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Inclusive Exclusivity, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
May 19, 2023 9:00 am

Inclusive Exclusivity, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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May 19, 2023 9:00 am

When we experience division in the church, the first question we should ask is, “What are we boasting in?” As he continues in Romans 3, Pastor J.D. shows us in this message the three things we tend to boast in and why they contribute to conflict. When we understand that, while God only accepts those who are repentant, he also accepts repentant people from every background and race, only then will we have unity in God’s family.

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Today on Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. When your boast is wrong, then you will experience conflict. Is your boast in your race, your face, your place, or your experience of grace.

How much you've accomplished, how good of a parent you are, how good of a student you are, how good looking you are, how good of a person you are. Anytime you boast in something besides the gospel, it's going to lead to conflict. But when you boast in the gospel, then we're going to be the most inclusive community on the planet. Welcome back to Summit Life with Pastor J.D. Greer of the Summit Church in Raleigh, Durham, North Carolina.

As always, I'm your host, Molly Vidovich. You know, conflict is inevitable. We're humans and we don't always see eye to eye. But when we experience that type of division in the church, we need to consider a new question. What exactly is it that we are boasting in? Today, Pastor J.D.

shows us three things that we tend to boast about and why they ultimately contribute to conflict. When we understand that God accepts repentant people from every background, regardless of anything about us, only then will we move toward unity in God's family. Pastor J.D. titled this message from Romans chapter three inclusive exclusivity. So let's pick up where we left off last time.

Once again, here's Pastor J.D. We're always trying to find something that tells us we're okay. Something that is our righteousness, something that is our clothing, something that sets us apart, something that makes us acceptable. That is our justification.

This is one of those word pictures I go back to a lot because I really do think you need to get your mind around it because it explains how we all live. After we stand in the Garden of Eden, the first effect, according to the Bible, of our sin was a sense of our nakedness. Now, before that, read the story. They were already naked, but their nakedness didn't bother them.

Why? St. Augustine said the reason why is because they felt clothed in the love and the acceptance of God. But after they sinned, having been stripped of that love and acceptance, they suddenly became aware of their nakedness. So what did they do?

They tried to find covering. And I told you that's a picture of the human race is we feel exposed. We feel unacceptable.

We feel shame. And so our whole life is spent as a quest to re-clothe ourselves. Isn't that what a normal person does when they feel naked?

Right? I mean, a normal person is always going to try to find clothes. I've told you if you have a problem sleepwalking and you wake up in Walmart buck naked in the middle of the night, you don't like, hey, I'll pick up a few odds and ends for the house. You don't do that.

You go to the clothing section, try to cover that. By the way, the word righteousness and justification in Greek are the exact same word. So all of us are doing this and all of us, whatever we turn to our justification becomes a point of division, a point of pride, a point of jealousy and despair.

Charles Spurgeon, who's the 19th century British pastor that I quote so much. He said in Londonian society in the 19th century, there were three primary dividers. He said, first of all, there is the pride of race. For many of their ethnic identity becomes a way of distinguishing themselves above others. Jews in that day took pride in their Jewishness. Romans took pride in the Romanists that led to feelings of racism, feelings of superiority, even xenophobia. Today, people take pride in their Americanness or their Southernness or their blackness or their Asianness or their Indian culture or their Latino-ness or whatever. A racial distinctive becomes core to their identity.

Now I want you to hear me. Our cultures are beautiful things and there is nothing wrong with taking delight in our culture. There's nothing wrong with feeling a profound sense of dignity in our culture. God created our various cultures like a mini-sided diamond to reflect his glory. And we glorify him not all by becoming one culture, but by delighting in and displaying and feeling dignified in the culture God made us in. But when that culture, when that ethnicity becomes our primary distinguishing identity, when it becomes part of our justification, when it becomes what gives us a sense of worth and what sets us apart, it will always cause division because you become really proud of and then defensive of your culture because your culture establishes your uniqueness.

It's part of your specialness. It becomes your justification. Paul would say to us, just like he said to them, friend, do you not understand the gospel? There's only one race of people, the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. We got one core problem, sin. All have sin. All fall short of the glory of God.

