Ethnicity and Discipleship

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 9:22, John 4:39-42, Luke 7:1-11
Date: 02/10/2008 
Lesson: 6
Christ's attitude of acceptance toward people outside of Judaism demonstrates God's love for all people of every ethnicity.
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Good morning, Happy Sabbath. We're so glad that you're joining us for another "central study hour" coming to you from the Sacramento Central Seventh-day Adventist church. I hope you've had a wonderful week and I'm happy that you're joining us and you're gonna sing along with us this morning, with a couple of the favorite requests that have come in. And the first one is "day by day." You'll find that on 532 in your hymnals. This is from lancelot in el sonia, from england; flaxon and tembi from england; and patricia also from england; sandra, terrance, andrea, kevin and serbit from jamaica; janice in saint lucia; colin and horace in trinidad and tobago; patricia in granada; sungman in the republic of korea; and ducia in saint vincent and the grenadines; and then mary in the cayman islands; and joanne in New York; thomas in California; sylvia in florida; Virginia in Maine; nigel in Virginia; desiree in Georgia; and jill scott and her family in South Dakota who this song was requested, as they just lost their 16-year-old daughter, ashley kay zeller.

So, we would like to sing this as a request for them and everyone else that wrote in this morning; 532, all 3 verses. Thank you so much for that request. And you know, whether you've lost a child, you've lost a parent, a spouse, or someone very dear to you, there is coming a day when there'll be no more tears, no more pain, heartache and we will be in heaven. Just think of the resurrection morning when you can stand by the graveside of your loved one and watch the ground just open up and them come out. It's gonna be real, just like it is today as you're sitting there hurting inside.

But our prayers are with you and Jesus' arms are around you, and I just want you to know that. Our opening song this morning is 441, "I saw one weary" . And this is a request from rudy in Wisconsin; william in ghana; shannon in Kansas; kaui, slaughtered that name, sorry, in england, hopefully, you know who you are; marie isador, and mosley in New York; emmanuel in germany; and margarita in saint lucia; , verses 1, 2, and 4. I forgot to mention that that song from margarita in saint lucia, was in memory of her mother who passed away in January 2003. And she was a devoted Christian.

So, you have the hope and the assurance that you will see her again. If you have a favorite song that you would like to send in, and I know many of you do, 'cause we've heard from many of you. And I apologize, the last two weeks or so, the website was down. But it's up working again, my husband fixed it last night after I discovered that. So, you can go to our website, saccentral.

org, click on the music link and send them in, and we will sing your favorites on an upcoming Sabbath. At this time, let's bow our heads for prayer. Father in Heaven, we thank you so much for bringing us here this morning together as a church and Sabbath school family, to worship you, to praise you, spend time with you. You have been so good to us this past week. We just thank you for the blessings that you have given to us.

We just pray in a special way that you'll be with our extended family who is joining us from across the country and around the world this morning. We just pray that you'll be with them, be with those who are hurting this morning, that you will just especially comfort them, and The Songs that we sung will have reached into their hearts and given them hope, given them comfort. We thank you this morning for your love. And I pray you'll be with us--be with our speaker, as he brings us a lesson study. In Jesus' Name, amen.

At this time, our lesson study is going to be brought to us by our youth pastor here at central church, pastor steve allred. This morning I'd like to let you know about our free offer here. It's called "culture and the Christian" it's offer number 143. And you can call the number on the screen, 866-788-3966 to get this free offer, today. Recently a documentary-style movie was produced by a cambridge educated british comedian.

I'm not gonna tell you the name of this, because I don't recommend watching it and I haven't watched it myself. But this comedian decided he was going to come to the United States and pose as a government representative from some obscure country. And he decided that as he was going to travel across the country, he would--he did a lot of things that were really inappropriate and we won't talk about. But part of his act was to pretend that he was extremely anti-semitic, he was-- he hated jews. And so, as he traveled across the country with his television crew, they would walk into unsuspecting stores and confront shop owners or knock on people's doors and the people were taken in by their supposed innocence and naivety.

