Our Inadequacy and Christ’s Sufficiency

How do you handle feeling inadequate? Recently, someone asked me this question in reference to my clinical practice. But I have recently become a parent, which has revealed my insufficiency. I can’t distinguish her screams. I can’t get her to sleep when I want her to. I don’t know what is wrong with her sometimes. I feel inadequate.   

It is antithetical to our sinful nature to admit our inadequacies. According to Elliot Aronson, our brain labors to convince us our actions are right, despite contrary evidence. In the words of Paul Tripp, we have an “inner defense lawyer.” Our inner defense lawyer argues for our competency. Before the judge of life, it offers various excuses as to why we are sufficient.  Although, that is not what the Bible says.

Sinful Inadequacy

Russell Moore was asked by Anderson Cooper about a tweet in which he was called “a nasty guy with no heart.” Moore said he agreed with the tweet and “we sing worse things about ourselves on Sunday mornings. Our hymns contain harsh language about us, which aligns with Scripture. We are born in sin and by nature, we are children of wrath (Psalm 51:5; Ephesians 2:3). We are unrighteous and our righteous deeds are like filthy rags (Romans 3:10-11; Isaiah 64:6). Our hearts are deceitful and desperately sick (Jeremiah 17:9). Evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, and adulteries are within our hearts (Mark7:21). Sin touches every word, deed, and thought. Sin makes us inadequate.

Christ Is Sufficient

Nothing is outside the power of Jesus Christ. Christ created everything and he upholds it (Colossians 1:15-17). The Lord has the power to change hearts (Proverbs 21:1).

In other words, “He’s got the whole world in his hands.” Nobody has the power to stay his hand (Daniel 4:35).  In him, there is no darkness or trace of sin (1 John 1:5). He is perfectly pure. He has no equal. His power knows no end. Sin and Satan are subject to him. Christ is sufficient.

Look to Jesus

We lack the ability to have completely pure motives. Sin contaminates every aspect of us. It makes our service, worship, and work impure. Compared to Christ we are inadequate. Apart from Christ, we can literally do nothing (John 15:5). This is our reality until Christ comes or we go to meet him.

Let your impotent state cause you to look to Christ. Jesus sanctifies every aspect of us. He makes our impure service, worship, and work pleasing to the Father. Whenever you see your inadequacy gaze at the sufficiency of Christ. Robert Murray McCheyne says “For every look at self—take ten looks at Christ!” How do I handle feeling inadequate? I embrace it and let it lead me to gaze upon Christ.

I don’t have the power to sway the hearts of men, but Jesus does. My words don’t hold the power to save, but His word does. I am powerless on my own, but he is almighty. My intelligence has its limits, but he knows all. Beloved, don’t trust yourself. We are weak, foolish men. Trust in Jesus with all your heart (Proverbs 3:5).  Trust God is more than enough even in your inadequacy and He always will be.

10 Reasons Why The Southern Baptist Convention Is Stained By Racism

Jones, K., & Williams, J. J. (2017). Removing The Stain of Racism From The Southern Baptist Convention: Diverse African American and White Perspectives. Broad & Holman

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My thankfulness for the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is difficult to express. If I were to attempt to verbalize it I would exhaust my vocabulary. A Southern Baptist collegiate ministry was instrumental in my salvation. God allowed me to be a part of various mission trips sponsored by Southern Baptists. My theological education has been at a Southern Baptist seminary. I have work for collegiate ministries sponsored by the Southern Baptist Convention. I love the universal church, but the Southern Baptist tribe has a special place in my heart.

But I love the SBC enough, to tell the truth about it. Our convention is stained by racism. The stained has affected every entity of the SBC. Jarvis Williams, Kevin Jones, and the other contributors give multiple reasons why the stain persists, but I will only mention ten.

1) Insufficient Follow-Up

 “Since the formation of the SBC in 1845, the denomination’s leaders have passed thirty-one resolutions on race. Each one resulted from a growing realization that things were not right.”

Craig Mitchell (62)

2) Divorcing History

 “But I am convinced we need to make sure we allow the ghost of our racist forebears to haunt us. We need to be reminded often that we are no different from them and that we are just as susceptible to hatred, pride, and wickedness apart from the mercy of God.”

