need look no further then his most recent album Modern Times. You have given him short shrift.


As late as 2000, Bob Dylan dedicated hisSydney concert to his "Lord and Savior Jesus Christ".


As late as 2000, Bob Dylan dedicated hisSydney concert to his "Lord and Savior Jesus Christ".


Your instructions and comments are too confusing to follow.

Jeremy Blythe said...

Do you really think that simply because someone says he is a Christian (or a devotee to any other philosophy for that matter), he must be a Christian regardless of what he says and does the rest of the time?

dylandevotional said...

And you are -who- to pass judgment on another?

Jeremy Blythe said...

You'll have to read my response in the new post. The question is not "who is worthy to judge?" The question is "who survives judgment?" The answer is "no one except for Christ" (Romans 3:10-19). He alone was righteous (Hebrews 4:15). So while I have an objective standard given to me by Christ to know them by their fruits, I know that only as I possess Christ can I bear the fruit of Christ (John 15:1-8). When I call someone to repentance, I do not arrogantly look down my nose at them. I am one sinner speaking to a fellow sinner. One beggar telling another beggar where to find bread (John 6:35). One dead man walking telling another dead man walking where to find mercy. If anyone has ever stood in need of God's forgiveness it is yours truly.