It’s such an honor to be here at a Grace to You event, this Truth Matters Conference here at the Ark. I so appreciate Dr. MacArthur, Phil, Ken Ham, and so many others who are involved here; and I’m thankful you’re here, and I’m thankful that we are here to consider God’s truth.
When was the moment you knew you were living through a revolution? Was it when our cities burned two years ago this summer? Was it when the former police chief, a black man of St. Louis, was murdered? Was it when one evangelical leader after another spoke positively about social justice? Was it when pastors, seemingly sound men, men many of us love and respect and have learned much from—me included—recommended Ibram X. Kendi and Robin DiAngelo and the deeply compromised book Divided by Faith from pulpits?
In the last five years in America, in much of the West, we have witnessed a social revolution. This revolution is driven by the movement we call wokeness. Wokeness urges us all to wake up to the reality of systemic racism in America; that’s what the term means, if you have been wondering how to define it. To be woke is to wake up and see America not as a just public order, not as a place that has real sin in its past, grievous sin, but yet a country that has made real progress. No. To be woke is to say, “None of that has really happened; actually, America is still systemically racist.” And in fact, according to Kendi and others, the racism is worse because it’s gone underground, it’s gone quiet. And now normal people, including most normal white people, think that racism is really a problem we have overcome; and that is itself the sign that racism, systemic racism that is, is worse than ever.
Welcome to the worldview of wokeness, a worldview that is impossible to falsify. If you affirm it, you’re in a systemic racist order that is shot through at every level with racism that is incurable; and if you deny systemic racism, well, you’re guilty of the very crime you have just denied. All of this means, for woke voices, that our entire society needs to be dynamited and rebuilt.
Wokeness has a specific genesis. It’s built off of the rotted chassis of Karl Marx’s thought. In the late 19th century, Karl Marx in Europe stirred up wicked rebellion against authority. He argued that rich people inherently oppress poor people, rich people inherently oppress the minority. And Marx’s ideas play to the natural resentment of the fallen human heart.
During the mid-20th century, European philosophers adopted Marx’s framework against cultural institutions like the family, the church, and the government. They argued that all these traditional institutions mediated oppression. There’s authority in those different institutions that God has made. God Himself has formed those institutions. And because there is authority, there is oppression that flows from authority.
You see, Marx’s basic idea is that if you have somebody who has power and authority over others, that is evil; that is wrong. They can have economic power, they can have cultural power, they can have religious power, a father can be the head of his home—it does not matter. A capitalist can make a lot of money and be a boss. All of those authorities are in an unjust place and oppress the minority—and the minority may be a lot of people. That is basically the framework of Marx and the framework of wokeness.
In recent days this grid, this paradigm, has been applied, not so much to economics—although it still is—but to race; hence, we are right to call wokeness race Marxism. And thus, we are left, as I have already said, with the claim that our country is infested with white supremacy because there are lots and lots of white people; white people are the majority. You understanding the framework here? And as the majority group, they naturally oppress those who are not of them.
By the way, quick sidenote: Every culture, or at least every society—most of which we can trace—has a majority people. You can apply this argument anywhere. You can take this ideology and foment rebellion and hatred among peoples simply by convincing the minority that the majority hates them.
We know from Scripture that people do oppress one another. We know that oppression is evil. So we have all the resources we already need to fight racist oppression or oppression of any kind in the Word of God; we don’t need it from any other source. We have everything we need in the Word of God. That is what we need to fight oppression of any kind, with no exceptions. There are no exceptions to this truth. If you are seeing oppression play out in some form around you, the solution is found in God’s Word. God’s Word has a great deal to say about oppression in a societal sense, in particular in the Old Testament.
So what is the solution to all this, in a woke frame of mind? The solution has numerous facets, but at its core, it’s economic—in a word, reparations; reparations, the idea that descendants of oppressed peoples way back when, descendants need to be compensated in all sorts of ways, including financially, for injustices of the past. And what that means further is that white people today need to pay out to people of color in this society.
The core idea here is actually theological, if you’re paying attention in this fine morning session. The key idea is that guilt transfers across generations. So note that. If you’re taking notes, if you’re an intrepid Truth Matters person: Guilt transfers. That is really the core idea, and we are going to examine that in just a minute from the laser lens of Scripture.