There's no distinction. And we've got one hope, the blood of Jesus that cleanses us all, whether we're black, white, Latino, Asian, Arab, or mixed, he cleanses us all alike. So where is boasting then? From where comes this sense of superiority about your race? Any kind of ethnic superiority is stupid and completely antithetical to the gospel. What gives us our worth and our identity is not our Jewishness or our whiteness or our Americanness or our blackness anymore.

By the keeping of the law or by the preservation of our culture, no human being is justified. In fact, after our identity in Christ, after embracing that, Paul said, all the rest of our defining characteristics, all the rest of our success, all the rest of those things should seem in our eyes like garbage compared to the surpassing worth of what we have in Christ. In fact, in Philippians 3, Paul said that very thing. He said that his Jewishness, and Paul loved his Jewishness.

He loved that culture. But he said, compared to what I have in Christ, my Jewishness is like scubala. Now, in some of your translations, if you have a sort of a soft kind of, you know, friendly translation, it'll say garbage. Really a better translation, some translations will say dung, dung.

Scholars tell us that even dung is way too weak. Put it this way, scubala is the kind of word that if your 12-year-old Greek son used it, you would wash out his mouth with soap. And Paul said, I used to boast about all these things, my education. I used to boast about my Jewishness. Now I see that as all BS.

Bull scubala is how you would think of that. This is really important. Listen, when we become Christians, our cultural distinctives do not go away. They should not go away.

They just become a lot less important in our identity and they cease to be part of our justification. Tony Evans, an African-American preacher, is one of my absolute favorites. The racial application of Paul's teaching on the gospel is that it is technically incorrect to say I'm a black Christian or I'm a white Christian because now you've made black and white adjectives and Christian the noun.

The job of the adjective is to modify the nouns. Now you got to keep Christian looking like the adjective that describes it or it ceases to be Christian. He says, but black and white culture have nothing to do with the essence of being a Christian. Better is to say I'm a Christian whom God made white or I'm a Christian whom God made black. Tony Evans continues, if we could get enough Christians to be Christian before white, Christian before black, Christian before Spanish, we might add Christian before Republican, Christian before Democrat, it wouldn't take 240 years to fix this.

It would take about two minutes and 40 seconds. God is not telling Jewish people to become Gentiles. He's not telling Gentiles to become Jews. He's not telling white people to become black people or black people to act like they're white people. He's telling all people in the church to identify first and foremost as kingdom people, having crucified their whiteness or blackness or Jewishness on the cross and regarding those things as important and as precious as they are regarding them as scubala and giving us worth or justification before God. Sometimes when we experience racial division, at the root of it is that our ethnic identity has become too large in our identity.

We've started to look at our racial identity as part of our justification. In other words, we've forgotten the gospel. By the way, this happened to no less than the apostle Peter. Galatians 2, Paul takes on Peter because Peter is now dividing himself from Gentiles.

He won't eat with them. He'll fellowship with them some places, but he won't do certain things with them. And Paul basically says, Peter, have you forgotten the gospel? Which is a pretty bold thing to say to the leader of the church. You forgot the gospel, but Paul's not trying to shame him. Paul's saying, Peter, you got to think about what the gospel taught us. The gospel taught us that we're not saved because of anything that we've done or anything special about us.

Jesus came to us when we were outside of the camp. So how would we ever exclude anybody for any reason? The gospel teaches us to go outside of our circles, just like Jesus went outside of his.

Peter, who are you to exclude somebody else? A failure to pursue diversity means that we have forgotten how far it was that Jesus reached out to include us. Jesus was infinitely more different from us than any of us are from each other. Jesus's choice to make us family is the reason that we can and should cross cultural lines to do the same with others. Yes, racial reconciliation, oneness is costly and inconvenient.

Yes, it is sometimes even awkward and painful, and you're going to experience that in your small group. But you remember that oneness cost Jesus his very life. And if that's the price he paid for the church to be one, who are we to decide that the cost of pursuing multi-ethnic oneness is too high and too inconvenient a price for us to pray? That's the pride of race.

Paul says we're done with that. Then there's letter B, the pride of face and place. That's where we think that some characteristic or personal accomplishment sets us apart. Something we've accomplished justifies us before others. We tend to see people in categories, right?