And there was always a catch though, there was always a catch. He walked into a gun shop, for example, and innocently asked the proprietor, "what kind of gun would you recommend to shoot a jew with?" And the gun shop owner, thinking this was just some ignorant guy from another country who didn't, you know, know that America didn't do that kind of thing, said, "well, you know, that one over there would probably be a good one," and in all seriousness. Another time at a karaoke bar he begins a chorus that is decidedly hateful to jews and gets the audience to join in with him, many of them. And those who don't, sit there with uncomfortable smiles on their faces, but don't leave. And again, while I don't recommend watching the documentary, I thought there was something we could learn from this very interesting satire, right? Something that shows us something about ourselves.

You thought racism and ethnic discrimination was dead in America, think again, right? In fact, even if we think it's dead, I wonder if it's not something that a lot of Americans would just sit back and watch if it were to happen, right? And it still happens in many parts of our country, in fact, in many parts of the country today. Of course, don't forget though that we live in a world where there are still people alive, maybe even people here today, who remember and who even lived through an event where one segment of the world's population decided that another segment of the world's population wasn't fit to live. And so over 6 million of these people were eliminated. Well, many people who may not have agreed with what was happening, sat passively by; isn't that right? What would happen if it were to happen today? What would we do? And of course, there are some among you today who not only remember, but experienced the struggle for civil rights in our own country. Isn't that right? They know what it's like to have to sit--to have to sit in the back of a bus or to be turned away from a restaurant or some establishment because their skin color wasn't the right shade.

And of course, just this last year one courageous lady who stayed put and refused to move, right, to the back of the bus, just passed away. And rosa parks symbolized change in our country. She symbolized that a new day was coming and I praise God for that. And of course, today though, even more recently we see things happening in countries around the world. More recent events, the bosnian war, there we had different ethnic groups fighting each other.

And of course, genocide in rwanda, right? The hutus and the tutsis killing each other and today, in kenya. The bottom line is that we as fallen humanity, I think this is something that we could say in general. As fallen humans, we really like to be with people that are kinda like us. And often times we don't like to be around people who aren't quite like us; isn't that right? Whether it's these other--these things like ethnicity and race and things like that or whether it's just people that we agree with or disagree with, right, on certain issues. Birds of a feather flock together, as they say.

But you know, I think if one place in the world should be different, that place should the Christian church. Would you agree? If one place--there oughta be one place in this world where Christ's love and his unity crossed over these boundaries and eliminate some of these prejudices and these things that hold people apart. I think it ought to be in the Christian church. And yet, well, laws were passed years ago that schools were supposed to be desegregated, right? And well, even maybe government institutions are now integrated. Did you know that there has never been a law passed that churches need to be desegregated.

I guess, people just figured it would happen, right? I'm not saying there should have been a law. But today, did you know that as of only a couple of years ago, only 6% of North American churches are multi-ethnic? The definition for a multi-ethnic congregation is this, 80% comes from one ethnic group and 20% from another ethnic group. So, fairly generous stipulations there to become a multi-ethnic congregation. Imagine if only 6% of our schools or government agencies in the country were integrated. We'd think something was seriously wrong, right? So, today we're gonna delve into our lesson.

Our lesson study recently has been about discipleship. Today, we're talking about discipleship and--or ethnicity and discipleship, lesson number six. Question to ask, what is God's view of the issues surrounding race and ethnicity? Now, before we go on, let's define these terms. What is race? It is--i like leslie pollard, he's a fellow who's written a book, he actually is a--I'm not sure actually where's at right now, I think he's still at loma linda university working as the vice president of diversity or something like that. But leslie pollard, really incredible guy, he's written a book called "embracing diversity" and he defines race like this: he says, "it is a socially constructed category," in other words, it's something that we've made up to kinda make things easier in society, okay, or classify people.

"A classification determined by these things, pigmentation, facial features, hair texture and other biophysical characteristics used to differentiate one group of humans from another." And then he asks the question, "how many races exist among human kind?" You wanna guess? One, okay. Well, we're talking about the socially constructed categories though. And so how many--sociologists, what do we--how many do we say, do they say exist? Well, he says the number has been as low as 3 and as high as 22. So, you might be surprised if there are 22, you might be a member of a race you didn't know about. So, okay so that's what race when we're talking about today is referring to.

