Divided States of America
How Racism Ends
JD Rodgers | 2020-10-27
Division creates noise, but for what benefit? Racism is not a political problem—it's a spiritual issue that we must tackle with a spiritual solution. In this message, we study Ephesians 2 and learn how to experience peace and reconciliation in one of the most divided times our country has seen.
How Racism Ends
Division creates noise, but for what benefit? Racism is not a political problem—it's a spiritual issue that we must tackle with a spiritual solution. In this message, we study Ephesians 2 and learn how to experience peace and reconciliation in one of the most divided times our country has seen.
We're about to get super real in this place, because we are talking about the Divided States of America. Do you guys mind if I just let you into my time with God the last couple of weeks? I don't want to sound super holy, but do y'all mind? Is that okay? Okay. Thank you.
If you would have told me, "Hey, JD, you're going to be standing in front of a bunch of your friends who are your age, and you're going to be speaking on the topic of racial reconciliation and the issue of racism in our culture today a week before the election, possibly one of the most important elections in the history of our nation, in 2020," I would have actually called you insane. Like, insane.
That's not just lip service, guys. I would have run for the hills and said, "No way, no how. You're not getting me up there," because I, to my core, if I'm being completely honest, have this internal struggle of this thing called people-pleasing. Ever heard of it? I also have another struggle with this thing called perfectionism. Ever heard of it? Okay.
When presented with the opportunity to talk about something that could potentially be so divisive, and there are so many mixed opinions, and there are so many different things that inform this conversation, and let's not forget the fact that I am also white, I'm a male, I'm a Christian… There are a lot of different things that make me, right from the bat, at hearing the opportunity to share on this topic, feel disqualified, feel insecure, feel like, "Who am I to speak on this topic?"
I began to wrestle and wrestle with God. "God, I don't want to do this. Please, I'll talk in the dating series. I'll talk in the therapy series. I'll talk about anything else but politics. I don't feel like I'm enough." Here's what God did in my time, as David looked at me and was like, "And that's exactly why you're doing it," and I was like, "What?"
God in my time these past couple of weeks has shown me time and time again through his Word where there seems to be this theme throughout Scripture where God demonstrates that he uses inadequate, disqualified people to show his heart. There are stories throughout the entire Bible where God used people who were not enough to demonstrate his "enoughness" and his sufficiency. I had to sit there and wrestle with this tension.
I just want to start off by saying this is me, right off the bat, saying that I may not say all of the right things. I may miss some felt needs in the room. So much so that I'm just going to spend some time reading my notes, because I want to make sure I articulate clearly not what JD thinks but God's heart for all people. With that being said, I would like for you guys, for the next few minutes, to lean in with me as I read what I have spent hours and hours on, researching, studying, and praying for what I think God has for our generation tonight.
I don't want to run. I don't want to distance myself from the very thing I claim I want to be about, which is racial reconciliation. I want to run to it, not on my own power, not on my own strength, not on my own giftedness, not my own lack thereof, but on the authority of God and his Word. That's the only thing I stand on tonight, and I hope you'll join me in the conversation. So, here we go.
When talking about the Divided States of America, I believe racism is one of the most dividing factors in our country right now. We've seen protests this year, shootings, social media fights, things like Black Lives Matter versus All Lives Matter, looting, hurtful words and actions, and I could go on and on and on of what the issue of racism has brought to our nation this year and years prior. We have had so many things that are dividing us.
I've heard different arguments from so many different perspectives, so many articles and posts, some helpful, some hurtful. Some white people don't know what they're allowed to say or how they can help. They wonder if they should make every effort to be "woke" or if they should just shut up and sit down and be quiet. Some black people are having to address deep wounds and realities around them and decide how to stand for what they believe in in these times.
Some people are having to fight to find the right words, definitions, names, meanings, labels, and navigate through a lot of difficult and muddy waters. Some say white people are privileged and neglect systemic racism and can't see due to their unconscious bias, and some people say black people are using the history of slavery in one of the freest countries in the world.
