AUSTIN: Hi, Pastor.
JOHN: Hi, Austin. How are you tonight?
AUSTIN: I’m fine. Good to see you.
JOHN: Okay, thank you.
AUSTIN: Hello, friends, it’s good to see you all. A little different tonight. Last time I got to ask all the questions, and this time I thought I would let other people ask the questions. And so we got lots and lots of questions in the email account that we set up this week. But I think to start, we should talk about this morning. I thought this morning was a classic MacArthur question – MacArthur sermon. And I do promise that I’ll get to you all’s questions soon. But I’m up here, might as well ask my favorite questions.
So classic MacArthur sermon. We’re parking in the synagogue. You’re preaching against Jewish legalism. It was a sermon about God’s grace. These are remarkable times. And maybe talk, for those who weren’t here this morning; give them a little update on where we’re at on things as a church, and then let’s get into that sermon a little bit.
JOHN: Well, just where we are as a church, as you all know, we have continued to meet now – I don’t know the exact number of weeks – and the city of Los Angeles and the county and the Health Department and all these people have tried to get a temporary restraining order to shut us down; and they can’t. They can’t get it because basically we filed a lawsuit against the city and the county on the First Amendment, that we have freedom of religion, and that amendment trumps every other ordinance. And the way to understand the First Amendment is this: the First Amendment says that we have a God-given right to worship, and the Constitution exists to protect that. It’s not that the Constitution gave us that right, it exists to protect that God-given right. That’s the way the founding fathers laid it out.
So they would like to get a contempt of court against us. They would like to take away our parking lot. They’ve tried a whole lot of things, but they get stuck every time in front of this massive wall called the First Amendment, and the judge keeps saying, “Until that issue of the First Amendment is litigated we can’t get on to anything else.” So they tried to go around it and under it and over it, but it doesn’t work.
So the judge set a hearing date for November 13th; that’s the next time there will be a hearing. That’s not a trial, that’s to set up a trial, which supposedly is going to happen sometime in 2021. By the time we get to that point I think the expiration date on the pandemic will have run out. And so at this particular point we just keep meeting, and we can park; and these dear people down the street, the Jewish people, said, “You can use our lot, and we’ve got 150 parking spaces, and we’d love to have you use them. And you can use our facility.” And we said, “Great. Thank you so much.” So the Lord just continues to allow us to meet, and we’re very, very thankful for that.
So there’s no restraining order against us. There’s a $500.00 fine every week by the Health Department, and they’re here on Sunday to check, and then they send us the $500.00 fine. But that fine accumulates in an escrow account and they don’t get it until this case is litigated. So we have basically been able to keep doing what we’re doing and incredibly thankful for that.
In fact, the people at the synagogue, very gracious people, said, “We love the fact that you’re meeting and you’re worshiping God, and you haven’t succumbed to this government pressure.” So that was great. In fact, I was told that the gentleman who’s been working with us at the synagogue was here this morning to hear that the gospel is the gospel. And so that’s just a wonderful providence of God.
No, the sermon – you know, what I’m trying to do, every sermon is an argument, okay, we’ve talked about this a lot. Every sermon is an argument. I’m trying to make a case that you can’t resist. I’m trying to prove something from the Bible that has eternal implications from the Word of God. So what I wanted to show today, because there’s so many people in the evangelical world who are confused.
We talked two weeks ago about the fact that a third of the people in that same survey said Jesus was not God, He was created by God. That is a rank heresy, and no one can be saved who believes Jesus is anything less than God incarnate. And then half the people believe that God accepts the worship of multiple religions; and Judaism, Islam, and Christianity are just samples. He would accept that from anyone. So the confusion in evangelicalism again leads me to assume that people who are coming here who aren’t usually here are going to share some of that confusion. So I wanted to make the case as strongly as it could be made that salvation comes only through Jesus Christ and only to those who don’t offer their works, but they come as rank unworthy sinners and cry to Him for mercy, which is the essence of the good news.
So, yeah, I know this is a wonderful message for believers to hear; but at the same time, I’m thinking in my mind about nonbelievers or people who think they’re Christians but haven’t thought of it that way. And Tom told me there were more people in the prayer room after the service this morning than any other Sunday. So the Lord used that to touch some hearts.
AUSTIN: What do you think the appeal of universalism or pluralism is for people who profess to be Christians?
JOHN: The appeal for universalism, that is that everybody who’s good at all is going to go to heaven, the appeal is primarily because it avoids hell. I think the idea that the truth of eternal punishment in hell is emotionally very, very difficult for anybody to understand – and I mean by that, even us, anybody to understand it – and that’s because we don’t understand the justice and holiness and righteousness of God. And I think if people recognize that salvation comes in Christ alone and only by grace alone through faith alone in Christ, that changes their family history, because all of a sudden the people they thought would be in heaven because they were good people are not. So that’s a very, very difficult reality for people to accept. But that is what the Bible says, and that’s what we’re after.