And ethnicity refers to a person's personal and social history, okay? In other words, you could have a certain skin color, I could have a certain skin color and live in--and the same skin color as you, maybe, but live in a different country and be of a different ethnicity, right? So, it's the how and to which beliefs and values and world views that one has been socialized and so those are the terms that we're talking about here today. So, how does God view these issues? Okay, let's--I'm gonna throw out five things today, really quick. We're not gonna look up all these verses. But first of all, let's look at Genesis 1:26, everyone knows where Genesis is, it's easy to find. Genesis 1:26, right there in the beginning, "God said, let us make man in" whose image? And who was speaking it was God, he was speaking to the members of the Godhead.

He said, "let us make people, man, anthroposts, the human race in our image." And so we as a human race are made in whose image? And so when God looks at race he doesn't see skin color, I don't think. I'm not saying it's not important, I'm not saying that those things don't matter. But I'm saying that God sees a person, isn't that right? He sees us all as people made in his image. And the second thing is that, let's go to acts 17:26, very interesting little passage here actually. The book of acts in the new testament 17:26.

And the Bible is talking, it's telling us the story here about the apostle Paul, he's at athens. And he's sharing with these philosophers there, he's preaching a sermon basically and he talks about God. He says, "and he made," verse 26, "from one man." That man was adam, right? "Every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation." Isn't that good news? We all came from the same father. Isn't that right? So whether you like it or not, we're all related, right? We are related. There's a very slight difference in the way that our genes are made up.

We're all related because we came from that one human being that God created. The next, actually the verse before, listen to what it says. Here's the third thing. So, first of all, we're created in his image. Secondly, God created the first person from whom we descended, right? And thirdly, God still is the one who brings people into the world.

Look at verse 25, "nor is he served by human hands as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all people--" what? "Life and breath and all things." And so, God still is in the business of creating, he still creates people. Isn't that right? Of all different types and colors and cultures and ethnicities, God creates all of us. Here's the fourth thing, go to Hebrews 2:9, this is a very interesting passage. It actually says that, in fact, I'm just gonna refer to it, we won't look at it. It says that Jesus tasted death for how many people? All people.

And so Jesus didn't just die for a certain group of people; isn't that right? He didn't just come to save the Jewish race, the Jewish nation. He didn't come to just save a certain group of people, he came to save all of us. Isn't that right? And then go to acts 10, very interesting passage here. Acts 10, this is a story that you are probably familiar with, it's a story about Peter. Now, we're gonna talk just a little bit today about some of the prejudices that the Jewish people had towards other nations, other people.

And so in acts 10, we see the, kinda the first time--well, not the first time, 'cause Jesus actually himself confronted this issue, many times. But the first time after Jesus died and went back and resurrected and went back to heaven, where the apostles now are confronted with this issue of, what do we do with the gentiles? What do we do with people that are different than us? And so in acts 10, Peter, you remember he had been waiting for supper, went up on the roof top, decided to lay there for a little while, take a little--and to pray. And meanwhile, he kinda falls into a sleep, falls into a restful-- and as he does, he experiences this vision from God where he sees a sheet, right, let down from heaven. And inside this sheet, this big blanket are all of these animals and then God tells him, he says, "Peter I want you to get up and eat; kill and eat." And Peter's like, "wait, wait, wait, there's snakes in there, God? There are pigs, camels," I mean, I don't know what there were. You know what I'm saying, all that stuff, right? He's like, "I don't eat that kind of stuff.

" And God's like, i--listen to what he said, verse 28 here, I think actually, this is the part where Peter begins to explain the vision to his associates there. Anyway, God told him, he says, "don't call any person common or unclean." Later on, his brethren said to him, "Peter, why did you go with those gentiles to their house and explain the Gospel to them? That's terrible" verse 28, and he said to them, verse 28, "you yourselves know how unlawful," this is according to Jewish tradition, "it is for a man who is a jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him, and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean." It wasn't about the animals in the sheet, it wasn't about Peter now eating snakes and camels. It was about people, right? People that had said, all along they'd said, "we are too good to associate with you because, you know, we're different, we're better." And so they wouldn't even go into their house, they wouldn't even be seen socializing or talking with them. And God said, "that's ridiculous, stop that, because no person is unholy or unclean," right? And then going on, let's see, verses 34 and 35, opening his mouth, Peter begins to tell his brethren. What he says is, "I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show" what? Favoritism or respect of persons or partiality, "but in every nation the man or the woman who fears him and does what is right is welcome to him.