It seems like everyone is speaking and making so much noise, but at the same time, everyone has never been more silent. How is that so? Division. I think this is the result of division. Division creates a lot of noise, a lot of activity, without much, if any, true accomplishment. Before we get started, I want you to ask yourself…What is the end goal?
Think about that. In what world are all ethnicities and people happy? Is happiness even the goal? Is social justice for all the goal? Is the once oppressed to become the oppressor the goal or is to have all this blow over after the election and go back to normal the goal? What is the end goal, and are we, as humans on this side of heaven, even capable of achieving it?
Is the goal generally to end racism in our world today? If so, how? Will voting for a certain person make a way? Will certain policies make a way? Will Democrats or Republicans make a way? Will the changing or adding of laws make ways? Will learning, listening, and lamenting make a way? Will our vote make a way?
When we look around right now, so many people in the world think they know what is best and the best solution to end racism, but if I'm being honest, I am starting to care less and less about what most people think. I care less about what social media thinks. I don't really care what a theory or a label says or tells me. I do care, though, that I stick to my duty, first and foremost, as a child of God to care deeply about what God and God alone thinks and then let that inform every thought and action I have moving forward.
As Christians, we have to stop letting culture influence God's Word and define the rules for God's people and start being God's people who follow and trust God's Word, and it alone, and use it to influence culture. That's what has to take place. I believe it can start here with a group like The Porch.
After reading, listening, researching, watching, and praying, I have come to believe that the problem of racism is, in fact, not a political problem but a spiritual problem to its core, to its roots. Therefore, we cannot tackle the problem first through political means, sociological means, or even moral means, but through spiritual means is where this discussion must begin. I truly believe it has to begin with a spiritual conversation.
This is a sin problem, not a skin problem, and as Christians, we have a solution to our sin problem. In my preparation, I have been convicted on how to address the areas of my life where I have let approval of man guide my actions and thoughts over God's desire for me, as a steward of his Word to my generation. I have at times chosen to inform myself first through social media movements, through the news and podcasts and articles over God's Word and his heart.
At times, I have chosen to stay silent out of fear of man's thoughts of me or even the color of my skin and the lack of experience I've had, and I've allowed it to keep me back instead of letting my force be God's unchangeable truth and the truth he says about me and every person here tonight. At times, I have chosen to stand and shout before I've even taken time or even thought about kneeling and begging and praying.
I want all of us to know that these things in and of themselves are not bad. It's not wrong to stand for the things you deem unjust. It's not wrong to research or learn. You should make it your objective to seek to understand, grow, and learn how to better love every person and the things that have made them who they are, but we have to know that trying to fight a spiritually rooted issue with only a man-made solution will never bring us the peace we claim to desire. You just cannot do it.
I'd like to humbly ask that all of us resist the urge in these next few minutes together to use what-about-isms. What do I mean by that? A lot of times, we don't know how to listen to what is being said to us because our mind is filled with "What about this? What about that?" I know I do this. "What about me? Well, what about what I saw over there? And what about what he said or she said or they said? What about…?"
The reason I want to stay away from that is not because I don't want to hear you but because "what abouts" require a conversation. A conversation would mean I would have to be able to speak and then get the gift, the luxury, of listening to every one of you, but I just don't have that right now.
I'd love to talk to all of you. I would sit down with any of you and discuss the research and studying I've done to seek understanding…research in critical race theory, intersectionality, police brutality, unconscious bias or hegemonic power, Marxism, white privilege, systemic racism, colorblind racism, and so much more.
The list can go on and on of the things that each of us could put in the hard work to research and study and learn about, but that warrants a conversation where I both get to speak and listen. Right now, my call from God is to speak, and I have to lay aside my pride and fear in this moment and respond to the call on my life to teach my generation humbly about God's Word, not my opinion.
