Archive for the ‘Gospel Centered’ Category
I drive a truck for a living so I spend hours on the road and so I listen to podcasts to pass the time. Most of the time I listen to sound doctrinal preaching. However, for the fun of it, I will often download sermons from churches I either know I won’t agree with or sermons from seeker churches just to hear what they are up to.
Over the past year or so I have listened to hundreds of seeker churches. And I’m not lying when I type hundreds. From the mega seeker churches to seeker churches in my geographical area, I have listened to hundreds of sermons. I’m not expert on seeker churches but I have been able to gather my thoughts on them. So here goes.
Let me begin with the positives. While my negatives will be longer, I do find a few positives in here.
First, the desire to see sinners saved. While nearly all seeker churches will never call people “sinners,” the concept is still the same. They seem to want to see people come to faith in Christ. Again, I would question whether the people are hearing the law and the gospel to save sinners but they seem to truly want to see people saved. Now could it be they just want a crowd? Sure. I don’t know their hearts. Only God does. Their words and actions seem to imply they want people saved but it might just be a desire for more people to come to their seeker church.
Second, somewhat preaching of a Christian worldview. By this I mean the seeker churches at least will point to the Bible as our foundation for our worldview. Take sex for instance. This is a favorite topic among seeker churches and most will point to a biblical worldview on sex. I appreciate that. As a sinner myself, I need to hear what the Bible teaches about topic X. Without the Bible, I am prone to follow my flesh and that always leads to sin.
Third, the desire to be real. While this can be overdone in my estimation by seeker churches, most want people to know that they are just like you and I. These are not “holy” men and women but regular sinners who are in the fight for faith in their own lives. I appreciate that. While I’ll have a little to say that is critical about this below, for the most part I acknowledge that all of us are sinners (Romans 3:23) and we all need Jesus and His grace. No one is perfect. None.
Fourth, in many cases I appreciate the desire to look like the community around them including interracial churches. God loves all people (John 3:16) and He sent His Son for all. Doesn’t matter the color of the person’s skin. Churches often are all white or all black or all brown or all yellow. While this is not necessarily sinful, it can be. I know of some churches that don’t want anyone but their “kind” with them. How sinful. The kingdom of God is made up of sinners who have been saved by Christ Jesus and this includes all races of people (Galatians 3:26-29; Revelation 1:5-6). Racism has no place in the kingdom. Seeker churches often seek to tear down the walls of racial divisions. I truly appreciate that.
Lastly, the love for children. Seeker churches seem to do a good job of building ministries focused on families and especially young children. I get it. Their target groups are mainly 20-30 year olds who have families. I’m out of that range now and my children are getting older but when I was in my 30’s, I remember thinking long and hard about churches that would help me pour into my children. Now I truly believe my job as a parent is to teach and raise my children in the fear of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4 and notice the emphasis on “fathers”). Seeker churches seem to know this and seek to build ministries designed to attract young families to their churches. It can be overdone here too but traditional churches can learn the value of trying to pour into the whole family.
The Critical Items
Now let’s turn to the critical items. There are many.
First, let’s talk about the preaching. I would rather label them “talks” after “Ted Talks” more than preaching. The preaching of seeker churches is just bad. All of them seem to want to be stand up comedians more than theologians and shepherds. The stories are usually focused on the speaker and all about them. The text of Scripture is never exegeted. I have listened to hundreds of sermons (yes hundreds) from seeker churches and not one has ever been expository nor has one ever dealt with their text in a contextual way. Not one. In fact, nearly every talk is topical and if they are teaching through a book, the chapter from the Bible is either never read nor is it dealt with. Doctrine is never preached. Now the seeker defense will be that A) they are not preaching to Christians but to the seekers. And B) they have community groups for doctrinal teaching. I find both answers lacking. 2 Timothy 4:2 says that the duty of elders is to preach the Word. The words of Paul the Apostle to the Ephesians elders (Acts 20:17) are worth reading (Acts 20:28-35). Seeker leaders seem to avoid doctrine as much as possible as I have yet to hear a sound doctrinal sermon yet. The talks also seem to me to always be on a beginner level. I think of Hebrews 5:11-14. Where is the growth? Where is the challenging of believers to go deeper in their knowledge of God and His Word (2 Peter 3:16-17)? Do people walk away from these talks understanding more about God, His Son, His salvation, and His Word? I think not.