" Aren't you glad to know that that's the God that we serve? And so, isn't it interesting though how wherever we find ourselves on this issue on of race and ethnicity. Wherever--whether we're the majority or the minority, whether we have been on one side of the issue or the other. Isn't it interesting how often we view things with our own prejudices being the basis for our viewpoint. We call that subjectivity, don't we? We call it ethnocentricity when we are talking about it in this context. Letting our own feelings and our views and our biases influence how we see other people, and it generally is in a negative way, right? Now, we're not saying that these things are bad, we're not saying that we shouldn't view things like this, but I think what we wanna see today is that the Bible tells us that God wants us to be able to rise above those things when it becomes a problem, right, when they become a problem.

So, we're gonna look at a few stories. Let's look at this one here, go to the book the Luke 17, I have someone out here with this verse, I don't know who it is, though. Luke 17, you have it, okay? Luke 17:11-16, and we'll let you go ahead and read that. "And it came to pass as he went to Jerusalem that he passed through the midst of samaria and Galilee. And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers which stood afar off.

And they lifted up their voices and said, 'Jesus, master, have mercy on us.' And when he saw them, he said unto them, 'go, show yourselves unto the priests.' And it came to pass that as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back and with a loud voice glorified God and fell down on his face at his feet giving him thanks. And he was a samaritan." So, interesting story. All of these lepers come, we can assume that the other nine were probably jews, right? We don't know that for a fact, but probably. And so this one man comes back and thanks Jesus.

The lesson brings out the point that the Greek word here that's used for healing is actually a word that also includes like salvation, not just physical healing, but that he possibly--and it seems like he received healing of his heart, of his soul as well. And so here this man comes back and he thanks Jesus. It actually is interesting, because Jesus commented on this. Look at what it says in verse 17, then Jesus answered and said, "were not there ten cleansed but the nine, where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner." It's so interesting how over and over again Jesus would emphasize the fact that it was the foreigners, the people who were not supposed to be good spiritual people, who were coming back and being the good spiritual people. What's up with that, right? And so the disciples, I think it kinda puzzled them, it perplexed them.

Again, we're not gonna read it right now, but in the story of the samaritan woman, the lady sitting there at the--Jesus was sitting at the well, she comes to the well. The disciples, of course, come back, and again, they're surprised. Here's Jesus talking with a woman, and of course they find out what kind of a woman she is and they're even more surprised, right? But Jesus found in this lady, someone who was open to the Gospel, she was ready to hear the good news. And what I notice from these stories, is that Jesus, and we're gonna see more, did not conform to the un-Godly cultural norms of his time. Isn't that right? He didn't say, "oh, you know, that's what people over here say I have to do.

" He did not conform to that. And I like what the lesson says, I wanna read it. It says, "it is one thing to say that we should not harbor prejudice against anyone. It is another, actually, to be free of these poisonous emotions," right? And then they ask this, "okay, so we can talk about it, but what practical steps can you and I take to help break the bonds of prejudice in our own hearts?" What do you think we can do? That's a thought question, I want you to think about. Let's go to our next one, Luke 7.

Luke 7, this is a very interesting topic, isn't it? It's one that is, it's real, it's part of our world, we see it all around us not just in history, but in just our day-to-day lives sometimes. I was talking with a brother who comes to church here, he's a good friend of mine, he's african-American. I asked him, I said, "what's it like to come to a church where--" see, I mean, central's very multi-ethnic, isn't it? We have a lot of different groups represented here. And I don't know that, I mean, if there was any one group that is predominant it would probably be caucasian, but I'm not sure. I asked him, I said, "what's it like? What's central like? Are we a church that you feel like, as a person of your ethnicity, you are able to get involved, to be, you know, empowered? What happens here?" And he's like, you know, "I do feel that, generally speaking.

" But yet, he's also said that, you know, he--in our society, I've listened to my friends who are african-American. And they tell me, you know, "it's not easy sometimes." And I don't experience that, but I think that we need to try to feel what other people feel and try to understand this. So we're going back to this other story, Luke 7, very interesting topic. The Bible deals with this issue, it's not quiet about this, I don't think we should be either. And this one is interesting, because it's about a person who was supposed to, again, be very--yeah, he wasn't the type of guy that you would assume would be into Jesus.

