952) A Good Kid?

Tedashii: How I Went from Called-Out Chump to Christian Rapper

Tedashii Lavoy Anderson is a Christian hip-hop artist living in Atlanta.  His newest album, Below Paradise, reached No. 17 on the Billboard Top 200.  This testimony appeared in the November 2015 issue of Christianity Today, pages 103-4 (www.christianity.com)

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     I grew up thinking I was the good kid.  I believed that most of my life.  I never got into a lot of trouble, and never saw myself going down a wrong path.

     As a kid who attended church occasionally while growing up near Houston, everyone looked at me and said as much.  My family and I sat in pews on certain Sundays throughout the year, so I quickly learned the church’s traditions, but I didn’t know much about the God spoken of there.  I knew how to obey during Sunday services, and eagerly awaited their conclusion.

     My main teachers in how to view myself, relationships, and money were movies and music.  I took my cues from them and lived accordingly.  And I was applauded.  I knew how to follow the rules and do my work in school so I could get good grades.  I knew how to attract the ladies.  I knew how to physically intimidate people, so they knew not to mess with me.  And all those around me applauded me.  I was a good kid.

     I thought that all the way to college.

     I got the chance to go to Baylor University in Waco.  By the grace of God, I got a scholarship and walked onto the football and track teams.  My dreams were coming true.  I get to play sports, my grades are looking good, I’m looking good, I remember thinking.  I’m living my dream.

     Halfway through my first semester, a student walks up to me and tells me that he knows me.  I deny it.

     “You were in the Student Center, hanging out with some of my friends, and I was there,” he says.

     “Okay, I guess you’ve seen me,” I say.

     “I heard the way you speak about girls, how you talk about your life.  I heard the jokes you told and how you interact with other guys.  And I gotta be honest, I think the Bible would call that sin.”

     What?

     “Sin is disobedience to a holy God.  Sinning against a holy God makes you his enemy.  If you break his commandments and do something he tells you not to do, you become his enemy.”

     I’m shocked.  “What?”

     “You become an enemy, and this is what happens,” he says.  “There’s a place called heaven and a place called hell, and God’s enemies don’t go to heaven.  So listen, I want to tell you about Jesus.”

     I’m still shocked— and now I’m angry.  I get in his face, yelling over and over, “You don’t know me!”  I shove him and go on to class.

     I don’t even know if what he said is true.  I just know that, for the first time in my life, someone is telling me that I’m not a good kid.  And it’s not just him.  He is saying that God is saying that— and I don’t know what to do with it.  So, like many when they hear gospel truth spoken plainly for the first time, I get offended.

     I go on to class, then to the weight room.  It’s leg day, so I prep the bar to do squats.  I had 675 pounds on the squat bar.  The school record was 810, and I wanted to break it as a freshman.

     Down, then up— one squat.  Easy.

     I put 700 on the bar.  Down, then up— another squat.

     Next, I put 725 on the bar, thinking that if I can do this now, next semester I’ll be able to break the school record.  Down— and I don’t come back up.

     I hear some kind of snap and, not sure if it was inside my head or coming from my body, I scream out.

     The guys in the weight room quickly help me up and drive me to a hospital.  Once there, a doctor tells me that my back is curved in three places.  He says that if I get hit the wrong way in a game, I may never play football again— and might not ever walk again.  He tells me I have a choice:  I can continue playing football and risk permanent injury, or I can stop playing football and keep my ability to walk.

     I choose walking.  But I leave the doctor defeated.

     Two days later I’m sitting on campus, sulking.  The same guy who approached me days before comes up to me again.  He starts telling me the gospel again.

     He says that, even though I am an enemy of God, Jesus came to this world and lived the perfect life that I couldn’t live.  He died innocently on the cross, dying the death that we, that I, should have died.  Three days later, because he loves this world, God raised his Son from the dead and in so doing, proved that Jesus is God and that he is Lord over sin, death, and the grave.

     I had never heard any of this before.  I knew little of the full truth of what Christ’s death on the cross meant.  For me, the cross had simply been a backdrop to my ability to live a supposedly good life.  This time I hear him.

     This guy continues to explain the gospel.  Jesus, who did all this even when I didn’t love him, loved me enough to do that.  He doesn’t just want my good behavior.  No, he wants relationship.

     He goes on to explain that, at the end of the day, every person on this planet is created in the image of God.  And our being created in the image of God comes with purpose— not so we can stand in the mirror and brag to ourselves.  We are made in his image so that we can reflect him.  When people see us, made in God’s image and made a new creation in Christ, they should ask, “How are you that way?  Why do you live like that?”  And we can tell them, “When I was a sinner, the very God whose image I was created in died for me.”

     Hearing this rocks my world.

     Later that week, I break down in my dorm room.  I see with fresh eyes that I am not a good person— as far as God is concerned.  I come face to face with my sin and neediness, and it grieves me to the point of tears.

     I fall to my knees and cry out to God.  I kneel down feeling helpless, unable, and disgusting.  And then what comes to my mind is that God has already dealt with my sin and my inability to be good.  For the first time, I have faith to believe that the gospel is true.

     My life circumstances weren’t instantaneously different after that night.  But I had a new way of seeing and understanding.  I had this new relationship with Christ that I was eager to deepen.  I was hungry for truth.  I felt like I had been lied to most of my life, and I wanted to know what was actually true.

     So I got connected to other believers by joining a local church.  I was taught how to read and study the Bible and how to grow in intimacy with God.

     Over time, how I viewed and responded to life began to change.  I no longer saw myself as the good kid, but as a sinner saved by grace, through no effort of my own.  I began to view romantic relationships not as a means to gratify selfish desires, but as a purposeful means to one day obtain the good gift of a wife.  Physical intimidation, anger, and pride didn’t fuel me like they once had.  A heart of service started to grow in me.

     The guy who called me out and shared the gospel with me is to this day a close friend.  He influenced many young men and women during our time at Baylor.  He was not ashamed to communicate the life-changing truth he believed.  I am beyond grateful for his boldness that day on campus.

     He was ultimately the one to encourage me to put a Christian message in the rap lyrics I was practicing in my dorm room.  After Baylor, I got connected with Lecrae and trip Lee and Reach Records, based in Atlanta, and have recorded four solo albums with them.  Making and performing music have allowed me to process both hope and tragedy, including the sudden death of my wife’s and my one-year-old son due to natural causes.  The Lord has allowed me room to wrestle within his grace, but he’s kept me.

     And because I have a treasure so good, I can’t just keep it to myself.

     The good news of the gospel has radically transformed this good kid.

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Romans 5:10  —  For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life.

Romans 3:22-24  —  This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.  There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Romans 3:27a  —  Where, then, is boasting?  It is excluded.

II Corinthians 5:7  —  If any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come.

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Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a poor sinner.

–Ancient Jesus prayer

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