Second, let me say a word of the elders of the church. The seeker leaders go out of their way to show how human they are. They want to be “real” to the people and especially to seekers. Yet this has become an annoyance to me. 1 Timothy 3:1-7 is clear about elders in the church. 1 Timothy 3:1-7 is tough and few disciples meet the qualifications there. I don’t. But I am not an elder nor do I claim to be. I am just a truck driver. That said, leaders in the church should be holy men of God. Not perfect. Not sinless. But holy nonetheless. The ESV uses the words “above reproach” (1 Timothy 3:2). 1 Timothy 3:7 does mention that the elder must be “well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.” Outsiders are those who are lost, outside of the kingdom. Even sinners see that these elders are men of God. These are not men walking around “trying to be a real guy” but these are real Christians who love Jesus and while not perfect, they do desire to please the Lord. This act of “being a normal guy” has become old fast in the seeker leadership. And sadly, many of these guys along the way have fallen into sin. Just google fallen mega pastors and you’ll see the sad reality of that world. Ironically, in the desire to “just be a normal guy,” these guys become superstars and draw the attention of the devil.
Third, the lack of biblical discernment especially in regard to music. All of the seeker churches I have listened to try to have a kicking praise and worship band. Many include the smoke and lights. These praise bands are typically led by a 20 something who has skinny jeans on and they all wear cool clothes or just wear worn out jeans and a t-shirt. Now the dress to me is not the issue. God sees our hearts after all. That said, the cool praise bands often sing songs that are just poor in their doctrine if they have doctrine at all. Heck this song would qualify as a praise song today. The utter lack of doctrine in the seeker churches produces shallow, sappy songs that have little to do with the gospel or the glory of God. They sound good but that’s it. I can see why people are drawn to liturgical churches after being immersed in seeker churches. It is very sad.
Fourth, the lack of law and gospel. Most seeker churches either are heavy on the law (you need to do these ten things to help your marriage) or nothing at all. The gospel is always “pray Jesus into your heart” and nothing is typically said of repentance or even using the law to expose our sins (Romans 3:19-20). God’s law has a purpose (1 Timothy 1:8-11) and yet seeker churches avoid preaching the law to convict sinners or sanctify saints (the third use of the law). The Bible is balanced between law and gospel. Yet seeker churches are not balanced at all. In fact, I chance to say that they wouldn’t even know about law and gospel. The gospel should be preached at all times. I would argue every time the church meets because we are prone to wander. Martin Luther said, “Christians should preach the gospel every day to ourselves because everyday we are prone to forget it.” Without the hope of the gospel, all these “steps to a better you” are worthless. Without the hope of the gospel, we fall into despair and back into the flesh. “Ten steps” talks are not what we need all the time. We need the gospel consistently (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Without the gospel, we turn people into moralists which still leads them to hell.
I am no fan of seeker churches. I get what draws people to them (Isaiah 30:10-11). I remember the age-old quote, “What you win them with is what you win them to.” The gospel is not what is drawing these sinners.
My advice would be to flee these churches. I would much rather attend a Calvinistic church that preaches the Word of God than any seeker church. The pragmatism is simply too much for this old boy. I desperately need the gospel. I am lost without Christ. He is my only hope. He alone is my righteousness before a holy God (Philippians 3:9). I am undone without the grace of the Lord Jesus for this sinner. I need to hear more of Him less of me. I need to hear the gospel over and over and over again. My flesh hates the things of God but I must hear the gospel to remind my flesh to die (Romans 6:11-14). Further, I need the gospel because I am a sinner who needs God’s grace (1 Timothy 1:15).