Because of this spiritual problem and because I cannot conversate with every one of you, I had to decide not to speak my heart or my opinions and to give you some tweetable quotes you can go write down later and post on your Instagram story but God's truth and his truth alone. That's what I'm here to preach tonight. It's the only thing that matters. Before we do that, I want to first have each of us sit for a moment introspectively and ask ourselves (I'm going to do the same) these questions.
1 . Do I believe the Word of God is sufficient? What I mean by sufficient is… Is it full, filled to the brim, no need for more, complete, lacking nothing, without error, no need for addition, it can be fully trusted? Do I believe it in such a way that I will let it impact my life? That matters in this conversation.
2 . Do I believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, his death, burial, and resurrection, to be the perfect sacrifice and atonement for all people's sins? Do I believe it is sufficient, it is enough, it is complete for every injustice, every police brutality moment, every sexually abused person, every absent father?
Do I believe the gospel of Jesus Christ is sufficient to cover it all and to pay for it all? That matters in this conversation. Can the gospel truly forgive everything? Can it truly take darkness and make it light? Can it truly take wrong and extend grace and forgiveness, and can it truly lead to repentance and freedom?
3 . Do we believe that those two things together, the Word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ, have the ultimate power to change the world? I truly believe this, guys. Listen to me. I believe, starting off right from the bat, that if our generation would turn back to the Word of God to inform our thinking and action and live out of the love which has been extended to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we would change the world.
If the answer is "Yes" to those three questions, then this talk will hopefully empower you, encourage you, and bring you peace, but if the answer is "No," then I want to ask you to address the bigger problems before we start addressing racial reconciliation. No matter what, I truly believe and trust that God is in these next few minutes together and is ready to teach us something through his Word. With that, if you have your Bibles, please open up to Ephesians, chapter 2. As you turn there, I'm going to pray.
Father, you know my upbringing. You know every hair on my head, every cell in my body, every thought I have, every intention of my heart, and although I live my life to steward it in such a way that it would be pure and I do my best, I fail time and time again. Tonight, there will be something that through me alone will not be enough, but you are.
God, you are enough, and your plan to redeem the racial issues in our culture is enough, and it is possible today, not on human power or authority or action but because of something you have already accomplished through the life of your Son. I pray tonight that that would ring true for every heart here. If a person tonight does not have a relationship with you, I pray, first and foremost, that they would get that relationship right before we even begin talking about getting other relationships with people around us right.
For those who do call themselves saints, sons and daughters of God in the room tonight, I pray we would see you have created a way out of this problem that is racism and social injustice. You created a way out of it through your Son, and then you have allowed us, as sons and daughters of God, to act in response to it. Tonight, take my little and use it according to your authority and your power. In you and you alone do I pray and ask these things, amen.
All right. I just felt the need to start there right from the bat and let you guys know we are all figuring this out together. I think we're all here tonight, knowing this series and knowing the reality, because we're all trying to figure this out together, but the best place to turn is God's Word, and that's what I want to model for us tonight.
In Ephesians, chapter 2, we're going to read about the reality of a group of people called the Gentiles. That's you and me. At the time of the church of Ephesus, what we see is that anyone who was not a Jew was referred to as a Gentile. No matter who you were, if you were not a Jew, you were a Gentile. Because of that, there were things that were just true of you, not because of anything you had done but simply because of what you were born into, which is a huge issue, an issue that God and Paul here, the writer of Ephesians, wants to talk about.
We also see through this story that although there was a lot of corruption and a lot of oppression and different things to different ethnicities, we were given access in the story to complete unity and oneness, not through actions or policies or protests or researching or opinions but through one act that took place a little over 2,000 years ago called the gospel. We talk about it a lot around here.
Before I go any further, I want to make sure every person here has an opportunity to know and receive the gospel. Guys, this is the best part of this talk tonight: the truth and the message that God saw man, created man in his image, equal of value and dignity and worth, but man chose themselves and man sinned from the very beginning, and because of that, God orchestrated a plan from the very beginning to save mankind.
