Turn Down For What?


Crunk rap artist Lil Jon and DJ Snake have a top 10 single dedicated to the hook, “Turn down for what.” Since I was a bit out of touch with the language, I embarrassingly asked some teenagers what it meant. Urban Dictionary confirmed what they also told me: “Rhetorical question used by teenagers. “Turn up” is the act of getting drunk and high and being reckless so “turn down” would mean sobering up.”

So Lil Jon proudly shouts, “Turn down for what… Another round of shots.”

The Intoxicating Message of Grace

Grace is intoxicating—It changes the way we see the world. It changes our behavior. It changes our speech. And it certainly affects our mind. This is the grace that Paul Zahl describes when he writes, “Grace is love that seeks you out when you have nothing to give in return. Grace is love coming at you that has nothing to do with you. Grace is being loved when you are unlovable…”

This kind of grace is intoxicating.

The Apostle Paul describes this intoxication in Ephesians.

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
(Ephesians 5:18-21 ESV)

Paul exhorts, “Don’t get drunk on wine. Get drunk on grace.”

But something odd has happened in our culture, the message of grace gets turned down. It gets turned down as people turn to messages of self-help and performancism, sometimes even under the guise of Christianity. It gets turned down as we turn to weaker, less helpful, and powerless messages. It gets turned down in the name of do more and try harder.

This isn’t the first time this type of thing has happened though; in the 16th Century the Christian church drifted away from the message of the Gospel. And a man by the name of Martin Luther called for a return to the pure, undiluted, intoxicating message of Grace that declares, “It is finished.”

Robert Capon described the Reformation better than anyone else:

The Reformation was a time when men went blind, staggering drunk because they had discovered, in the dusty basement of late medievalism, a whole cellar full of fifteen-hundred-year-old, two-hundred proof Grace—bottle after bottle of pure distilate of Scripture, one sip of which would convince anyone that God saves us single-handedly. The word of the Gospel—after all those centuries of trying to lift yourself into heaven by worrying about the perfection of your bootstraps—suddenly turned out to be a flat announcement that the saved were home before they started… Grace has to be drunk straight: no water, no ice, and certainly no ginger ale; neither goodness, nor badness, not the flowers that bloom in the spring of super spirituality could be allowed to enter into the case. (Robert Capon from Between Noon & Three)

In other words, Martin Luther and the Reformers got a hold of the Gospel and said, “Turn down for what.”

And as sinners who desperately need a savior, sinners who need to confess daily, we need “another round of shots.” God saves us single-handedly. It has nothing to do with our own determination, dedication, or commitment. For years many of us have been served a bottle of diluted crap that fails to give hope to the broken-hearted or heal the wounded; it fails to proclaim victory and triumph to the helpless.

So let’s raise a different glass.

It’s time to take a drink of the intoxicating message of the Gospel. Let’s empty the cellars and break out the bottles of “two-hundred proof Grace.” Let’s throw out the diluted bottles that lead us to believe grace had something to do with us. Let’s trash the boxed wine that lead us to believe our worth was found in our own abilities.

And instead, let’s pour a round of Gospel shots.

Let’s embrace what have become very prophetic words from Lil John when he shouts, “Turn down for what” and drink deeply in the pure, undiluted message of Grace Alone.

RJ Grunewald is a Pastor at Faith in Troy, Michigan. He is a theology nerd who believes that theology isn’t just meant for the academics and dead guys but it is for everyday life. He is the author of The Art of Law & Gospel and Reading Romans with Luther. He’s also got a digital copy of The Art of Law and Gospel that you can download for free by subscribing to his emails. RJ has been married to his wife Jessica since 2007 and they have 3 kids, Elijah, Emaline, and Alice.

Follow @RJgrune