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Standing in God’s Way of Racial Integration

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
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June 1, 2021 9:00 am

Standing in God’s Way of Racial Integration

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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June 1, 2021 9:00 am

When you think of racial diversity, what comes to mind? Pastor J.D. outlines God’s plan for racial integration and it’s bigger and broader than you might imagine!

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J.D. Greear

Today on Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. A group of people sharing one culture and one history who come together to listen to great music and an entertaining speaker, that is not the manifest wisdom of God. That's not a mystery. That's called tailgating.

You do it at football games or for John Mayer concerts or Bruno Mars or whatever. But when you've got a group of people who have little in common except for a common love for Jesus and an experience of grace, that speaks of the power and the beauty of the gospel. Welcome to Summit Life with pastor, author and theologian J.D. Greer.

I'm your host, Molly Vidovich. So a question many of us are asking these days is this. What exactly does the phrase racial diversity mean, especially as it relates to our churches and the body of Christ? Well, today Pastor J.D.

outlines God's plan for racial unity, and the plan is more diverse than you might imagine. We're continuing our study in the book of Acts titled Sent. And if you've missed any of the previous messages in this series, you can find them at

You can also download the complete unedited message transcripts for further study. Now let's join Pastor J.D. in his message titled Standing in God's Way of Racial Integration. I'm at chapter 10. We're gonna begin in verse 34.

Let me sort of catch you up on what was happening. The apostle Peter has this dream. And in this dream, a great sheet comes down from heaven. And in that sheet are all kinds of animals that the Jewish people had believed were unclean.

Reptiles, birds of the air, pigs, you know, that kind of stuff. Peter's pigs in a blanket dream is, oh, I remember this. But a voice from heaven says, Peter, rise, kill, and eat.

Now sometimes I don't think we understand the magnitude of what just happened. Because for 1400 years, the Jewish people have thought of these animals as unclean and they would defile you to eat them. Why did they think that? Because God told them those animals were unclean.

For 1400 years, that is how they've lived. I think I've explained to you before, it would be something like, the best analogy I can come up with is, you know, a Baptist pastor having a dream and a sheet descends from heaven and in it are a joint and a bottle of Jack Daniels. You know, well, like, smoke and drink passion. Like, what are you talking about? So that's what Peter says. Not so, Lord. God responds to Peter by saying, Peter, what I have cleansed, you are never again to call unclean. Well, Peter is in a daze trying to figure out what in the world all this means when somebody suddenly knocks at his door. And so Peter goes down and open it and they're standing in front of him or a bunch of Roman soldiers saying, hey, an angel came and told us to come talk to you.

Do you know what that's about? And Peter has no idea. I mean, Pastor Riddell explained, it was probably an awkward moment there for a minute because they're both standing there staring at each other. It's like, well, why are you here? Why am I here? I don't know.

You know, what do you, what? And so Peter, eventually the light comes on and he puts it all together and he realizes that the dream that he just had was about these guys coming. And he realizes, verse 34, truly I understand now that God shows no partiality, but in every nation, anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. He realizes that all along that prohibition on eating the unclean animals had been a picture of human sinfulness, just like they couldn't eat certain animals because eating them would make them unclean. So sin defiles the human spirit, making it unable to enter God's presence. But now that Jesus has died, he has removed the defilement for the entire human race, for all who would receive it. All of us have one problem sin.

There's one solution, Jesus. There's only one race, the human race, and only one hope for all of us, the resurrection. We all died in Adam by God's grace. We all who trust in Jesus are going to have new life in the resurrected Christ. And so the word that recurs throughout Peter's sermon over the next 10 or so verses is the word all.

Look at it. Verse 36, Jesus is Lord of all. Verse 38, Jesus healed all who were oppressed by the devil, which included, if you remember from Jesus's life, Gentiles and tax collectors and Roman soldiers and prostitutes. And then Peter ends his sermon this way, verse 43, to him all the prophets give, bear witness that all who believe in him receive forgiveness of sins through his name. While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word.