Having come face to face with my own sinfulness, my own lack of keeping the law of God, I have spent the last several months looking at the law and the gospel. While this is not new to Christianity, it is fairly new to me. I grew up in a church environment that was heavy on the law. You keep the law and God was happy. Break the law (which was often), God is now angry with you. The gospel was not the end but only a step to helping me keep myself clean. It was not Jesus period. It was Jesus who now enables me to keep the law and when I fail, back to the beginning.
We all sin. None of us are perfect. We read passages such as Romans 3:23 and acknowledge the universal sinfulness of mankind. But we miss the point that we are sinners ourselves. I am not arguing that we wake up each day thinking “what can I do today to violate the law of God” but we do sin. Whether we make sins into categories such as “sins of omission” and “sins of commission,” either way we do sin. Apart from grace, none of us can stand before a holy God. It is only through Christ that we can stand before a holy and totally pure God. The reason Christ died for my sins is not simply to enable me to be holy on my own power but He died because I am a sinner in need of forgiveness because I do sin (1 John 2:1-2).
Consider the command of Jesus in Matthew 22:37-40:
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Stop and consider how you are doing with that one? I’m not even good at it. I would love to say that I love God perfectly as Jesus taught. I would love to tell you that my love for God flows into loving my neighbor as myself. But the reality is that I fall way short of these two commands and Jesus said that law and the prophets hang on these two commandments. Do these and you’ll be perfect! But I don’t!
And thus the gospel comes into play. The law condemns me as a sinner (Romans 3:19) and the law teaches me that I need a Savior (Galatians 3:24). The law condemns me. The gospel saves me. The law shows me that I am a sinner (Romans 7:7). There is nothing wrong with the law of God (Romans 7:12) but the problem is me. I can’t keep the law. No matter how hard I try, I fail.
The gospel preaches peace to me. The law tells me to love God perfectly and my neighbor perfectly (Matthew 5:48). The gospel tells me Christ died for my sins and the sins of not loving God perfectly nor my neighbor as myself. The law tells me to love my wife as Christ loves His Church (Ephesians 5:25). The gospel tells me that Christ died for the sin of not loving my wife as Christ loves His Church (I am far from a perfect husband). The law tells me to pray, to worship, to evangelize, to give my money to the poor and to helping the kingdom of God, to do good to my neighbor especially of those of the household of faith, etc. but the gospel tells me that Christ died for my sins even the sins of not keeping the law perfectly.
Martin Luther taught two (and I would add a third) uses of the law. Lutherans debate the third use of the law. The three uses of the law are:
- For society, to curb man’s sinfulness.
- To condemn us a sinners and show us our need for salvation.
- To help the Christian in sanctification.
These three uses of the law are seen not just in the Bible but in life. Antinomians accept the first two uses of the law but not the third. I believe in preaching all three. Christians need to hear the law so that the Holy Spirit can help us in the process of sanctification. So for example a believer hears that we should pray (Luke 18:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:17). Prayer itself doesn’t justify us before God. We are justified only through Christ Jesus alone by grace alone though faith alone. Yet none would say that prayer is bad. Yet prayer can become a law. It was that way for me. I once held that a person should pray for 2 hours a day or God was not pleased. Prayer became a law and gospel for me. But prayer is not the gospel. The gospel is the death of Jesus for our sins and His resurrection for our justification (Romans 4:24-25; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Thus Jesus died for my sin of prayerlessness. Does this mean that I should not pray since Jesus died for my sin of prayerlessness? By no means! The key is to see prayer as flowing from my forgiveness and not from the law. I pray because Christ shed His blood for me (Hebrews 4:14-16).
This holds true of any law. The law if holy and good (1 Timothy 1:8-11). The law shows me how far I am far from the perfection of God. But the gospel shouts to me that I am accepted in the Beloved. I am holy before God because of Christ (Hebrews 10:10, 14) and not by my works. The law tells me to pursue holiness (Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 1:15-16) and this is good. The gospel tells me that I am accepted in Christ Jesus who bled and died for my sins (Romans 5:6).