Luke 7, it's about the centurion and let's see, should we read all the verses? Let read a few of them here. Let's read verse one. I was reading through this with some kids over at saa and these guys can get stuff out of these verses that's amazing. It says, "when he had completed all his discourse and the hearing of the people, he went to capernaum." Verse two, "and a centurion slave who was highly regarded by him was sick and about to die. And when he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders asking him to come and save the life of his slave.

" So far, what can we learn about the centurion? He's caring. This is his slave, this is his servant. We won't talk about slavery and, you know, that kind of stuff right now. But the fact that he cared about him--in roman society slaves were just, they were bartered like cows, honestly, like cattle. I was just reading, edward gibbons, he talks about the history of slavery in the roman empire.

And so this guy, he valued this person though, as a person. At least to some extent it seems like, right? And he was about to die, and so what does he do? He goes, he sends some Jewish elders to Jesus. Now, verse 4, "when they came to Jesus they earnestly implored him saying, 'he is worthy for you to grant him--this to him. For he loves our nation and it is he who has built us our synagogue.'" How did the Jewish leaders regard reasons why Jesus should heal someone? They thought you had to earn it, right? They thought, hey, you know, it's gotta be that if you're at a certain point in your life where you're holy enough then Jesus will come and heal you. They had it all wrong, right? And of course, the centurion, we're gonna find out later did not view himself that way.

And so the Bible says Jesus started on his way to the man's house. The man finds out Jesus is coming and he sends out another delegation to stop Jesus. And look what it says in verse 6, the latter part. It says, "Lord, do not trouble yourself further for I am not worthy for you to even come under my roof. And for this reason I do not even consider myself worthy to come to you, but just say the word and my servant will be healed.

I also am a man placed under authority with soldiers under me and I say to this one, go, and he goes; and to another come, and he comes; and to my slave do this, and he does it. And when Jesus heard this, he marveled at him and he turned and he said to the crowd that was following him, 'I say to you, not even among my people, Israel, the church, the holy ones, the ones who are supposed to have it all together, not even in that group have I found such great faith.'" And there were others, weren't there? There were others just like the centurion who were people who put God first, people in the society outside of the Jewish nation who were honest in heart. We're gonna read this other story, let's read acts 11, who has that? Verses 1-3, you have that, birdie, okay? "The apostles and the brothers throughout Judea heard that the gentiles also had received the Word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, 'you went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.'" Okay, now, who was in the majority of the Christian church at this time? We're fast-forwarding from the time of Christ. Let's, let me just back up a little bit.

First of all, the twelve apostles were all Jewish, or were there gentiles mixed in there? They were all circumcised, full-fledged jews, isn't that right? Okay. So, Jesus starts his church with a bunch of Jewish guys, they had a lot of prejudices, right? They were very, they felt very exclusive in a lot of ways. After Jesus leaves, things start to happen. Some of these people on the day of pentecost, who came to Jerusalem were from other countries. They were people who had probably converted to judaism, though right? They were proselytes.

And yet pretty soon as the disciples were dispersed from persecution, things began to happen. We're gonna talk about a really amazing story in just a minute, it happened in antioch. That's the next thing we're gonna talk about, though, in a couple of minutes here. That was just incredible. But one of the first things that happened here was Peter going to visit with cornelius.

And at this point, the church was largely composed of, in fact, it was exclusively composed of jews; they were the majority. And they find out that Peter has broken one of the cultural and religious taboos of the day. He not only associated with a gentile, but he went to his house, he went under his roof, he defiled himself. We're gonna find out later, if you were to read the book of Galatians, you can see that Peter later on kind of waffled on this issue, we could say. He caved into social expectations.

You can read Galatians 2. In fact, let's look at that really quick, keep your finger in acts there. Galatians 2 tells the story about how Paul actually rebuked Peter one time, because there was a certain gathering. Galatians 2:11, there was a certain gathering and Peter apparently decided that he was not sure what to do and so he sided with the people of the circumcision and decided to separate himself, distance himself from the gentiles who were there. Look what verse 11 says, "but when cephas came to antioch," cephas is Peter, "I opposed him to his face because he stood condemned.