Thousands of years later, we see him do that through his one and only Son, the Bible says, by the name of Jesus. Jesus stepped down from heaven and was sent to earth to be fully God and fully man, and he did something you and I in the rest of history, past, present, and future, could never do. He was tempted in every way to follow the desires of his flesh, yet he remained without sin. He was sinless, which made him the perfect sacrifice to atone for your and my mistakes. Every sin we commit he paid for on the cross.
Because Jesus Christ took our sins and died the death you and I deserved, but not only that, was buried and then rose again three days later… It was through that that Jesus Christ defeated sin, every type of sin…abuse, addiction, pornography, trafficking, every bit of injustice we see, racism. He paid for every sin in that moment when he died on the cross, and then it was complete in his resurrection.
He actually rose from the dead three days later, and he was united with God. Now, if we believe in that story that God sent his Son to die for us, we have access to a bigger reality than we could ever dream of, and it's that God dwells in us. The Holy Spirit now dwells in us, and instead of receiving judgment, condemnation, and penalties, we now receive grace, freedom, and access to God.
Before we talk about what that reality can do for us, I would ask that tonight you ask yourself, "Have I even received and believed that?" Because if you have not received or believed the gospel of Jesus Christ, none of this will make sense. If you have not decided to forsake yourself, to lay aside the passions and the desires and the need for control in your old life and submit to God, none of this will make sense.
So, the first thing I want to ask you is: Do you have a relationship with Jesus Christ? That is the first spiritual issue we have to identify. There are people out there who are sinful and need Jesus, and if that's you, I would ask that you would take the rest of this time to get with people tonight and start a relationship with Jesus. Paul kind of sets the stage up for that in the first part of chapter 2, and then he goes into what that means for you.
If you have a relationship with Jesus, here's now what you have access to, and here's what that means for you. It's through this passage where Paul reveals how those who trust in Jesus are called to live, but not on their own will or merit or action but through the blood of Jesus. We believe this truth: through the gospel we are rescued; because of the gospel we are reconciled; and with the gospel we are rebuilt. So, let's start with the first one.
1 . Through the gospel we are rescued. Ephesians 2:11-14: "Don't forget that you Gentiles used to be outsiders. You were called 'uncircumcised heathens' by the Jews, who were proud of their circumcision, even though it affected only their bodies and not their hearts. In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them.
You lived in this world without God and without hope. But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ. For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us."
Guys, this is very good news. This is the Word of God that rings true today. Do you know why Paul was using this illustration of walls of hostility? At this time, there was this huge building known as the temple of God that everyone knew about. It was like Bam! right in the middle of the room. Everyone saw it. Everyone knew about it. But here was the wrong way of thinking that these people, the Jews, had at this time.
If you were a Jew, you were a good person and you were a worthy enough person. Anyone else…bad, not good, not worthy. "We are the Jews. Hurrah for us. You're the Gentiles. Bad." Something they couldn't even help. It made no sense. "Jews, you can get in. You have access to a relationship with God." That's what the temple did. It was a place where God would come and dwell with his people. "Jews, you can come in and dwell. Anyone else, sorry about you. No access."
It would be like this. You know, we have overflow rooms and the Loft and Stage 2. It would be like we lined everyone up at the door, and the only people who could come in here… Because most people's desire is to get into the room and be as close as they can to what's going on at the stage and to really be near to all that's happening and participate and be fully engulfed in all the singing and the music, the lights, the production. "I want to be in this room."
What if we didn't say to every person lined up, "Hey, you can't come in because there's no space" but we said, "Hey, you can't come in because you're not a brunette. Brunettes do it better, so I've heard. Brunette is the way to go. The darker the hair, the better. Whatever. You can't come in because you're not a brunette. So, people with red hair, black hair, you're in the Loft, and then blondes, Stage 2. Sorry about you." That's what that would be like.