Dr. Matthew Hall (14)

3) Intellectual Racism

“Among the most significant instances of racial disparity in South Baptist life is intellectual racism”

Dr. Jarvis Williams (19)

“Black and Brown scholarship is either dismissed or ignored in many colleges universities and seminaries”

Dr. Jarvis Williams (20)

4) Inferior Theological Development

“Formal theology has been disproportionately conducted by white men and the context of their theology affirms has become standardized”

Walter Strickland II (55)

“Superior theological development results for the diverse collective of the church (across age, genders, races, and cultures) rather than from individual or believers  isolated in their cultural context.”

Walter Strickland II (58)

5) Inadequate Pastoral Guidance

“Regarding the particular sin of racism, at least three consideration are relevant to preachers and pastors: their personal relationships, their understanding of leading from the pulpit, and their understanding of what repentance looks like in their particular context”

Dr. Kevin Smith (74)

6) Prayers for Revival But Not Reconciliation

“Our prayers for revival must include prayers for reconciliation in our denomination. However, prayer is not enough! We must pray and act. If when we rise from our knees God gives us hearts to love all races in our denomination, then we will see revival”

Mark A. Croston Sr. (87)

7) Minority Access to Education

“If Southern Baptist churches cooperate cross-racially to enhance ethnic minorities’ access to education, then we can make the stain less apparent”

 Dr. Kevin Jones  (92).

“Yet many of those same seminaries, especially Southern Baptist seminaries, often have failed to recruit and retain minorities”

Dr. Kevin Jones (91)

8) Mediocre News

“The gospel inherently entails reconciliation. So-called gospel publishing that neglects illustrating this unity in diversity may well not qualify as “good news” publishing, for it publishes only mediocre news”

Toby Jennings (109)

9) Whitewashed Teachings

“the SBC has historically neglected and still neglects to teach about people of color–including African/blacks–who played significant roles in the Old and New Testament, many Southern Baptists view biblical characters as being white, including Jesus.”

W. Dwight McKissic Sr. (133)

10) Indifferent Racism

“What you often find is not an active aggressive racism so much as a passive and indifferent racism. I gather with my tribe, and of course my tribe tends to look a whole like me. People of different ethnicities are certainly welcome to join us on our terms, adapting to our context and way of doing things. However, don’t expect us to change. Change is the responsibility of the others.”

Dr. Daniel Akin (138-139)

Confessions of A Black Seminarian Pt 3: Letter to Black Seminarians

Dear Black Seminary Student, 

God has used you to encourage my soul. I remember so many moments where we discussed our shared experience. You come from various places, but God has allowed us to connect. Your stories have been inspiring and saddening.

I remember the time you told me your child was a victim of discrimination on campus. You have been disrespected in class for telling about the about the African-American perspective. I was there when they misrepresented you. I know how you feel when people call you an Oreo because you do not fit a stereotype.

I understand the burden of having to be bicultural to survive. It is tiresome, feeling like you to have to know about the dominant culture and your own to succeed. I know how hard it is to learn about another culture while trying to hang on to your own.

You have told me about your frustrations. You are in a white space and it is obvious. All your professors are white. The preachers in chapel services are white. The scholars are white. The administration is white. Most of the people in your class are white. You wonder most days “Where the brothers at?”  It causes you to wonder “Who represents you here?” You expressed to me how saddened you are we don’t have more diversity. It is easy to seat back, do your work, be quiet, and get through your degree.

I know it is difficult but, don’t lose heart. Don’t give up on our brothers and sisters from the dominant culture. Don’t give up on the seminary. They need you. Do you remember the time you explained the difference between diversity and multiculturalism? Your classmates needed to hear that. What about the time you discussed pro-life vs anti-abortion? You stated pro-life must include black people killed on the streets. Or what about the time you helped your classmates view the black church rightly? Your voice is essential. Remaining silent denies the seminary the privilege of knowing you and your culture.
Brothers, there are so many people who are part of the seminary community who long to hear your voice. They want to know what you think so they may love their neighbor rightly. They are wrestling with ideas about Black Lives Matter, Racial Reconciliation, and cultural differences too. Several of them might call you a heretic, race-baiter, or black nationalist. In those moments remember “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1)  and “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice” (Proverbs 12:15).
Beloved, it is tough being a minority here, but we must stay because Jesus prayed that we might be one (John 17:11). The ability to become one is a product of the gospel (Ephesians 2:11-22).  Becoming one requires growing pains look at the early church in Rome of Ephesus. Our oneness will not come if we chose to retreat to mono-ethnic settings. We can’t complain that 11 am is the most segregated hour if we are not willing to sit a few minutes in another culture’s classroom or pew.