This understanding of the law and the gospel has blessed me. It has brought some joy to my soul where joy has been lacking. For so long I have been full of pride, my own self-righteousness. I thought God was honored by my prayer life, my evangelism, my passion for God. Like Voddie Bauchman preaches, my works-righteousness muscle likes to flex. I would have, in the past, gladly acknowledged Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and would have gladly told you that I was saved by His grace alone but in reality I was full of pride, thinking more highly of myself than I ought (Philippians 2:3). I would have preached Christ but my focus was not on pleasing Christ per se but on men seeing how much I “loved” Jesus. Oh how much pride was in my heart! Oh wretched sinner that I was!
But Christ died for me. Christ bled and suffered for my sins. Jesus gave His life for my sins and now I am forgiven not because I keep the law but because I can’t keep the law (Galatians 3:10). Christ suffered in my place, for my sins (Galatians 3:13-14). I am saved now not because I keep the law but because of faith in Jesus Christ who gave His life for my sins. What a blessing! What a Savior!
I have no problem with the law. The law is good. The law comes from our holy God. Yet too many Christians try to live the law. You will always be falling short. Always. You will never obtain holiness by the law. Even if you think (as I did) that I had obtained a level of holiness by my striving, inside (like me) you’ll know that you stand condemned because you can’t keep the whole law (James 2:10). I have no problem preaching the law and calling Christians to repent of not keeping the law. But the balance of this is the gospel. The answer to not keeping the law is not more law. The answer is the gospel. The law condemns us as sinners. The gospel comforts us by pointing to Christ who died for our sins (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).
Perhaps I am wrong on this. I don’t think so. I believe it’s biblically based. I know that this teaching has pushed me closer to Christ and not away. I still hate sin. I really do hate sin. I acknowledge that I do sin but I hate my sins. I am so grateful to God for giving me His Son for my sins (John 1:29). I stand condemned but Christ preaches to me no condemnation (Romans 8:1). Satan accuses me of sin and he is right to do so. But I trust in Christ alone for my salvation (Hebrews 7:25). Jesus has promised not only to save me from my sins (Matthew 1:21; Romans 6:1-4) but He has promised to keep me (Jude 24-25). I trust in Christ alone and not my works-righteousness before a holy God.
Having not written in a while, I just wanted to post a quick update. The devil has been beating me up pretty good for many months. I have been struggling in many areas of my life. That said, I still love the Lord Jesus. His grace toward me is amazing. I know that I am saved by God’s grace and not by my works (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7). I know that my salvation is based on the work of the Lord Jesus and not my works (Romans 4:5). I know that I have peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1) and He is my peace (Ephesians 2:14).
I ask for prayer. I ask for forgiveness from anyone I have hurt. I do long to please the Lord despite seeing my faults on a daily basis. Each day I pray Martin Luther’s daily prayer: “Lord help me to not sin this day” and then I pray with Luther during the evening when I go to bed, “Lord forgive me of my sins this day.” I am thankful that God does forgive me of my sins (1 John 1:9). I long for holiness (Hebrews 12:14) despite seeing my sins in the light of the gospel. Thank God for the good news of His grace.
So I am okay. I find each new day the truths of God’s grace and His mercy while finding my sins in the light of the perfection of the Lord Jesus.
Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; 7 then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; 8 and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
– 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 (NASB)
The gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). But what is the gospel? I have attended many churches over the years but few ever spent much time actually breaking down what the gospel is or is not. Some say they preach the gospel each and every week but all they mean by this is that they offer “the sinner’s prayer” for salvation at the end of their sermons. Few really grasp the gospel.
Asking people what is the gospel is also difficult. People just don’t know. Depending on their church, they might define the gospel as Jesus dying for our sins, good works for people, or a host of other statements. The gospel, biblically defined, is often not taught in many churches.
