Tony Evans - Message at NRB 2021 (God is Shaking Things Up)
"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval". Since we are surrounded by this cloud of witnesses. Welcome, everybody, to our Bible study, "Kingdom Heroes". We're going to be looking at some of the great heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11, and we want to challenge you to become a kingdom hero. And yeah, times have been tough: the virus, racial tensions, and social upheaval. The author of Hebrews says you don't give up, and the way you keep moving is by faith. By faith Abel, by faith Noah; that by faith Moses, by faith Rahab... 29 says by faith they passed through the Red Sea. The walls of Jericho fell down. We are to be looking unto Jesus, author and finisher of our faith. Noah had to make a decision like you and I have to make a decision. Are we going to believe enough to obey God's Word, or are we going to settle for the culture that has rejected it? Far too many Christians are unwilling to be identified as a Christian outside of their convenient Christian environment. God is going to reward those believers, kingdom heroes, who decide that they don't mind being identified with him, saying no to the culture and saying, "I choose to follow Jesus Christ". I want to challenge you to become a kingdom hero.
The author of Hebrews says when God has a fresh message to give, a new challenge to throw out, a reorientation to inaugurate, he shakes things up. When God wants things done differently, when God does not want the norm to continue, when God has to uproot the ordinary and call us to the extraordinary, he shakes things up. You can always know when God is talking because he disrupts the ordinary things by crafting a crisis. Let me say that again. In your life, my life; your family, my family; your ministry, my ministry, if you want to know where God wants to do something different, he does not want the same old same old anymore, he will create a contradictory crisis, a crisis that has originated in heaven to disturb things on earth because God is looking for something different.
There are two choices. One, in our belief in the imminent return of Christ, he is shaking things so that we are prepared for his quick return and with that there is no option because that is related to the prophetic conclusion of history, or he is dismantling things in a way that they cannot be fixed through ordinary means to reassert the role, responsibility, and functioning of his people because he has become sick and tired of our ordinary way of operating. And so he decided to allow a crisis of health to get it started. COVID-19 would not only disrupt the world; it would disrupt the church. The walls would no longer be the comfortable place for comfortable Christianity. He would then take the death of a man in Minnesota and allow a racial upheaval to continue to bubble up, pitting people against people, cultures against cultures, colors against colors, communities against communities. He would take a political divide between Democrats and Republicans, between black Christians and white Christians and allow it to erupt into a divisive reality in the church.
And not only would he allow all of these things, he would stack them. He would take health, stack it with race, stack it with politics, stack it with police and community conflict; and he would stack it so there would be no question things are shaking. They are being disturbed. I love the passage in 2 Chronicles chapter 15, verses 3 to 6. It says that there was no peace in those days. It says citizen were at peace when they left home, and when they came back home there was conflict; personal conflict, family conflict. He goes on and says there was conflict city against city. Urban conflict. He goes on and says there was conflict nation against nation. International conflict.
And then we get the zinger in verse 6 because it says for God troubled them with every kind of distress. I would have thought it would have said with all of this havoc that the devil troubled them with every kind of distress, but it says God troubled them with every kind of distress because God was shaking things up to get things back in order again. I would like to suggest to you, they were told in their distress, verse 3 says, of 2 Chronicles 15, when stuff got bad enough, when stuff was so chaotic, it says in their distress they came back to the Lord and he let them find him and brought them rest.
Perhaps some of you have heard me tell the story of when I met my wife at 18. I met her at 18, this beautiful young lady, but there was a problem. She was not responding at the rate to which I was accustomed. Lois was moving kind of slow, so I had to help a sister out. I took her to an amusement park in Baltimore, Maryland called Gwynn Oaks Amusement Park, and at Gwynn Oaks Amusement Park they had a roller coaster for two called the Wild Mouse. The Wild Mouse would do all the stuff the roller coasters would do, but then it would go to the edge like it was going to jump the track and then it would turn real quick. Real scary. I said, "Give me two tickets". We got on the Wild Mouse. The wilder the ride got, the closer she got. By the time the ride was over, you thought only one person got on it.
Now why did I buy two tickets to the Wild Mouse? 'Cause I had a plan for her, and it was a good plan. It involved the future and a hope, but what I had to do was I had to create some distress first to get her undivided attention. The author of Hebrews says that when God is ready to do something new he creates a disturbance, and the reason he creates the disturbance, he says, is to shake created things, earthbound things, physical things in order to reveal that which cannot be shaken. In other words, God shakes our physical human reality to get us spiritually back on point. I would like to suggest today that evangelicalism is off point. I would suggest to you today that evangelicalism has lost its way. I could come and preach a cute sermon for cute Christians and hopefully get a cute response; but when your world is falling apart it's not time to be cute, it's time to be clear.
