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#9 Discrimination in Christ's Church

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             “DISCRIMINATION IN CHRIST’S CHURCH

                     (A Series on the Book of James)

Westgate Chapel 03/6/05                                       James 2:1-13

Proposition:      The Christian life is lived in the love of God that does not base its judgments, words and actions on externals, but on the love God has for us all.

i.    introduction

-     IN 1848 Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels collaborated to produce a document that changed the course of human history…called the Communist Manifesto.

-     IT didn’t become a movement until the Russian Revolution of 1917…and the Soviet Union was born.

-     ORIGINALLY it was conceived as a utopia where…

*     All property would be owned in common without discrimination of some living in a mansion and others in a studio apartment.

*     The idea of private property would be abolished because it leads to discrimination.

*     All the necessities of life would be provided to all according to their needs and without discrimination.

*     All education would be free and accessible to all.

*     All class differences between people would be abolished.

*     Humankind would live in harmony.

-     NOW, we know that as a political and socio-economic system, communism has proven to be a dismal failure all over the world.

-     BUT how many of you this morning think that the list of conditions communists strived for, sound like heaven?

-     LET me read them to you again! (repeat)

-     HOW many of you believe that there will be total equality in heaven?

-     WELL, I am not sure I am ready to debate anyone on this….but let me read you some Scriptures that seem to indicate there will not be equality in heaven.

     

1.   In Revelation 16, when the kingdoms of the earth have become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, it says in verse 16 that there are…

      “…twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God.”

2.   In Mark 10, when the disciples were arguing about who would have the seats of honor at the great coming banquet of the kingdom of God, Jesus said to them…

      “…to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” (Mark 10:40)

3.   In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul describes that each of us has different work to do in God’s kingdom that will be rewarded.

      “Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.” (1 Corinthians 3:8)

4.   But that work that is rewarded is not based on each of us getting the same measures of grace.

      “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” (Ephesians 4:7)

5.   And then when we all get to heaven, there will be an accounting for what each of us has done with the measure we were given.

      “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done….” (2 Corinthians 5:10)

6.   Another verse from Revelation on the same subject

      “I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.” (Revelation 2:23)

7.   And just one more on the same subject.

      “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.” (Revelation 22:12)

-     I REALIZE that more study can be done, but just a cursory examination of the Scripture seems to indicate that neither in this life, nor in the life to come is there equality for the citizens of the kingdom of God.

-     WHICH is why the Bible says that discrimination will keep you out of heaven!

-     BECAUSE if there is not absolute equality in heaven….and you, as a Christian, are allowed to be bigoted towards any other person or group of people…you will mar heaven when you get there and God will not tolerate that.

-     OK, before you stone me, let’s go to God’s Word for James’ lesson on discrimination.

-     JAMES 2:1-13 (page 1196)

-     WHAT is discrimination?

      “To make a distinction in favor of or against  a person on the basis of group, class or category rather than on actual merit.” (Webster’s Dictionary)

-     NOW, on the subject of discrimination, our minds would automatically run to discrimination based on race (because of our history) or class (if you came from Western Europe with aristocracy) or finances (if you are an American).

-     I WOULD suggest that discrimination takes place when you “make a distinction” between yourself and anyone….and it can be expanded to include:

*     Rich or poor.

*     Fat or thin.

*     Educated or uneducated.

*     Male or female.

*     Nordstrom’s or Target.

*     Pentecostal or non-Pentecostal.

*     Denominational or non-denominational.

*     Management or labor.

-     IF there are going to be differences between us in heaven…then we have to win the battle over discrimination now.

-     JAMES holds up the mirror of God’s Word and gives us three reasons that discrimination cannot be the way we appear in the mirror.

ii.   it is shallow, based on externals

-     AND the first point James makes is that “discrimination is shallow because it is based solely on externals.”

-     LOOK at verse 2,

“     …if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes…”

-     IS James’ point simply on manner of dress and cleanliness?

-     NO!

-     THE context and the language of the original Greek in verses 1-6 lead us to believe that James is using the example of something that was actually reported to him as going on in the church.

-     THE congregation, and in this case the ushers, were checking out who was coming to the services based on externals…fashion, money and cleanliness.

-     COULD just as easily have been race, or size, or lifestyle.

-     AND based on the externals, the ushers demeanor, words and actions is discriminatory…in verse 3,

      “…and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ and you say to the poor man, ‘You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool…’”

-     AND James uses a question to make his point in verse 4,

      “…have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?

-     WHAT are the evil motives?

*     To get something from the rich man for yourself.

*     To make yourself feel better about yourself by demeaning someone else.

*     Having a spirit that divides the Body of Christ based on externals.

-     DIDN’T God say to Samuel, when the strong, handsome brothers of David were overlooked for the position of king over Israel,

      “God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (I Samuel 16:7)

-     DISCRIMINATION has no place in the kingdom of God because…

*     …it divides the Body of Christ that Jesus died to make one.

*     …it is based on externals, which is the shallowest of human assessments.

-     I CAN’T leave this part of the subject without making the distinction between discrimination, which James says is evil in its motives and actions….and the place given in God’s Word for…

*     Correction.

*     Rebuke.

*     Discipline that sometimes cuts off the unrepentant brother or sister.

*     Shunning the divisive brother or sister.

*     Examination of the fruit of someone’s life…when the motive is spiritual growth.