Over the past few years we have seen an influx of “gospel centered” ministries. We now view everything as “a gospel issue.” Whether it be work, sex, marriage, sports, entertainment, etc. everything is now said to be a “gospel issue.” We have groups such as “The Gospel Coalition” or “Together For The Gospel” but is the gospel the main focus? Are we really together for the gospel? How many people even grasp what the gospel is?
In 1 Corinthians 15 we have Paul the Apostle defining the gospel. He states in verse 1 that he wants to remind the Corinthians of the gospel which he preached to them and which they received. He states in verse 2 that this gospel is what saved them. In verse 3 Paul states that this gospel is of first importance meaning that this message takes preeminence above everything else that could be taught. This gospel came not from men but from God (Galatians 1:11-12).
What then is the essence of the gospel? Paul tells us in verses 3-5:
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
Notice Paul’s movements here. First, Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. This is important. Paul is not moving beyond what has been written beforehand in the Old Testament. The Old Testament prophesied that Christ would die. Jesus Himself taught His disciples from the Old Testament about Himself after His resurrection (Luke 24:44-48). The Apostles were eye-witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection and they took not just His resurrection but the Old Testament texts and began to preach the gospel. The Book of Acts records the Apostles preaching of the work of the Lord Jesus and it is clear that they took the Master’s teaching from the Old Testament and taught about Him to the lost.
All of this, the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus is based on the Old Testament. The foundation for solid gospel preaching is not rooted in experience but in the Scriptures. This was the apostolic authority and is ours as well (2 Timothy 3:15-17). Peter the Apostle states we have a more sure word (2 Peter 1:16-21) because of the Scriptures.
So our preaching should be based on the apostolic authority of the Bible. The gospel flows from Scripture and is focused on the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The gospel focuses on the fact that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. He was buried and He was raised for our justification (Romans 4:24-25).
Sadly this gospel is often lacking in many churches. I download a local seeker sensitive church to hear what they are preaching these days. Each week my iPhone downloads their Sunday service. What do I get to hear? The gospel? Sadly no. I hear positive twists on texts and I hear a lot of talk about how God wants to bless us, use us, and work through us to touch our neighbors but I don’t hear the gospel. Sometimes sin is mentioned or repentance but little is said about the gospel. Sometimes the “sinner’s prayer” is offered and I assume they think that is the gospel but I don’t hear anything of 1 Corinthians 15:1-11.
We must see how the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 and all through the Bible impacts our lives. I could write for days on this one issue but on a surface level, the gospel daily reveals to me that it was my sins that Christ died for. This is clear in verse 3. My sins. I see my sins all the time. My sins scream at me like demons hiding in the shadows. My sins torment me in my dreams. My sins are easy to find and easy to see. But the gospel shouts to me that Christ died for my sins (Galatians 1:4). My sins are not erased by good works (Ephesians 2:8-9). My sins are not washed away by penance. My sins are not taken away by my own self-reformation. My sins are only washed away through the blood of Jesus that He shed on the cross for my salvation (Matthew 26:28; Acts 13:38-39; Romans 3:24-25; 5:9; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:22, 27-28; 10:4; 1 John 1:7). The death of Jesus on the cross speaks to my sins and while my sins condemn me, the Lord Jesus saves me not because of what I have done but because of His grace alone (Titus 3:5-7).
The gospel is not just Jesus’ death for my sins. Without the resurrection, we are still dead in our sins (1 Corinthians 15:16-17). Paul wrote in Romans 4:24-25:
24 but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.
Without the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, there is no forgiveness of our sins. That Christ died would prove nothing. If Jesus is not raised from the dead then He died just like we will die. But the Bible says that Jesus is risen from the dead. A cursory reading of the Book of Acts shows not just the fact that Jesus died on the cross but that He was raised from the dead. All four Gospels record the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. This is the main focus of the Christian message: Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection.