We are being written off. We are being dismissed. We're being marginalized; critique and criticize the very word that's fallen into disrepute not because we don't believe the Bible, but because the presence that we ought to be having because of the Bible has not been manifested in the culture as the creator designed it to be. We have become the outcast but not because we're being persecuted only for our faith, but we're being persecuted for our foolishness. This problem of race should never have been allowed to seed itself in the church of Jesus Christ generation after generation after generation. When Paul dealt with the issue of race in my favorite passage, Galatians 2:20, "I'm crucified with Christ. Nevertheless I live; yet not I, it's Christ who lives in me. The life which I now live I live by faith, the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me".
Everybody loves that verse, but we don't often tell the story that led to him giving the verse in the first place, which was the racism of Peter. Peter had found out that it was okay to eat pork chops with the Gentiles, but when his Jewish brethren showed up, he removed himself from fellowship with the Gentiles. And when Paul saw that he removed himself, Paul confronted him. But he didn't confront him with sociology. He didn't feel the need for critical race theory. He didn't feel the need for a seminar entitled "Can We All Get Along"? What he said was, "Peter, you have embarrassed the truth of the gospel". Well, wait a minute. "Peter, you have embarrassed the truth of the gospel. Don't you know that I've been crucified with Christ"? That's where that verse comes in.
Paul is talking to Peter to correct him on his racial disparity. He didn't wait for a year, or 2 years, or 20 years. He corrected him on the spot because a mist in the pulpit is a fog in the pew. "And, Peter, we got to get you straight today. This position you have taken is intolerable". And what's interesting is he calls it in that passage the gospel. Now I hear people say, "Well, we need to stick with the gospel. I believe in the gospel, the death and burial and resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ and that faith alone and Christ alone gives eternal life to all who come to him for it". I believe in the gospel. The problem is Peter is already saved. Peter is not a sinner, yet he says, "You have embarrassed the gospel".
That is because far too many evangelicals have not understood that the gospel has a narrow content, but it has a broad scope. And race is a gospel issue. The unity of the church is a gospel issue, and it's a gospel issue saints need to know about. We cannot dismiss it by calling on the content of the gospel that gets us to heaven while we skip of the scope of the gospel, which ought to change how we relate to one another on earth. So to help the church out God has shaken up the culture and says since the church can't get it together, since the church is using illegitimate diagnostic methodologies for determining our relationship, our fellowship, and our unity, then I'm going so mess it up in the culture that you can no longer skip discussing the issue. And while we are debating about critical race theory and non-critical race theory, those of us who are biblical centric ought to understand there should be a kingdom race theology. There ought to be a theology that trumps all of that because we are kingdom people first.
And so what you have to understand is that God has shaken this up. He's shaken up your communities. I will go out on a limb here and suggest that you who are radio station owners should not only be doing good broadcasting, which is what you should do in song and in word, but it is my contention because you are a neutral party in every community in this nation you should be the unifying element in every community to bring churches together who would not otherwise fellowship with one another to become the harbor for the kingdom of God and his representation in that community, that you must view your enterprise not only as a vehicle of communication but as a vehicle of kingdom unity. Whenever God created a shaking in Scripture, it would always to be to attack idolatry. Idolatry is any noun; person, place, thing, or thought, that you look to as your source, your governing body, your governance; the thing that you are looking to.
Idolatry is the number one sin in the Bible from which all sins emanate because it is a rejection of the true God in favor of something or someone else. And so idolatry would be attacked. The Bible says when that happens, Romans 1, God abandons and that allows chaos to enter into the environment. What we have developed in America and even in American Christianity are American idols; idols of popularity, idols of materialism, idols of racism. The white church has become too Republican. I knew it would get quiet, but let me try it again. The white church has become too Republican. You have wrapped, too many have wrapped our faith in the American flag. And when you go for a nationalistic faith you have contaminated the gospel not because you're Republican, but because you've now made the nation subject to the wrong kingdom instead of the nation having to adjust to our king and his kingdom.
Many of these problems that we're facing today would never have been the way they are if the white church had not taken the stand to be quiet when Jim Crow was happening, when criminal leasing was happening, when all of these deleterious realities that has led to conflict that is still plaguing the Southern Baptist Convention today and that ought not to be. There would be no National Baptist Convention if the Southern Baptist Convention was not a segregationist institution. It left the kingdom. But the black church has become idolatrous, too. So you black people don't get too comfortable because what we have done is we have wrapped blackness in cultural identity. So we have often been more black than biblical. We have decided that our color can trump Christ. And so we will endorse a political party who will endorse evil, say nothing about the evil of abortion, the evil of homosexuality, the evil of misuse of government because of a race issue. God doesn't ride the backs of donkeys or elephants. He sits as King of kings. He sits as Lord of lords.
