This three-week series biblically addresses the topics of both racial tension and gospel-centered reconciliation. It’s no stretch to say that the issue of race has become a hot topic recently. This teaching guide looks at the different ways the local church can better reflect the diversity of God’s Kingdom, listen to those who are different than us, and pursue justice in all areas of life.
Read the SERMON SUMMARY from week 1
“Justice too long delayed is justice denied” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 1963
For many, political and racial issues are difficult topics to confront. One main reason is that it is easy for anyone to side with a reality that is influenced by one’s own experience or feelings. Also, through modern media, we’ve been conditioned to react emotionally with little evidence, causing many to have a shallow opinion or even a distorted one that could be influenced by a false narrative. The daunting challenges before us can make anyone feel hopeless and powerless, leaving one struggling to find a needle sized solution in a problem filled haystack. Praise God that what is impossible for man is possible for God (Luke 18:27).
Personally as a Pastor, a major function of my calling is to sober up sinners, helping them to see both their great need for God and a greater Savior that can satisfy their needs. My other function is to build up believers in the faith. At times, that means addressing the most difficult areas of life and the soul. No pain, no gain. This is necessary for the continued sanctification and growth of a follower of Jesus, until we come face to face with our Savior. In short, my purpose is to awaken people, and help them to not only BE “woke” but STAY “woke”.
The term “WOKE” is a cultural expression, whose definition has evolved slightly over time. In essence, being a person who is WOKE is to be self-aware of one’s reality, especially in being sensitive to any abuses or injustices, in particular in context with minority and African-American experiences. MLK and those in the civil rights movement in the 1960’s would be considered “woke” in today’s standards because they not only saw grave injustices but also fought to shine a light and bring about change.
The times that we are living in, along with one’s faith in Jesus Christ, demand more than just being self-aware. We must also be spiritually-aware. That was the mark that distinguished every civil rights leader in America since the 1600’s, and any that describes every hero of our Christian faith. Every time the Church would rise up, God would move and steps would be made in the right direction. The time is now for the modern Church and for today’s Christian to answer the call of our Savior, to storm the gates of Hell in our world, rather than wait it out in the comforts of our own sanctuaries.
In describing the nature of revivals, in particular the Great Awakenings in America, John Piper wrote something that struck me deeply when I first read it. In describing his observations about the Second Great Awakening in his book, “The Supremacy of God in Preaching”, John Piper writes, “What I learned there is that deep and abiding spiritual awaking is attended by a Spirit-given seriousness among the people of God”.
God always makes a serious impact every time His people decide to take His great cause, His Great Commission, and His Great Commandment seriously. Christ’s Church should be filled with these kinds of individuals. Godly woke people allow God to work through them for the sake of ALL others around them
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Revelations 7:9-10 (ESV)
In these verses, the Holy Spirit of God has given us, through the Apostle John, a glimpse of His heart! I wouldn’t be surprised if this was “the joy that was set before” Jesus as He endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2). He surrendered His life, knowing that one day, many lost souls would find true life through faith in Him, and they would one day celebrate together in Heaven forever. An interesting detail is that the Apostle John was able to notice very distinct language and skin color differences. It’s amazing to think that each saved person will be the same “ethnicity” when they first lived on Earth. It’s amazing to think about the idea of having my same ethnicity and skin color that I had on Earth one day in Heaven.
Compare this futuristic image of God’s people in Heaven with His modern day people here in Earth. Though we have made strides, we still have far to go, especially in America. On Sunday mornings, many believers self-segregate themselves to communities that are more in line with their culture or color. We do this, not because we are racists but because it’s comfortable. Becoming the church of tomorrow today requires a change in perspective and a change of the motives of our hearts. The Apostle Paul was trying to do just that by getting the Ephesus Church, who were non-Jews, to not only see what God was trying to do but also teach them how they too can be a part of it.
Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. Ephesians 2:11-12 (ESV)
Here the Apostle Paul reveals the need that believers once had for being woke and raised to life through faith in Christ Jesus because we had NO hope without God. If you are saved, when was the last time you thought about your condition before your salvation? Do you remember what that was like? Do you remember the struggle to find purpose, worth, and value? Do you remember the weight of sin and that you were once deserving of the full wrath of God? If not, I ask you to do just that right now so that you may never forget that there are sinners in this world who have not encountered the life, love, and hope that you have now in this world through Christ.
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22 (ESV)
Here we see the result of being woke by grace through faith. Paul compare a Christian’s past state to his present one, showing the drastic change and growth that had take place. Before, we were unable to improve our circumstances. But now we see that the Spirit is at work in every believers to help the Church as a whole around the world to grow together into something remarkable! So how did we go from point A to point B? What was the cause?
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. Ephesians 2:13-18 (ESV)
The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the cause of our awakening! He came to not only declare peace between a Holy God and unholy people, He in fact is our peace, working as a bridge, allowing us to cross the great divide of sin and death. I love the image of Jesus breaking down the “wall of hostility” that existed between us and God. That same wall is one that we all tend to raise up in between one another. They have names like racism, classism, intolerance, greed, unforgiveness, bitterness, and so much more. One thing that has marked the summer of 2017 was the tearing down and removal of Confederate statues in America in order to bring healing and peace.
Regardless if you are for or against it, one thing that I want to highlight is that Jesus has gone to the root of the issue of racism and so many more sins when He Himself torn down the wall between us and God, making it possible for our sinful hearts to be removed and replaced with a new one! The results of rioting cannot compare to the results of repenting and receiving Christ as your Lord and Savior. You can’t be more “woke” than going from death to life! But that is just the beginning. Believers must also learn how to stay woke through the Holy Spirit.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Ephesians 5:1-14a
This is what a woke lifestyle is all about. In this chapter, the Apostle Paul outlines many ways we are to stay woke, ranging from avoiding sin, falling under the wrong influences, and even exposing the work of darkness in our world by shining the light of Christ. It is the devil’s desire to get every saint to remain asleep and passive. He knows that a divided and distracted Church is a deaf church to the cries of the lost and oppressed that surround them. There is much work to be done. We must seriously seek for more of God in our lives so that He can do more through our lives.
In one example, Christians must no longer settle for just just being known as being anti-abortion and pro-life. We must be pro-living! We must search for ways to meet any physical, mental, and emotional need possible with whatever means that are available so that Christ may meet their more serious need for Him!
Therefore it says, “Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:14-16
The price to have mankind reconciled first to Himself and then towards one another cost the Father and the Son greatly. Do you think that we are except from struggle or difficulty? Do you think it will be easy? The individuals that make up the Church ARE the hands of feet of Jesus, all of which were pierced with nails. The pain of discomfort is well worth the gain of a new brother and sister.
In his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr described the church in a powerful way. he wrote, “The early Christians rejoiced when they were deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the Church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles o popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society.”
A thermometer, reacts to it’s surrounding environment without thought or effort. All it does is tell you what’s going on out in the world. A thermostat changes the surrounding environment because it is connected to a power source that allows a system to do so. We don’t have time to waste. Heaven and hell hang in the balance. It is unwise and unfruitful to say that we are “woke” and all we do is react to our surroundings, claiming to be aware of wrongs in ourselves and in society while remaining unaware of our Savior.
Will the church remain silent while we posses the ultimate solution to mankind’s problem? If you have placed your faith in Christ, understand that YOU can change your surrounding environment because you are connected to a greater source of power that is at work in you. Now is the time, so be wise with the time that you have left. Be a thermostat. Be woke, and stay woke so that the Holy Spirit can work through you to change our world.