Who you are, if you trust in Christ, makes no difference to God. Dr. Tony Evans says there's no discrimination at the foot of the cross. People who understand grace can't be racist because they need hope too.
This is The Alternative with Dr. Tony Evans, author, speaker, senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas, and president of The Urban Alternative. Dr. Evans, you said a moment ago that there's no discrimination at the foot of the cross, but there seems to be plenty of other places we can find it. In your message today, you're going to talk about discrimination not just as a problem, but as a stronghold.
What's the difference? Well Dave, a problem is something challenging in your life that you have the capacity to address. A stronghold is something that holds you hostage, and you don't have the capacity to address it. You're too weak, it's too ingrained, it's too deep for you to change on your own. Obviously, racism and discrimination is one of those strongholds that is holding people hostage for generations.
It's passed down from community to community, from parents to children, and it's engulfed our nation since its inception. And so it is time now that we recognize strongholds can only be broken spiritually. There's no legislation you can pass to break a stronghold. There's no group meeting that you can have to break a stronghold unless God gets involved.
The stronghold, because it's spiritual in nature, keeps you wrapped up, tied up, and confined to your cell of discrimination. So it's time now to look at the spiritual issues that are holding us hostage racially. All right, well with that in mind, let's listen to your message for today. James chapter 2 starts us off with our discussion today as it lays out from God's vantage point the very concept of discrimination. He raises the issue in verse 1, my brethren, referring to Christians. Do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. Here James raises a problem in the church that he calls personal favoritism, or actions of discrimination.
Now please notice a couple of immediate observations in this verse alone. The problem is not that this church did not have clear doctrine. These were clear believers who had a faith in God, in the glorious Lord Jesus Christ. Yet somehow their doctrinal belief system did not affect their interpersonal relationships and how they related to people who were different. They would look at people on the outside to determine their worth on the inside.
They allowed exterior qualities to determine personal value. Now the reason why this is a fundamental issue is because the Bible makes it absolutely clear that there is no partiality with God. The reason why this is such a big deal is because when Christians act in a unrighteous, discriminatory way—and I have to put the word unrighteous, because there are some things we ought to discriminate about.
Wrong is wrong. You ought to discriminate between right and wrong. We're talking about unrighteous discrimination because we're talking about a stronghold where you treat somebody in a way other than God would have you treat them because of a standard that you are erected, not given to you by God. In fact, here in James chapter 2 verse 9, please note the clear statement. But if you show partiality, discrimination, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as a transgressor. If you show partiality, unjust discrimination toward another person because of your standard, not God's. He doesn't say this is socially unacceptable. He doesn't simply say that's not fair. James puts it on the level where it belongs.
He says it is sin. When I was in elementary school, way back in Baltimore, Maryland, they had these old big boiler rooms the way they heated the schools up. Furnace boiling water that sent it up through the vents into the various classrooms that had the radiators.
You remember those radiators and the steam would go up through there? Well, I got to know as a child the engineer that handled the boiler room at Alexander Hamilton Elementary School, and he took me down to the boiler room one day and I noticed that there was this little thin glass on the side of the big huge boiler that had a little bit of water in it. I mean a little thin glass about this long, about this much around, that had a little water in it, and I asked him, what was that? And he said, well, that's the water gauge.
I said, what does that mean? He said, well, it's simple. The little gauge lets me know how the big tanks working. If the little gauge is only half full, the big tank is only half full.
If the little gauge is only a quarter full, the big tank is only a quarter fill, because what you must understand is the gauge lets me see what's going on in the bigger boiler. You understand what John is saying? He's saying you have a gauge that lets you know how you and God are doing. And you may think you and God are on big boiler room terms, but if your love gauge to your brother is thin, your relationship to God is equally thin.
If you want to measure how close you and God are, measure how close you and your brothers are, your attitude toward the visible helps you to measure your status with the invisible. I was amazed at some of the testimonies as I participated in the Tom Landry funeral. One testimony by one of the black players in particular, who said, I have come, and I would have come even if I were not asked to speak for this reason alone. During the 60s, he said, when the society was racially divided, I always knew that when I went to the cowboy camp, this coach would treat me fairly. And then one African-American player after another came and said this man was fair when the culture was unrighteous. And what did this man have to show for it?
20 years of winning and going to heaven with a good name, because he didn't let what was happening out there mess with his team in here. And too many of us are letting what folks say out there tell us how we ought to feel in here, and therefore break up our winning season for the kingdom of God. So that's the concept. Pride produces prejudice. Prejudice produces discriminations of all manner. Let's briefly talk about the categories of discrimination. I've mentioned them.