The preacher Eric Mason put this viscerally in a September 2020 sermon. The sermon was entitled “Cancel Culture: A Biblical Case for Reparations,” and it was based on Ezra 1:4, and here’s a quote from Mason’s sermon. “Silver, hallelujah; gold, hallelujah; goods, hallelujah; and livestock. I feel God right there, along with a freewill offering. They’re talking about stacks (money). They’re giving the people of God drip (money) coming out of there, right? It was dripology coming out of the ministry.” End quotation. What Mason is calling for, from Ezra 1, is people today to give “drip” or “stacks”—or reparations—to people whose descendants were oppressed. So this idea is in our circles. This idea is in evangelicalism.
The case is building; there is growing steam behind it. Guilt yesterday is guilt today, and the solution is money. That’s the only way to atone for past sin, to remunerate those whose ancestors were wronged. That is the way of atonement, ultimately, in wokeness, critical race theory, and social justice. It is built on the idea that guilt transfers across generations. What your ancestors did 200, 300, 400 years ago transfers to you. And it doesn’t just stick on you like an invisible disease, there is then an action plan, and that action plan is financial; it is to pay up. That is a form of atonement, and you need to understand it as such.
Now how do we approach this? Well we approach this in terms of sin. We know that sin is a creational offense. Our sin is not committed against an abstract law code somewhere; our sin is committed against a personal holy God. That is the problem with our sin. Our sin offends our Holy Creator. And we hate all sin. We hate partiality based on skin color, ethnicity, wealth, education, and any other factor. The church abhors racism. The church abhors racist sins of the American past and present evils that rear their evil head.
And we also love the diversity of the church. We love how God’s gospel saves sinners of every tribe, tongue, people group, nation on the earth; this is beautiful to us. We love what God is knitting together—a people for Himself from all across this globe. So we love diversity rightly understood—not for its own sake, not so that we can feel better about having a quota in our church or something like this, but because we recognize that God has made every human being an image-bearer, and He is gathering a people for Himself across all the earth.
Wokeness denies this. Wokeness weaponizes injustices, whether past or present. Instead of the cross and the empty tomb, wokeness brings gasoline and matches. It holds present people guilty because of their ancestors’ sins. The fires of rage never go out. And what has happened in this society in America is that we have all been gaslit. Gaslighting is when you convince somebody who is saying that they are crazy. And that is what wokeness has attempted to do in this society. It has attempted to convince an entire populace that we are all impossibly racist, that racism is truly everywhere, that we have not made those gains we mentioned earlier. And this is a great gaslighting, and it has happened to the church as well.
You have been taught, people have tried to persuade you, that you are a racist, that if you have white skin that you are inherently a white supremacist, that you need to repent of your whiteness. There’s one sermon after another you can find out there. Some of you have heard this evil preaching, that is no preaching at all. Some of you have been called to repent from a pulpit along these lines.
The moment that woke me up to wokeness—no pun intended—is when a friend of mine who had adopted, with his wife, multiple children who did not look like them, loving these children at great cost to this man and his wife, a godly man, not a racist at all. This couple and many others like them were called, at a prominent evangelical church that you would know the name of if I said it, to repent of their inherent white supremacy. And when I heard that my friend who had adopted kids who don’t look like him was being called a white supremacist, I knew this was in the church, and it was in the church strong, and it was going to take some very hard work to drive out this kind of evil ideology.
And the fight is not over, and not all the evil spirits have come out of the church. And so this is not just a fun little talk to consider some things, this is a call. This is a call to you. Don’t think, “Yeah, but I’m not a leader; I don’t have a platform.” This is a call to you, not to hate flesh and blood but to love fellow Christians, to love your church enough to speak up, to “speak the truth in love,” Ephesians 4:15, and decry these ideas that would take the church captive, Colossians 2:8. It is a time, brothers and sisters, not to lay down and go silent. It is a time to stand on the Word of God and destroy strongholds, 2 Corinthians 10:3–6.
So how do we do this? We do this by going to the Word. So let’s do just that. Let’s turn to Ezekiel 18. You didn’t know I was going to say Ezekiel, did you—Ezekiel 18:19–20. We find here a powerful word, deep in the Old Testament in a book that is rarely preached in many evangelical pulpits; and yet, do you not have this experience when you are in your morning devotions, and you come across these verses that are absolute solid gold for your faith, you’re in these genres that you might not naturally gravitate toward? This is what happens with us when we turn to Ezekiel 18 and we read verses 19 and 20.
