Jesus also said,
Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover. (Mark 16:15–18)
Why is the Church Losing Ground and not Growing?
So what’s wrong? Why in the time that all Scripture points to the soon coming of the Lord does it seem like we are losing ground, instead of growing? Jesus Himself gives us the reason: “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand” (Mark 3:24). America—and the world, for that matter—is more divided on Sunday morning than any other day of the week. First, we are divided because of denominations. I don’t want to spend too long on this topic because it is not what this chapter is about, but I think it deserves a little attention.
When I first became a Christian, I knew nothing about the different denominations. I remember going to work the day after I received the Lord. I was so excited I told everybody what had happened to me, how the Lord had touched me and changed my life. The Christian lady that I was working for glared at me suspiciously and accusingly snapped at me, “What denomination?” “I don’t know,” I said. “It’s the one with Jesus. That’s all I know.”
You know, none of us are doing it perfectly. The Bible says we are looking through a glass darkly. (See 1 Corinthians 13:12.) We’re all doing the best we can, but not one of us has the Word of God down pat. I know that someday you and I will be walking the streets of gold with Jesus. He’ll put His arm around us and say, “I’m so proud of you, guys. You did so well, but now that I have you here, let Me show you something.”
He’ll open the Word of God, and our eyes will be fully open to His revelation. He will point out something that I thought for sure I knew, and I’ll say, “Wow, Lord, I wasn’t even close on that one, was I?” He’ll say, “No, but you did the best you could.”
It’s Time for the Church to be in Unity as the Body of Christ
We will all, every one of us, be like that. There are more of “us,” than there are of “them,” but we are being defeated because of division. Do we agree that Jesus is the Son of God, that He died for our sins, that He rose again, and that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved? Then we are family. The rest we can learn as we go.
Whatever denomination you are with, you ought to be proud of being with that denomination. But if by being with a certain denomination, it separates us from the rest of the body of Christ, we ought to be ashamed. “A kingdom divided against itself shall not stand.” Let’s break the curse of division that comes through denominational separation.
But let’s get on with what this chapter is really all about, and that is the curse that plagues our churches every week: racism. Let’s take a look at what God’s Word teaches us in John 13:
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34–35)
There are a few very important things to notice here. First, Jesus said this is a commandment. Love one another. It’s not merely a suggestion or a good idea; this is a commandment.
Then Jesus said something that ought to touch all of our hearts. “By this all will know that you are My disciples.” Not by a cross on our churches or around our necks. Not by a Bible in our hands or the bumper stickers on our cars. The world should recognize that we are the children of God by the love we have one for each other.
I like to say it this way: “They, out there, will know we, in here, belong to Him, up there, by only one thing: we have real love for each other.” It doesn’t matter if we are black, white, brown, pinstriped, or polka-dotted. We are family—brothers and sisters. And God says to love one another.
Our Greatest Mission is to Love One Another
If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. (John 15:7–12)
Do you see the word “if” in verse 7? It means God is giving us a condition. Not for our salvation: that’s free. We are saved by grace, but if we want to see God’s power and blessing in our lives, there are some conditions that we must meet. The Lord is asking right here, “What do you desire? What needs do you have? I will give you every desire ‘if…’ On the condition that you do what I have commanded you to do. Love one another.” Jesus went on to say, “My Father loved Me. Because of that, I love you. Now, love each other.”
Verse 10 says, “If you keep My commandments, you will live in My love.” There’s that pesky little if word again. To be forgiven had nothing to do with us. Jesus paid the price in full. “By grace, not by works.” But now He commands us to love one another. “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (verse 12). I think the Lord is trying to say something to us.
What is the Key to the Outpouring of God’s Power?
Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:35–40)
This man came to Jesus and asked Him, “Rabbi, what’s the greatest commandment in all of God’s laws? Is it not to lie or not to steal? Just what is the greatest law God has given us?” The answer that Jesus gave was a Jewish one. In Hebrew it’s called the Shema:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:4–5)
This is possibly the most important prayer that a Jewish man can pray. “Hear, O Israel. (Listen, all of God’s children.) The Lord is our God. He is your God; love Him with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.” