Grace Bible Church, NY
September 7, 2008
Conforming Culture to Christ
It had been my plan to begin a series of sermons on the book of Colossians upon the completion of the Bible Overview series, however, there were a few topics I wanted to address and I was asked to address several more. Some of these are “hot topics” in that parts of our society think they are controversial, and the Biblical perspective on them is definitely politically incorrect. Because of that, I am certain that some who view the sermon notes on the website will be offended by these messages, and possibly some of you may be offended as well. While I do not desire to offend people, I would much rather tell the truth and offend people than neglect the truth and offend God. Our purpose as a church is to glorify God by helping one another be active followers of Jesus Christ and that requires that we change our minds and how we live according to God’s word, and not the other way around as has tragically become common in many churches.
This morning we are going to tackle the issue of racism and the related issue of multiculturalism. Around the world, racism has resulted in injustice, oppression, slavery and even genocide throughout history and in current times. In our own nation, dramatic changes have reduced many aspects of racism over the last half century, but there are other aspects that have remained or even become worse over the last couple of decades.
I grew up in the multiethnic melting pot of Los Angeles. I was eight years old when the Watts riots took place. Great efforts were taken to try to reduce racial tension in the city and my own experience is that there was substantial success during my school years. Great gains were made throughout the 1960’s due to the great sacrifices made during civil rights movement of that decade. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech gave a vision for a society in which men would be judged by character and not color, and that all men would live together in brotherhood. Very significant laws were passed that did take giant leaps toward this vision, but sadly, other laws and policies were not so wise and have aggravated racial tension. Those policies led directly to a race riot between minority groups on my High School campus in my senior year.
It has become clear that Martin Luther King’s vision of a colorless society did not carry on in the decades following his murder. Some have fought valiantly to keep it alive, but others, who supposedly took up his mantle did not heed his words and drank deeply at the wells of bitterness and hatred. They advocate laws and policies that are in direct opposition to King’s vision. Government and many private institutions now constantly demand information on ethnic background. Such information should have no bearing on the service they provide or the product they produce. It should have no bearing on getting a job, a loan or into a school or college. It should have no bearing on law or justice. Yet it seems like most reports are given with some sort of ethnic breakdown.
I have also come to the conclusion that the mainstream media are delusional. They seem to view themselves as front line fighters of racism while their reporting practices aggravate it. Whenever there is some evil committed that could possibly have a racial element to it, the media are attracted like flies to trash and will often report in such a manner that agitates rather than simply inform. I am specifically referring to their seeking out and disseminating the opinions and wild speculations of bigots, and there are bigots in every ethnic group. The greater tragedy about such bigots is that they are usually blind to it in themselves even though they are quick to see it in others, or at least accuse others of it.
Modern secular man arrogantly thinks he can find a cure for problems by research and rationality, but man is often irrational and his research is biased. He might approach a problem rationally, but he may also purposely ignore the evidence that would force an opposite conclusion of what he wants to believe. For example, from a certain point of view, race quotas may seem like a rational solution to bring about equality, however, the very action of imposing the quota requires that judgement and decisions be made on the color of one’s skin instead of one’s character and ability. Such quotas actually impose inequality based on race, the exact opposite of their supposed purpose. They are also demeaning to those who gain approval because of them.
Why point out and speak about these social problems? Some people would accuse me of bringing politics into the pulpit for doing so. No, this is not about politics, though what I have to say this morning should have a direct bearing on your politics. It is about sin verse godliness. It is about righteousness verses evil. It is about selfishness and ego verses love and graciousness. It is about man’s wisdom verses God’s wisdom. It is about living for the Lord in all areas of life including renewing our minds from the prejudices we may have been taught growing up, protecting ourselves from the influence of a sinful society, and increasing our influence upon society by our godly example. It is long past time for the church to remove all ethnic bigotry from within her and be what God has commanded her to be.
Even a cursory examination of Martin Luther King’s speeches show that he was heavily influenced by the Scriptures, and particularly so in his dream of a colorless society. It is from the Bible that we understand that prejudice and bigotry are sinful, and it is from the Bible that we learn the cure for it.
The Bible talks about nations, tribes and tongues and it reveals the evil caused by the prejudice and bigotry that exists between these groups. However, the Bible does not talk about race. That is not a Biblical idea, but one that has arisen from evolutionary thought and it has a different basis. The term “race” is often used a synonym for an ethic group. Webster defines a race as, “a distinct group of people, the members of which share certain inherited physical characteristics (skin color, form of the hair, etc.) and transmit them.” A race then refers to a particular genetic group. A nation or tribe may or may not share certain inherited physical characteristics for they would also include those who have married into or been adopted by that group. The idea of a race is more clearly seen in its biological definition of being a “subdivision of a species.”