For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the gentiles. But when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision." Do you see how strong these prejudices were? You see how engrained they were in those early believers. They--it was like, it was a bad thing to associate with gentile believers. And even Peter, after all these years, this was many years later, he caved in to social pressure. And he decided to separate himself from the gentile believers.

And so the early Christian church had a struggle, there was a great struggle that went on for a while. We're gonna, we can read more about what happened, and we're going to in just a second. But I wanna ask a question, first of all. How can we as Christians today, be free from letting any cultural, educational, or social influences, contrary to the principles of Christ, okay, hinder us from living to the fullest our profession as Christians? How can we do that? Think about that. What's that? Learn more about others.

I like that, in other words, not--yeah, try to see things from their perspective, maybe. Isn't that true, you know, oftentimes I find that when, I think we can all identify with this. When I'm thinking that someone else is in the wrong or I've heard something about someone that makes me kind of wonder about them. If I go over and get to know that person and try to look at things from their perspective, oftentimes my viewpoint changes a little bit, right? It helps. And I think if we can do that in this area as well, to try to understand other people.

I appreciate what you're saying there. All right, let's go to Tuesday's lesson. We're gonna read, Matthew 15, there's a story there. This is a classic story of how Jesus broke down prejudice among his own disciples. Very, very, intriguing story.

Matthew 15:21. It says, "Jesus went away from there and withdrew into the district of tyre and sidon." Now, we could say, "well, Jesus went there because he was tired of being around the jews who were constantly trying to trap him and do all these things." That's probably one reason why he went. But I think another reason could be that he knew what was going to happen next. Look at verse 22, "and a canaanite woman from that region came out and began to cry out saying, 'have mercy on me, Lord, son of David. My daughter is cruelly demon possessed.

'" Verse 23, "but he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and implored him saying, 'Jesus, send her away because she keeps shouting at us.'" So, verse 24, he answered and said, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And she came and began to bow down before him and say--said again, 'Lord, help me.' And he answered and said, 'it is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.' But she said, 'yes, Lord, but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their master's table.' And then Jesus said to her, 'oh, woman, your faith is great, it shall be done for you as you wish.' And her daughter was healed at once." First of call, how did this woman know to call Jesus, The Son of David? I mean, this is a pagan woman, lives a long ways away from Jerusalem and the Israelites. But apparently she had some knowledge about the messianic prophecies, right? She had some knowledge about the true religion. And so she applied this term, this name to Jesus, she calls him son of David.

She knew about Jesus, she been watching, listening to the news, reading the newspapers or whatever. And she said, "this guy, something's goin' on here." Jesus, verse 23, first of all, he does something, what does he do? What does it say? Help me out here, what does he do? Nothing. What do you call that? How many of you like to be ignored? Isn't being ignored one of the most--that hurts the most, doesn't it? Someone ignores you, someone says, "I'm not even gonna pay attention to you, you don't exist." That's worse than someone gettin' in your face and yellin' at you, right? And so Jesus ignores her. And what happens next? The disciples say, "oh, look it, Jesus--ah's finally comin' around here, this is great." And so they think, you know, Jesus must be trying to get rid of this lady, we're gonna help him out here. Jesus come on, just tell her to leave, okay? You're already ignoring her, this is great.

And Jesus keeps playing along with this. Verse 24, "and he answered and said, that's right, I was only sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, not this gentile dog." But the lady wasn't gonna give up. Whether it was because she knew this was her only hope, maybe that was the reason. Maybe it was because she thought, you know, this isn't the real Jesus, I've heard other things about him, I don't think this is really him. Something's going on here.

So she persists, she keeps going. Or maybe it was because in His Words, Jesus gave her some unspoken hope that we can't quite get from just reading it here. Maybe it was his mannerisms, maybe it was his tone of voice that--she said, "oh, but he's not saying to me to leave," something gave her hope. And so the lady keeps persisting. And the story goes that she begins to reason with him and she says, "Jesus help me.

" And he answers and says, "listen, it's not good to give the children's bread--" children being the Israelites, "to dogs." "Yes, Lord," she said, "but even the dogs feed on the crumbs. Give me some crumbs, Jesus." And of course, we know that I think you may have read the lesson, it brings out that Jesus used a different word here when he said the term, dog, then was usually applied to gentiles by the jews. But even then, I think that Jesus as he dialogued with this lady, is testing her faith. He's also showing the disciples how ridiculous their prejudices were, how wrong they were to withhold from this woman what she as a child of God, rightly deserved. And so Jesus, of course, rewards her faith and her daughter was immediately healed.