So that is the intent to close out in people’s minds anything but the true gospel. That’s the most loving thing you can do is tell them the truth, and that’s basically what Jesus did. I went to that passage and other things that Jesus said to point to the fact that it was Jesus who rejected the good people. It was Jesus who said they were whited sepulchers, they were to be cursed, they were sons of hell producing sons of hell. Jesus said that; and that’s why, as I said this morning, they killed Him because He basically told them they were sinners. John 7, “They hate Me because I say their deeds are evil.” That’s John 7:7. “They hate Me because I say their deeds are evil.” But if they can’t get past that hate, they can’t come to salvation.
AUSTIN: And the universalism that you were talking about, the idea of everyone can be saved. You had replaced that in the sermon with the universal condemnation of everyone, that all people are sinners. And then as you’re talking about Jesus’ indictment of the religious people of His day, you said grace can’t be merged with law; and you had this little sentence that I think you just said in passing. I’m going to read you your sentence.
JOHN: Thank you.
AUSTIN: It’s a good sentence. “Legalists don’t talk to God, they talk to themselves because they are God.” I could hold my pencil for two weeks and never come up with a sentence that good. You just said that kind of in passing, I could tell. Expand on it: “Legalists don’t talk to God, they talk to themselves because they are God.”
JOHN: Well, that was the publican in Luke 18, and it says he was praying thus with himself. “Dear self; hello, God. I’m so thankful to myself that I’m not like this wretched guy.” The ultimate reality with self-righteousness is you are god because you have defined what acceptance with God is to be. I mean, if you think you’re going to go to heaven because you’re that good, you’re that religious, you have set your own standard in replacement of God’s, and so you’re God, I mean, de facto.
AUSTIN: Yeah. And when we’re talking about false religion that promises salvation to good people, and we’re talking about being good neighbors to our Jewish friends and our Muslim neighbors and the people in our city who worship themselves and a thousand different things, the most loving thing we can do is to preach an exclusive gospel to them, isn’t it?
JOHN: Well, yeah. Again, all you have to do is go back to the most loving person that ever walked on the earth was Jesus, and the most honest person and the one who knew exactly the way everything was, and after three years of Him demonstrating His love and compassion by basically eliminating illness from the land of Israel, healing people day after day after day, multiple miracles demonstrating the love and compassion of God, after three years of doing that, they wanted Him crucified. They wanted Him to die the worst possible agonizing, torturous death that man could ever invent. That’s how hostile self-righteousness is to grace. That’s how hostile self-righteous people are to the fact that they are sinful.
Let me say it another way. People are willing to see their sin in their sin, but they’re not willing to see it in their righteousness. They’re willing to see their sin in their sin, but they’re not willing to see their sin in their religion. And you might get a Pharisee to admit that he did something wrong at some particular point, but you could never convince him that his religion was sin.
AUSTIN: I think the fact that you’ve preached so much of the New Testament to us and you’re teaching about Jesus about first century Judaism has been so clear it does provoke a lot of questions about modern-day Judaism. We had a lot of emails come in – or a few emails about that. One mom asked a question about her son getting involved in a messianic Judaistic congregation. She was concerned it could lead to externalism or legalism or a yoke of bondage. Another email was about Torah-observant Christians. Are those things the reason we have the book of Galatians in our Bible, or are they a permissible way for Jewish background believers to worship Jesus?
JOHN: Yeah. Look, if you believe in the Messiah and you depend only on the work of Christ and faith in Him for your salvation, that’s the way of salvation. There are people who believe for their salvation in the ministry of Christ, the death and resurrection of Christ; their hope is in Christ alone; who then get tangled up in works kinds of orientations. And one very popular one that’s been around a long time is to go back to Old Testament kind of life.
Now we need to make a distinction there because – and this is very important to say – God gave the law (Torah, the Law) to Israel, and it had a number of parts. There was the moral law, okay, the moral law. That is the law which basically articulates what is right and what is wrong, what is holy and what is unholy. That law is a direct reflection of the person of Jesus Christ, okay. So a way to understand that is this: that law cannot be ignored; that’s why David says, “O how I love Your law.” That’s why we love the law of God, because the law is a reflection of God.
There’s a comparison that would help people, I think, with that, and it’s this: you would no more say, “I believe in God, but I have trouble accepting Jesus,” if you’re going to call yourself a Christian, because Jesus, according to Hebrews 1, is the exact representation of God. He is the exact image: “If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father.” Jesus is God incarnate in human flesh. The moral law is God in the law. It’s God manifest in the law. So the moral law is always going to be the same. It’ll be the same through all eternity, and not one jot or tittle will ever be removed from that moral law.
But beyond the moral law, which is now – the Reformers said there were three uses of the law. Use Number One was to convict sinners. The law is our schoolmaster to drive us to Christ. The law convicts us: “We feel the weight of the law, we broke the law. Where do we turn for salvation?” So that’s the law as the schoolmaster, as the law that demonstrates our sinfulness because we break it.