How does this impact me? Why is this part of the gospel? Well again if Jesus is not risen, we are still dead in our sins. But if Jesus is alive (and He is!) then we can be saved through faith in Him just as He said (John 5:24-25). The focal point of John 20:31 is true: Jesus is worthy of worship and praise as the One who shed His blood for our salvation and was raised for our justification. Because of Christ, my sins are forgiven and I have peace with God through Him (Romans 5:1). I have One who sits at God’s mighty right hand for my salvation (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25). Jesus is now my faithful high priest who prays for me before the Father as my intercessor, my advocate (Hebrews 4:14; 1 John 2:1-2). 1 Timothy 2:5 states that Jesus is our mediator before our holy God.
This is the gospel. The gospel is not self-reformation. The gospel is not about trying harder. The gospel is about the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus all according to the Scriptures. Jesus is the One who was prophesied about in Isaiah 53:
Who has believed our message?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
And like a root out of parched ground;
He has no stately form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
3 He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
4 Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
6 All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.
7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
So He did not open His mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment He was taken away;
And as for His generation, who considered
That He was cut off out of the land of the living
For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?
9 His grave was assigned with wicked men,
Yet He was with a rich man in His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.
10 But the Lord was pleased
To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
He will see His offspring,
He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.
11 As a result of the anguish of His soul,
He will see it and be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One,
My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,
And He will divide the booty with the strong;
Because He poured out Himself to death,
And was numbered with the transgressors;
Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,
And interceded for the transgressors.
I’m not always the biggest Jordan Hall fan but this sermon he preached on racism is worth hearing. I subscribe to his podcast and enjoyed this sermon very much. I agree with him. The answer to our national troubles (and world for that matter) is simple: the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing else can transform like the gospel (2 Corinthians 5:17).
My prayer is that the Church will preach the gospel. The answer is not found in summits, endless articles on race, giving in to socialists like #blacklivesmatter but rather the answer for the Christian is simple: preach the gospel. Preach the gospel to all men (Matthew 28:19-20) and make disciples of all men. Jesus died so that all colors of people can come and be one in Christ Jesus. Just as the Lord divided the people because of their sins in Genesis 11 so the Lord reunited His people in Acts 2. That is the power of the gospel.
Racism is always a hot topic. I grew up in the South of the United States. As most people know (who know history), the South was mainly where many of the Africans came when the US brought slaves over in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. The North and South fought the Civil War (not primarily) over the issues of slavery. The US Civil War brought a new history of racism to the South. After the Civil War, Northern leaders forced Southern plantation owners to give up of their land to the new freed slaves. The idea was to help former slaves become independent but what it brought was hatred from the Southern whites toward their former slaves. After the era of Reconstruction ended just a few years after the Civil War, the South created “Jim Crow” laws which ensured segregation and when the US Supreme Court upheld “separate but equal” rulings, the South created law after law to keep former slaves down.
I grew up long after the Civil War was fought of course and I grew up in a integrated society. In the 1960’s, the Civil Rights movement begin in the South and brought down the Jim Crow laws. This was a good thing in my estimation. For the life of me, I can’t understand how Christians could hate people based on the color of the skin. How in the world do you read John 13:34-35 or 1 John 4:20-21 and still approve of racism?
When I was in elementary school, my school was mainly white. The black friends I had were great and we got along well. When I got to middle school, they forced three schools to combine because of race (two of the schools were about 80% black or higher and the middle school I was suppose to attend was probably 80% white). The whites who could went to private schools. The school went from 500 students to over 1200 students (in middle school) with over 70% black. It was here that I begin to see racism like never before. This racism was aimed at me for my skin color.
Over the next 7 years of school (my high school today is 100% black but at the time was about 90% black), I was taught that I was guilty of many sins against the black man for it was my ancestors who had owned slaves. I was taught that whites should be ashamed, forced to pay money to blacks for the sins of our fathers. I was taught that the problems with the black community could be laid at the feet of whites. I was hated for just being white. And in turn, I begin to hate back.