So we live in a day when God is shaking things up. He's calling on NRB to have a new program and a new platform. If you want to reach this generation, if Christ be not come, he's saying you can't go to the old way, you can't do things like you used to do it, you can't be a good old boys' club. You're going to have to say that to reach this generation we must take our stand. So I suggest that we need to go beyond evangelical. That's why I love verse 28. He says in Hebrews 12, verse 28, "Therefore since we have received a kingdom which cannot be shaken," a kingdom that is not limited to the stuff happening in time and space and on earth, since we've received the kingdom that trumps politics, trumps class, trumps culture, let us show gratitude, let's act like we are thankful people so that we may offer an acceptable service and a reverence to God.
I suggest that we need to go beyond evangelical without excluding evangelical. What we need are some kingdomologists. We need some men and women who understand there's only one theme in the Bible. When you look at my study Bible and the Bible commentary, at the bottom of it it'll say these words: "Advancing God's kingdom". There's only one theme in the Bible: the glory of God through the advancement of his kingdom. It is all about the kingdom, and the kingdom is the rule of God. It is the rule of God for which we ought to be subordinate. If you came to me and your life was messed up, I would take the Bible and I would show you what God says about that part of your life that's messed up, I would call you to repent, I would then give you practical steps for implementing the truth that we learn in the Word, and then I would pray that the Holy Spirit would empower your obedience for transformation.
If you brought your family to me and said, "My family is messed up. We want a divorce," I would take the same Bible that I dealt with you personally. I would show you what God says about what it means to be a kingdom husband, a kingdom wife, kingdom parents, kingdom children. I would then call you to repentance, for a way you have disobeyed that. Then I would give you practical steps for implementing what the Bible said on that subject, and then I would invite the Holy Spirit to empower your obedience to the Scriptures for the transformation of your home. If you brought your church to me and says, "Our church is falling apart," I'd take the same Bible that I used with the individual and the family, I'd talk about what a kingdom church looks like, I would give you practical steps after you repented to apply those biblical principles, I would ask the Holy Spirit to empower your obedience to change the trajectory of the church.
But what would you do if the president and the Congress came to you? Too many of us would change books. We'd have gone to other books even though God says, "I created government". You don't get to change books. You don't get to change books in the White House. You don't get to change books in the house of Congress, not if God is the God of governments. He raises presidents, takes down presidents. He brings up countries, takes down nations. You better bring this book to the White House and the house of Congress, too. This is a day for men and women who understand that God is shaking things up because God wants us to do things differently, and he'll keep it tore up from the floor up until we do things differently because he's doing it to reveal his unshakable kingdom.
And then he closes, he closes with these words in verse 29: "For our God is a consuming fire". He says the reason why you better not play with this thing, Christ be not come, is because our God is a consuming fire. Now, that's bad news and that's good news. As the author of Hebrews regularly does through the book, he reaches back into the Old Testament to teach New Testament truth. A consuming fire was the altar on which sacrifices were placed. Now, that was bad news for the lamb, or the goat, or the bull because when they were placed on the altar they died. They were consumed by the fire. But it was good news for the folk because when the animal was consumed and the sacrifice was made, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and restoration could then be offered.
So it was bad news for the animal, but good news for the nation. Our God is a consuming fire. He's burning things up so he can be nice again. He's burning things up so he can restore again. If you really care about America and the trajectory we're on, you can't do business as usual, can't do the ordinary, you can't do the regular 'cause he's trying to burn something up up in here. He's trying to consume something so he can bring something new to the equation. As we close, in television and in movies they have previews of coming attractions. These are the hot clips of the upcoming show. Fight scene, love scene, chase scene; always those three scenes to get you to tune in to the whole movie. Now, it may be a terrible movie, but you'd never know about the clips 'cause the clips are always hot.
Well, my brothers and sisters of NRB, one day there's a big show coming to town. God is the producer, the Holy Spirit is the director, Jesus is the superstar, and it will be a worldwide production. It's called the kingdom of God. But until then, he's left you, you, you, you, you, you, you, and me here as previews of coming attractions. We're supposed to be the hot clips of the upcoming show so that when people see the unity of the church, the power of the church, the dignity of the church, the commitment of the church; when they see the hot clips of the upcoming show, then they'll ask the question, "Where can I buy a ticket"? 'Cause that's when we can tell them, "You don't have to buy a ticket. The price has already been paid".