The second use of the law is as the path of obedience for the believer, right? So now that I’m a believer I don’t want to throw away God’s moral law, I want to obey that law, and I want to live out that law because that’s the path of joy and blessing.
The third use of the law is in society as a restraint. We’ve talked a lot about that in talking about government. God planted the law in the heart of man, and God ordained government; and when you have a human being – any human being has the law of God written in his heart to some degree, to enough of a degree that all over the world people have the same sort of law and order concepts. So the law had a role of restraining society, and we’re watching that breakdown. The law has a role of showing us the perfection of God, which then breaks us and reveals our sinfulness; and the law then becomes, to us who are redeemed, the path that we want to walk.
So as a believer, you don’t go from saying, “Well, I’m not under law, so I can do what I want.” No. If you’re truly converted, then your great heart’s desire is to obey the God you love. So that is the role of the law; and no one would ever want to set that aside who was a true believer. When people do that, that’s identified as antinomianism, and that’s a very dangerous thing.
So when a person comes to Christ, what part of the law do we not have to obey? Well, the answer is whatever the New Testament abrogates, whatever the New Testament throws out and says, “You don’t need to do that anymore.” And that is absolutely crystal clear.
Peter in the book of Acts, the Lord spoke to him and said, “No more dietary laws,” right? “Arise, Peter, kill and eat, and you can eat anything you want.” And Peter says, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, I’m kosher, I can’t do that.” And the Lord says to him, “Don’t call unclean what God has cleansed. No more dietary laws.” And then you go to Galatians 2, and what do you have in Galatians 2? “Don’t let anybody hold you to a Sabbath, a new moon, a feast day,” and just rattles down all the other ceremonial laws.
And so you could ask, “Well, what were the ceremonial laws for? Why laws on food, laws on diet, laws on all kinds of cooking and things like that?” And the reason for those laws was because you had this small little nation of Israelites floating on a little island in the sea of Gentile idolatry, and God was helping them to separate by creating barriers. They couldn’t easily interact with their neighbors because they dressed differently, because they had different schedules, because they had different diet.
There were all kinds of things that were so unique to them that God was giving them some mechanisms to keep them separated. That was the purpose of it. Sad to say, the Jews embraced all of that, and then elevated their separation and began to hate the rest of the world, instead of realize that they were to take the truth of the one living God to the rest of the world. And if you want an illustration of one who understood the separation very well but hated the Gentiles for it, all you have to do is read the book of Jonah. Jonah did not want Gentiles coming to his God.
So that part of the law was set aside in the New Testament, and that’s why we don’t do anything, and that’s why we don’t do Passover. The final authorized Passover was the Last Supper when Jesus turned it into His Communion service.
AUSTIN: Yeah. Elizabeth heard you this morning, I assume, and asked about Zacchaeus. She said her past sin involved, would involve restitution, but she’s financially unable to pay back those she’s stolen from. In order for her to show true repentance, does she have to pay restitution for her sins?
JOHN: No. Jesus paid it all. Yeah. But I think – I mean, that’s the relationship to God. If the people that you have hurt and harmed are in your world and you have access to them, you go to them and you tell them that the Lord has transformed your life, and you’re sorry the way you treated them and what you did to them, and you let them know that you want to do anything you can do to make that right. I think you go with an open heart and an open hand. And it’s the willingness to do that. You see with Zacchaeus.
I don’t know, the Lord didn’t necessarily say, “Good, get on it right now.” But the willingness is the issue. I don’t think the Lord expects us to pay back every person who’s been offended by every sin we committed, right? I mean, we’ve offended everybody our whole life, so where does that end? You can’t even remember all the people you offended. You could pick out a few samples, and maybe you offended them least and you offended somebody else and don’t even know it.
So running around to make restitution is not the point, it is living the transformed life; and when you have an occasion to talk to someone that you know has been offended, I think that’s the appropriate time to say, “Look, that wasn’t right. I hope in your heart you find a place to forgive me. And if there’s anything I can do to make it right I’d be willing to do that.” It’s just the open-hearted, open-handed idea.
AUSTIN: Yeah. A few people asked about the relationship of our country to Israel. One of them asked about 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If My people who are called by My name call out to Me,” she wanted to know what’s the relationship of that verse to our country, especially in light of the big prayer march that happened yesterday? She talked about – another person emailed, asked about participating in something like that, that had maybe some questionable teachers involved in it. What are your thoughts on using a verse like that to talk about America and other examples of civic religion kind of merged together with Christian?
JOHN: It gets really confusing. That verse is referring to Israel: “If My people. That’s My covenant people, the children of Abraham.” But the truth articulated there is true for anybody or any people. “If My people humble themselves and pray and seek My face, I’ll turn from heaven and heal their land.” That was God calling out to a covenant people and calling them back to repentance.