I bet so many people would be like, "What? That is crazy! I can't help the color of my hair. I was born with this color of hair. What are you talking about? We can't get in because I'm not a brunette? That is so wrong!" And it is wrong. That's what's going on here, though. People literally were told by society at this time… In the Bible times, society was telling people, wrongly, that they were outsiders.
They were called names…racial slurs, you could say…like uncircumcised heathens by the privileged Jews. Weird flex, but okay. They were living apart from Christ. That's what they were told. Then lastly, they were told, "Hey, and you're excluded from citizenship because of your ethnicity, because of your bloodline."
"Why? I couldn't help this."
"Sorry. You can't get in. You're unworthy."
Do you know what that sounds like? When I was reading this Scripture over and over and over, do you know what that sounds like? Racism. That sounds like oppression. That sounds like a system and an authority that was acting unjustly on something that people had no control over, and it was wrong. What's crazy is all of the things I've listed so far aren't even the worst things. The worst reality these people had to face that was true of them was this.
In verse 12 it says, "You lived in this world without God and without hope." Imagine that. Truly think about that. For the people of God in this room, can you imagine? Think about every unjust thing that has ever happened to you…the abuse that has happened to you, the fatherlessness, the divorce, the pain, the cancer, the death…all of the things that have been a product of sin that have happened to you.
Imagine someone coming up to you and telling you, "Oh, and by the way, you have no hope, and God doesn't care about you," all for something you had no control over. You could try and try and try, but nope. Because you're not a Jew, this isn't true for you. That's what was going on here. That's what these people were being told. These people were experiencing what might have been the realest form of oppression and racism, and it was awful, and it was hard.
God saw it, and he demanded change. He demanded that something be different. Paul knew this was not the heart of God. That's why he continues to write. The story did not end there. The story did not end at this reality that "Hey, God is over here, and you are way over here, so far off, so far gone. You have no hope." Paul said, "That is not going to be the story, because that's not what God is about." Here's the story:
"But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ. For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us."
What once divided us, we are now united with Christ Jesus. What once made us far away, we now have been brought near because of the blood of Christ Jesus. We once were hopeless and without hope, but now we have the blood of Christ Jesus, and it changes everything. Through the gospel, through the blood of Christ, we are rescued. That is the reality of every person in this room.
At one point, your sin had you far away and in darkness. It told you that you were excluded. It told you that you were not enough. It told you that you should be full of shame and full of guilt. For all of these things, your sin brought you down and down and down. It took you farther and farther and farther away, and God said, "I don't like that. I want to change that. So much so that I am willing to send my one and only Son to fix that once and for all."
Those who once were far off… No matter what the reason was, every single one of us can unite under the truth that we who once were far off have now the ability to be brought near, not on our own merit, not on our own boasting, not on any action or anything we can do, not any protest or any new system or any new law. We are brought near by the blood of Christ and the blood of Christ alone.
There's hope in that. Do you know why? Because that takes so much off of me. I'm going to get it wrong, but through Jesus we are rescued…rescued from oppression, rescued from attacks, rescued from racists, and most importantly, rescued from the penalty of sin. Nothing is more powerful than that. There is no greater news than that, that through the gospel we are rescued.
Some of you might be thinking, "What about my pain, though? And what about the unjust things taking place? And what about the systems and the corruption in the government? What about all of these different things?" I want to stop and just say that you're right. You're allowed to wonder that. You're allowed to have that conversation.
You're allowed to recognize that as wrong and unjust and painful, and you're allowed to sit in that, but you don't have to stay in that, because you have hope in the rescue and the blood of Jesus Christ. Nothing can change that. No system, no government, no law can take that away from you. You have been rescued once and for all.
