Jack Graham - God's Grace for Every Race
Love those Lion's eyes! DON'T BLINK is our series. We are staring down the lies of the enemy and preaching God's truth! Amen? The title of today's message is "God's Grace for Every Race". I'm actually today going to preach from my first Bible. I was showing the congregation here, online viewers and television views, that my grandfather gave me this Bible when I was eight years of age in 1958. We had children here receiving their first Bible, first graders, and I said the dinosaur roamed the earth in 1958. Not really, but it was a long time ago. But the Word of God remains in my heart and in my hand. It's the Word of God that has strengthened me and sustained me all these years.
Isaiah 40:8, "The grass withers and the flower fades, but the Word of our God will stand forever". And from generation to generation we have been passing God's Word, God's truth along whatever the culture may be. In 1958 I was a little boy, living in Conway, Arkansas, 30 miles north of Little Rock. A small town then of about 10,000 people. And it was fully in the segregated south. In fact, you might even say, Conway, Little Rock in that era, the late 1950's was picturesque really of the segregated south. The Central High School issue that raised in the late 1950's when the Governor Faubus of Arkansas brought in the National Guard to stop integration at Little Rock Central High School, that was all going on at the time and I was a little boy.
I grew up in a totally segregated society. By that I mean we had people of other races in our community whether it was Germans or Hispanics or Blacks in our community but you know we all pretty much stayed to ourselves, in our own churches, our own schools and to our own families. We didn't know each other really that much. It was, everything was segregated and for some of you who have grown up after this, you can't imagine life like this, but it was true. And this was the way we lived. And we adjusted to this darkness in some way until it began to change by the power and the love of God. So everything was segregated in Conway, Arkansas.
Our First Baptist Church where I was baptized as a young believer, segregated. Totally white. The Blacks in our community lived in what was known as the Pine Street area. And I appreciated the Pine Street High School because my dad and I would often go to their football games on Thursday night and this is one reason why. Of all the segregated places, and most were in little Conway, Arkansas. And Arkansas in those days, and all the segregated businesses and restaurants, there was just one place I believe, that was not segregated as a restaurant. And it was called the Dan-Dee-Dog, and that was my dad's business. My dad owned the Dan-Dee-Dog.
Now a Dan-Dee-Dog is a corndog, better than a Fletcher Dog. And as a little boy I would help my dad actually dip those corndogs in hot frying grease. I guess that would be against the law to let a child around grease like that, hot grease in these days. But I did it and loved it. I guess it was my first job. I got paid in chewing gum for doing that job, and all the corndogs that I could eat. I think my cholesterol must have been about 300 before the age of ten. But our business was open to everyone. And I didn't really understand it at that time in a world where you would go to a department store, let's say, in Little Rock, Arkansas and there would be water fountains. One would say "whites only" and others would say "colored".
I remember asking my mother one day in a department store in Little Rock, why is this? And, of course, there was no good answer. And certainly, while my family was not perfectly unprejudiced, I was taught as a little boy that Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. It took us a while as believers in America and really around the world to begin to live this, but we have made advances. I can tell you this in all this generation. But we know we are still a divided nation. We have just recently witnessed injustice and the result of anger and despair and hopelessness, violence has inflamed our streets, our communities are in conflict and racial wounds have been reopened. And there is fear and uncertainty all around us as to what the future looks like.
And despite the gains in justice and equality in the last generation, it appears in some ways the racial divide is greater than ever before. We believe in Christ, and because we believe in Christ, we believe that according to God's Word the Bible that everyone is equal. This is written, of course-the Judeo-Christian heritage of our nation, it is written into our documents that "all men are created equal and endowed by the Creator with certain inalienable rights". We want as believers and followers of Jesus Christ, we want a better America and a better future for everyone, black, brown, white, all. Our future is in God's hands; we know that, every one of us. Psalm 37:23, "The steps of a man are ordained by the Lord". But having said that, knowing that God has this, it is our responsibility as followers of Jesus to use our influence for good and for godliness.
You know, in the past generations it has been Christians who have stood the past 60 years in the gap against abortion. Six decades! And we are making progress, but Christians have been doing that. It's Christians who, Bible-believing Christians who have spoken out for the sanctity of marriage. That marriage, according to the Bible, God's Word is between a man and a woman, and anything else is not true marriage. It is Christians who led the movement. Not all, but many Christian who led the movement of Civil Rights and for equality. Only God, using godly people can heal the racial division that is in our nation. And we have been given a pathway to this righteousness and this justice. Micah 6, verse 8 says, "He has told you, O man, what is good and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God".