Now to be fair, I played baseball in school and had black team mates and we got along great. I also had black friends outside of sports who were dear to me. Keep in mind also I was not saved.
At 17 I was saved. This opened my eyes to my own racism and to my need to repent. Our Bible study group was mainly white but we reached out to black pastors and black students to try to bring healing and show the power of the gospel to bring down divisions. The church I attended had several black families in it and I loved them dearly.
My point here is that I saw where racism was (in our wicked hearts). I saw how it was fed. We were taught in school that we were products of naturalistic evolution. We were just glorified animals. We were not created in the image of God. I could see how racism could grow in that environment. We are nothing but animals. You kill an animal, it just ceases to exist. No right or wrong. Only animals. The whites use to point at the blacks and call them “monkeys” while I am sure black people called us names as well. Racism was alive and well and why should it not be in such a wicked environment.
Look at our world today. For the last 50 years we have been teaching nothing but secular humanism. We have taught that people are animals, that evolution is true, that morality is based on individual liberty. We have taught people to look to the Government for help, to fight your battles, to solve your problems, to take from your neighbor and give to you. We have rejected the gospel as a foundation. We have turned our back on our Christian heritage. We have been taught to kill just for the sake of killing and there is no God so nothing will happen anyway. And we wonder why racism still exists? We wonder why wicked sinners kill?
When I begin to see that my black neighbors are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27 ) and that Christ died for them, that changed my views. I would be lying if I said that all racism is gone from my heart. I have to fight it but I fight it with the gospel. Jesus didn’t die for Jews only or for Gentiles only but He died for all sinners (Luke 19:10; 1 Timothy 2:3-6). The gospel goes out to all people (Matthew 28:19-20). In Revelation 5:9-10 we read that God has His people from every tribe, tongue and nation. God is no respecter of persons (Romans 2:10). The Bible is clear that whosoever can call upon the name of the Lord and be saved (Romans 10:13). Thus the gospel is not for Jews only but for all (Romans 11:32).
What our society needs is the gospel. The gospel tears down the sins of our hearts. The gospel brings people together in unity like nothing else (Ephesians 2:14). The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7) and Jesus shed His blood for all races. When we see that people are created in the image of God, we see that they are truly loved by God (John 3:16). The Chinese person. The Japanese person. The white person. The black person. The Hispanic person. They all are made in the image of God. They are not animals. They are loved by God and He desires to save them by His grace.
My prayer is that the gospel will go forth and save every racist. The truth is that Jesus died for all sinners (Romans 3:23) and all sinners need salvation which comes not by skin color or by language but by the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8-9). The gospel is color blind. The gospel is the cure for our society because the gospel transform a man into seeing that another man is created in the image of God. The gospel shows us that despite our culture or our color, Jesus shed His blood for our salvation. The gospel shows us that heaven will be full of all kinds of people (I rejoice to see that day!). When we see people thorough the gospel, this transforms how we see people for we don’t see a person by their skin color or their creed or their language but we see them as people made in the image of Almighty God.
I highly recommend you listen to Dr. James White debating a Hebrew Israelite. This is a subject I have never encountered. I once heard these guys “preaching” on the streets of New York City and when I walked by one of them pointed at me and called me “white devil.” That was my brief encounter with these guys. Their theology is radically off from biblical Christianity as Dr. White clearly shows.
My prayer is that the Church will rise up and answer the Hebrew Israelite movement. They are racist, anti-Christ, and false teachers. They need to be shown their errors and I pray that they repent. As I listened to the above debate, I prayed for God to open this man’s eyes to his sins and that he would be brought to repentance (2 Timothy 2:24-25).
I greatly appreciated the end of the debate where Dr. White clearly preaches the gospel. He preaches that Jesus is calling all sinners to repent (Acts 17:30-31) and He will save people from every nation as He has promised (Revelation 5:9-10). The gospel is not just for Jews but for all people (Acts 13:44-52; Ephesians 2).