August 12, 2018
Pastor Jeff Struecker
We’re going to do a little bit of a survey. I’m not going to ask you to show hands because frankly, you might get embarrassed, or maybe people around you will get offended, but just work with me for a second. People have very different tastes when it comes to music. For some of you out here, your go-to genre of music, the style that you prefer most, is going to be classical. For others of you, you would prefer hip hop. Some of you like listening R&B. Others of you like listening to country music. It doesn’t even matter the Christian lyrics, some of you prefer hard rock as your genre of music. All of us have different kinds of preferences when it comes to music. The bigger the crowd, the more diverse the preferences. One preference is not necessarily better or worse than another preference. Preferences by themselves are not inherently good or bad. I heard a very wise man not more than a week ago make this statement: “Preferences don’t have to be problems. However, when you take your preference to an extreme (when I start to force my preference on you or when you start to tell me that your preference is better than mine), then preferences become problematic.” and that happens all of the time. This happens all over our culture and from time to time in our church.
How many of you in this room feel like it’s too hot right now? Go ahead raise your hands up. How many of you feel like it’s too cold in this room right now? Go ahead and raise your hands up. This part is really important. How many of you were not even thinking about temperature until I just asked that question a second ago? That’s what I thought. Do you know what happened at the end of the end of the first service? A lady came up to me and just spent the next five minutes complaining about how cold it was in the room. I don’t understand where this came from. I just told you all of us have preferences. We work really hard to find a temperature that works for everybody in the room. I get it. It’s too cold for you, and it’s too hot for him, but for the sake of the whole crowd, we’re trying to find a happy medium, and maybe you need to dress a little bit more comfortably next time.
Our sermon today is all building towards one point in the Bible. In fact, you can see it at the bottom of your worship guide. We’re going to try to understand the last passage of Scripture from Psalm 117. There is a very profound truth found in that Psalm. In order for us to understand this profound truth, we’ve got a little bit of work that we need to do early in the Bible. That’s the other two passages from the Bible that you see today. So, if you’re following along, we’re going to give you a few things to think about. Here’s what I want all of us to see. I’m going to give you a sentence that describes where we are and where we’re headed for the next few weeks during this One Race sermon series. Here’s the sentence:
We must work for a better future for our children.
All of us have preferences. There’s not a priority of one preference over another. Preferences aren’t necessarily good or bad, but those preferences can become problematic when somebody starts to push a preference on you and makes you feel like if you don’t share their preference there’s something wrong with you. In the church, as well as in our society, we still have some work to do when it comes to cultural differences. We have some work to do when it comes to color differences.
This sermon is designed to describe where we’re at and where we’re headed on these things. I’m going to come back to this sentence at the end of the sermon, but I want you to see that for the future of our children, it’s imperative that we put some hard work into the challenges that are facing our society today. For example, this weekend is the one-year anniversary of the tragedy in Charlottesville, Virginia. This weekend there will also be a white supremacist rally in Washington, D. C. As a country, we still have a lot of work to do. Even in our church, there’s still a little bit of work to do. There are a number of guests who are with us today. Guests, we’re going to do a little bit of housekeeping today. You’re going to hear a little bit about what’s happening in Calvary, but I hope you will be encouraged by where we’re at and where we’re headed.
There was a survey done last year by MTV. They surveyed Americans between the ages of fifteen and twenty-four. It asked, “What do you believe are the pressing issues facing our country today?” Listen to this number! Ninety percent of all of those people surveyed between the ages of fifteen and twenty-four last year said racism is a problem that has to be addressed in America. I want you to think about this. In 2017 Americans between the ages of fifteen and twenty-four (ninety percent of them) said, “Y’all, we have problems, and we’ve got work to do.”
This is not the generation of Americans where racism for them is when a man could own another man as property. This isn’t the generation of Americans where racism equaled a public lynching. This isn’t even the generation of Americans were racism was a colored water fountain outside the Dinglewood Pharmacy. This generation of Americans is the most multicultural and multiracial in our country’s history, and ninety percent of them said we’ve got problems and we’ve got work to do. If we don’t want to hand the same problems off to the generation that comes after us, we have some work to do in America, and we have some work to do in our church and in churches all over America and all over the world.
So, what we’re going to do for the next few moments is talk honestly from the Bible about, what does this look like to tackle this challenging topic? And, can I be honest? You’ve heard this said probably in the public forum. If you think about it at its essence this statement is true still to this day. Sunday morning at eleven o’clock is the most segregated hour in America. What that statement means is our schools, our businesses, and the military are further along in this issue than we are. And Jesus’s church has to grapple with some of the challenges that come along with different cultures.