By the way, I have always loved that verse because it shows you the simplicity of faith, doesn't it? There were no ceremonies. There was no prayers. There was no raise your hand.

There was no come forward. There was no get baptized. Conversion, listen, is when you believe that Jesus died for you. It is when you understand that Jesus is the Lord of you. And it is when you embrace what he has done for you and you surrender to him as Lord, that is the moment of conversion. And that's when the Holy Spirit falls on you. It happens every weekend sometimes while I'm up here speaking, it happens before the invitation because you embrace, you just believe it and you embrace it. And the Holy Spirit falls on you right at that moment.

All right. Verse 45, then the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles for they were hearing them speaking in tongues. Tongues were human languages and acts that the speaker did not know and extolling God. Now here's a question. Watch this.

You may read right over this. How did they know that they were extolling God? Because these guys were speaking in the apostles language.

See, this is the reverse of Acts 2. In Acts 2, it's a bunch of people from all over the world speaking languages that the apostles understand or actually vice versa. It's the apostles speaking language people from the around the world understand, even though they'd never studied that language. Now what you've got is you've got people who grew up with another language now speaking fluent Hebrew, right?

And they're like, how is this happening? The Holy Spirit is giving them this utterance. So Peter declares, can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit, just like we did in Acts 2. Let's talk for a quick minute here about tongues in the book of Acts. Tongues were given in Acts 2 to believers who proclaimed the gospel in actual human languages that they didn't already know as a sign that the gospel was not just for Hebrew people, it was for people of any language and culture. Paul would explain in 1 Corinthians 14, 21, that tongues were a fulfillment of a promise given to Israel in Isaiah 28, 11, and 12, that God would speak the gospel to Israelites through strange tongues as a sign to their unbelieving hearts that the gospel was going to the Gentiles.

That is exactly what is happening here. In speaking through these tongues, God is giving a sign to the Jews that he is including the Gentiles in his salvation covenant. You see, this is really hard for them because for 1400 years the focus has been on the Jews and everything that God has revealed has been in the Hebrew language. Look at how the next chapter opens.

I'll show you how, I'll prove to you it was hard. Verse 2, so when Peter went back up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party of Christ's followers, by the way, these were Christians, and if you're like, what is circumcision? Pastor, your campus pastor is fully equipped to have that conversation with you. The circumcision party of Christians criticized Peter saying, you went to the uncircumcised men and you ate with them. So Peter began and explained to them in order. And so he tells them about the dream. He tells them about preaching to Cornelius. He tells them about the gift of tongues. And then he says, as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them, just like he did on us at the beginning in Acts 2.

And I remember the word of the Lord then, how he had said to us, John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand or I could stand in God's way? Who am I to stand in God's way? God, listen, is integrating his church. Who are we to stand in God's way? This is not Peter's idea. This was not the Gentiles idea.

It was the Holy Spirit's idea. So that's the question I want to ask you today. Are you or I standing in God's way of culturally integrating his church?

I'm going to give you three things. Why cultural integration is important, right? I'm going to give you a little theology lesson and then we're going to go quick as we always do, but especially quick, you have to put your theological big boy pants on.

Then secondly, why it is so difficult. And then thirdly, I would like to offer some meager guidance here for us as a church. Number one, why the cultural integration of the church is important. I'm going to give you an A and a B and a C. There are some messages where I feel like I just really need to outline, so I apologize if that annoys you, but if you're taking notes, you should. If you're not taking notes, we'll assume you don't care about racial diversity.

So letter A. A, God's purpose in salvation is to bring the races back together. God's purpose in salvation has always been to bring the races back together. You see, the cultures and races were split apart in Genesis chapter 11. All of man was in one language, one culture.

They gathered together to build this big tower called the Tower of Babel in which they were going to proclaim their greatness and their awesomeness as human beings. And so God comes down in Genesis 11 and he scatters them, puts them into various cultures and various languages. Let me teach you, let me give you a little secret about God's judgment on sin. A lot of times God's judgment on sin is simply giving you more of what you asked for to begin with to show you the bitterness of it, right?