That's why we can't take away from what's going on here. What I mean by that is we can't make this the problem with mankind or with politics and think justice can't be served until someone pays, because if we think justice isn't served until someone today presently pays or does something different, then we are diminishing the price Jesus paid years ago on the cross. Do you get that?
If you think there's something still to be accomplished or done to meet the need of your soul and the hurt and the injustice in the world, then you are missing out on all that the gospel and the blood of Jesus offers you. There is hope in the gospel, for Christ himself has brought peace to us, and when we acknowledge the power in the death of Jesus, we will see what it can do in our relationships with everyone around us.
2 . Because of the gospel we are reconciled. Because of the gospel, reconciliation for all is obtainable. What do I mean that we are reconciled? I mean we can be restored relationally to Christ, first and foremost, and then to one another through the blood of Jesus. I'm going to keep pounding that home. Not will be one day reconciled, not could be if we just get this right, if we just learn this and change this…we are reconciled by the blood of Christ.
There's this hymn I grew up on that I've been singing all day long. This might not land if y'all don't back me up. I just want us to sing this the rest of this week. This song says something, and the response every time is "Nothing but the blood of Jesus."
What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
What can make us whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Oh! Precious is the flow
That makes us white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
That's so true. We overcomplicate this. I've realized I overcomplicate this. The word nothing is absolute. We've made everything so wishy-washy, but Scripture is absolute. I know we sing songs like this, but do we believe it? "What can make me whole? Nothing but the blood of Jesus." That's powerful. If people believe that, there's something powerful coming. How do we receive reconciliation? Ephesians 2:15-18:
" [Jesus] did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death." Done. Gone. Finished. "He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us."
What does this tell me? That the gospel has the power to restore every bit of relational hurt in this room tonight. The gospel has the power to reconcile every bit of injustice we see in our world, every bit of oppression we see in our world. The gospel and the blood of Jesus can provide a solution to every bit of it.
The Scripture just says… Let's just walk through it. Let's look at what it means to let God's Word lead us and guide us. It says the blood of Jesus ended the system of law with its commandments and regulations. What does that mean? It means there is no man-made law that is stronger than what God has already done through his Son. None.
The next one: the blood of Jesus made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. What does that mean? It means that at one time, there was oppression and there was a separation. We've seen time and time again where people have tried to do this, but through Jesus, what was divided and what is divided and what might one day again be divided… The things that are divided right now are now one through Jesus.
There's unification. Welcome to the family. All are equal. No matter your skin color, your background, your beliefs, we all see each other as one in Christ. It also says the blood of Jesus made a way for hostility toward one another, racism toward one another, oppression toward one another, to be put to death. What does that mean? It means I don't run from the hurt. I don't run from the opportunity to preach God's Word on an important matter.
We don't run from hard conversations and conflict and hurt and pain. We don't run from it; we press into it, because there is an opportunity for reconciliation, because hostility is dead in Jesus' name. It has lost its grip. It has lost its power. Now we can humbly come before one another. The things that once divided us… Now we can find unification in the blood of Jesus and it alone.
What does this sound like to you? If the first part of the Scripture sounded like racism, this sounds a whole lot like racial reconciliation. What was once excluded has been included. What was once divided has been united and seen equal. This tells me that if reconciliation to God was made possible through Jesus and we believe that, that means reconciliation is not something to be created by our generation.
It's not something to be developed or pressed on toward or to achieve or work to. It's something to be accessed, obtained, and acknowledged through Jesus. It already exists. We don't have to keep striving. We don't have to keep trying. Wrong thinking says that action leads to reconciliation, but my Bible says that the idea, the belief in reconciliation, will produce action. Here's what I mean by that.
You can be angry, and you can think that protesting or rioting or posting or doing all of these things in the name of action could lead to reconciliation, but what I read here and what I have studied here is that reconciliation does not need action from us. What needs to happen is us to see that reconciliation has already been accessible by Jesus, and if we would believe that we have an opportunity to be both reconciled to God and to man, that will then produce the right kind of action.