But that’s no different than God calling to any individual. There’s no other nation that can claim a covenant relationship with God, that is a historical covenant relationship with God. But I would say that in any population, any group of people, any collection of people, if the Lord was gracious and brought them all to repentance, they would reap the blessings that that repentance would bring. So the principle is this: a repentant people will be blessed by God.
Psalm 81. Isn’t is Psalm 81:12 and 13 that says basically the same thing. I think I can find it here.
AUSTIN: Oh, “That My people would listen to Me, that Israel would walk in My ways.”
JOHN: Right, exactly. “O that My people would listen to Me.” And again, it’s talking about Israel. But that would be true for anyone. Psalm 81 says, “My people did not listen to My voice, Israel did not obey Me, so I gave them over to the stubbornness of their heart, to walk in their own devices.” But the fact is, that’s almost exactly like Romans 1. Anybody who doesn’t walk in the Lord’s way, anybody who doesn’t listen to Him, like in Romans 1, right? “When they knew God, they glorified not as God.”
“O that My people would listen to Me, that Israel would walk in My ways. I would quickly subdue their enemies and turn My hand against their adversaries.” He says, “I would feed you with the finest of the wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.” That is Israel. But that is not only Israel, that’s any people that turn from sin in repentance back to God.
Now those are verses that through history, spiritual leaders have prayed for with a connotation of revival, praying that God would do a work among a people, or in a church, or in a city, or in a place. You go back and read about the Welsh Revival; and those are the kinds of things they’re praying, promises to Israel. But they’re promises to anybody who responds in obedience to God that they’ll know His blessing.
AUSTIN: And there are corollaries, right, between Israel and the church, but it’s not a replacement; and so that’s why there’s a need for careful hermeneutics in that discussion.
JOHN: You don’t have with Israel. You have temporal promises. You have land, and you have land blessing, and you have a kingdom, and you have safety over your enemies with the covenant people Israel as God protects and preserves them for His future final redemptive purpose.
With the church, you don’t ever see the Lord make promises to the church in the way that He did to Israel, because the promises God made to Israel involved believers and nonbelievers, because Paul says in Romans, “Not all Israel is Israel,” right?
JOHN: Not all the Jews belong to God; in fact, very few. But God still had a plan for that covenant people, and that’s why they’re still around. Nobody ever met a Hittite, a Jebusite, an Amorite, a Hivite, or any other “ite.” But we have Israelites. Why? Why of all the ancient people are they still here and true to their heritage all the way back to Abraham? Because God has preserved them for a future salvation – we talked about that in Isaiah 53 – and they will receive the promises to Abraham and David as a people who have been redeemed; the rebels will be purged out.
But no such temporal promise of a kingdom and land and all of that was ever made to the church as a collection of people. The only promises to the church are to the real believers, the true believers.
AUSTIN: So the corollaries aren’t nationalistic, they’re believing. That’s why 1 Peter 2 would say, “You’re a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God.”
JOHN: Yeah, and He also defines why: “Because we have been bought with His precious blood, not with silver and gold, but with the blood of Christ.”
AUSTIN: Called out of darkness into the wonderful light.
AUSTIN: Yeah. Good. Helpful. And a lot of people I think are being helped by that kind of answer to the question. More questions about our nation came in. James asked about something you said a few weeks ago I think in this conversation: “How do we determine priorities in the upcoming election?” He heard you say that abortion and homosexuality are deal-breakers for a platform. But he wants to know why that’s more important than feeding and clothing the poor – another biblical priority.
JOHN: Yeah. I don’t think you, I don’t think you could say that people who are anti-abortion and anti-homosexual necessarily won’t feed the poor. I don’t think there’s a collection of people. I don’t think you can say, “Republicans won’t feed the poor; but Democrats will feed the poor, so we have to go with the people who feed the poor.”
I think this nation has demonstrated incredible history of taking care of people who are destitute. The truth of the matter is what you’re seeing today is dire neglect of the poor and the mentally distressed people who are living on the street, and it’s almost always in Democrat areas. They have offered themselves as those who care for the poor, but I don’t see any massive effort to collect these people who have dire, dire need.
So obviously, it’s a function of Christian love to take care of the widows and the orphans and the poor, and to provide all we can for people who are destitute. That is a Christian thing to do. I think America has been markedly unique in the world in doing that through its history. The most advanced hospital care, so much of that sort of was generated in the West through Christianity. It was the Christians in Europe who basically launched all of that. So you need to be sure that you do take care of the poor, that you care for those who are in need. But at the same time, you don’t kill babies, and you don’t advocate same-sex marriage and other kinds of godless behaviors. So I don’t think you have to make that distinction.
I think the burden of taxes in any country should go for two things. If you go back to Israel, taxes did two things. Taxes provided leadership and protection for the people, and provided care for those who were poor. That’s why they didn’t glean the corners of the field. That’s why the tithe was a tenth of what was grown in the field for those who were poor. Those two things are government’s primary role: take care of those who need to be cared for, and protect the people, which means you have to punish evildoers and protect those who do good.