I. God created one race
We’re going to go all the way back to the beginning of the Bible to lay a foundation to properly understand what Psalm 117 is teaching us at the end of this sermon today. In order to go all the way back there, we’re going to see from Genesis chapter one what God originally created when he made people in the Garden of Eden. This unavoidable from the Bible. What God created with our first parents is one race – the human race. All of us come from those parents.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, the whole earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.”27 So God created man in his own image; he created him in the image of God; he created them male and female.
Does it not seem odd to you that the pronouns that you’re seeing are plural? What the Bible is teaching us in Genesis chapter one way back in the beginning in the Garden of Eden is that God is three persons. One God in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All three persons are showing up in Genesis chapter one when God is doing the creating.
Let’s talk about verse twenty-seven because there is a profound thought in this verse. Did you notice three times in two verses the phrase “image of God” or “God’s own likeness” or “God’s own image” is mentioned? This is the phrase that you would use to describe a model or a replica, a likeness of something else. Think about a model airplane that is exact in its details. It’s just a little bit smaller and you can’t actually get on it and ride somewhere. That’s what God is doing when he’s making people back in Genesis chapter one in the Garden of Eden. That’s what God is doing when he’s making us in his image, his replica, his likeness.
Are you ready for the mind-blowing truth in this verse? The word man or male here can only refer to the masculine gender. The word female on the screens can only refer to the feminine gender. Listen to what the Bible just said to us. This is a mind-blowing truth for you. When God made people in his image, he made man and woman equally in his image. How many of you already knew that? Okay, here comes the rest of the story. Adam and Eve are different from one another. How many of you knew that one? When God made Adam, he made Adam in his image and when God made Eve, he made Eve in his image. Adam and Eve are equally made in the image of God; however, Adam and Eve are not the same. You don’t even need to be in first grade to realize men and women are not the same, but they’re equally image bearers of God from the very beginning.
From the very beginning God made unity, and God made diversity. From the very beginning when he made men and women equal in his image, he put his likeness or his image into them, but he didn’t make them exactly the same. There were differences from the beginning.
I’ll be honest with you. As a church we’ve struggled a little bit with, what the role and the limits on how a woman can serve in the church? We are a much better church because we were willing to work through those issues and to determine what the Scriptures really teach about the differences between men and women and how those differences play out in the in the church on a Sunday morning or during the week. Here’s the truth though: Men and women are separate (not the same), but they’re equal, and God made it that way in the beginning. Everything that we need to know from this sermon series today is to understand, God created unity and God created diversity. He made them different, but he also made them equal.
II. God established many cultures
The second thing that I want you to understand is God also magnified differences when he created different cultures. Men and women are not the same, but then God took people and he separated them. It wasn’t Pangea. It was God that actually spread people all over the planet and made different types of cultures.
The whole earth had the same language and vocabulary. 2 As people migrated from the east, they found a valley in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 They said to each other, “Come, let us make oven-fired bricks.” (They used brick for stone and asphalt for mortar.) 4 And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky. Let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise, we will be scattered throughout the earth.” 5 Then the Lord came down to look over the city and the tower that the humans were building. 6 The Lord said, “If they have begun to do this as one people all having the same language, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let’s go down there and confuse their language so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So from there the Lord scattered them throughout the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 Therefore it is called Babylon, for there the Lord confused the language of the whole earth, and from there the Lord scattered them throughout the earth.
If you want to know where cultural differences came from, the answer to that question is, it was God’s creation. God established very different cultures. When you start to bridge the gap between cultures, it’s not easy. Sometimes we can take the differences that we have in culture, and that’s all that we see or that we think about. However, if you’re willing to look beyond it, there’s more than just differences; there are similarities. When you start to look at the similarities, you find quickly that what’s in common is a lot greater than what’s uncommon between us. Yes, China’s on the other side of the globe. Yes, it’s a radically different language and a very different culture, but if Jesus’s church doesn’t bridge the gap, people will die without Christ. Thank God for folks like missionaries, who go completely at the support of the church and only because of God’s people sending them to the other side of the globe.
III. God has recreated one race in Christ
Our whole sermon has been building up towards Psalm 117. God made people in his image. God magnified the differences when he created cultures, but what I want you to understand church is, the most important thing that you’re going to hear from me today – God recreated one race and that race according to the New Testament are all people who are in Christ. Now there is a new way of describing people, and it’s either you’re in Christ or you’re not in Christ. Psalm 117, just two verses in the Bible, say something really profound. In fact, I want to encourage you to commit this Psalm to memory.
Praise the Lord, all nations! Glorify him, all peoples! 2 For his faithful love to us is great; the Lord’s faithfulness endures forever. Hallelujah!