There is nothing inherently wrong with identifying a particular population group of a species as a race to distinguish it from other particular population groups of that species. That is a common and helpful nomenclature practice in biology, but when that idea is then tied into the philosophy of evolution, then a whole new dynamic is introduced. A race is no longer a simple term of identification, but now a term of competing populations to see which will be the superior line of evolutionary progress. The other races are inferior genetic lines to be eliminated by competition.
Many evolutionists have believed that human races evolved from ancestral types at different times so that some races are more “primitive” and therefore inferior. Evolutionary scientists even thought Australian aboriginal people were the “missing link” between humans and apes resulting in horrible atrocities against them. Similar ideas were common against Africans and the people of the South Pacific. The explorer Samuel Verner captured a 23 yr old African pygmy named Ota Benga and ended up d
isplaying him as an exhibit in the anthropology wing of the 1904 Saint Luis World’s Fair. He later put him on display in the monkey house at the Bronx Zoo.
The evil of racism begins ,by grouping people into races according to some morphological feature such as skin color, hair type, facial features or such. The evolutionary component then places these races in competition with each other with an evolutionary biological demand that one race prove itself to be superior to all other races and out compete them for the survival of an improving species. Evolution gave man a positive reason for racism and all the evils that have come from it ranging from racial prejudice and oppression to racial slavery, eugenics and genocide, the effort to kill all those that display particular genetic features.
The truth is that the genetic variation between any two humans as a whole is minuscule, about 0.2%, and even less when looking at those features that determine such things as skin and eye color, hair type and facial features, about 0.012%. Skin color, which is determined by the amount of melanin in the skin, has been one of the more prevalent features used to distinguish between supposed races. However, the truth is that there is no such thing as either a “black” man or a “white” man, for all men are simply various shades of brown. (Ntl geographic Picture). Wide variation occurs within the same family. The Singerl twins of Australia (2006) are quite different in their skin pigmentation. Siblings often vary in eye color, hair type and color and facial features.
The Bible is clear that all humans are closely related. As Acts 17:26 expresses it, “He made from one, every nation of mankind to live on the face of the earth.” Every human is ultimately descended from the same parents, Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:20). The nations, tribes and tongues come directly from dispersion of people from the tower of Babel. Biologists are finally recognizing man has a common origin and most now acknowledge that there is only one race of humans, the human race. However, evolutionary thought became ingrained in culture with the consequences that racism remains a severe problem.
Our Identity in Christ
People are naturally more comfortable with others that look, speak and act the same way they do. We are at ease with what is familiar and uncomfortable with what is unfamiliar because it is unknown. That is why there is less prejudice among multi-ethnic populations than groups that are of a single ethnic and cultural background.
The non-Christian has many logical reasons for prejudice and ethnocentric favoritism. It is normal for people to think that they and those that are like them are better than those who are not like them. It is normal for a culture to think itself to be superior to other cultures. It is normal for one group to seek to elevate itself above other groups. These things are normal because man is naturally sinful, self-centered and proud, often even of things for which they should be ashamed. That is why racism runs every direction. We should not be surprised when unbelievers sin against others for that is their nature. “There is a way [which seems] right to a man, But its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12). “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes . . . ” (Proverbs 12:15). “There is none righteous, not even one; 11 There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; 12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one ” (Romans 3:10-12).
The Bible calls Christians to a completely different standard for several reasons. First, as already pointed out, the idea inherent in racism of competing genetic groups is opposite of the fact that all humans are descended from the same parents, Adam & Eve, and not multiple sub-human ancestors. Evolution is a fraudulent philosophical system supported by very poor science. The Bible exposes the lie of its worldview and good science shows it to be a hoax. Racism is a sin.
Second, God made man in His image and therefore all men have inherent worth regardless of what they look like. Those affected by disease, accidents or even genetic disorders have the same inherent worth before God as the most healthy and whole among us. Bigotry is a sin.
Third, the bondage to sin has been broken through Jesus Christ. Sin is no longer to be our master, but we are now to be slaves of righteousness (Romans 6). We no longer are bound to be sinful, self-centered or proud and treat others with disdain and hatred. Jesus has redeemed us so that we will be a “people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:14). Actions and attitudes of hatred toward others is sin.