This is our assignment; this is our mission because we love God, to walk humbly with Him; because we love people, to show mercy and kindness and to act justly. It's a time in which racial problems and otherwise, are continuing to divide us. And we need solutions. We're all looking for answers because we want it to be better. If you're a Christian, you want this to be better! So we need as the Scripture describes it, wisdom from above. The wisdom from above, according to James, is first pure and then it is peaceable, God's pure wisdom, His Word that comes from heaven is pure, every word of God is pure, and then it is peaceable. And that peace in the Bible is often referred to as reconciliation. It's one of the great words of Scripture, words like justification and sanctification, theological terms, big words with big ideas, redemption. But reconciliation really encompasses all of it.
In 2 Corinthians 5, beginning at verse 17, it says: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old is past away; behold, the new has come. And all this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; So ours, as reconciled people, to us is the ministry of reconciliation". What is that? Verse 19: "that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses", that means their spins and disobedience, "against them, and entrusting to us", entrusting! Circle that! "Entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, to be reconciled to God".
Another scripture I want you to see at the outset; Ephesians 2, verses 12 and 13: "Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, (segregated, if you will) separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise", he's talking about the separation that existed between Jewish people and Gentile people, all non-Jewish people. He said, "You were alienated; you were a Gentile, separated from Christ and the family of faith of Israel". "...having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Jesus".
First point is we are reconciled in Christ by God's grace, reconciled in Christ. The word reconciled means to be brought back together, to be brought together. How can two be agreed, "How can two walk together except they be agreed," the Scripture says. So what this is saying is that in Christ we are all welcomed into the family of God, that we are members of one another in Christ. We are one in Christ! That God is no respecter or discriminator between people or people groups. We put people in classes and colors and categories. We often classify people according to their affluence or their age or their appearance or their accomplishment. But with God really there are only two classes, two categories: those who are in Christ and those who are not; those who are in grace, God's amazing grace, and those who are not. We know God does not look on the outward appearance.
When David was chosen as the king of Israel, he was the least of the least among his brothers, but Jesse was sent by God and chose David, why? Jesse said "God does not look upon the outward appearance but God looks upon the heart". God does not see skin; God sees the soul. Jesus welcomed everyone who came to Him from the smallest child, He said, Matthew 19:14, "Let the little children come to me for of such is the kingdom of heaven", to the oldest adult, a man like Nicodemus, a Pharisee who came to Jesus by night. He said himself, John 3:3-4, "How can an old man be born again"? when Jesus said, "You must be born again". He said, "How can an old man be born again"?
And of course, Jesus was talking about the new birth, salvation in Christ. Whether it was religious Pharisees; or Jews; or Samaritan women, often considered outcast in the culture of the day; Roman centurions, everyone who came to Jesus was welcomed and still is. I do know this; that according to the Scripture every person born on the face of this earth is loved and leveled at the cross. John 3:16, "God so loved the world", and the world includes everybody in it, of course. So the answer to our racial question at the foundation is this faith in Jesus Christ who brings people together. The answer to the racial question from our own day and of our own time is not in critical racial theories, which typically are Marxist and toxic.
The answer to the racial issues and solutions for our time is not socialism. But Jesus and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the solution to the racial problem of our time! We as followers of Jesus, Christians, we believe in justice, but not social justice, per se. We believe in biblical justice. Social justice often breeds socialism. But biblical justice breeds equality. And here is biblical justice. What is biblical justice? Biblical justice is works, not just words! Not just what we say but what we do. Our biblical world-view is that the root of the human problem is sin and the sinful heart which divides us and separates us from God and separates us from one another. But it is in Christ and the cross and the power of the resurrection that He brings us together.
We stand together at the cross where we find commonality, and community. We stand together under the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. And the only color that God really sees is the royal red blood of Jesus who saves us by His grace every race, every face, by His grace! And this redemption brings then reconciliation. As Martin Luther King said, that "We ought to live so as to be judged by the content of our character rather than the color of our skin". That's what Jesus does for us because Jesus is the content of character.
Jesus, according to Ephesians 2:14-16: "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 a new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in our body through the cross, thereby (Love this praise!) killing the hostility. The hostility between Holy God and sinful mankind, the hostility that exists between the races". What does God do? He kills it! It was Martin Luther who said, "You will either be killing sin or sin will be killing you".
