MEMBERS: Racism, Injustice, and the Church(Transcript)

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Justin Perdue: Welcome to the members’ podcast. Before we get into anything else discussion wise, we do want to thank you, our members, for your generous and ongoing support of Theocast. We really couldn’t do what we’re doing without you. We’re encouraged to see the membership growing in these days and we pray that continues. Please continue to spread the word yourself: share this content with other people and encourage them to listen. Word of mouth is a great way to see ministries like Theocast grow. Thank you for your support and all the things that you are doing to spread this message of the Reformation and the sufficiency of Christ to weary saints and sinners who need it.

Something that we want to do now, as we transition into this member section, is to first of all say that when you send us emails, we read them. We’ve gotten a number of emails in the last week. Plus, as a number of things have been going on in our culture – the things surrounding George Floyd and even the incident in Central Park last week just a day or two before George Floyd’s murder, and then all of the protests, looting, and everything that’s happened since – we’ve read your emails and we’ve seen where you guys have expressed deep grief, heartache, pain, and wrestling. And this is coming and I’m fine to say this: these emails are coming from white and black members of the Theocast. We are acknowledging those things and seeing those things. We want to say to you that we hear you, that we are grieving and weeping alongside you and, as Jimmy was even talking about earlier, lamenting what’s going on in our culture and in our land and even in the church.

We do not claim to have all the answers. We hope that what was said during the regular portion of the podcast was helpful. What we want to do now is pivot a little bit and aim to encourage one another, the three of us and you, as you listen, with the promises that God has made us in His word and ultimately the hope of the new heaven and the new earth where we will be with God forever because of Christ and what he’s done.

That’s where we’re headed. I hope it’s encouraging.

Jon Moffitt: This last Sunday, during COVID, I’ve been working through Hebrews 11 and 12, and this last week we covered just two verses:  12 and 13. Where the writer of Hebrews has been so far is, culturally speaking, these dear people have undergone severe persecution for their faith. They have publicly claimed Christ. They want to go back to the Law. They want to go back to Judaism. They’ve also experienced suffering not for religion’s sake, but just because of what’s going on. So the writer of Hebrews is trying to help them understand that their real hope is not in the Law, it’s not going back to Judaism, and that Christ is their only satisfaction. This is what all chapter 11 is about. And then in chapter 12, he’s looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. He says that if you’re unwilling to do this, God will discipline you, but he uses the word Father and love and child and adoption. So that’s the context. He’s written an entire letter. At the end of the letter, he has given them all of this motivation and he tells the church this, verse 12, “Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what it is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.”

What you may hear him say is, “Just pick yourself up and get back to work.” No, actually he is quoting Isaiah and in the context, the listener would have known that’s from Isaiah’s prophecy. They would have known also from Isaiah’s prophecy about the new heavens and the new earth.

Let me just read this to you really quick because I remember reading this in my study and I just became overwhelmed. I was watching the riots in Nashville. There’s a police officer in my own church that was on duty during the time. Then I read this and it just brought this overwhelming sense of comfort. It says, “The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with the joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the LORD, the majesty of our God. Strengthen the weak hands and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.’ Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; and the haunt of the jackals, where they lie down, the grass shall become reeds and rushes.”

It just goes on to describe the new heavens and the new earth. He even uses this phrase where he says there will be no sighing. There will be no moments of seeing the suffering of the world and everybody is exhausted by what they see. He says, pick yourself up not because you must do it to enter in the land. No, he says pick yourself up because this is what’s waiting for you. You can finish this race. This is Hebrews 12. The whole thing is about running the race.

Then there’s a very important part. So to my brothers and sisters who have written in and said, “I am so overwhelmed. I’m so beaten down. I don’t know how to handle all of this.” We, as Christians, need to understand that we don’t run this race alone. What we say and do directly affects our brothers and sisters around us. This is why the writer of Hebrews says straighten the paths. What he’s saying is to clear the way of anything that can cause someone who’s already lame to be put out of joint. If your foot’s out of joint, you aren’t running anywhere. What it’s saying is we need to clear the clutter of anything that distracts us from what the whole thing is about: Jesus Christ and him crucified, our hope. So my encouragement to you, brothers and sisters, is that all of this shame and guilt and all of this oppression that you’re feeling, let me help you understand that this is not it. We won’t fix these issues here – the issue of race and anything else – any kind of sin is not going to be fixed in this earth. The only hope of satisfaction that we can have right now is our union and hope in Christ. That is the goal of Theocast: to remove the clutter off of the path so that as you walk down, you might find rest and peace again, that your strength might be restored. In trying to fix the culture, you will only frustrate yourself, but leading the culture to Christ, you will find joy and rest.

Justin Perdue: The encouragement would be to continue pointing one another to Christ in the church and continuing to love one another, bear one another’s burdens and sorrows, and weep with each other.

Jon, you mentioned Hebrews 12 and I immediately think Revelation 21. That might be a no-brainer, but it’s such a wonderful passage. A promise from the Lord, verses 3-5 or Revelation 21, for example, is that God will be our God, we will be His people, we’ll be with Him, and we’ll dwell with Him. If we’re familiar with the message of Scripture, that reality that the people of God would dwell with God and be in His presence and have a reconciled perfect relationship with Him – that is astonishingly, shockingly good news. Because that’s been the goal of all of redemptive history. Then Revelation 21:4 is so tender and sweet that God himself will personally wipe away every tear from our eyes.