Fourth, our self identity is no longer to be about self, but about the Lord Jesus Christ. Our world is no longer to center on our personal kingdom and desires. Our identity is to be bound up in Jesus Christ so that we can say with Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the [life] which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20). Like those in Antioch we are to be so identified with Christ by our actions and attitudes that enemies will call us “Christ ones” or “little Christs” – Christians (Acts 11:25). Ethnocentric pride is sin.
Fifth, as Christians, we are called to a different view of other people which requires us to be humble and other centered. Paul commanded in Philippians 2:3,4, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; 4 do not [merely] look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Selfishness is sin.
Racism, bigotry, hatred, pride and selfishness are all sin and opposite of the way a Christian is to behave or think. That does not mean that when someone becomes a Christian all their prejudices immediately depart for it will take some time to have your mind and responses retrained according to God’s word. However, it does mean that the Christian will become less like the world as they are transformed into the image of Christ as their minds are renewed (Romans 12:1,2).
It is more than tragic when Christians continue to think and behave like the world. It is sin and it brings shame upon the name of our Lord. When Christians identify themselves as anything other than first and foremost a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, they are following the ways of the world. There is a huge difference between being a Caucasian, African, Asian, Indian, Arabic, Hispanic, or anything else Christian and being a Christian who is a Caucasian, African, Asian, Indian, Arabic, Hispanic, or anything else. Hyphenated Christians, like hyphenated Americans, reveal they have a core identity problem at the heart of their worldview. A Christian that gives a primary identification of themselves by their ethnic group reveals their own prejudice, and because their priority is wrong, they will continue to foster prejudice and bigotry.
The New Testament is very clear that the barriers between nations, tribes, class and gender are broken down in Christ. We are no longer strangers and aliens, but are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household (Ephesians 2:19). Galatians 3:28 adds, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Paul said almost the same thing in Colossians 3:11, “there is no [distinction between] Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircu
mcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.”
The breakdown between Jew and Gentile is extremely important because that is what has allowed us who are Gentiles to have hope. Ephesians 2:11-22 explains that we had been separate from Christ, strangers to the covenants of promise and having no hope and without God in the world (vs. 12). All Gentiles are without legitimate reason for national pride. Only the Jews had a legitimate reason for national pride because of God’s choosing of them to bear His name as the recipients of His covenants. Yet, even that choosing was totally based on God’s mercy and grace and nothing in the Jews themselves (Deuteronomy 7:7-9), so that pride at being a Jew had to be tempered with the humility of being the recipient of God’s mercy and the responsibility to declare God to the nations (Exodus 19:5,6; Isaiah 43:21). The Gentiles, which is all the rest of us, were in desperate need for God’s mercy, and in Jesus Christ that mercy has been given. Jesus broke down the dividing wall between Jew & Gentile and reconciled them into one body through the cross (vs. 13-16).
It is illegitimate for Christians to be divided by their ethnic heritage. It is wrong for Christians to group themselves by the color of their skin or any other physical feature. The old Sunday School song is still true today. “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the children of the world.” And not just children, but adults too. Anyone can form a working society out of people from the same ethnic, cultural and language backgrounds. God is glorified when people of various ethnic backgrounds live, work and worship together in mutual harmony, respect and love because only He can do that. Even differences in language is a barrier that can be overcome. Such diversity in the church also reflects what it will be like in heaven for Jesus purchased with His blood men “from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.”
For these reasons I strongly believe that a local church should reflect its community. A church in a diverse community should also be diverse. A community with only one ethnic group will obviously be made up of that group, but such a church should also be welcoming without prejudice anyone that does come that has a different ethnic background. Multilingual churches may have particular ministries according to those languages, but there should also be harmony between those ministries and joint services with translation so that all can worship the Lord together. Christians who divide themselves up by ethnic heritage or culture are not following what the Scriptures teach on this subject. They are revealing their own immaturity and prejudices.
The Error of Multiculturalism
Let me now address the related subject of multiculturalism. This has become an issue in the United States and a few other countries in the last few decades due to high immigration without assimilation and a changing view about cultures. The civil rights movement sought to remove prejudice based on ethnic heritage. Multiculturalism seeks to remove prejudice based on cultural background. This idea is predicated upon the belief that just as all people are equal regardless of ethnic background, so also all cultures are equal and should have equal influence in society. However, the premise of this belief is wrong.
While ethnic heritage and cultural background may have parallels, they are not the same thing. Ethnic heritage is related to family blood lines. Cultural background speaks of the societal values one grew up in. Many of those values are basically amoral in nature such as preferred types of food, clothing styles and such, though even those things could reflect moral ideas. Others values are very moral in nature including religious ideas, work and business ethics, value of life, etc.