Don't we? Just everywhere, everything we look, we see them in categories. The successful and the unsuccessful, the intelligent and the dull, the beautiful and the ugly, the fit and the fat, the rich and the poor. And then we look down on those who are less than we are in these categories, or we feel intimidated by those who are more than we are in those categories. Paul would say, if that's you, you're feeling either pride or inferiority, do you not understand the gospel? First, he would say, do you really understand how little of your talents you can actually take credit for? Whenever I talk to somebody who thinks of themselves as a self-made man or self-made woman here in the triangle, I always want to say, really? Honestly, you think if you had been born as an orphan in a village in Somalia, you would have accomplished the same things that you've accomplished today.

Probably not. You're probably not as self-made as you think you are. In fact, your parents were the one that gave you the genes. You didn't even choose that. God gave you the air to breathe.

You've got the land of opportunity. A lot of things are the result of things that God has given to you and that others have given to you. The second thing I would say to them, and Paul, I think would say to them is, don't you realize how worthless your talents are when it comes to the things that really matter? I mean, all your talents could not justify you before God.

They did not work as clothing, but it was because before God, there's only one kind of center. There's a hopeless dead center. That's everybody, right? All are not righteous. None seek God. There's not successful high capacity centers with a lot of potential.

There's not unpromising centers, just hopeless dead centers. Heaven is not a scholarship program where God rewards the best of the best. Furthermore, the best resume in God's eyes, the best resume in God's eyes, Paul says, is a big steaming pile of scubala. Furthermore, what we have now in Jesus, Paul says, is worth infinitely more than any of those things anyway. When you realize what you have in Christ, the things that causes division down here because of the pride of faith and place, it's stupid. I mean, think about it like this.

Who cares? Who cares if I'm not that intelligent now? One day I'm going to inherit the mind of Christ, okay? That's going to make me a lot more intelligent than the most intelligent person here. It doesn't matter if I'm not beautiful now because one day Jesus is going to make my outside, and that's the beauty of the righteousness He has put on my inside. Folks, that means I can be ugly for 70 or 80 years because I get to be beautiful for eternity. It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if I'm not that successful now. You want to know why?

Because the weakest Saint, the weakest Saint, Jesus said, is going to reign with Him as a King and Queen for eternity, right? So I got a big old promotion coming. I know it's just around the corner. And when I get there, it doesn't matter what I had here because it's going to seem like scubala when it comes to what I'm giving there. It doesn't matter if somebody now doesn't appreciate me here.

You want to know why? Because in Christ, I literally have, the Bible tells me, Zephaniah 3, a father who is dancing and singing over me. So I can deal with your mean tweets. I can deal with your comments on Facebook, okay? It doesn't bother me that much because I got a heavenly father behind every one of those comments who is dancing and delighted.

And if I got his approval, I just don't need yours that much. You're listening to Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Before we dive back into today's message, we want to share a helpful resource with you. For those of you who enjoy listening to podcasts, did you know about the Ask Me Anything podcast with Pastor J.D.

Greer? Each week, Pastor J.D. provides insightful answers to a wide range of questions about the Christian faith, from theology and biblical interpretation to practical concerns about living out your faith. With new episodes available every Monday, this podcast is a great way to deepen your understanding of the gospel and get quick answers to your most pressing questions. You can access the Ask Me Anything podcast on or your favorite podcast app. And don't forget to hit the subscribe button so that you never miss an episode. We're always trying to provide practical biblical content to encourage you each day. So go ahead and give this podcast a listen right away. Now let's return to today's teaching with Pastor J.D.

Greer here on Summit Life. The pride of race doesn't make any sense. The pride of faith and place makes no sense. Maybe worse and most nonsensical of all, Spurgeon says, is the pride of grace.

The pride that comes from having lived a moral or religious upstanding life, feeling like you're better because you avoided certain shameful sins and mistakes. You look around, you're like, well, I've never been to prison. I didn't get pregnant before I got married. I never got fired from my job. I didn't get divorced. My kids didn't get divorced.

I don't have a porn problem. And so now you feel this sense of distinction, even like you're set apart from others who have gone through some of those things. Paul would say, friend, do you not understand the gospel? In Christ there's no good people. There's no bad people.