As I wrap up this passage, it says the gospel also brought good news of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him. We get that, but here's what most people don't want to talk about: the gospel also brought peace to the Jews who were near. The gospel was also needed for the Jews who were near. What does that tell me? It tells me that at this time, the privileged, the know-it-alls, the wealthy, and the religious people of that day still needed the gospel.
They needed the gospel to be their way toward unification. They didn't need what they were born into. They didn't need the ability to have close proximity to the dwelling place of God. They didn't need to lean on the privilege they had or their traditions or law or their works. Nothing got them relationship with Jesus. They had nothing to boast in. They needed Jesus just as much as the people who were far away.
Everyone needs Jesus. Everyone has access to Jesus…everyone. Do you believe it? When both Jew and Gentile or white, black, Hispanic, Asian, every ethnicity represented in this room and out there… When all of us choose to obtain access to the reconciliation to God and man offered through the blood of Christ, we can see our last point take place.
3 . With the gospel we are rebuilt. Ephesians 2:19-22: "So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God's holy people. You are members of God's family. Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit."
This, again, is like temple language. This is important. This is some Bible 101 that I just learned last year. The temple of God before Jesus was where God would come and dwell. His presence would come into the temple and dwell with the Jews. He didn't like the separation and the exclusion of other ethnicities and people that that meant. He wanted all to have access to him. So what did he do? He sent his Son.
Colossians 1:19 says the fullness of God was pleased to dwell in his Son. So now God did not need to dwell in a temple. He dwelt in the full God-man, fully God and fully man. He dwelt in him and he walked the earth with people just like you and me. Then just like the temple was torn down, Jesus was torn down through his death and resurrection, and then he ascended to heaven.
When he went up to heaven after he rose from the dead, do you know where God's Spirit then dwelt? In us. Once in the temple…separation. Didn't like that. Down. The plan? He dwelt in Jesus. He came down. He paid the price so then God could dwell in us, every single one of us to be members of the household of God. The cornerstone on which the whole new structure is being built? Jesus Christ himself. Guys, it's just straight in the Scripture.
So now, when the lost and the far off and the hurt and the oppressed and the raped and the abused and the lied-to and stolen-from and bitter and prideful and addicted people, the oppressed people, the people who have dealt with all of the different types of injustice… When they come looking for a place to find restoration, unity, reconciliation, a family, love, forgiveness, grace, and redemption, they are not met with walls and things prohibiting them to experience with God. No. They are met with the presence of God in the hearts of his sons and daughters…us.
That's now what people get to go to to experience God: his people, you and me. We are now the place where people come. The church is now the place where people come and get to see God's glory on full display. What was once only attainable for a certain people group, now, through Jesus, access to all, and that's represented through the body of Christ, the family of God. It says, carefully, he builds us together in him, becoming the holy temple for the Lord to dwell, Jesus Christ being the cornerstone.
What does that mean? That we are the family of God. Walls once separated us. Now we are like bricks extending from Jesus, building a new structure for God to dwell in the hearts of every single one of us, no matter our backgrounds and our stories and our opinions. It's all just through Jesus. Now because of Jesus abolishing these walls and killing the division and the things that literally kept us from God, we are now able to be reconciled to other men.
I just want to close with this. Guys, trust me. I'm going to go tonight and be like, "You were so serious up there. Why were you so serious?" I'm going to go sit and think about the reality of this, but here's what I know to be true. I truly believe that if our generation would start taking this seriously, things would change. I've said that time and time again, but I believe in you guys.
I believe racial reconciliation is possible because I believe in each of you. Better than believing in you, I believe in the Spirit in you. You're going to fail. You're going to not listen appropriately. You're going to say something hurtful. You're going to go through something that is unjust or abusive or wrong. You're going to experience something really hard, because that's the reality of the world. That's what the Bible promises us.