So like, for example, the guy that's going after porn, a lot of times what God does to judge him is just lets him go down that path of porn to let him experience the bitterness of that. Well, see, man had been building this tower as a statement of his pride. So now God divides him into cultures and guess what would become one of the primary sources of his pride? His culture, his language, his race. That would become the thing that he used to identify himself as great because I have this race in this culture and that's better than your race in your culture.

That's Genesis 11. You got the world divided. So in Genesis 12, we open with the story of a man named Abram who God calls and says, Abram, I'm going to make you a great nation, but it's not going to be because you're awesome because you're 75 years old and sterile. And if you're 75 years old and sterile with no kids, you're not a prime candidate for making a nation. So when I make a nation out of you, it's not going to be about how awesome you are.

It's going to be about how awesome I am. And that nation that you make is going to become a blessing to all these cultures around the world. And it's going to bring them back together. The plan from the beginning was to bring back together all these divided cultures and races who are going to be united, not around their pride, but around their common knowledge of God's grace and his salvation. And so you see little hints of this throughout the Old Testament. This has always been God's plan. They make a, they make a court for the Gentiles in the temple. God sends people like Jonah to go preach salvation to the Ninevites. We see the end of all this in Revelation five, when we see representatives from every tribe and tongue and nation under heaven that are around the throne of God, proclaiming together in all their various cultures, salvation belongs to our God.

That's the end. In the middle, in the middle is the church, which is supposed to be, listen to this, giving a sign of the coming fulfillment in Revelation five. That's a very important word, sign, because sign means we realize we can't do it all, right?

We'll never be fully culturally diverse because we're divided by languages still, right? Revelation five, it's when it's going to actually happen. But right now we are to be a sign, giving people a foretaste of what is coming, which means that as much as we can, we're trying to paint a picture for our community of that coming kingdom. So all throughout the book of Acts, you're going to get glimpses of this. Acts two, you see the gospel proclaimed in multiple languages.

Acts 16 is one of my favorite examples. I probably told you about it before, but in the apostle Paul, who is the Jew of the Jews, right? When he goes to Philippi, a Gentile city, there are three people that he leads to Christ in Acts 16 when he gets there. Number one, Lydia, obviously a woman. Two is a servant girl, a slave. Three is a Roman soldier, the Philippian jailer, all right?

Well, here's what's significant about that. Jewish men every morning would pray, right? They would say, God, I want to thank you that I'm not three things.

I want to thank you that I'm not a woman, a slave, or a Gentile. So when God sends a Jew into the city of Philippi, he says, that's going to be the people that you win to Christ because my first church is going to be built on that. That's Acts chapter 16. Acts chapter 13. Acts chapter 13. By Acts 13, Antioch has become the capital of the Christian world because of so much persecution in Jerusalem. So in Acts 13, Luke opens Acts 13 by telling you, well, let me read it to you. Acts 13 verse one. Now that we're in the church at Antioch, prophets and teachers, these were the leaders.

This was the pastoral team. Barnabas, Simeon, who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Menean, a lifelong friend of Herod the Tetrarch, or some translations say actually from Herod's household, and Saul. What Luke has just done for you, listen, is he's given you the five church leaders of the church in Antioch. You've got Saul and Barnabas. They are Hellenistic Jews, which are Jews that have adapted Greek culture. You got Menean, who was from Herod's household, which means that he was Jewish aristocracy. You've got Simeon, who had the nickname Niger, which literally in Latin meant black, because he was from the region of sub-Saharan Africa that the modern nation of Niger now sits in. And then you got Lucius, who was from Cyrene, which is modern day Libya. That means of the five leaders that are mentioned in the book of Acts, one is from the Middle East, one is from Asia, one is from the Mediterranean, and two are from Africa.

Now, why would Luke stop to tell us this? The only reason Luke includes that detail is to show you that the early church's leadership in Antioch was culturally diverse. In fact, Acts 11, 26, and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. Antioch was where, listen, they ceased to be defined by their cultural backgrounds and began to be defined by their identity in Christ.