“Yet you say, ‘Why should the son not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity?’”—this is the LSB—“‘But the son has done justice and righteousness and has kept all My statutes and done them. He shall surely live. The soul who sins will die. The son will not bear the iniquity of the father, nor will the father bear the iniquity of the son; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.’” Let’s pray.
Father, as we turn to Your Word, I ask Your blessing now, as we seek to squeeze it and understand it and apply it to our lives, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Ezekiel prophesied during a time of great confusion following Israel’s exile to Babylon in 597 BC. The former king of Judah, Jehoiakim, had been exiled, and the Babylonians had appointed Zedekiah, a client king, in Jerusalem. So this is a compromised Israel; this is a compromised people of God. They’re in terrible circumstances. Sin is everywhere.
In terms of the flow of the book, chapters 1 to 24 of Ezekiel speak of judgment, since the fall of Jerusalem is coming. Ezekiel 18 follows much scorching critique of corrupted Temple worship. Dr. MacArthur referenced Ezekiel 8 just a couple days ago; and it is a stunning picture of evil in the Temple, which actually is super weirdly encouraging because it shows us that corruption obtains in every era, not just in ours. Ezekiel fits what is called a disputation oracle—this chapter, that is, of it; and this refers to, this chapter 18, a popular proverb that is recited and then refuted by prophetic reasoning. So that’s what we have going on, as we parachute into this book on a mission to not be taken captive by wokeness and to destroy evil strongholds.
In what follows, I’m going to look with you briefly at three glorious truths from this text. First, the Bible teaches that every person following Adam is a sinner; every person following Adam is a sinner. Second, the Bible teaches that every person bears responsibility for their own sin. Third, the Bible teaches that we cannot pay our own sin debt. The Bible teaches that we cannot pay our debt, but Christ can.
First truth: Every person following Adam is a sinner—from the Bible. The broader context of Ezekiel 18 is chock full of proof of this. Israel is not in a good place as we pick up this passage. There’s all kinds of sin being committed against God. In verse 13, abominations are heaping up against God. Fathers are living evil lives before their sons.
Look with me at verse 14 of chapter 18, “Now behold, he has a son who has seen all his father’s sins which he has done. And he saw this but does not do likewise. He does not eat at the mountain shrines or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, or defile his neighbor’s wife or mistreat anyone, or retain a pledge or commit robbery, but he gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with clothing; he turns his hand away from the afflicted, does not take interest or increase, but does My judgments and walks in My statutes.”
What these verses are saying is that there is a son, in this passage, who has watched his father heap up sin over and over again. It’s a very convicting passage, as a father, to read. I’m the father of three children. I think they’re here somewhere; my lovely wife is here, and it’s a thrill to have them here. And I love being a father. But it is a serious responsibility, and every father fails in his responsibilities, even a Christian father.
This father is failing disastrously. He is eating at idolatrous feasts. He is gazing longingly on idols. He’s taking his neighbor’s wife for himself, mistreating others, robbing, committing fiscal malpractice, seizing what others have for his own gain. He lives selfishly and thoughtlessly, as this passage shows, the prelude to our main text this morning. This reveals to us that the Bible is clear eyed about sin.
The Bible looks you in the eye and holds your gaze about sin. You don’t have a little bit of mischief in you by nature; you are made in God’s image, but you have the wildfires of hell in you—we all do. This is because Adam sinned against God in the garden. Adam represented us in the garden. So we’re not a victim of Adam, we’re an accomplice of Adam. When Adam sins in Eden with Eve his wife, that’s us sinning in Eden. You should never think, “Well Adam messed this up for me, and I’ve got this fallen nature. ‘Thanks, Adam.’ I’m going to punch him when I get to heaven—maybe not on the jaw, but at least in the shoulder, hard,” or something like this. No, Adam’s sin is our sin. Adam did what you would have done in Eden. That’s how you should understand the federal headship of Adam in Eden—the representation, that is, of Adam in Eden.
So we’re all sinners by nature; this is a clear teaching of Scripture. Verses 19 and 20 do nothing to go against this; and yet we learn that the father has iniquity in verse 19, and the son has iniquity in verse 20. So this passage is showing us what we know with our eyes: that every person is a sinner, and sin crosses all generations.
John Calvin speaks well to this: “If then,” he writes, “we are children of wrath, it follows that we are polluted from our birth: this provokes God’s anger and renders him hostile to us: in this sense David confesses himself conceived in sin. (Psa. 51) . . . when he abhors the greatness of his sin in provoking the wrath of God, he is brought back to his infancy and, acknowledges that [even then, he was] guilty before God.”