It assures us that "In this world you will have suffering," but it doesn't end there. It says, "But take heart, because I have overcome the world." That's what Jesus says. Listen. It's not just me who believes in you, although I do. I pray for you often. I prayed for you guys so much this message tonight, that you would see Jesus as the solution to every bit of the unjust things taking place right now and also God as the hope in what's going to happen next week and the outcome of it.
But I'm not the only one. Jesus believed in you. This is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. This blew my mind the first time I read it. Jesus is about to go literally suffer on the cross with you and me in mind. Before that, the writer John takes us in this intimate moment where Jesus is on his knees, dropping sweat of blood over the reality of what's about to take place. It's about to be that gruesome.
Instead of thinking about his own pain and his own suffering, he was thinking about the future suffering you and I were going to have to endure. How do I know that? Because here's what he prays. He's literally praying to God, and here's what he chooses to pray about: you and me. Read it yourself.
It says in John 17:20: "I am praying not only for these disciples [the Twelve] but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message." That is you and me. If you believe in Jesus Christ, he is praying right now… Jesus was out loud, before he died, praying about you and me. He says, "I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me."
Guys, what does that mean? If Jesus right there is saying the answer to the world finding hope in Jesus Christ is through them being one, that tells me God is most glorified and will remain most glorified to our world when we, the church, are most unified. When we experience unification, God will receive glorification. That is the mission of the believer.
Did you know that when you signed up for this, when you chose to say no to religion and just doing some works and doing some things to get your best life now…? You didn't sign up for that. You signed up for a purpose bigger than yourself: to show the glory of God to a lost and hurting and dividing and seeking world. Jesus knew the answer: unity. He knew that in 2020 there would be more division than ever.
People are going to look around and see division on so many different topics and be like, "Yeah, that makes sense. Oh, more people angry? That makes sense. Oh, division? That makes sense." But then, in all the darkness, there's going to be this light that is the church, and people are going to be like, "Wait. What's going on over there? Why are these people so happy? Why are they so good together? Where's the gossip? Where's the division? Where's the separation? Why are they so united?"
It's because we are a people who believe the Word of God to be true, that it's not through our own works, it's not through our own actions, but it's through the blood of Christ, and it's nothing but the blood of Christ that gives us the opportunity of hope. So, as an action point, this is all I have for you tonight. I don't have much. I say as an action point: believe it. Believe this to be true. Hit your knees tonight. Pray for it to be true, and let it transform the way you live. Follow the example of Christ.
Do you know how Christ obtained reconciliation? By laying his life down. May we do the same. Pray for ways to lay your life down for your brothers and sisters around you. Think about the division and the phone calls you need to make tonight to the people you have hostility toward and break down those walls in Jesus' name and ask for forgiveness. Get it right. There's nothing worth holding on to separation and bitterness.
The Bible actually says unforgiveness is like decaying bones in our body, and you are surely and slowly losing it. You know it and I know it. You're making the problem all of this and all of that and all of these posts, but there's a solution: the blood of Jesus. May we be the generation that obtains that solution and lets it lead to God-fearing and God-honoring action, because when God's people are most unified, that is when Christ will be most glorified. Let it be so.
Father, like Jesus, I just want to come and ask that the world would know you sent your Son not because of a post on social media, not because of a protest or anything we can do in our own strength, but that the world would know you sent your Son because we will stand up as brothers and sisters in Christ, united not by the color of our sin but the blood of your Son, and we will say, "Division stops here, racism stops here, oppression stops here, and unity starts here. Reconciliation starts here." The people of God.
I pray you would use men and women in this room of every background, every ethnicity, to go and share the love of Jesus, and for those tonight who find it really hard to believe that such an opportunity is possible because of the hurt and pain they've experienced, I pray that tonight, God, you would show yourself real to them and they would understand what it looks like to have a relationship with you and that would influence their relationship with others moving forward. Thank you for the blood of Jesus that covers every sin. We worship you because of it, amen.