Let me mention them again. Let's talk about the one that is the most celebrated kind of discrimination, particularly in America. Wantism. Racism. That is, discrimination based on skin color. That's racism. Racism is the act of discriminating based on the complexion of another person. Discrimination is most noted for white against black. A discrimination not talked about quite as much is discrimination of light-skinned blacks against dark-skinned blacks. That has its differences. Sometimes it's based on a mentality that's wrong. Other times it's based on the ability to exercise power over somebody else, or to maintain your power status. We don't have time to go into all the nuances of racism, but racism is faulty because it looks at the external complexion of a man and comes to a conclusion that they must be inferior.
That they are less than I am, which puts me on a status higher than them. There is no greater insult, number one, to the Creator because Acts 17 says that God has created all men, and all men have come from one blood. And if you cut a black man in this room, they gonna bleed red. You cut a white man in this room, they gonna bleed red. You cut a Hispanic in this room, they gonna bleed red. And if you cut a white man in this room, and his blood is draining out, and the only person who has his type blood is a black man, he gonna take it.
And vice versa, because the light of whatever color you are is in the one thing God gave all men in common, the blood. And you hear the group pressure, because what the group pressure does is cause you to stereotype the group. Many blacks will say all whites are racist. Many whites will say all blacks are lazy. They create these stereotypes that become the normative whereby you judge the group so that in order for me to accept you, you have to prove to me you're not like how I think the group is.
You got to win me over to show me you're not like everybody else. Instead of me saying you have to prove to me who you are as an individual, you have to prove to me you're not like them. Another one is class that has to do with money and status. Treating the poor person badly because they don't have designer cars, designer clothes, they live in designer neighborhoods, and in designer houses. And they don't have new suits, and they don't have ties.
They may do the best thing we have with what they have. They don't just have much. That whole passage that was read in James, God condemns class discrimination. We have lost some wealthy members over the period of years that this church has existed.
They do not come here anymore because they didn't get preferential treatment because of their status in the world. The way you get preferential treatment in the church is your spirituality, not your bank book. Not your bank book, not your title, not your recognition. Now I understand the Bible says, give honor to whom honor is due. So if you're the mayor, we're gonna honor you as the mayor.
If you're a doctor, you've earned your medical degree, we'll call you Dr. Jones. That's nothing wrong with giving honor to whom honor is due. But that's not where discrimination comes in.
Discrimination is that because I look at who you are and what you have, I treat you better. Because you give a lot of money to the church, this is your pew. If you ever get a room named after you here, you better make sure your spiritual life matches your donation.
It is based on spiritual criteria, not the money you have. Well we'll get back to the rest of today's lesson in just a moment. First though, Dr. Evans, you've been making it clear that we can't wish our way out of the discrimination stronghold or legislate our way out or even educate our way out.
So what can we do that'll actually work? Well that's an exciting question to respond to today because God has established the church as His dominant cultural influencer. And that's why it is the condition of the church that will determine the well-being of the community. So when Jesus established the church in Matthew 16, He said, my authority will be manifested through the church to advance my kingdom. And when my church is operating like my church should operate, then the society will see what God had in mind when He built civilization. So God is literally waiting on His people to come together with their uniquenesses across race, cultural, and class lines and to bring God's kingdom principles to bear in the church and then through the church, overflowing from the church into the community to bring about the kind of change that we desperately need to see.
That's why in the book that I wrote, Oneness Embraced, that book on race and God's kingdom, it shows God's perspective, how we ought to operate in light of it, and even gives a plan for how any community can see transformation take place in spite of the anguish, agony, violence, and injustice and racial disparity that is occurring everywhere. Tony, I also know that Oneness Embraced was a very personal book for you to write, dealing with your own hurts and hopes over this issue. So I want to make a point of reminding everyone that a newly revised edition of Oneness Embraced is now available.
In fact, for Black History Month through the end of February, we're packaging it together along with your current six-part message series, Faith, Hope, Unity. This powerful resource bundle is a thank you gift from us to anyone who makes a contribution to help keep this program coming each day. To take advantage of this offer, just visit tonyevans.org or give us a call at 1-800-800-3222, where resource team members are standing by ready to help.
Again, that's 1-800-800-3222. Well, Dr. Evans will return with the second part of today's message right after this. It's beyond a Sunday sermon, a chance to really dig into the Bible and the kingdom in a new way, anytime and anywhere, because it's all online. The Tony Evans Training Center, in-depth courses on all kinds of topics, cultural transformation, intro to expository preaching, Jude, John, Hebrews, Old Testament, New Testament, and so much more. These aren't sermons. They're teaching courses to help you engage, understand Scripture, and not just to hear about, but to explore the kingdom of God on your own. Find out more at tonyevanstraining.org.
tonyevanstraining.org. Acts chapter 6. You don't have to turn there, but it talks about the Hellenized Jew and the Hebrew Jews, two different cultures, the Hebrews and the Greek Jews, rubbing each other the wrong way. He didn't tell them, well, you Hellenized Jews, y'all go start a Hellenized church. You Hebrew Jews, go start a Hebrew church.