There's no people who have it together and dysfunctional people. There's only bad, dead, sin-sick rebels without God and without hope in this world. And if they're saved, the only way they're saved is by a sheer act of God's grace. And just because God in his grace kept you from some of the worst fruitions of your sin, doesn't mean you're made out of something different than others who have gone down those routes. It's like the Puritans used to say, the seed of every sin is in every heart. And if God in his grace has kept you back from the fruition of your depraved heart, that's not something to feel proud about. It's something to feel extremely grateful about because God saved you from yourself. There's none righteous, not even one.

There's nobody who seeks God. All that I have, Paul says, is the result of God's grace working in me. So where do you get off thinking that you're superior because of your race, because of your face or place, or because of your experience of grace? It was no merit of yours that brought you closer to God. Your acceptance was all the gift, righteousness of Christ. It was undeserved and it was imputed to you. It was given to you as a gift. Where then is boasting? It's excluded.

But what kind of law? Does God really need to say thou shalt not be proud? He would say, and this is my own vernacular, no, you idiot. Just think about the gospel. If you're proud, you don't know the gospel because the gospel teaches you that none of these things are the things to be proud of.

They're all scubala, they're all worthless, that you and I are saved by a gift of grace. And so yes, is God the God of Jews only? Is he the God of the successful?

No. Is he the God of Gentiles too? Yes, he's the God of Gentiles too. He's only one God. And he justifies everybody the exact same way. And that is through the blood of Jesus Christ that not a single one of us deserve. So yes, friend, Christianity is exclusive. Christianity teaches us the only way we can be justified in God's sight is by having Christ's righteousness imputed to us.

But that is the most inclusive exclusivity there has ever been. Because it says, whosoever will may come. It doesn't matter the mistakes of your past. It does not matter the problems you got in the present.

It doesn't matter your potential or lack thereof for the future. You come to Jesus and Jesus saves whosoever. And I know you think you're being inclusive by saying, well, all people of every good religion are gonna go to heaven. You are actually becoming the moralist you despise. Because you are saying to people that if you meet the standard, whatever it is, then you're gonna get there. And Jesus says, no, none of you meet the standard, not one of you.

It's all gonna be something I gotta give you as a gift. And if we would embrace that, we would become the most inclusive community there has ever been. Go back and read Romans chapter three, that lays out the way of salvation. And look at all the all language, all have sinned, all come this way. There's only one God. He justifies everybody the same, whether you're downtrodden, damaged or scarred, whether you've got a religious background or not, you need Jesus and Jesus saves everybody alike.

That'll destroy division. And I wish also note, it'll just make you an easier person to be around. You become a lot less judgmental of everybody else.

Whenever you're judgmental, it just shows that you don't really haven't grappled with the realities of the gospel. You become more accepting. You certainly never look down on people with a sense of smug superiority. In fact, you'll start to show empathy toward people when they're in difficult circumstances. You also become a lot less prickly when people point out your flaws. And that's because your identity won't be built any longer on being perfect. So you won't have to defend this image of I'm good and I'm perfect and I'm better and I'm worth it. And so you'll be able to accept criticism about you because you're like, my identity is not in being a perfect parent. My identity is not being even a flawless Christian. My identity isn't who I belong to in Jesus. In fact, I love how Paul Tripp, who's taught here before, I love how he said, nothing can ever be uncovered about me that God is not already seen and covered by the death of Jesus. That means if I'm walking with Jesus, if you're like, well, you know what? A, B, and C is wrong with you.

I should be like, yep, you all forgot X, Y, and Z. There's a whole lot more that you don't even know. I'm a whole lot worse than you think I am.

But there's not a single thing that will ever be brought forward that has not already been seen and covered by the death of Jesus. And my identity is in Him. My boast is in Him.

My pride is in Him. I boast, I do, but I don't boast in me. I boast in Jesus. So when you are experiencing division, when you experience jealousy, when you experience feelings of bitterness or insecurity or pride, that ought to be a trigger that makes you ask yourself the question first, what am I boasting in? Because I would say probably 99 times out of 100, that conflict, that feeling of jealousy, that experience of bitterness and insecurity is coming from boasting in the wrong place. And when your boast is wrong, then you will experience conflict. Is your boast in your race, your face, your place, or your experience of grace, how much you've accomplished, how good of a parent you are, how good of a student you are, how good looking you are, how good of a person you are. Anytime you boast in something besides the gospel, it's going to lead to conflict. But when you boast in the gospel, then we're going to be the most inclusive community on the planet. Last verse, verse 31. Do we then nullify the law through faith?