So God is the God who sees; He’s the God who knows; He’s the God who understands. Psalm 56:8, He keeps track of our tossings and He counts our tears. He puts them in His bottle. He is not unaware. He is not a distant, disconnected deity up in the heavens. He knows the suffering that we go through. And Jesus suffered – he was a man of sorrows. God will wipe away every tear from our eyes.

Then Revelation 21:5, “And he who was seated on the throne says, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.'” Praise God. That’s why we say, “Come, Lord Jesus,” because this is what we need – for Christ to return and to consummately make all things new and right every wrong, which he has promised to do. So we do live from the end of the story backwards. That’s how we have hope. We live in light of the end. We’re casting our gaze on the Celestial City and the fact that we’ll be with Christ forever, we will be with the Lord, and we will be with each other. There will be no more injustice or oppression, no more hatred or malice. We will be perfectly united as the people of God; He will be our God and we will be His people. That’s the hope.

Jimmy Buehler: I said this to our church last week, that when we look at the gospel, it is the greatest injustice that has ever occurred in the history of the universe. That the son of God – the perfect, holy, righteous, and pure Son of God was crucified in the stead of sinners. So it is foolish to say that God does not care about justice because He absolutely does. God is holy and pure and righteous Himself. He requires blood to be sacrificed to satisfy that righteous and holy wrath against sin. Yet what is so paradoxical is that in order to satisfy justice, the greatest injustice occurred. So we need to be mindful of that, as pastors, that we don’t want to write off these things simply, but also we want to recognize the unjust suffering that does occur – and we do so with hope. Right.

As you guys have mentioned, we look at the future hope that we have in Christ and his return – that every tear will be wiped away and every wrong will be made right. Yet we recognize that in the here and now, we are going to continue to see situations like George Floyd riots in the streets that we’re seeing today. There will be others to come. These are just keen reminders that the fracturing of sin has gone so deep, and yet ultimately, where does our hope lie? In these things being solved by political and worldly systems? No, our hope lies in the gospel of Jesus Christ, where he says, “Behold, I am making all things new. If anyone is in Christ, the old has gone, the new has come.”

Jon Moffitt: I am convinced that the louder and stronger than we can one preach the gospel and love our neighbor, that’s what’s going to change lives. Somehow we have come to believe that God’s mission is to utopia-ize this world – it’s not. This world will pass away and with it sin. It is not God’s mission to abolish racism in the world. I know I’m going to get myself in trouble for saying that, but you would have to change the hearts of all men of all time and that’s not the mission of the church. The mission of the church is to herald Christ and allow the Spirit to change whom He is going to change.

I only have so much words I can say. I only have so much time. So I’m going to trust in the power of God, administered to the church, through the preaching of the gospel.

Justin Perdue: This is a slight shift, but it popped into my mind. I said a little bit about this in the regular podcast but in talking in a more transparent or maybe a less guarded way to our membership, in thinking about how we interact with one another in the church, especially if we’re going to have good conversations about injustice, oppression, about issues of race and racism, we talked about how there has to be grace and charity and mercy in that conversation. I’m thinking about this flowing in a couple of directions. There needs to be grace and mercy and compassion from brother to brother, sister to sister. When things are said out of pain that you might not understand, there needs to be grace and compassion and charity for that so that you might not then heap judgment and cast shade upon your brother or sister because he or she said something out of deep pain and anguish of their soul. But then something else that needs to be there is mercy and compassion and charity. When a brother or sister says something out of ignorance and an obvious blind spot, there needs to be grace and charity and compassion for that. If there isn’t, if we can’t have grace toward each other when we speak out of pain, ignorance, or a blind spot, then we’re never going to move forward in this conversation. We’ve got to be able to do that.

Another thing we have to do is to assume good motivations on our brothers and sisters. I’m not saying ignore sin, but I’m saying assume good motivations in each other; assume that your brother or sister really wants to understand, really wants to come alongside, he or she may be awkward in the way he or she goes about it, something wrong might be said, but we seek to move forward in love as we pursue unity and understanding. That has to be what we do.

Jon Moffitt: Amen. I pray and hope this is encouraging to you. If there’s any way that we could be of help or if you guys have any additional thoughts, please feel free to reach out to us. This is a little bit different for us; we don’t always jump on cultural topics but when we feel like it could be helpful to lead you to rest in Christ, then we’ll definitely try and do that. Please send us any feedback – maybe something we have missed. We would love to have a gracious dialogue if at all possible.

Justin Perdue: Especially for the members, if there are things that you want to press with us or ask for clarification on, please do that. We would look forward to that kind of correspondence.

Our parting shot is to continue to trust Christ, continue to love each other, continue to pursue unity in the Spirit and the bond of peace that we have in the church. Let’s pray for one another; let’s pray for our land, that God would be merciful. Also, that Christ would return and make all things new.

Thank you for listening to us and we truly and sincerely hope that this has been of some encouragement to you. We do not claim to have all the answers – we’re speaking best we can from God’s word as three pastors and three struggling saints, just like you, who also are reeling and trying to make up and down of some of these things, and heads and tails of some of these things.

Thank you for your ongoing support. As we’ve already said, your support means a lot to us personally, but it means a lot for this ministry and for the future of it. Continue to pray along with us that more and more people would come to know the sufficiency of Christ and the rest and the peace that we have in him, which is the only real hope and stead that we have in the midst of life in this fallen world. Much love to you, grace and peace to you all. We look forward to speaking with you again next week.

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