That's where it happens. Make sure you get this concept. Third race is what you are in Christ. First race is whatever ethnicity you are.

For me, Caucasian, obviously. Second race, for me, is everybody else's race. Third race is what I am in Christ. And when you become a Christian, it doesn't mean that you cease to be your first race.

It just means that your identity in your third race becomes larger and more influential to you than anything about your first race. The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch because that's where this third race became more defining in the church than all the various cultures they were from. And it was from Antioch that the gospel would spread throughout the world, and that is intentional by the Holy Spirit. That's always been God's plan. Letter B, a multicultural church is a powerful evangelistic witness.

That's why we pursue it, because a multicultural church is a powerful evangelistic witness. Ephesians 3, 10, Paul would explain this. The mystery that God has made known in the church that manifested his wisdom.

What was it that manifested the wisdom and the power of the gospel? What was it? A miracle? Was it Peter walking on water? Was it multiplying the loaves?

What was it? That Gentiles are now fellow heirs, members of the same body, partakers of the same promise. What is the mystery that proclaims to a community the power and the beauty of the gospel? A multiracial church in which peoples who have been historically divided are brought back together in Christ because of the unity they have in that they've got one problem, sin, one Savior Jesus, one race, the human race, and one hope, the resurrection. A group of people sharing one culture and one history who come together to listen to great music and an entertaining speaker, that is not the manifest wisdom of God. That's not a mystery. That's called tailgating, by the way.

You do it at football games or for John Mayer concerts or Bruno Mars or whatever. But when you've got a group of people who have little in common except for a common love for Jesus and an experience of grace, that speaks of the power and the beauty of the gospel. Bill Hybels, who is a famous kind of Christian leader in our nation, many people say he founded the original mega church up in Chicago, had a chance to have breakfast with him a while back.

And he was telling me about things that if he could do it differently, he would do like, what would you do differently? One of the things he said that totally caught me off guard is he said, he says, I would not build Willow Creek on the homogeneity principle. Now the homogeneity principle is just like homogenous, like everybody's the same. Willow Creek figured out that they could grow really fast if they targeted their ministries to one slice of the community. And in their case, it was white, middle upper-class professionals. And it worked. And they grew to be one of the biggest churches in the nation.

20-25,000 people went to that church. Now I'm listening to Bill Hybels say, if I could do it over again, I would not do it according to that principle. I said in plain devil's advocate, and that's all I was doing is I said, well, why? I mean, it worked clearly reached a lot of people for Jesus.

I mean, why wouldn't you use that? He said, I just don't think that's God's plan for the church. So again, playing devil's advocate, I was like, there are a lot of people who trusted Christ because of what you did. Are you willing to send them away and turn your back on them just so you could have a multiracial church? And here's what he said. It was surprising.

And I thought it was um, very insightful. He said, he said, listen, he said, the corporate witness of the church in America racially united would be more evangelistically effective than a number surge in any one particular congregation. So he said, yes, I'm willing to have a smaller church if it means a greater effectiveness in witness because Ephesians 3 10 says that the mystery and beauty and power of the gospel are displayed when people come together and they proclaim a unity in Christ, not a unity in culture. Let her see God is glorified through a beautiful tapestry of cultures.

That's why we pursue it. That's why in Revelation five, you've still got the various tongues in different nations. Revelation 21 26.

I love this verse. Revelation 21 26 says that God will bring in, listen, the wealth of the nations and the glory and the honor of the nations into heaven. What's the wealth and the glory and the honor of the nations? Well, it can be like just they're like, you know, gold, the crown jewels, right? Cause in heaven, the streets are made of gold. So nobody's gonna be like, Oh, look at the crown jewels. You're like, I got a doorknob made out of the crown jewels.