So when government claims to care for the poor, but the poor – there’s eighty thousand people living on the street in Los Angeles.
AUSTIN: The last ten years it’s gotten obviously worse, we’ve all seen it.
JOHN: Eighty thousand people. There are more homeless people in California than any state. It’s well over a hundred thousand people. This is a totally Democrat-dominated state. So where is the compassion for these people?
It’s a strange thing when the leadership of this state is far more worried about global warming than people dying on the streets of Los Angeles.
AUSTIN: Electric cars only by 2035.
JOHN: Yeah. You know what they use to make batteries in electric cars? Coal.
AUSTIN: A lot of non-green mining goes into that.
JOHN: Yeah, coal. So go back and start at the beginning with that one.
AUSTIN: Yeah, it makes people feel better about themselves though, MacArthur. They can plug in their car, they feel better about themselves.
JOHN: Well, I’ve said this before: if you think we’re messing up the planet, wait till you see what Jesus does to it.
AUSTIN: You’re not against recycling though.
JOHN: Look, I put the trash in the brown barrel and the recycling in the blue barrel. I don’t know.
AUSTIN: That’s good.
AUSTIN: That’s a good citizen. J Mac, a good citizen. Let’s talk another kind of cultural thing happening right now. Leanna asked, “What is your view on the term or the mentality of the concept of White privilege?” You talked about this with the university students this week.
JOHN: Yeah. That’s such a big subject. If you want to know maybe something that would help you, I wrote an article for the Daily Wire on “Critical Race Theory.” You can go to the Daily Wire and probably download that. That’s Ben Shapiro’s organization. They’ve asked me to write articles for weeks now, and I’m doing that, which is a great opportunity.
Let me explain this, and I don’t want to be complicated. Critical race theory, White privilege, systemic racism, unconscious bias, all of these things basically have a ground-level ideology, okay, and here it is: it’s anti-God and it’s anti-creation. So we believe this: we believe that God created man – that’s what the Bible says – in His own image. So let’s start there: “God created man in His own image.” That means that God gave to man innate, immutable characteristics; and then He created them male and female. So there are more innate and immutable characteristics, not just physical ones, but there are also mental distinctives between men and women; there are capacities that are different. So we believe then that God not only did that, but that God decided sovereignly how much melanin you’d have in your skin, and where you would come from, and what your progeny would be, and what your ancestors would be. And the book of Acts says, “God has ordained the nations and their boundaries.” You go back in Genesis 11 and see that.
So you should never ever, ever repent of an immutable characteristic. Why would you do that? That’s ridiculous. That’s basically faulting God. And that’s kind of a cheap kind of forgiveness because it’s not real, right, if you say, “I apologize for being White.” What does that mean? What does that mean? What do you mean? If that’s all you’ve got to apologize, you’re way too self-righteous. If you’re going to apologize, if you’re going to repent, repent for something that’s real, that you’re responsible for. But here’s the idea.
So the ideology of critical race theory is it’s a deconstruction. It wants to tear down everything, okay, and it wants to go back to this level. It wants to say – and this is the guy who’s the best on this is James Lindsay, and he’s an atheist. But he’s really thought this through; an amazing analysis.
So critical race theory, White privilege, all of that says this: We come into the world as human beings with no immutable characteristics. We aren’t created in the image of God because we aren’t created, we’re just evolutionary, okay. So we come in as a blank slate. We don’t have any innate characteristics or immutable characteristics. Even gender is not immutable. So a kid who’s born needs to make a decision. Does he want to be a boy? Does he want to be a girl? Whatever gender.
And I was reading about a mother who was trying to make sure she didn’t let the White male patriarchy stamp her baby girl with female gender, she wanted her baby girl to make her own mind up about what gender she wanted to be. So she gave the baby trucks one day and dolls the next day, and then trucks the next week and then dolls the next week, and according to the story she came back one day and the dresses were on the trucks, which is a perfect illustration of what the kid is going to end up being if you do that, because you’re basically, you’re basically crushing reality and substituting it with insanity.
But why do that? You do that so that you can say, “I’m not responsible for anything that’s wrong with me. I’m not responsible. The White patriarchy, the systemic racist patriarchy that’s run this culture for so long has left its stamp on me, and this unconscious racism, this systemic racism that’s in the groundwater of this kind of patriarchy is responsible for all that’s wrong with me. But I’m not responsible.” So that’s why the strategy is loot, burn, smash, destroy, because they want to take it back down to bare bones again and start all over with a new patriarchy. The disenfranchised people will take over and they’ll be the new patriarchy that’ll leave their stamp on the next civilization.