We are all sinners. We have all fallen. The son has iniquity here; the father has iniquity here in verses 19 and 20. We all need God infinitely. And this leads to our second truth: The Bible teaches that every person bears responsibility for their own sin.
In verses 19 to 20 we see an invisible but essential biblical truth: We see that we all live in a courtroom. By this I mean that we all live our lives before God. God knows us as Creator, but God regards all of us as just Judge. That may not be the situation we prefer. We are being trained today to think, “Well if I don’t like the situation, I just reject it. If I don’t like my body, I just reject that identity associated with it. My reality is my reality. You can’t impose your reality on me; you can only affirm my reality.” That’s really the culture’s doctrine of love today, isn’t it? Affirmation. No transformation, all affirmation: “I am who I am, and you affirm that. If you fail to do that, you hate me—and I’m coming for you.”
We don’t like the fact that God has set up the world; we don’t like that God is our Creator in our natural state. But that is the way the board has been set up. We’re all, then, in a moral and judicial setting. We’ve done nothing to set it up ourselves; we haven’t chosen. It’s not constructed according to our free will, not a molecule of it. But it is the way it is; and these two verses, just these two verses, show us through the terms used just how high the stakes are of this moral, judicial courtroom that every human being, without exception, lives in.
Look at the terms in verses 19 to 20: punishment, iniquity, justice, righteousness, keeping and doing statutes, obedience, living and dying based on your actions—verses 19 and 20—bearing iniquity, righteousness, wickedness. This shows us that we are not in a Plato world where we make up our own identity, chart our own destiny, and craft our own morality. No, friends. We are in an ordered creation, as Jeff talked about. This creation that God has made has definition, shape, depth, texture, clarity. This is the total opposite of the world we are said to live in today.
I was at the Supreme Court a couple weeks ago. I happened to be in DC for meetings with Family Research Council—I’m a fellow for them—and I just happened to be flying in from doing the men’s conference at Grace Community. I fly in on Monday night, bleary-eyed, at 9:30 PM, and my phone is blowing up. It doesn’t usually blow up at any time, but it’s blowing up on Monday night at almost 10:00. I get off the plane, and it’s that there is supposedly this announcement that Roe v. Wade is going to be overturned; and DC, as I get there—they didn’t do it for me, they didn’t throw this party for me, just to be clear—but DC is seething.
I go over to the Supreme Court the next night with my friend David Closson, and there are hundreds of protesters chanting, shouting, doing slogans. And the theme of so many things that the people around there were saying related to autonomy. That was the word that would describe what people were calling for. They were literally saying that word, autonomy. “I am my own god,” in other words. “There is no God over me.” And there were these folks who had these signs that together said, “Bans off my bodies. Bans off our bodies.” So not, “Hands off our bodies,” but “Bans off our bodies.” This is the reversal of biblical morality, you understand? Well we’re not trying to ban your body, we’re trying to save image-bearers in the womb, out of love; but you’re turning this into hate.
Perhaps the strangest moment was when a guy with a microphone was just sort of wildly talking and whipping up a whole crowd of people, and at one point he said—and I kid you not—“All men are liars! All men are liars!” And the crowd went wild, “Yeah!” And I think I was the only one thinking, “A man just said that.” I didn’t raise my hand; I guess it was a failure of courage at that moment. But I thought, “This is not the moment I think I’m ready to die, not today. I want to observe this, and I want to work against this. I want to be salt and light”—as I know you do, in this culture and society—“but let’s live to fight another day.”
In reality, mankind doesn’t want to live in a moral world. We want to live in our own moral world, perhaps, a world that we make up, because man is always trying to replace God’s absolutes with man’s absolutes. But God has already defined the order. God has all the rights to creation. No one can unmake what God has made. God has made it, and God has spoken over it, and God owns it, and no one can take away God’s seal. God is the one who sets the terms, not you. God is the one who owns all of us. God is the one who has the deed, the title to the cosmos. And Jesus Christ—and dying on the cross, and rising from the grave—has that title in His back pocket, and He’s coming back for this. He’ll be coming back for this.
Do not be mistaken: This world is set up, not according to human autonomy but according to divine authority; that is what rules this world. It looks like human autonomy has won out. It has not won out; this is just temporary. All so-called victories under the banner of human autonomy are temporal victories. They will all be vacated; they will all be losses on the last day.