May Grace and Peace Be Multiplied to You,

Your Fellow Classmate

 

Confessions of A Black Seminarian Part 1: Letter to Seminary Professors

Dear Seminary Professor,

The Lord has used you to sanctify me and enhance my ministry. Thank you for introducing me to Augustine and Justin Martyr. Thank you for teaching me how to do a sermon outline. Thank you for challenging me to survey the whole counsel of God. I am grateful for the work that you do.

But I confess your syllabus is offensive to me. Your syllabus leaves scholars of color outside the gates. It’s segregated. I have listened to your lectures on the Reformation to Modern church history. I did all the assigned reading and book reviews. Where were the faithful African-American believers? 

You taught be about the preaching of Adrian Rogers, Billy Graham, and Joel Gregory. But you left out the prophetic voices from the black church like E.K. Bailey, E.V. Hill, and Gardner C. Taylor. I learned about William Carey and Adoniram Judson from you. You told me they were the first international missionaries. But you excluded George Lisle, an emancipated slave, who went to Jamaica.

You advanced my knowledge of the Old Testament and the New Testament in your classes. So is there a text that allows you to continue to make African-Americans feel like Gentiles? Paul in Galatians 2:11-14 stood up and rebuked Peter for his racism. Stand up and rebuke prominent Christain figures for statements like this:

As for the lawfulness of keeping slaves, I have no doubt. … It is plain to a demonstration, that hot countries cannot be cultivated without Negroes. What a flourishing country might Georgia have been, had the use of them been permitted years ago? How many white people have been destroyed for want of them, and how many thousands of pounds spent to no purpose at all?

(George Whitefield)

Keep in the step with the truth of the gospel. Stand up for us in your classroom like Paul. The other option is to do what’s acceptable by the majority like Peter.

You taught me about the Southern Baptist Convention in Baptist Heritage. Our forefathers had strong convictions about holding slaves. They believed in white supremacy. Your classroom could be breeding more white supremacists. You must take action. Teach your students about scholars of color and the value of the black church. Without action, they will continue to believe you have to be white to be right.

I am hurt. I sit in class after class feeling like a Gentile. You want me to conform to your laws and practices for an “A”. You want me to leave my culture and history outside the door of your classroom to be perceived as intellectual. I confess I have sat quietly in your classroom, but I won’t any longer.

The theology of the civil rights moment is relevant in church history. The discussion of racism is part of the doctrine of sin. Proclaiming the bible is not limited to one culture’s way of preaching. Racial reconciliation and social justice deserve a lecture in your ethics class.

Your instruction will influence future pastors and denominational leaders. I beg you don’t leave my people out of your syllabus. Let your students know how diverse the church is. I plead with you, let your students know about the real black church. T.D. Jakes, Creflo Dollar, and James Cone don’t represent the black church.

Teach them about faithful believers of color. Use your instruction to bridge the racial divide in the church. Integrate your curriculum. A segregated syllabus creates divided seminary students. Divided seminary students will lead divided churches.

Sincerely,

A concerned Seminary Student

Supplemental Resources:

5 WAYS CHRISTIAN INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER EDUCATION CAN AVOID WHITE SUPREMACY

ARE ETHNIC MINORITIES EMOTIONALLY SAFE IN WHITE CHRISTIAN SPACES?

RACISM AND ELITISM IN HIGHER EDUCATION

For the City: Race, urban ministry, and cultural engagement

 Feel free to share your thoughts…..

Why We Can’t Wait and Walter Scott

Martin Luther King Jr.’s  “Why We Can’t Waitstill speaks to the postcivil rights black community. Racist signs in the windows have come down, but there are still places we are not welcome. The dogs and the hoses aren’t that popular anymore. We don’t fear those in white sheets as much as we fear those with blue uniforms.

Walter Scott’s death is one of numerous of unarmed black males killed by the police. The case of his shooting ended with the judge declaring it a mistrial. Another life is gone, and no one held liable.  How do King’s words speak to us today?

Waiting

People frequently say in cases like Scott’s we must wait for the details. King writes:

when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair.”

Nobodiness” is why the Black Lives Matter movement exists because we feel as if our people are nobodies. We are dying in the streets while the shooters walk away unscathed. For example, in New Orleans Joe McKnight died in the streets. The shooter spent 24 hours in jail,  released, and then charged. Mcknight’s  life appeared not to be worth over 24 hours in jail.  It was as if he didn’t murder a brother, uncle, or cousin. It is as if he murdered a nobody. King also writes:  “Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say “Wait.”” It is easy to saywait” when you and your people are not being attacked.