So it’s a very godless kind of notion that instead of saying, “What’s wrong in my life as I stand before God is not even my mom’s fault, it’s not even my dad’s fault. Some of the things in my life I obviously – some of the deprivation, some of the things came from my past. But God holds me responsible to Him personally.” And that’s, right, Ezekiel 18: “The sins of the fathers are not punished in the children.” They’re visited on third and fourth generation because a corrupt generation is going to leave corruption that goes through subsequent generations. But God never punishes anybody for any sin that’s any other than their own.
And that was why when I first started talking about this I started with Ezekiel 18, because if you turn people into victims, how do you then make them responsible as sinners? “If I’m a victim, if I only am what I am because of what you did to me, then it’s not my fault. And I don’t like what you did to me, so I’m going to burn down your society, I’m going to burn down your stuff. I’m going to smash the windows in your store. I’m going to do everything I can to break everything to pieces because you victimized me; and this is the noble thing to do is to crush this systemic kind of attitude.”
The bottom line question in systemic racism is, “What laws exist in America that are against any ethnic group?” None. There are no ethnically designed laws in America. Was there a time in the past when there were? Absolutely, and they were horrendous. And you know my story being in Mississippi and the years of segregation and the marches and all of that.
AUSTIN: It was the first time you got locked up.
JOHN: First time I got locked up, yeah.
AUSTIN: Another one could be coming.
JOHN: Preach. Yeah. But this is a different country. Look, we have a woman of dark skin running for Vice President. We had Obama as a President. We’ve had Secretaries of State, people in all kinds of offices. There’s nothing in this culture that legally limits anybody based on race. So this isn’t about that. What they want to say is that, “We are all victims of this reality that we came in clean and pure, and you messed with us, and we’re not responsible for what we are. And the only thing we can do to escape this is break it down and take over.”
So it’s a very dangerous kind of thing, and it has no room for God, no room for responsibility, no room for confessing my sin and coming to personal salvation in Christ. If you don’t accept blame for your sin, if you can push off what’s wrong with you on somebody else, you’re never going to deal with the issue of your own sin, and you’re not going to come to the Savior.
AUSTIN: Another question. “To what extent is the world ruled by Satan? Can we attribute natural calamities to him?” I think they’re thinking about the passage in the temptation of Jesus, the authority of Satan.
JOHN: It’s hard to know what we can specifically attribute to Satan in terms of physical things. I think we could assume that demons can do some things because they threw a boy in the fire. Right? They got this boy and they threw him, and kept throwing him in the fire in the New Testament. There were people who were blind and dumb and deaf because of demonic oppression. We don’t want to limit Satan in that sense.
I don’t know that Satan – in Scripture you don’t see him exercising control over the physical world as such. But Satan exercises his control primarily ideologically, because his strategies, his strategies are basically worked out through earthly systems. If you look at, okay, the corruption in government, pornography, the movie industry pumping out filth and garbage, much of what is on television, music – all that is a reflection of satanic, anti-God, I guess, chaos. When you think of God you think of kosmos, which is ordered. When you think of Satan you think of chaos. And Satan, for the most part, would rather be covert. He would rather you not know he’s there. This was what made Jesus’ ministry so interesting. When Jesus went to the synagogue, Satan was already in the synagogue, but nobody knew it. But when Jesus showed up, the demons in the people started screaming at Him. Their cover was blown because He knew they were there.
So I think, for the most part, in a cultured society like ours, demons hide. They don’t function like they might at a tribal setting in the middle of Africa or something like that. So you don’t see in the Bible Satan exercising a lot of power over creation. You do have one herd of pigs that ran off a cliff when the Lord sent demons into them, and it had some kind of actual physical disturbance on them.
AUSTIN: Even in the book of Job he’s working as an intermediary through God’s permission.
JOHN: Oh, and I was going to say but when you said all of that, he is God’s devil.
JOHN: He is God’s devil, and he never does anything outside the boundaries of God; and that’s what the book of Job shows.
AUSTIN: Where you see him, is what you’re saying, isn’t by trying to discern if that natural calamity was something that the devil did, because ultimately, you know, God is sovereign. But what you’re saying – and the reason I ask right after the last question – is these, these satanic belief systems, these things that take a real sin like racism, something that is abhorrent to God and turn it into something else, turn it into something that removes culpability for real sin. That’s where you’re saying the satanic system’s in power.
JOHN: Right. And racism is partiality, and God condemns partiality. There’s no place for – I mean, it’s horrendous to hate anyone, I don’t care who they are or what ethnic group. I think maybe I need to say there’s only one race, that’s the human race, just one. There are various ethnicities.
AUSTIN: And those are a beautiful thing to God.
JOHN: Yeah. Well, of course.
AUSTIN: And He made them.
JOHN: He made them all, yeah.