Absolutely not. On the contrary, we uphold the law. The last verse of this chapter, Paul turns one more time to the Jewish person he hears objecting. Paul, man, you're so hard on the law. You say like the law is worthless.

Paul says, absolutely not. I'm not saying that. I'm actually the one who's upholding the law. Cause see what the law does.

Watch this. What the law does is it reveals God to you. And the first thing the law does when you see God and you see what he wants you to be, it's just like a mirror. And suddenly you realize what you're not and what you can never be. And that drives you in desperation to grace, to say, God, I can't be accepted by keeping the law because my heart doesn't want to do it.

And I can never be good enough. And then after you receive grace, watch this. Then you suddenly develop the desire to become like the God who is behind the law, who is revealed by the law. And so you return to the law, but this time not to earn justification, but as an act and pursuit of love, trying to please and become like the God who has saved you.

I love how Jen Wilkins says it. The law drives us to grace. Oh, but grace drives us back to the law because we want to become like the God who has saved us.

So as we end chapter three, here's the big, the big idea. Justification versus sanctification. Everybody gets these wrong.

You got to get them straight. Justification is God's, everybody say this word with me, declaration that we are righteous because Christ's righteousness has been imputed to us. That's why we're righteous, right?

Because it's a declaration. It's not becoming righteous. It is being declared righteous because Christ's righteousness is given to you.

That's justification. Sanctification is the, everybody say this, process whereby we become more Christ-like as God infuses his righteousness into us as we continue to exercise faith in the gospel. He's infusing into us his righteousness and it's a process, right? So you got to get the distinction here. On one side we got justification, a declaration of our righteousness. It's a pronouncement. Sanctification is transformation.

It's a process. Justification, you're declared righteous all at once. Sanctification, you become righteous little by little. When you come, you don't try to become a better person. The first part of becoming a better person is thanking God that his acceptance of you has nothing to do with you becoming a better person.

It had to do with the fact that Jesus was the best person who died for the worst person, you. And when you receive that and you're declared righteous, that process will begin and you'll begin to become a better person, to become more like the God that you love. Then you'll start to understand that Latin phrase that we've been looking at that Luther used.

It's just seem useless at Pekator. Simultaneously, just, I'm righteous, even though, while, Pekator, I'm a sinner. And it's not that I become righteous and God declares me righteous. It's that God declares me righteous because of Christ, because I'm in Christ.

And having embraced that, my heart starts to want to become like the God who saved me. And that leads to a whole new kind of righteousness. A righteousness that is born from desire. A righteousness where you seek God because you want God. A righteousness where you do righteousness because you love righteousness. It is a righteousness the law could not produce. It is a righteousness the gospel produces and it can only be received as a gift. So here's the question. Have you ever started with justification? Have you ever received Christ? Because that's where it begins.

Inclusive exclusivity. That's the title of our message today from Pastor J.D. Greer on Summit Life. As always, if you missed any part of today's teaching, you can hear it online at We've got just a little over one more week remaining in part one of our series through the Book of Romans, and I hope you've enjoyed it as much as I have. Later in the summer, we'll pick the series back up to continue our study that took Pastor J.D.

more than a year to preach at the Summit Church. The Book of Romans really emphasizes just how much we have to be thankful for and how undeserving we all are of Christ's sacrifice for us. And as we work our way through it, we want to help you experience Romans in a whole new way through our featured resource this month. It's Pastor J.D. 's newest book, Essential Christianity.

This new book walks through the gospel by examining 10 of the key words the apostle Paul uses in the Book of Romans. We'd love to get you a copy as our way of saying thanks for your gift of $35 or more to support this ministry. To give, just call 866-335-5220.

That's 866-335-5220. Or give online at By the way, if you haven't signed up for our email list, you'll want to do that today. Stay up to date with everything going on at Summit Life, including Pastor J.D.

's latest blog posts and information about other resources available. It's easy to sign up at I'm Molly Vidovitch, and we are so glad that you joined us today as we close out another week of solid gospel teaching. We'll see you next week right here on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
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