Silence Makes A Statement

The ultimate tragedy of Birmingham was not the brutality of the bad people, but the silence of good people” (MLK)

Throughout history, numerous churches have been quiet about racial issues. Their pro-life statements didn’t extend to the black males shot in their cities. Educational and economic racial disparities weren’t discussed in their mission strategies. Mission organizations learned enough to empathize with those in Africa but not those across tracks. The same is often true now. Silence says these are not my concerns. Silence implies I will let someone else talk about that. Silence means I don’t care. Shame on us if we are silent when our brother and sisters need our voices. We must repent of the silence of Christians.

“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the  good people.” (MLK)

Responding

It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city‘s white power structure left the Negro with no alternative” (MLK)

What are our options to responding to racial matters? How should we respond Scott’s mistrial or injustice?  King acknowledges we don’t have that many options that get the majority to listen. Colin Kaepernick kneels during the national anthem. Bilal Powell wears cleats about gun violence. Beyonce performs “Formation” at the Superbowl These are examples of utilizing our options. This is why you have the Black Lives Matter non-violent protest. Trevor Noah  asks, “What is the right way?

People kneel during the anthem and they are told to leave the country. They protest and they are whiners. What are the right methods?

I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens’ Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the presence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct actions”; who is paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time  and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.”

Solutions

“Solutions to the complex plight of the Negro will not be easy. This does not signify that they are impossible.” (MLK)

The issues that African-Americans face are difficult to solve, but they are not hopeless. There is not a 3-step process to fix America overnight.  Finding solutions begins with awareness, confession, and action.

It is impossible to create a formula for the future which does not take into account that our society has been doing something special against the Negro for hundreds of years. How then can he be absorbed into the mainstreams of American life if we do not do something special for him now, in order to balance the equation and equip him to compete on a just and equal basis?” (MLK)

 BUT GOD

“God’s companionship does not stop at the door of the jail cell.” (MLK)

    African-Americans have a history of oppression. We have been a people who have depended on God to deliver us from oppression. The slaves believed God would free them. Those under the yoke of Jim crow believed God would bring justice. They never believed God left them during the beatings, hoses, verbal abuse, and injustice.   God didn’t leave King when he was sitting in solitary confinement. Immanuel was still with him.

God is still with us. This why Judy Scott confidently proclaims the power of God in light of her son’s mistrial. God’s companionship has not left us in injustice. We should remember God’s presence and role in the fight for justice.

Lord, If You Had Been There

where-are-you-now

In John’s gospel in reference to the death of Lazarus, these words are written.

Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you would have been here my brother would not have died.” John 11:21

Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him she fell at his feet, saying to him “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.” John 11:32

I remember sitting in a church service after a tragic incident had happen and heard “God had nothing to do with that.”  If the preacher had looked me in the eye when he said that statement he might have seen the look on my face that displayed my thoughts of “That ain’t right.” At that point in my life, I was a theological Nazi and I thought Jesus made me a missionary to those in theological poverty. As I have gotten older I realized that I have had my moments where I believed “God had nothing to do with that.” I never uttered the exact words but my actions on occasion would reveal this was my belief.

Many times I believe it is easier to say God was not there in a tragic event than to explain how he was watching when it happened. We live in a sinful world that is full of the sinful men. If you are having trouble believing how terrible this world is STOP READING right now and turn on the news. Believers must either decide that God takes breaks while sin takes action or that God is watching while the effects of sin affect this world. However, I found myself number of times in my walk when sin seemed more present in my environment. They resulted in me asking God, where are you? The cries of my heart echoed that of Mary and Martha “Lord, if you had of been there.” Mary and Martha were saying Jesus if you had of been with us longer our brother would still be alive. They were saying Jesus if you had been here things would be better than they are now. So how do we answer the question of where is God when the results of sins seems like more of a reality then he is? I would just like to share what I have learned.

My Answer

I answer the question with Exodus 2:24-25:

“And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.”

I heard a sermon by Voddie Baucham explaining this passage and the Lord rearranged my theology through his sermon. God does not leave or take breaks while sin seems to run rapid. God hears! God Remembers! God sees!  God Knows! This is good news because if the opposite is true then there is reason to be depressed. If the opposite is true then God turns his head for moments in time while evil runs amok. I don’t know about you but if God takes breaks then the fear of knowing that would scare me more than snail in a salt mine. However, I thank God that HE IS EVERYWHERE AT ALL TIMES.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones rightly said:

“This is the fundamental thing, the most serious thing of all, that we are always in the presence of God.”