AUSTIN: In redeemed heaven He identifies them as –
JOHN: Right. To hate anybody is sin, and to hate anybody for any reason is sin, and to hate somebody because they have a different ethnicity is ridiculous sin. But that, that sin needs to be exposed and dealt with. But to accuse an entire population of some unconscious sin, some latent systemic racism because a whole culture of people is assumed to be victims of them is not right. And when I see, when I see the people that are driving this, like Black Lives Matter – and I mentioned that months ago, right, anti-marriage, pro-homosexual, pro-abortion, anti-God; Antifa, the same thing – that’s all that mentality that says, “Everything is wrong with this thing. It’s systemically bad to the core. We’ve got to tear the whole thing down to the bottom.” And when I see evangelical people getting on that bandwagon I’m absolutely floored. I just – I can’t understand what they are going to gain by buying into that, because it’s a striking of the fist of man against God.
Look, I was born into the family I was born into because that’s where God placed me; we all were. And He has a glorious purpose for all of us when we come to Christ, and it overturns whatever our ethnic differences, you know, might be. We’re all one, right? No Jew, no Gentile, no bond, no free; in Christ. No male, no female.
That’s what I love about this church. We’ve never dealt with that kind of thing here. We didn’t feel like we needed to make big issues out of the differences. I can barely pronounce the names of the people I’m supposed to read tonight who are joining the church because they’re coming from all these ethnic groups. And this is what the church should look like, and the bond of love that we have in Christ just obliterates all that unnecessary propagation of hatred.
AUSTIN: Amen. Good. Well, we have a few questions from kids. Let’s answer a few kids’ questions. Josie, she’s 13, says, “Pastor John, what is faith? What is faith?”
JOHN: Faith is believing something is true. Now there is a simple way to illustrate that. Everybody lives by faith, everybody does. You get in your car and you turn on your car, and if it’s got eight cylinders, there are eight explosions going on under your hood repeatedly; but you don’t think your car’s going to blow up. You go to the kitchen, you turn on the faucet, you drink the water; you don’t know what’s playing in the pipes. You go to the doctor, he’s going to do surgery. You say, “Okay, knock me out and do what you want.” You’ve maybe never met the guy, you don’t know anything about him, and you don’t know what he’s doing when you’re knocked out. You go to a restaurant, you don’t know who’s playing in the kitchen, but you eat the food. Why? Because you’ve learned that there are certain things that you can trust. I mean, I guess an extreme illustration would be you bungie jump, right?
AUSTIN: No thank you.
JOHN: You don’t examine that thing, no. You don’t examine that thing. Or jump out of an airplane with a parachute. Why do you do that? Because there’s a certain pattern of evidence that indicates that somebody, somebody responsible is making sure that’s safe.
So that’s faith based on some experience. But when you come to saving faith, that’s not based on an experience, not your experience; but that is a gift from God. “For by grace are you saved through faith; that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” The ability to trust in the unseen God, the unseen Christ, the ability to put your trust in Him and live your life for His glory, Peter puts it this way, “Whom having not seen you love,” the ability to love someone you’ve never seen, to put your entire eternal destiny in His hand, to come to the church, to serve in the church, to make the church your life, to give, to be loyal and dedicated to the church and the people of God when you haven’t seen heaven and you haven’t seen Christ, how can you make such a commitment?
It’s little wonder that unconverted people don’t get why we love the church, because this is not natural. This isn’t like somehow somebody’s proven that this is true. This is all an act of believing in something that we cannot see. And the only people who’ve ever seen it didn’t come back, right?
AUSTIN: That’s right.
JOHN: They didn’t come back, they’re in heaven. So that is supernatural faith, and I think that is a gift of God. But that faith, people ask me, “Why, aren’t you nervous? Do you worry about getting arrested? Are you worried about what’s going to happen?” No. Some people say, “Well, that’s a lot of courage.” No, it really isn’t, it’s just faith.
I trust the Lord, trust the Lord completely for every single thing in my life. And I have a track record of seeing His hand for years and years and years. But I believe in One I cannot see, have never seen; but that is stronger than any confidence I have in any worldly reality. So that’s a gift; and I think that the only way a 13-year-old will ever know what that faith is is to receive it as a gift.
JOHN: And tell the Lord, “I want to believe in You. Give me that faith.” And that is His gift to the repentant heart.
AUSTIN: This is good. It’s why we love that verse, “Though you can’t see Him, you love Him.”
AUSTIN: Yeah. Let’s go straight –
JOHN: Yeah, and think about that, because we’re called to love Christ and love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and we’ve never seen Him.
AUSTIN: Yeah. It’s profound. One more kid question and then a good question from a mom, and then we’ll let some members in. Titus. Little guy named Titus: “Why can’t I bring stuff like money or books to heaven?”
JOHN: Well okay, Titus; because there’s nothing to buy, you own it all; and there’s nothing to read, you know it all.
AUSTIN: Amen. Amen. That’s a great answer. Here’s a great question I think that’ll help a lot of parents, from a mom. This is from a mom: “How do I specifically lead my children to salvation? If my young elementary-aged child shows and confesses belief in Christ and shows genuine remorse over sin and not just a fear of punishment, should I be leading that child to repent and believe that they get saved in a prayer with me, or should I teach them the gospel but never call them to make a proclamation and verbal prayer decision? Thank you, from a very confused mom.”