The Puritan William Greenhill captures this truth nicely. He says this: “Be persons great or small . . . the Lord is above them, has command over them, has set . . . their bounds; which if they transgress, they shall suffer according as his wisdom shall appoint.” This is why, honestly, this Ark is so important, this whole work that is being led out of here—because it all begins with the doctrine of creation. If you give up the doctrine of creation—“It all starts with Genesis 1 through 11.” Can I steal that? Is that copyrighted? “It all starts with Genesis 1 through 11.” If you give that up, you’ve given up everything. You think you’ve only given up 0.0001 percent of Christian theology. But if you make all that myth and non-literal and non-truthful, you have given up the very beginning of Christian theology; and really, now, it’s just a matter of time before the whole thing crumbles.
So every creature does iniquity—is wicked—because of a real, historical Fall of a real, historical Adam in a real, historical garden. We bear, because of Adam’s fall, guilt for our own sinful acts committed according to our sinful nature. But note this: Sons are not guilty for what their fathers do. See verse 20: “Bên lō yiś·śā ba·‘ă·wōn hā·’āḇ,” in the Hebrew; “The son shall not bear the father’s guilt.” What a freeing word; this is explosive.
Some of you come from a rough past. Some of you have known serious family trauma. Some of you may battle the lie in an ongoing basis that because there was sin in your past, you are guilty of it. One of the most common schemes of Satan is that you cannot outrun your background: “You’re only what they were. You cannot know forgiveness. You cannot overcome those origins. Your identity is fixed, and it owes to what happened to you in the past.” Some of you battle on a daily basis thoughts and memories from the past, and you feel like you are trapped by them. If you are outside of Christ, Satan can trap you in those things. But if you will run to Jesus Christ, “The son does not bear the father’s guilt.” There is no guilt that transfers across generations. All that is in your past that is wicked and evil and should never have been done to you or anyone else is overcome, and you are not guilty for that.
We all bear responsibility—don’t misunderstand—for our own sins. We inherit a fallen nature from Adam. He represented us; he did what we would have done. We pass on a sinful nature to our children. I never coached the three Strachan children—with this strange, Scottish last name—in sinning. I never said, “Kids, come here; come here, come here, come here. Here’s how we’re going to disobey against Mommy today, OK?” Nobody trained me that way either, in a formal, classroom sense at least; it comes naturally
But note what the passage teaches: Even when a boy has seen his father indulge the flesh over and over and over again, he is not guilty for his father’s abominations. So there are generational effects of sin all throughout the Bible. Here’s a key distinction: We pass on a sinful nature to our children—all of us do; you can’t help it; there’s no button to push to overcome it—and there are generational effects of sin to the third and fourth generation, Deuteronomy 5:9. So if I blow up my family—God forbid—there can be effects of that all the way into successive generations beyond people I’ll ever even meet. My sin can affect many people—so can yours. But outside of Adam’s headship in the garden, there is no generational guilt for sin; and this is a way that we are dead-set opposed to what wokeness argues.
Wokeness wants us guilty. Critical race theory wants us guilty. Social justice wants you guilty. It wants to drench you in guilt, shower you in guilt, and never let guilt wash off of you. Wokeness is a religion of anger: anger against men, but more than this, anger against God and His providence. If you’re white, so-called, wokeness entraps you in a system of performative righteousness that is no righteousness at all. Here’s what wokeness wants: It wants you atoning for your sin, not Christ; that’s what it really wants.
On the other side, if you’re a person of color, so-called, it wants you to fall prey to the trap of inherent righteousness. It wants you to read yourself in the most fundamental terms as a victim, and it wants you to live your entire life this way—always vengeful, always resentful, separated from others because of your skin color. It’s not only generational guilt that is the problem in wokeness, though; again, as I have said, it is generational guilt that is the solution. The solution is for you to own your generational guilt and to pay up—stacks, drip, reparations. You are guilty, so let the money flow.
You and I should always make restitution when actual wrongs are committed. If I steal your Winnie the Pooh stuffed animal—not in the notes—but if I steal that, then I owe you for that. That’s an actual wrong. I make restitution for that. But restitution is totally distinct in the biblical mind from this broad, undefined category of reparation. How are we supposed to actually transact reparations? How are we supposed to figure all this out? How are we going to figure out which ancestors sinned against which ancestors? What happens when our own ancestors sinned against one another, or sinned against the skin color of one another? You understand how complex this is? It is impossibly complex. And in the impossible complexity, you see a total distinction from the glorious simplicity of Christianity. Christianity is not simplistic, but Christianity is simple.