-     THERE is a spiritual counterfeit out there today that preaches a love that tolerates and condones sin….and any challenge to sin is labeled discriminatory.

-     NO, that is Biblical discipline.

-     THIS is discrimination, based on externals….with evil motivation.

-     JAMES writes in verse 1,

      “My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.

III.  it makes no sense in the kingdom of god

-     THE second point James makes is that “discrimination makes no sense in the kingdom of God.”

-     IT is shallow, because it is based on externals.

-     AND it makes no sense.

-     WHY doesn’t it make sense?

-     THE answer comes in the form of two questions.

-     THE first is in verse 5,

      “…did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?

-     THE early Church and the Church of Jesus in just about every major awakening since the Book of Acts has initially attracted the poor and disenfranchised.

-     PAUL writes in 1 Corinthians 1:26,

      “For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble…”

-     WHY would that be?

-     PAUL answers your question in the next few verses,

        “…God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29 so that no man may boast before God.”

-     IT is God’s way of building His Church….to first draw in the poor (in the world’s eyes)…and then as the movement develops a few of the wealthy (by any measure) will risk alienation of the world to come into the kingdom of God.

-     JAMES is believed by some to be the first Book of the New Testament.

-     IF that is the case, there likely are few or no wealthy or influential people in the church yet.

-     SO, who are the wealthy that the church is being tempted to cater to?

-     VERSES 6b-7 tell us,

      “Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? 7 Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?”

-     IN every situation down through human history, apart from the kingdom of God, power has corrupted and the stronger the power the more it ends up corrupting.

-     SO it makes no sense….to discriminate in the church, in favor of non-believers who wield the power….just to get on their good side.

-     AND in the process, James says in verse 6a,

      “You have dishonored the poor man.” (who is rich in the faith and an heir of God’s eternal kingdom.”

-     THAT is not how the kingdom of God works and discrimination makes no sense.

-     NOW, another disclaimer on this point of the sermon.

-     BEING poor does not automatically mean that you are rich in faith and an heir of the kingdom!

-     SOMETIMES the poor can be just as guilty of discrimination….and far outside the kingdom of God.

 

 

 

iv. it is sin

-     JAMES’ third and final point on the subject is that “discrimination is sin.”

-     IT is shallow, based on externals.

-     IT makes no sense in the kingdom of God.

-     AND it is sin.

-     THIS is the most serious of the three points James makes about discrimination.

-     I AM going to paraphrase here, but James says that if you insist on living a life of discrimination….you will not be going to heaven!

-     LOOK at verse 8 with me,

      “If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.”

-     THE royal law is that law in which all the others are summed up.

-     IN other words….the main thing!

-     WHAT is the main thing? Luke 10:27,

      “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind…”

-     AND in this passage, Jesus added,

      “…and your neighbor as yourself.”

-     WHO is your neighbor?

-     INTERESTING! That is the same question that the lawyer asked Jesus in the next verse.

-     SOREN Kierkegaard, 19th century philosopher and Christian, in his book, “Works of Love” says that your neighbor is every person in your life outside of those groups of people that you have chosen to love.

-     YOU chose your wife, your husband to be the object of your “eros” love.

-     YOU chose your friends to be the object of “philadelphia love.”

-     YOU chose your children to be the object of your parental love.

-     AND your choosing in these kinds of love are all based, in some way, in distinction….those special things that attracted you to the person who is the object of your love.

-     THAT doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with those kinds of love….they are all part of God’s plan.

-     BUT Kierkegaard says that his study of the Scriptures concerning loving our neighbor is the love that is most like God…because in it you do no choosing based on distinction.

-     THAT is what makes loving your neighbor (not necessarily the person next door) such a selfless act and so much like God’s love.

-     SO who is capable of this kind of love?

-     OUTSIDE of a love relationship with God….none of us.

-     BUT there is a strongly negative side to this message.

-     TO discrimination against your neighbor, is to sin, says James.

-     AND the word sin, here, means to miss the mark.

-     THE “mark” is the holiness of God….as revealed in His Word.

-     IT is our target…in the mirror.

-     AND we dare not pass this sin off as not being that important!

-     SURELY homosexuals, or prostitutes or drug dealers are worse sinners…than the bigot.

-     NO says James, in verse 10,

      “…whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.”

-     THIS is not a sin you or I can skate on…and in the next verse James uses adultery and murder as examples of the point he is making.

v.  conclusion

-     WE will all be judged for our words and actions.

-     THE Bible refers to two judgment scenes at the end of the age.

-     ONE has to do with your salvation, whether or not you received Jesus as your Lord and Savior. It is called the Great White Throne Judgment in Revelation 20.

-     THE other Paul calls the Judgment Seat of Christ, and appears to be exclusively for Christians, concerning the quality of our Christian lives….in 2 Corinthians 5:10.

-     WITH that ultimate accountability in view, James concludes his thoughts on discrimination by saying, in verses 12-13,

      “So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty.[not the OT law, but the law of love] 13 For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.”

-     YOU see, this is a very serious subject….as you look at yourself in the mirror of God’s Word in James.

-     IF you call yourself a Christian, but live as a bigot, you can expect no mercy at the coming judgment.

-     WHY?

-     BECAUSE heaven is going to full of differences between us….and God cannot afford to have bigots there, and the way you live will be the way you die.

-     BUT let’s close this message on a positive note with some hope for us…

      “[God’s] love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.” (1 John 4:17)

 

 

 

 

 

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