He said, leaders, you get in there and fix it. Two different cultures, but they were sensitive to the culture. So they chose Jews that could relate to the people who had the need. As our whites and our congregation grows, we need to be sensitive to that. Sensitive to that in staffing, sensitive to that in programming. You have to be sensitive. You have to be, you cannot skip the realities of the differences. Same thing when blacks go to white churches.
Without losing your emphasis on the majority, you cannot forget you're not the only one there. Religion. That's another basis of discrimination, because they don't worship like I worship. We're a great church. They're a terrible church. God only has two criteria for worship, spirit and truth. That's it. They got the right attitude, and they take the Bible seriously.
Everybody doesn't have to worship like us, and we don't have to worship like everybody else, because if they're worshiping a spirit and truth, God says he goes to church there. Education. That's another discrimination.
Let me explain something to the edumacated. Whether you have a PhD or a GED. Whether you have a PhD or a GED, you came into the kingdom through the same door. God did not look at your resume before he brought you into the kingdom. He didn't see whether you had a BA, MBA, PhD. He wanted to give everybody in here a BA, born again, and praise God if you got to go to school on a government grant. Praise God if your parents can pay for it. Praise God if you have to work like a dog to get it. Praise God for the person that had the tenacity who dropped out to have the guts to go back. You're not better.
So what's the cure for a discrimination stronghold, whatever level it is? Turn to Galatians with me. The book of Galatians. Galatians is dealing with law and grace, you remember? And he says in the book of Galatians, chapter 2, verse 6, in the middle of the verse, God shows no partiality. He says that in the middle of the verse. God shows no partiality. That is unrighteous distinctions.
He does show partiality about right and wrong, but not based on unrighteous distinctions. Now look at chapter 3, verse 23. But before faith came, before coming to Christ through faith, you were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith until faith that was to be later revealed. You were under the law. Therefore the law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under tutor.
You're not under the law anymore. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ, no matter what color, culture, class you are. For all of you who were baptized in the Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is, watch this, neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are one in Christ. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring and you are heirs according to the promise.
Now stick with me here. Who you are, if you trust in Christ, makes no difference to God. What he's saying is not that men aren't men and women aren't women.
When he says there's no distinction, what he means is that there is no advantage to that status. Then what's the problem? The problem is you've missed grace. Grace looks at what you can be. That's why you ought to be ecstatic about grace, because what grace is, is grace is you beginning to realize what God saved you to be. That means you have hope with grace. People who understand grace can't be racist, because they need hope too.
And that's why he says at the end of the book of James chapter 2 that the one who does not show mercy won't receive it. If you don't give hope, don't ask for hope. If you don't offer hope, don't expect hope. If you don't grant hope, then on your day when you need hope, don't anticipate that God's going to give it to you, because it's about grace. And grace is not condemning.
It condemns sin, but grace always gives hope for the future. You don't ever have to feel like you are nobody if Jesus is in your life. You're never a nobody if he's behind the wheel of your car. You're never a nobody no matter what anybody says about you, because if Jesus is behind the wheel, Satan can't ticket you. So you are somebody because Jesus is in your life. So don't let anybody put you down, and when anybody walks through this door, you treat them like a king's kid, because that's who they are.
That's who they are. Dr. Tony Evans, looking at how the spiritual issues that keep us in bondage to racism can be broken. He points out that expressing kindness, however small, to everyone we encounter is a very simple way to help deflate cultural disrespect, hatred, and insensitivity.
As believers, we're called to love God and one another, and when we show kindness to others, we honor God and contribute to changing the atmosphere of our culture for good. Now before we go today, I want to remind you to take advantage of our special package offer on Tony's newly revised book, Oneness Embraced, and his six-message audio collection called Faith, Hope, Unity, a tribute to Black History Month. They're yours as our thank-you gift when you make a contribution to help keep Tony's teaching on this station, but this is a limited-time offer, so be sure to contact us soon. You'll find us online at tonyevans.org, or give us a call day or night at 1-800-800-3222, where resource team members are standing by to help you.
That's 1-800-800-3222. Almost every day, we're reminded that it's past time to face up to some biblical facts about racism. Tomorrow, Dr. Evans will take us beyond cultural thoughts on the issue as he shares what God has to say about race and racism. Be sure to join us. The alternative with Dr. Tony Evans is brought to you by The Urban Alternative and is made possible by the generous contributions of listeners like you.
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