Now in all this, just remember: You can’t even bear your own guilt, let alone the guilt of your predecessors. So OK, everybody stay with me. We’ve said something really encouraging here. You’re not guilty for what your ancestors did—be encouraged. And that’s not trite or silly. Be encouraged.
In Christ all generational curses, so-called, are broken. But wait: “The soul who sins shall die,” verse 20. So even though I’m not guilty for my ancestors’ sin—encouraging, yes—I’m guilty for my sin, and I can’t atone for it, and I am in a terrible position—and so are all of us.
And this leads to our third and final truth. The Bible teaches that we can’t pay our sin debt, but Christ can. Ezekiel 18, in sum, teaches us, “I’m not guilty for you; you’re not guilty for me. But I’m guilty for me.” So what am I to do? Well humanity undertakes many solutions to this problem. Everybody’s always trying to atone for their sins somehow, always. The solution before us is not an action, a system, or an idea; the solution before us is a person: His name is Jesus Christ.
We need to make two key affirmations here, OK, in this third and final truth. First, the Father—God the Father—of the Scripture loves to forgive. Our Father, more than we know, more than we think about, more than we meditate on, loves to forgive.
Think of Luke 15:17–24. You can turn there if you want; you don’t get extra-credit points. I’ll read it; Luke 15, verse 17, speaking of the prodigal son here at the beginning, “When he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I’m dying here with hunger!’”—pause. He’s gambled it all away, right? He had a rich inheritance, and it’s all gone; it’s spent. He had nothing. Verse 18, “I will rise up and go to my father, and will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before you. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.’ “So he rose up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet, and bring the fattened calf, slaughter it, and let us eat and celebrate, for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.”
The God this parable reveals is a God who is not slow to forgive, but quick to forgive. Is that not what you and I struggle to remember and believe? Do you not feel that your God is slow to forgive? Do you not struggle with the idea, at least many of you, that you’ve out-sinned God’s grace? Do you not feel that you have squandered your inheritance one too many times? Welcome to the biblical God. God the Father loves forgiving sinners.
Christian, the biblical God is slow to anger and quick to love. Christian, your hope is as big as the God you worship. Your God loves to forgive you more than you know, does not struggle to forgive you. You and I, we struggle to forgive. We half-forgive, don’t we. We one-third forgive, 72 percent forgive. The biblical God forgives.
Here comes the prodigal. Does the father meet him and, you know, sort out some terms? He could have sorted out some terms, couldn’t he? He could have said, “Son, OK, come on back; but first, I need to talk through three things with you. I need to make sure you and I are on level terms and you understand what you’ve done to me.” Is that what the father of the prodigal does? It’s not, is it. He runs to his son, he kisses his son, he clothes his son, he celebrates his son’s return.
This isn’t a random parable in your Bible; this is teaching you the character of God the Father. God the Father is the one who has sent His Son to make atonement for your sin. People try to tell us that the Christian, the biblical system of atonement is evil; it’s an angry God committing child abuse against His Son. “Wrath is not a thing,” they tell us; when in reality it is God the Father who is setting up the entire system of atonement so that we can be forgiven in His sight, and He can be just. This is not child abuse, this is the height of love. Biblical atonement is the greatest act of love the world has ever seen and will ever know; and don’t let them tell you otherwise.
Beyond this, I want to just tell you, in terms of hope, I am encouraged today. These are evil days, but I am encouraged. I see a rising generation of strong young Christians. I see many young men who love sound doctrine and want to be pastors and shepherd the flock. I see younger believers who love Christ tenaciously. I see faith, hope, love, conviction, and holiness in the church. I see young couples marrying, having children, and planting gardens in Babylon, Jeremiah 29:3–7. I see young believers striving to be salt and light all throughout society and culture in their workplace, when they’re the only Christian around ten other people who are bearing down on them. I see them fighting to be salt and light in the grace of God. I see godly young missionaries leaving everything to proclaim Christ.
I see evil on every side, but I see God doing a new work. I see God emptying woke churches and churches that compromised in lockdown season, and I see God growing His true church. And I praise God for all of this, and I am reminded—thank you, amen. In all this I see God keeping His promises and bringing all things to perfect resolution in His Son. God’s plan has not been hijacked; everything is going according to plan. Take heart, Christian; 2 Corinthians 4:16, “We do not lose heart.”