I think Jesus wanted to show that lady that he was her Messiah as well. Don't you? And so we're gonna skip on now, we're gonna go down to Thursday's lesson. We're gonna talk about the antioch church, because I want to finish up today talking about this incredible story. Let's go to acts 11, I've got someone out there with the Bible verse, acts 11, I think, is it you elisabeth? Okay, chapter 11:19-21, elisabeth. "Those who would scatter after the persecution that arose over stephen travel as far as venetia, cypress, and antioch preaching the word of no one but the jews only.

But some of them were men from cypress and cyrene who when they had come to antioch and spoke to the hEllenites, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them and a great number believed and turned to the Lord." Wow. So, here's what's happening, we've got a bunch of Jewish people who are very, again, exclusive in their idea of God. But these people, something's happened to them, they have been converted by Jesus. Isn't that right? And they saw, when Jesus was on this earth, that he was a little bit different in relation to all these gentile people.

So, when they go, the Bible says, "they're scattered by persecution, they go and they come to antioch and they don't just speak to the jews, they start preaching to these gentiles, as well." And the gentiles had never heard anything like this. And they're so amazed, they're so just--the privilege is so great that they begin to believe, it says, "in large Numbers." Wow. Let's keep going on. Verse 22, the news about them finally reached the ears of the church of Jerusalem. And they send barnabas off to antioch.

Barnabas, remember, The Son of consolation, he was a good man. The Bible says, actually the next verse he says he was a good man, actually. Okay, well, verse 23, "then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with a resolute heart to remain true to the Lord, for he was a good man and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And again, considerable Numbers were brought to the Lord." We can assume these were gentile people, as well, who were the considerable Numbers referred to here. Verse 25, "finally, he leaves for tarsus and he goes to find Saul, who later we know as Paul.

To bring him back to antioch." Look what happens here in verse 26, half way through the verse. And it says, "and for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable Numbers. And the disciples were first called Christians in antioch." All right, this lesson we've been talking today is about, ethnicity and what? Discipleship, right? We haven't talked a lot about discipleship yet, but I'm gonna refer to that here for a moment, just kind of touch on that. Notice that they met for an entire year and they taught the disciples. Later, we're gonna find out in acts 13 that this church sent out missionaries.

So, notice a discipling church teaches their members and then sends out missionaries, right? A discipling church produces more people to go out and start more churches. Another thing that's interesting to notice in antioch is that there was ethnic unity, we could say, in antioch. Notice, of course, with the gentiles, the Greeks were a large part of the church there. If you go to acts 13, notice this, this is very interesting, verse 1. It says, "now there were at antioch in the church that was there, prophets and teachers.

" It named some of them. Barnabas, we've already read about, he was probably a jew. And simeon who was called niger. And lucius of cyrene and manaen who had been brought up with herod the tetrarch and Saul. As we read about these, we find people of different ethnic origin and even different races mentioned in these verses.

These were leaders of the church in antioch. And so we can see that the ethnicity of the leadership, the diversity was, even there at antioch. Now, in a minute I want to share with you something about how the--some people have concluded why the church was first called Christian at antioch, but we'll talk about that in just a minute. First of all, I wanna talk about antioch itself. It was the third largest city in the roman empire, it was comprised of about half a million people.

A wide cultural mix of people resided there, there were syrians, there were Romans, there were, of course, jews, there were capadocians, parthians, all these different people, armenians. Jews were about one-seventh of the population. And so one of the interesting things that we find here is it says in acts 10 there that it was here at antioch, or chapter 11, that they were first called what? Christians. Very interesting. The article I was referring to earlier is actually a book review in "Christianity today" that came out a couple of years ago.

The book was called "united by faith: the multi-racial congregation as an answer to the problem of race." That's the whole title. And it notes a few things, listen to this. First of all, they believe that jews and gentiles in antioch continued to embrace their culture of origin, but they broke with certain cultural rules that inhibited their ability to live as one in Christ. In other words, they said, "you know, if it's a cultural rule that's not biblical, we're gonna get rid of it. We're not gonna follow that, it's not valid.

