In this podcast, Pastor John unpacks the first of a handful of episodes intended to coach you in your growth as a preacher.
Yesterday, I shared a few thoughts with my church regarding what our perspective as Christ-followers should be toward the recent news of racial clashing in Charlottesville, VA. The protesters, mostly KKK, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis, were protesting the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, former general of the Confederate Army during the American Civil War. As a result, counter-protesters showed up, opposing white nationalist ideologies – now more commonly being referred to as the “Alt-Right”.
Frankly, I’m tired of this. I’m tired of having to address this blatant discrimination, and I’m even more tired of “Christians” who would defend them – all while quick to point out the flaws of those who have committed acts of violence in the name of BLM. As if one excuses another… Nonetheless, here we are. Again. And something must be said, especially to fellow Christians who must be reminded of who we are and what we are called to be in this world.
Here are my humble thoughts…
- God made our ethnicities, and we are all equal image-bearers of Him. Acts 17:26 tells us that, “He [God] made from one man, all nations [lit. ethnos] of the earth.” God created beauty in our diversity. This wasn’t just the occurrence of random genetics rising to prominence amongst people groups, it was our Creator who thought our diversity into existence. We all share God’s image. When any of us dare to elevate one ethnicity – or demean another – we dishonor the God whose image they bear.
- It took the shed blood of Jesus to redeem all of us. John 3:16, the most well known verse in the Bible tells us, “God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (emphasis, mine). If any of us think ourselves better than anyone else, may we be reminding, that at the cross of Jesus Christ, we all stand on even ground. The poor Hispanic, the educated black, the trust-fund white – all get to Heaven by the same sacrifice of Jesus Christ. None of us come to God with anything to bargain for our salvation – our ethnicity, which God Himself created, least of all.
- The church is to be a place of healing and reconciliation. Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female; for we are all made one in Christ.” In the church that Jesus said He would build, we all have equality with one another. The church today should be focused on breaking down such barriers, and elevating the status of our fellow brother and sister.
- Racism, bigotry, and hate in general will always exist this side of Heaven. This incident and others like it, are just further evidence that mankind cannot solve mankind’s problems. I wish this would end somehow. I wish all the racist people would stop being racist, those hurt could find healing, that prejudice and hate would come to an end. But it won’t. Not in this life. That means that somehow, someway, we must all learn to exist in this broken world, while not becoming jaded by the sinful attitudes of others.
- We must not give in to the hate. It would be human nature to want retaliation. But we no longer walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. The Apostle Paul admonishes us in Romans 12:21, “Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.” The grace, peace, and power to do good that God has placed inside of you and me through His Holy Spirit is far greater than the evil that exists around us. As hard and even painful as it seems, we must love our enemies, bless those who curse us, and pray for those who would spitefully use us. Yeah, that’s a tall order, I know. But only when we focus our eyes on those who would do wrong against us. When we focus our eyes on Jesus, we remember that He loved us even when we were the enemies of God.
- Heaven will be filled with diversity. Revelation 7:9-10, “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” So much I love about this scene from Heaven! It’s full. It’s diverse. Every people group is represented, and presumably still bearing evidence of their ethnicity. There’s multiply languages still in Heaven! The use of plural language in worship (“our” God). Heaven is going to be amazing, in no small part because of how big, diverse, and beautiful God’s family is! So we would do well to start seeing it, acknowledging it, and celebrating His family here and now.
Those are just a few of the thoughts I shared with my church family this past week. We will never legislate righteousness, we must persuade people. “By your love one for another will the world know that you are my disciples.” Let’s be voices of hope and restoration.
Jesus deals with a “rich young ruler” in Mark 10. That sounds like a hand I wouldn’t mind being dealt in life, amiright?! He’s rich. He’s young. He’s powerful… Gees, was he good looking, too? I mean, what was this guy missing??? Yet this man comes to Jesus seeking the key to the gift of eternal life – something he seemed to understand only Jesus could offer. Here are six observations I make from that encounter that I believe apply to those wealthy in the things of this world today as well:
- Never satisfied with your success. Many suggest that the young man in this story was coming to Jesus to get an “atta boy” for what a moral person he was. Regardless, he was searching for something he knew he lacked. America’s first billionaire, John Rockefeller was famous for answering the question, “How much more does a man need?” to which he responded, “Just a little bit more.” It’s always just a little more.
- Constant need to stay busy. The story begins by telling us that this man “ran up to Him…” Always running. Always in a hurry. Everything is always urgent. The man’s life wasn’t at risk. Neither was his riches. Something far greater was – his soul. Even though he couldn’t identify the thing he lacked, he knew it couldn’t wait. Often times, those financially wealthy can’t stand the idea of idleness, even for rest sake. Because idleness tends to lead toward reflection, and reflection leads toward…
- Feeling empty and unhappy when introspective. I often refer to laying awake at night, staring at the ceiling, letting the TV wash over you as you wonder “what’s wrong with me?” This is not isolated to wealthy people to be sure, but I believe they sense this more frequently and painfully than others. The rich young ruler may have been looking for an “atta boy” from Jesus, but I really think he came in such a rush because of this emptiness. He knew something was missing from his otherwise overflowing life. Not that he hadn’t tried to fill that gap…
- Attempts at filling a perceived gap. Jesus confronts him with the commandments in the Old Testament, and the rich young ruler replies with an emphatic “DONE IT!” response. I read that as, “I’ve TRIED! What else do I need to make this hole in my life go away?” Every year another celebrity takes their life – usually for reasons we don’t ever truly understand. They’ve got everything: money, fame, people paid to serve them constantly, beautiful women/men to sleep with them, luxurious and exotic vacation spots. They’re often top of their fields, be it acting, singing, business… or all of the above. And if that isn’t enough, they can turn to substances, alcohol, adrenaline rushes, a new sexual partner, another vacation, etc. But eventually a realization sets in…
- A consistent nagging that all you have isn’t what you really want or need. As the rich young ruler presses Jesus for the answers he craves, Jesus makes the same offer of life to him that He offers everyone: Drop what you’ve got, and follow Me. This is the invitation we all get. We’re all invited in Jesus name, to let go of every other source of identity and self reliance, and follow Jesus. The rich young ruler has his answer! He’s now staring face to face with what he wants – what he NEEDS! He can feel it in his very soul, drawing him to the life Jesus offers to all who come to Him in faith. But it’s not always so simple to separate our white-knuckle grip on our stuff. Especially when we have a lot of stuff…
- An unhealthy sense of self reliance. Ultimately, the young man leaves Jesus instead of following Him. He goes away “grieving, for he was one who owned much property.” Jesus didn’t want the man’s wealth. He can walk on water, multiply a single meal to feed a multitude, He even defeated death – what would He need money for?! But he did call the young man to give up the source of security he was clinging to – sell it off, give it to the poor. But as is true with every wealthy man or woman, the temptation to trust in yourself is very strong. After all, you made it this far. You were never “suppose” to be able to get where you are, but you did it. Maybe I just need another vacation…
Look, it’s ok to have a lot of wealth. We read in the Bible that there were many people who had great resources who followed Christ. But generally it was the destitute, the broken, the hurting. Wealthy people can receive the gift Jesus offers just fine… but they must come to Him the same way as the poor. Humble. Broken. Desperate. Ready to leave everything else behind. If only there wasn’t so much to leave…
There’s nothing wrong with possessing riches. But there is everything wrong with riches possessing you. May you seek and receive the only true riches that outlives money, property, and earthly wealth. May you and I come to the cross , not in our self-made attempts at power or prestige, but rather in our poverty; and may you find what the rich young ruler sought.
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9 NASB