All of this helps us, then, understand the difference between Christianity and wokeness. Christianity, unlike wokeness, is not a hateful religion. Christianity does not come into Christians and divide them; wokeness does. Wokeness divides churches. My buddy Josh Buice has said it well: “Wokeness offers us a grievance gospel; Christianity offers a grace gospel, grounded in a forgiving Father who works through a loving Son and a powerful Spirit.”
And my second subpoint under this third truth—the Puritans had 50 subpoints, so don’t at me, OK. The second sub-truth is this: The father forgives in the Son. The father forgives in the Son.
“The wickedness of the wicked [is] upon himself,” Ezekiel 18:20. But the good news is, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him,” 2 Corinthians 5:21. Christ is condemned so that we can become innocent through saving faith. Spurgeon said it beautifully on this count: “Be it known to you . . . that when God proclaims mercy to men upon this condition, that they turn from their ways, this proclamation is issued out of pure grace. As a matter of bare right, repentance does not bring mercy with it. . . . It is of grace, then, that I,” Spurgeon writes, preaches, “am permitted to say, ‘Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways.’ It is because at the back of it there is a great sacrifice; it is through an all-sufficient atonement that repentance becomes acceptable.” End quotation.
Everybody wants a miracle. This is the miracle: atonement—atonement for sin, the cross. The cross washes us clean. Even as saving faith, given us through regeneration, saves our soul, the God who opposes our sin and wrath is the God who sets up the atonement in love. And this leads us to understand how liberating Christianity is. This is a faith of freedom. This is a faith of liberation, Christian. Do you understand this? This is a faith that reconciles. This is a faith that unites. Consider what Voddie Baucham has said on this count: “Who am I to tell a white brother that he cannot be reconciled to me until he has dredged up all the racial sins of his and his ancestors’ past and made proper restitution?” Baucham says this: “Christ has atoned for sin.”
That’s it. That’s it. This is not only a better gospel than any other gospel, this is the only gospel. This is the gospel that heals, restores, enchants, frees liberates, loses, renews, reinvigorates, releases. Come and be saved in this gospel. And if you are saved, come and be encouraged afresh by what your God is doing in you.
Christianity versus wokeness is a battle of different atonement doctrines. The way of atonement is not endless reparations; the way of atonement is the blood of Christ. No further atonement is needed; no further atonement will be accepted. These are the terms: “It is finished.” You do nothing to atone for your sins. Wokeness is lying to you. You can’t atone for one one-millionth of your sins, let alone your ancestors’ sins. But the cross of Christ is completely sufficient for atonement. Amen.
So in conclusion, I’m just a man, but I stand here. And because I and these brothers stand on the Word of God, we proclaim God’s truth with all the authority of heaven. There’s a word in the New Testament in the Greek, it’s often translated “authority,” exousia. It’s one of the most important words in your entire Bible. It was said of Jesus in Matthew 7:29 that “He was teaching them as one having authority”—exousia—“and not as their scribes”—the Jewish scribes who didn’t teach with authority, who didn’t stand on the Word of God, who found their authority in citations and footnotes and outside, extrabiblical sources.
Jesus preached and proclaimed God’s truth with exousia; and that is the need of the age: preachers who will guard the flock; preachers who will not stand on their own authority, learning, intellect, wisdom, but will stand on the truth of God and preach and teach with exousia, with authority, and who will proclaim this: “All who repent are forgiven. All who repent are saved.”
There is one church. Satan is trying to divide it. He is trying to divide your church. He is trying to divide your school. He is trying to divide your college, your seminary, your parachurch ministry. He’s using wokeness as one of his schemes, Ephesians 6, toward that end. He wants you taken captive. He wants you living in shame. He wants you guilty. So does our culture, so does the world system.
But God speaks a better word, and all who are children of God, now hear this: Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God. I am not ashamed of the gospel. I am not ashamed. Thank you so much. Let’s pray.
Father, thank You so much for these saints. I pray that even as they have been drenched in guilt and shame by our society, even in the church the last few years, that they will be released by the power of the gospel and gospel truth and the counsel of Your Word. Free us, I pray, Father. Give us strength, give us grace to fight against the schemes of the enemy. Protect Your church. Give us strong men who will speak and preach with exousia, and get us safely all the way to the heavenly city. Father, help us to say with the apostle Paul, near the end of his life, “I am not ashamed of the gospel.” Amen.
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