Christ killed the sin of hostility and hatred and anger between people. Jesus gave us something brand new, a new identity. It's the church, the body. And in Christ, in the church, the true church of the Lord Jesus Christ we are brothers and sisters, we are all members in the forever family of God. So, there is no such thing as white Christianity or black Christianity or brown Christianity or any other color you want to name. Christ is for all! And in all who know Him! We are all in Him and Him in us! We are all for one and one for all! In Christ! In the church! And we celebrate our diversity by finding love for one another in unity, we celebrate our diversity by finding love for one another in unity. Christ breaks down the walls that divide us and discriminate between us. I can assure you there is no segregation in heaven.
And one way that I know that is Revelation 7:9. It's a beautiful scene about heaven and the glory and the promise of heaven. And John is given a glimpse of this glory and he says: "And 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 (that define purity and perfection in Christ) and palm branches in their hands, praising Him". In every land and every language, every life in Christ, standing before the Lord, praising Him. Every tongue. "O for a thousand tongues to sing our great Redeemer's praise".
I know this: when you read your Bible, for example, in the book of Acts, there were three conversions, Acts chapter 8, Acts chapter 9, Acts chapter 10, three powerful conversions, and they're not there in succession by accident because each one of these three conversions described represents a strain of humankind since the days of Noah and the sons of Noah. When Noah and his family came off of the ark, his family and his family only survived to replenish the earth, and there were three sons and their wives. And the three sons of Noah, Shem, Ham and Japheth then reignited or reproduced the rest of the human race. And these three brothers, the sons of Noah, became the great three strains of humanity. Ham and the sons of Ham settled in the African region of the world, in the Ethiopian region of the world. Shem, the sons of Shem are the Semitic people. You can hear it, Semitic, Shemitic.
The Semitic people, the Middle Easterns, the brown skin peoples of the Middle East primarily. And then Japheth and the sons of Japheth settled historically in the European region. So, you got Shem, Ham and Japheth. The African region, the Middle Eastern region and the European region of the Ancient World, and that's the rest of the world ultimately. So in Acts chapter 8, this is really, really beautiful. In Acts chapter 8 there was an Ethiopian, a black man, who had been to Jerusalem to worship God, returning home. He was a high-profile leader in Ethiopia. He was returning home; he was empty. But God put it on the heart of Stephen a deacon to go to the desert and there was a divine appointment. This man, the Ethiopian, the black man was reading his Bible and Philip, the deacon got up in the chariot with him and shared Christ with him.
In fact, in Acts chapter 8 and verse 35 it says, "Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture, he told him the good news about Jesus". And so this man, the Ethiopian was saved, he was baptized and he returned to his homeland with a message of Christ. In Acts chapter 9 you have a Semitic man, Saul of Tarsus. Saul of Tarsus, a murderer of Christians, a persecutor, a terrorist of the first century, who was confronted by Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus; he was dramatically changed. And how was he changed? How was this man converted? Acts chapter 9, verse 5: "He said, 'Who are you, Lord?' And He said, 'I am Jesus who are persecuting.'"
And so it was Jesus who saved this man from the Middle East, a Semitic. And then in Acts chapter 9 there was a Roman centurion, an Italian, a European, if you will, who was seeking God. And God sent Peter, against Peter's own will initially, because Peter was discriminating between Jews and Gentiles, and he thought that Christianity at that time, he just thought it was for people like him. But God convinced him and prompted him, and he went and he was ultimately obedient and he shared the Gospel with this son of Japheth, and in Acts chapter 10, look at it, it's on the screen. Acts 10:34, "So Peter opened his mouth and said, 'Truly, I understand that God chose no partiality, but in every nation, anyone who fears Him and does what is right is acceptable to Him.' As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ who is Lord of all".
Do you see it? This is God's grace for every race. They were saved in the book of Acts, and how were they saved? Jesus, Jesus, Jesus! It is Jesus who brings us together by God's grace, and that is reconciliation. And because we are reconciled by God in Christ, we are reconciled together. God loves diversity when it brings us together in unity. And the church is to be a colorful, mosaic of many people, of many nations, all equal. Racial sin denies the inherent dignity of all people. It is particularly sinful, it's racism, it's discrimination when it shows up among Christians and in churches. It cannot be. I can't change the sins of my fathers, and neither can you, but we can change our own sin by the power of Christ. And be converted and be changed! And love flowing through our lives. Not saying we minimize the past or excuse the past but I'm saying instead of canceling the culture, God has called us to change the culture by lifting up Christ! And that's what we are called to do.