The idea that all cultures are of equal value is also based on the belief that moral values are relative and that right and wrong, good and evil are defined by that culture. Nothing could be farther from the truth. There are absolute standards of moral values by which cultures are to be judged and that is why multiculturalism is wrong. All cultures are not morally equal. All cultures do not produce societies whose values have moral equivalence to other societies. No human culture yet has perfectly met God’s standards, but there are cultures that produce greater good in comparison to cultures that foster greater evil. There are cultures in which human life is precious and protected, and there are cultures in which human life is of little value and is exploited or destroyed. There are cultures which protect property and punish thieves, and there are cultures which property is exploited and the thieves run the government.
Those who advocate multiculturalism would immediately question who gets to define good and evil. That answer is simple. God does. But that is the heart of the problem of multicultralism. Multiculturalists seek to replace God’s declarations with man’s musings. But all philosophies are not equal, neither are all religions, nor are all gods. There is one God that has created all things and He sets the standards for right and wrong by His commands.
This truth also means that all cultures, including American culture and western civilization, must be evaluated in light of God’s commands. Though they have been heavily influenced by the Bible and therefore have many values which are righteous, they have also been influenced by many of other sources and some of the accepted practices within them are contrary to God’s word. That brings me to my final point this morning.
Conforming Culture to Christ
While the Christian will have been raised in some culture and that culture will therefore have major influence upon him, the Christian should never become complacent with his own culture or sub-culture, and neither should he evaluate other cultures by his own. We are to evaluate both our own culture and others by the word of God. We are to be advocates of change within our own culture and in others by what the Bible teaches. Our desire is to conform culture to Christ and not Christianity to culture, which tragically is a common occurrence even in cultures that are supposed to be Christian.
The Christian must either be in the process of being conformed to Christ by the renewing of his mind, or he will be conformed to the world (Romans 12:1,2). The world is enticing to the lusts of our flesh, eyes and pride, but those things are passing away and the Christian is not to love them (1 John 2:15,16).
America has become increasingly complacent with sin so that much of society has become tolerant of or even advocates of what God says is evil. Multiculturalism is just one more excuse for the acceptance of such evil since it will specifically advocate tolerance for practices of another culture that had not been previously acceptable in its own. At the same time multiculturalists disdain the moral values of Christians and also those of other religions which are similar.
Make sure you always stand firm on the principles and precepts of Scripture. Value what God values and never be ashamed to boldly proclaim those values to others even if it is not popular, or politically correct, or others do not like it, or they accuse you of intolerance because of it. God will not be tolerant of their sin when they stand before Him in judgement and someone needs to warn them. Expect to be lied about, slandered, disdained and persecuted for the sake of righteousness and His name, yet rejoice in the midst of it remembering that the prophets were persecuted before you, and your reward in heaven will be great (Matthew 5:10-12; 2 Timothy 3:12).
bsp; Remember as well that the gospel changes cultures because the internal spiritual change in people causes them to value what God values instead of what that particular society values. This has happened over and over again throughout history as missionaries bring the gospel to new lands, and revivals have come to societies that became complacent with sin. That is the hope for our own land, but revival will not happen if Christians refuse to live for the Lord and instead live according the values of our culture
Racism is the product of a wrong view of the origin and purpose of man coupled with man’s natural sinful selfishness. All humans are descended from Adam and Eve and our purpose is to glorify God, not bring about evolutionary improvement to our species.
Prejudice, bigotry and ethnocentric pride are also due to man’s natural sinful pride, but all of these things are contrary to the nature of a Christian and God’s commands to us. All humans have inherent worth because God made man in His image. Jesus has broken the bondage of sin enabling His followers to walk in righteousness and humility. A Christian’s identity is to be so bound to Christ that giving primary identification to anything other that Christ is wrong, and that includes ethnic heritage or cultural background. The barriers between nations, tribes, class and gender are broken down in Christ so that we can humbly live, work and worship together.
Multiculturalism is wrong because it replaces God’s standards with those of the cultures developed by sinful men.
Christians are to resist being conformed to their culture and instead be conformed to the image of Christ individually. This will in turn impact the culture as Christians boldly speak out and proclaim God’s standards of righteousness.
The cure for prejudice and bigotry is becoming a disciple of Jesus.
Is your identity bound up in Christ or something else? Are you being conformed to Christ or to the world?