JOHN: No, this is really good and practical question. You want to encourage your children to love the Lord Jesus Christ, to believe in Him. You want them to love Him. You want to speak of Him with love and respect and honor. You want to let those little children know, as little as they are, how much you love the Lord and how you serve the Lord and how you honor the Lord. And any response like, “Mom, I want to know the Lord,” “Wonderful.” And if at three or four, you say, “Well, why don’t you ask the Lord to be your Savior? Or why don’t you ask Him to forgive your sin and be your Savior?” You don’t have to get complicated. “He died for you. He rose again to give us eternal life.”
And you say, “Well, do I know that at three or four that child is saved?” No, you don’t know that. But every single time you affirm the reality of that, and you just keep affirming it and affirming it and affirming it. No matter how many times they come back and maybe they doubt a little bit – I was talking to a little boy. I think he’s eleven or twelve. Was he, Melinda?
I was talking to a little boy a few days ago, and he said, “I think” – he was talking to me from back east. He called and said, “Would you talk to me?” So he’s trying to figure out and he says, “You know, I’m thinking about dying all the time. And, you know, what do I need to know? What do I need to do?” That’s a heavy thing for a kid eleven or twelve. But before he got to eleven or twelve he had thought about it as well.
And I think you’d be surprised that there are little fears in the hearts of little kids, and the primary fear is separation from mom and dad. And you want to always tell them that you’re going to be with them with Jesus in the future if you give your heart to Him. And every time he says, or she says, “I want to do that,” you say, “Great, let’s pray. Great.” You just keep doing it; those are steps toward God. And you don’t know which one is that saving one, but you affirm it and you affirm it.
Don’t doubt it. Don’t say, “Oh, yeah, you’re too young, you don’t have enough theology.” Don’t ever do that. Just embrace that, and just let them give their heart to the Lord with whatever capacity they have at that point in their young life.
AUSTIN: No need to feed their doubt, that’ll be natural. You’ve got to feed that faith.
JOHN: Never feed their doubt. “That is so wonderful. I’m so thrilled. I’m so happy.” And give them a hug and a kiss on the cheek and say, “This is so wonderful, now you belong to Jesus”; because the thing you don’t want to show them is that this is really hard to get Him to respond to you. It’s not. And the truth is, until they get to the age when that salvation is really real, they’re already in His care anyway. So affirm those things constantly. Steps toward God, always affirm them. Help them take those steps.
AUSTIN: That’s good, Pastor. Thank you. One more thing; why don’t we transition to doing the new members by talking to some of our friends in this room who have yet to join the church. Ought they to join the church, or is that just kind of a secondary thing, or is that an actual biblical concept? Church membership: yea or nay?
JOHN: Well, yeah, church membership. So what are we saying when we say church membership? You go back to the book of Acts, and on the day of Pentecost three thousand people were saved. How do I know there were three thousand? Because there were three thousand saved and three thousand baptized, and they knew who they were and they identified them. And a couple chapters later there’s another five thousand, and they’re adding up. But they know who they are.
As you follow the story of the church in the book of Acts and the Epistles you realize that when people move from town to town, they took letters, they took letters from their church to a new city where they were going to identify to a new group of believers that they had come from another church, another assembly of saints. So clearly there was an identifiable group of people. And from the standpoint of leadership, the role of pastors and elders is to shepherd the flock of God among you, taking the oversight.
So membership does two very important things. It allows a person to identify with a church, which is critical. The New Testament knows nothing about free-wheeling Christians who just float around from here to there and look at the churches as they might look at the theater page or something what’s playing, or who’s playing here and who’s playing there.
The New Testament knows nothing about a believer who’s not identified with a local assembly of saints: for your own soul sake, to be fed the Word of God, to build strong relationships, to stimulate one another to love and good works. And also from the leadership standpoint so that the leaders know who it is that God has put in their care, so that we can shepherd you; and that partnership is vital.
So Grace has always had memberships. Obviously we have a lot of people who come, and that’s fine. But we emphasize membership because that is you saying, “I want to belong, I want to be cared for, and I want to be shepherded, and I want to be a part of this, and I want my life to be in this family of believers.” And I think it’s not more than that. It’s not a commitment to a certain job in the church. It’s not a commitment to a certain amount of money. Not that.
But when you say, “I’ve committed my life to Christ and I want to be baptized,” because baptism is preliminary to membership here. If you’ve been baptized, of course, you’re welcome to come. But if you haven’t, that’s the public confession of your faith in Christ. And then you become a member; and then you know where you belong, and we know where you belong; and that mutual relationship is how shepherding works.
AUSTIN: Perfect. Let’s illustrate that by inviting some new members and welcoming some new members into our church.
JOHN: Thank you very much, Austin.
AUSTIN: Yes, sir. Thank you.
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