When Psalm 117 uses the word “nations”, it’s the word to describe big groups of people all over the planet. It always refers to the people who have not yet heard about Jesus. This is the people in China who don’t have a Gospel presence, who have not heard the name of Jesus. When Psalm 117 refers to “peoples”, it’s talking about very small groups. It’s actually talking about groups like you and your family. What the Bible is telling us in verse one is that God wants praise from the biggest groups of people on the planet, 1.7 billion in China; God wants praise from the smallest groups of people on the planet, from your household and every household on the planet.
Verse two is really what is important in this Psalm. The reason why that’s possible is because of God’s faithful love to us. Did you know that that word faithful love in the Old Testament has no English equivalent? We struggle to try to define what this word means. It means God’s covenant love. It means God’s sacrificial love. It means that God loves people so much, that while I was in rebellion and still in my sin, God himself would enter creation to come to me and rescue me. God himself would pay the penalty for my sin so that I could know his faithfulness for all generations and so that you and the generations that come after us would know his faithfulness.
Here’s the profound truth from Psalm 117: Cultures are different, and we can look at those differences until we’re blue in the face, but there is one glue that holds all cultures together. And that glue is the blood of Jesus Christ. Because of the blood of Jesus Christ, there is now one race recreated as sons and daughters of God. Some of them don’t speak the language you speak. Some of them don’t share your color of skin. Some of them don’t share your preferences. However, you are in Christ if you have God’s faithfulness and his love, because of what Jesus Christ has done for you.
This is the part for us to just be honest with each other for a second. There have been some troubled waters in our church lately over the issue of diversity, especially over cultural diversities. I’m just going to shoot straight with us for a second. Many people are giving the impression we want the troubled waters to be still. I want this desperately! I want Psalm 133:1! I want how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity. But, there is an easy wrong way to get there and a much harder right way to get there. The easy wrong way to get through troubled waters is to short cut the circuit and to stop the hard work that gets you be better, stronger, more respectful of one another. The harder right way to do it is to have the tense conversations. Do it with love; do it with grace and humility, but have the kind of conversations that help us be the church that magnifies Jesus Christ, no matter what your culture or color of skin.
Even when it comes to politics, our church is divided, and that can’t continue anymore. Let me tell you what I mean by this. Nowhere in the Scriptures does the Bible say you must vote Democrat, or you must vote Republican, but some of the language that’s been going on back and forth about politics has become very divisive. I’m going to offend almost everybody in this room, but here goes. If you consider yourself a supporter of any political party, and you like to lobby a presidential administration against another, you’re wrong if you use it to divide God’s people. If you try to find some moral ground that will support the Trump administration separating alien parents from their children, there’s no moral ground that you can find that will make this acceptable. It’s no worse than if you’re a strong supporter of the Obama administration in the radical advancement of homosexuality or the radical advancement of transgender issues in the military. There are no grounds to support this issue. If you’re a supporter of the Bush administration, then you’re going to really struggle with, how to defend this unbiblical and immoral harsh treatment of prisoners during the global war on terrorism. Don’t even get me started on the Clinton administration! We can talk about problems in politics ‘til we’re blue in the face but those things don’t help anybody. There is one thing that will unite this church. It is the blood of Jesus Christ. We will not let any politics divide this church. So, if that’s where you’re at, please keep those comments to yourself.
The truth is, if we’re not careful, we can give the impression that the blood of Jesus is more for me than it is for you because your culture is different than mine. Or, that the blood of Jesus is more important to me because the color of my skin than it is for you. There is no greater lie out of the pit of hell than that lie right there. That’s why as a church we have to go through the hard work and make a better future for our children. There’s an easy wrong way to do this, and that’s just to stop having the conversations. We’re not going to do that. As a team of pastors and elders over the next several weeks, we’re going to map out a way to get to calmer waters, and we’re going to do it through some hard work. If we will do this, we will represent the kind of diversity and unity that God originally created back in the Garden of Eden with our first parents, Adam and Eve. We will create the kind of group of people that Jesus says, “When they see your love for one another, everybody will want that. Everybody will want to be my disciples. They will know that you’re my children by the way you love one another.” We’ve still got some work to do, but I have great hope for the direction that Calvary’s headed, if we’re willing to work through some problems together and willing to forge them together as a team.
• I want to become a child of God. Today, I surrendered my soul to Jesus for the first time.
– I have been struggling with the cultural differences in our community. I need the Holy Spirit to open my heart to people who look different and think differently from me.
+ I will pray for racial unity in my church this week.
- Why do you think Genesis 1:27 stresses the fact that God created them “male and female”?
- Is there a culture or nationality that God doesn’t want to worship him? Explain your answer using Scripture.
- Have you been the victim of racial prejudice in the past?
- Does God erase cultural differences when people become Christians?
- In your opinion, what is the root of racial difficulties in Jesus’s church?
- How can our church better engage people from other cultures who don’t know about Jesus?
- Pray for Calvary to be a church that treats all people as equals in Christ.