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s
lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about
something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your
parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1)
Count how many times the words “Christ” & “Christian”are said. 2)
Discuss with your parents how to deal with prejudice and overcome fear
of people that look different from you.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. How do you
respond when you hear something from the Bible that personally offends
you? What experiences have you had with racism? What have you seen
(read) about the change in racism in America over the last 50 years? 20
years? What was Martin Luther King’s “Dream”? How well have the “civil
rights” leaders of the past three decades followed that dream? The
Bible does not use the term “race” Define “race” and its usage in
American society. What effect has evolutionary philosophy had on the
idea of race? What are some of the evils and atrocities that are
directly attributed to this? What did evolutionists believe were the
origin of human races? What is the actual genetic variation between any
two humans? Why are people more comfortable with those that look like
they do and uncomfortable with those that do not? Why are prejudice and
ethnic favoritism normal for humans? What is the origin of all mankind?
Why does man have inherent worth? Do morphological characteristics,
disease, accidents or genetic disorders have any effect on that value?
What is the master of the non-Christian? What is the master of the
Christian? How much do you identify yourself with Christ? What does it
mean to regard other people as more important that yourself (Phil.
2:3,4)? How does a Christian get rid of prejudice in himself? What does
a Christian reveal when they identify themselves by an ethnic group?
What barriers between people are broken down in Christ? Why does ethnic
diversity in a church glorify God? What is multiculturalism and the
beliefs that underlie its practice? Why is multiculturalism wrong? What
effect should a culture have on a Christian? How does a Christian
resist being conformed to the world (Romans 12:1,2). What effect should
a Christian have on a culture? How can a Christian have that kind of
impact? How does the gospel change a culture? Is your identity bound up
in Christ or something else? Are you being conformed to Christ or to
Our purpose as a church is to glorify God by helping one another be __________________of Jesus Christ
Around the world, racism has resulted in injustice, oppression, slavery and even genocide
M.L. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech gave vision for a _________society and men living in brotherhood
Some of King’s successors advocate laws and policies that are in direct ______________ to King’s vision
Bigots are often blind to their own ____________ while quickly seeing, or at least accusing, others of it
__________________and biased research will keep secular man from finding cures for societal problems
It is long past time for the church to remove all ethnic _______and be what God has commanded her to be
The ________ gives the cure for prejudice and bigotry.
Race is not a _________ idea, but one arising from _______________thought and it has a different basis
A race refers to a particular ___________ group. In biology, it is a _______________
When race is tied to evolutionary philosophy it is a term of competing populations for genetic _________
Evolutionists believed human races came from an _____________ ancestor
Evolution gave man a ____________reason for racism and all the evils that have come with it.
Genetic variation between any two humans is about ______ and the “racial” features, only about 0.012%
Acts 17:26 – _______________ human is ultimately descended from the same parents, Adam and Eve
Our Identity in Christ
People are naturally comfortable with the ___________ and uncomfortable with the unknown.
Prejudice & ethnic favoritism are ___________ because people are naturally sinful, self-centered & proud
Man is _____composed of competing genetic sub-groups. All humans are descended from Adam and Eve
Evolution is a fraudulent philosophical system supported by very ________ science.
God made man in His image and therefore all men have inherent worth regardless of what they look like
Jesus broke the ________of sin so His followers are not bound to be sinful, self-centered, proud or hateful
The Christian’s _____________is bound up in Jesus Christ (Galatians 2:20).
Christians are required to be __________and other centered (Philippians 2:3,4)
A Christian’s prejudices will diminish as their __________are renewed and they are conformed to Christ
Christians that identify themselves by their ___________ group reveals their own prejudice
The barriers between nations, tribes, class & gender are ______down in Christ (Eph. 2:19; Gal. 3:28) Christians should not be divided by ________ heritage. The local church should ________the community
The Error of Multiculturalism
Multiculturalism is based on the idea that all cultures are _____and that there are moral values are ______
No culture yet has perfectly met God’s standards, but some are better than others, and some are evil.
________, not man, defines what is good and what is evil
All cultures must be evaluated according to ________standards
Conforming Culture to Christ
The Christian should never become ____________with his own culture or sub-culture
The Christian must either be conforming to ________or he will be conforming to the world
Multiculturalism is just one more ___________ for the acceptance of evil
_________firm on the principles & precepts of Scripture and never be ashamed to proclaim God’s values
The _______changes cultures because the internal spiritual change causes them to value what God values
Racism is ________
Prejudice, bigotry and ethnocentric pride are ________
A Christian that gives primary identification of himself with anything other than Christ is _________
Multiculturalism replaces God’s standards with those of the cultures developed by _____________.
Christians are to be conformed to _______, not culture.
The cure for prejudice and bigotry is becoming a __________of Jesus
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