" Secondly, and for example, one of the things that they did is they socialized together. That was taboo for many of these groups and for the jews especially. And so, here's what they believe, since the social commentators of the day, the sociologists of antioch, couldn't classify this group of people, these people that followed Christ with any particular culture or race necessarily. You know what they said, "you know what? We've gotta figure out a different category for these people, let's see, let's call them Christians, yeah. That will work.

" Because the Christians, everybody was a part of the Christians, right? Everybody was becoming a Christian. People of different ethnicities and races were becoming followers of Christ. And listen to this, it says, "since they could not be classified according to the categories of either the pagans or the jews, they were both and yet they were neither the one nor the other one alone. They were bound together by a new intimacy and mutual concern that went beyond the normal acceptable behavior within the empire." And so the book I was referring to, it holds the position that, that when possible today we ought to be like the antioch church. Do you agree? We oughta be like the antioch church.

They contend that those of us who claim to follow Christ, today should exhibit the same vision for, and characteristics of, those first Christian communities of faith. Therefore, they write, listen to this, "we even go so far as to say that a Christian by biblical definition is a follower of Jesus Christ whose way of life is racial reconciliation." Hmm, interesting. Now they grant that there are valid exceptions, for example, maybe if there's a language barrier, right? We have certain churches that say, "we're gonna get together because we speak this language." Or the unique circumstances of first-generation immigrants to certain places, right? They say, we've gotta, we wanna be together because of that. Or some localities only have one ethnic group in that area, and so churches are largely composed of those kind of groups. But they say this, "the future of Christianity in the 21st century depends upon practical living examples of authentic reconciling faith.

While multi-racial congregations will never be perfect organization, God's call to reconciliation to the life, death, resurrection, and abiding presence of Jesus Christ, compels us to embrace the challenge of moving toward that goal." And I think I agree with them. So our lesson today has shown us that God is a God who includes all of us as his children; isn't that right? And I think he wants us as his church to look at his children the same way, right? You know, I know that sometimes these things aren't easy. And there's a story I wanna share with you right now, it's actually a story that cory ten boom, you're probably familiar with her, shares about how after the terrible events there of world war ii and the holocaust. After she and her family had been accused and then finally arrested for sheltering jews. How they were arrested and thrown in a concentration camp.

She tells a story about how one day her whole life changed again. She says "it was in a church in munich where I was speaking in 1947 that I saw him, a balding, heavy-set man in a gray overcoat. A brown felt hat clutched between his hands. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat, the next a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and cross bones." Then she says, "the memories of the concentration camp just flooded me, a huge room with this harsh overhead lights, the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor. The shame of walking naked past this man, I could see my sister's frail form ahead of me, her ribs sharp beneath the parchment of skin.

" She says, "betsy and I had been arrested for concealing jews in our home during the nazi occupation of holland. This man had been a guard at ravensbruck concentration camp, where we had been sent. Now, he was in front of me, his hand thrust out. "A fine message frauline, how good it is to know that as you say, 'all our sins are at the bottom of the sea.'" And then she says, "it was the first time I had confronted one of my former captors face-to-face since my release and my blood seemed to freeze." "You mentioned ravensbruck," and I'm probably saying that wrong, "in your talk he was saying. I was a guard there, but since that time I have become a Christian and I know that God has forgiven my sins.

But I would like to hear it from your mouth, frauline, will you forgive me?" She says, "as I stood there, I could not stretch my hand out. Betsy had died at that place, could he erase her slow and painful death simply for the asking. And she says, it couldn't have been more than a few seconds, but to her it just seemed like hours as she wrestled with this most difficult thing." She says, "I had to do it, I knew it. The message that God forgives has a prior condition." And what is it? That we forgive those who have trespassed against us, right? She says, "still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But a forgiveness--forgiveness is an act of the will and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.

" I like that. "'Jesus help me,' I prayed silently, 'I can lift my hand, I can do that much you supply the feeling.' And so, woodenly and mechanically I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, spraying into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.

'I forgive you, brother,' I cried with all my heart. And for a long moment," cory ten boom writes, "we grasped each other's hands, a former guard and a former prisoner. I had never known God's love so intensely as I did then."

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