We can never say God was not there.

Where can I go to escape Your Spirit?
Where can I flee from Your presence?
 If I go up to heaven, You are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, You are there.

Psalm 139:7-8

 

Justice Will Prevail

justice-of-god-redemptive-history-2

Despite what we pledge to the flag, liberty and justice does not come to all in America or here on earth.  In a recent case, Brock Turner received a six-month sentence in jail for sexual assault charges, which usually results in a minimum sentence of six years.  In the words of the prosecutor, he received a “slap on the wrist sentence.” In contrast, there are individuals who believe Turner’s punishment was more than adequate for the crime.  For example, his father has said “His life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve. That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.” In addition, Aaron Persky, the judge who sentenced Turner, stated “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him. I think he will not be a danger to others Despite the beliefs of his father and the judge, Turner evaded justice.

Partiality in Justice

Growing up I never believed the justice system was fair. I have heard a number of stories of individuals who have received unfair sentences because the judge was partial.  Judge Persky’s refusal to carry out justice was a display of partiality and reminded me of all those stories. His decision in the sentencing was affected by Turner’s “age and lack of a criminal record.”   In addition, Mike Armstrong, the defendants attorney,  felt it necessary to remind the judge that the defendant comes from a “good family”, “with a record of good accomplishments”, and had an “elite and promising swimming career.” These statements lead me to believe partiality was the driving force behind his light sentencing and evasion of justice.

Partiality has no place in justice. The personal attributes of the defendant are irrelevant when it comes to the execution of justice. Whether an individual is young, old, a convicted felon,or first-time offender, they must be given a punishment suitable of the crime. Partiality disguised as justice leaves victims asking the question “Where is justice for me?”

Where is the justice for Turner’s victim? Her life has been forever altered. In a letter read in court, she wrote “I became closed off, angry, self-deprecating, tired, irritable, empty. The isolation at times was unbearable. You (Turner) cannot give me back the life I had before that night either.” The justice system failed to deliver “the liberty and justice for all” that we so often pledge to the flag. She now has to live with scars that were forced on her, while her victimizer goes free with a few bumps.

Justice Will Be Delivered

It saddens me to think about the countless unknown victims whose victimizers escaped justice. When I think of this, a question posed throughout the Bible comes to mind, “How Long Oh Lord?”  How long will victims and criminals be treated unjustly because of their status? How long will leniency and vengeance masquerade as justice? It is almost enough to make you say, “I will take justice into my own hands.” Although, once these thoughts cross my mind I remember the Judge of Judges who will bring complete justice.

Justice Is On Its Way

Despite the complexity and various interpretations of the book, Revelation reminds us God will deliver complete justice. Though the judicial system is ordained to deliver justice, it will fail because it is made up of sinners. Criminals will go unpunished. Judges, attorneys, and prosecutors will fail the victims. As believers, we must not waver in our hope that justice will be served. God has allowed each unjust sentencing, but He also has a sentence that cannot be avoided. Jesus says, “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done” (Revelation 22:12). As the old song goes “he may not come when you want him” but “he will be there right on time.” Victims of any kind can be comforted by the fact that one day God will bring perfect justice; but not just that, He “will wipe away every tear” and there “shall neither be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore” (Revelation 21:4). Justice will come to all, but God will be the one who gives it.

But the character of God is the guarantee that all wrongs will be righted someday; when “the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgement will be revealed” (Roman 2:5) arrives retribution will be exact and no problems of cosmic unfairness will remain to haunt us. God is the judge so justice will be done”

J.I. Packer (Knowing God)

Jesus Took Our Justice

Knowing one day God will come and completely judge our lives is seemingly terrifying because our sin is plentiful. We know arguing our innocence is futile because God sees our depravity. We have earned God’s justice and our accomplishments can’t sway the judge. We should have to endure his wrath. But Jesus (cue organ chords) died on Calvery and took our death sentence. He is the just and the justifier (Romans 3:26). Now we, who deserve the full weight of God’s justice, can live knowing “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

Sources:

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/stanford-university-sexual-assault-former-swimmer-brock-turner-witnesses/

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/in-stanford-university-sex-assault-case-a-tale-of-two-letters/

http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/08/us/aaron-persky-brock-turner-stanford-rape/index.html?eref=rss_latest

http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/timeline-significant-dates-life-brock-turner-39783289