So it's just not that impressive. Um, the wealth and the honor of the nations of the various cultures. What you find is that God glorified himself through a beautiful tapestry of cultures. He's not an all vanilla God. He's a 31,000 flavor God. And God chose to glorify himself that way. You ever heard the phrase, you ever heard this? We should just all be colorblind.

I got news for you. God is not colorblind. God created the various cultures and he delights in them. Jerome Gay, who's a pastor that we helped get started down in Southeast Raleigh says it this way. The gospel is not colorblind.

It is color engaging. I give you one other biblical thing on this. Um, you know, scholars have pointed out that a lot of books in the Old Testament have a counterpart in the New Testament.

So for example, you got wisdom literature, and then in the New Testament, you got James, um, you got the five books of the law, then you got the four gospels. One of the books that has no counterpart in the New Testament, one of the only ones is the book of Psalms. Now the Psalms was the Jewish hymnbook.

Why was there no counterpart? Why didn't the early church write a hymnbook? Here's why a lot of scholars say, and I would agree with them because God was indicating that no one culture, not even the early church's culture should write the praise music for everybody else's culture. You see the Psalms are Jewish.

They're Jewish in their meter, they're Yiddish in their rhythm. And now you've got God being glorified through the multiplicity of cultures, writing their own worship music. So God didn't want to write one manual for everybody. So he gives you the living water and tells you to put it in the cup of your culture. Number two, why cultural integration is hard. Let's talk for a few minutes about why it's hard. Let's start with the first one, letter A, pride. Like I said, our race has become a source of pride for us. You see, we're constantly as human beings coming up with things that we believe make us significant, that set us apart from other people. I'm smart. I'm rich. I went to this school.

C.S. Lewis said, he said, he got a little thing called the ring. He said, all of us come up with a ring of people that fit inside our ring and everybody else outside of their ring is not as good as us. We have to first realize that racism is born in fear and insecurity inside me. If we can root out that fear and allow God's love to replace it, we've taken a huge step towards unity. Amen. This was only the first half of a longer message on this timely topic on Summit Life with Pastor J.D.

Greer. Don't miss the rest on tomorrow's broadcast. We're in a teaching series called Sent, and we're here every day on the radio and web sharing biblical truths that will bring healing and grace to your life. If you happen to join us late today, or if you'd like to catch up on previous messages, you can find them all free of charge at When you give to Summit Life, you're helping us expand our website and radio ministry to reach new listeners all across the country, all so that more people can dive deeper into the gospel with us each and every day. We're so grateful for your financial partnership, and as our way of saying thanks for your gift today, we'll send you a copy of a new resource created especially for our listeners. It's volume two of our study titled Sent, the Book of Acts.

Don't worry, if you missed volume one, you can still get it now as well. As you read and study, you'll learn more about the Book of Acts and the history of the early church. But more importantly, you'll discover what it means to be sent, the mission and call for every believer. Ask for your copy of Sent, the Book of Acts, volume two, covering chapters nine through 28, when you donate today at the suggested level of $25 or more. Give us a call at 866-335-5220.

That's 866-335-5220. Or it might be more convenient to give and request the book online at It's a joy to be able to provide these gospel-centered resources, and it's made possible because of listeners like you. While you're on the website, you can learn more about becoming a gospel partner. Gospel partners are an integral part of our team at J.D. Greer Ministries, enabling us to boldly proclaim the gospel through this radio ministry, our website and print resources. As a growing ministry, we pray for more gospel partners to join us in helping others experience the love of God through the gospel of Jesus Christ. When you sign up for a regular ongoing monthly gift of $25 or more, you become part of our gospel partner family, and we'd love to have you join with us today.

And if you're new to Summit Life and you'd like to get to know us a little bit better, sign up for our email list. You'll receive Pastor J.D. 's devotional blog posts, as well as the popular Wisdom for Your Weekend posts. Subscribe right now when you go to

I'm Molly Vidovitch. Make sure you listen again tomorrow when Pastor J.D. continues this study on racial integration and God's Word.

It's a timely message for us all. Wednesday on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-17 10:53:24 / 2023-08-17 11:04:09 / 11

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