Our Rapper-Restoring God
In June 2005, Timothy Brindle got married. In October, he released his second album. By November, he'd stopped rapping. Many wondered what happened.
Fast forward seven years. It turns out the Lord in his sanctifying love was using marriage to expose the depths of Timothy's selfishness and sin. But our merciful God didn't leave him there. Instead, he revealed the abounding riches of Christ's restoring grace to Timothy and his wife, Floriana. (Watch the Brindles discuss the painfully sweet journey.) Timothy has now experienced a glorious restoration to Christ, to his family, and to his church.
No surprise, then, that the title of Brindle's third album (complete with a Puritanesque subtitle, I might add) is The Restoration: The All-Sufficiency of Christ in the Gospel of Grace to Restore Ruined Sinners to Himself for Their Joy and His Glory. Recently reaching #3 in the iTunes Hip Hop/Rap Albums category, The Restoration is a rugged and beautiful anthem to the Hound of Heaven who pursues straying sheep (Luke 15:3-7).
You can stream one of the tracks, "The Great Exchange," below. (Lyrics available here.)
I corresponded with Brindle [Twitter | Lamp Mode Recordings | "True Story"], now a student at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, about his new album, the daily value of the gospel, a Christian artist's cultural posture, and more.
The Restoration is your first album in seven years. Tell us how you decided to record a project with this theme.
The last seven years have been a bittersweet time of learning my deep need for Christ's grace, but also a glorious time of Christ making clear he already accomplished my restoration with the finished work of his life, death, and resurrection. In the midst of being overwhelmed by my sinfulness, my restoration occurred as I looked away from my performance to what Jesus has done in restoring me to the Father. The encouragement, hope, and joyful strength I found in feeding on my positional right-standing---secured by Christ's blood and righteousness (i.e., justification)---further empowered his ongoing restoration (i.e., sanctification) in my life.
So I felt burdened to make a project that would build up God's people by encouraging them to look to the glory of Christ's grace at Calvary and to rest in his righteousness for ongoing confidence in this challenging Christian walk. I also wanted to show how central to the Christian life are doctrinal terms like "justification by faith alone," "union with Christ," and "adoption," and how these realities are a solid rock amid our struggles with sin.
The Great Awakening was a celebration of my unexpected new birth in Christ. We thought the title was fitting for that reason, as well as to point back to the revival led by Jonathan Edwards---since the project was one of the first hip-hop albums to emphasize Reformed theology. Killing Sin was inspired by a John Piper sermon series emphasizing Spirit-empowered sanctification titled "How to Kill Sin."
While The Great Awakening celebrated initial salvation and Killing Sin sought to help the listener make war on the flesh, The Restoration differs in that it seeks to highlight the all-sufficiency of Christ's grace for the entire Christian life. I'd like to think it's a humbler, more aware-of-my-neediness approach to a gospel-centered lifestyle.
Stylistically, I'm still considered a rugged, underground emcee---though I did try to branch out little more sonically (thanks to deejay essence, Wit, and Demodocus) to sound at least somewhat "current." I'll never go for that commercial sound, though. That would be like Westminster going dispensational!
What have the last few years taught you about the local church---particularly the importance of pastoral care and the means of grace?
One of my new mottos is: "Want restoration? Go to church!" My wife and I are indebted to Lance Lewis, who pastors Christ Redemption Fellowship in Philadelphia, for his ongoing care as he walked with us through some of the hardest years of our marriage. His passionate gospel-saturated preaching, his and Rick Horne's close shepherding and counseling, and the ongoing prayers of the saints proved to be God's effectual means of restoration grace for my family. For that reason I have a song on the album celebrating Christ's means of grace (featuring Pastor Lewis and Shai Linne)!
There has been a long-running debate about how Christian artists should reflect the surrounding artistic culture and seek to change it. How do you see your role as a Christian in the arts?
It's clear that God desires humans to make art that would reflect him and his beauty.
What's interesting (and a bit humorous) is that the Father ordained from all eternity that I'd use the "foolish" (1 Cor. 1:27) medium of hip-hop to magnify his Son and build up his people. I say "interesting" because God even allowed me to rap for several years as an unbeliever to tone my craft---while blaspheming his holy name---until he sovereignly regenerated me and redirected the goal of my music to be for his glory, not mine. Now I only desire to use this art form to highlight Christ in the gospel, and do so as excellently as possible (cf. Lamp Mode's mission statement). I'm grateful to have the privilege of not only seeking to make "good art," but to direct it toward him who is Beauty personified, Jesus Christ.
What books influenced this project?
Jerry Bridges' The Discipline of Grace helped me to make the connection between Romans 5 and 6. He clarified that if sin's guilt no longer reigns over me because of my union with Christ (Rom. 5:12-21), then neither does its corresponding power to enslave (Rom. 6).
C.J. Mahaney's Living the Cross-Centered Life taught me the necessity of preaching daily to myself the gospel truths I'd already learned from being discipled by Shai Linne.
I should mention that being at Westminster has been huge for my growing understanding of our union with Christ and appreciation of the humanity of Jesus (hence the songs "What Great Love Is This?!?" [on adoption] and "The Heart of Christ"). I'm also grateful to my Old Testament biblical theology professor, Doug Green, for helping me see that "the real me" is hidden in Christ. As I am united to the True Human, I am a part of his restored new humanity in the covenant of grace!
Finally, I want to emphasize that more than any book, my wife Floriana's love, grace, and honest encouragement continues to influence me to love and depend on Jesus!
What do you want people to walk away with from this project?
My primary desire is that listeners would be strengthened by the gospel (Rom. 16:25) and be further encouraged to preach it to themselves and each other, seeing themselves as God the Father does---in Christ!
I also desire to encourage those who feel their sin is an immovable obstacle that paralyzes their Christian walk. I'm convinced one of the reasons believers experience seasons of great struggle and devastation with sin is because they fail to see Christ in the gospel as sufficient to satisfy the Father on their behalf, and they doubt his grace is enough to rescue them from their wretched condition.
My prayer is that the Lord would use this album to encourage believers to consider Christ's gospel as that which not only secured their justification ("we have been justified by faith," Rom. 5:1), but as that which upholds their right-standing before God ("this grace in which you stand," Rom. 5:2). As we see ourselves in Christ---just as embraced and accepted as he is before the Father---we will have ample hope and encouragement to continue in a life of repentance and thanksgiving.
May Jesus keep getting glory in restoring messy people like me! Sola Gratia!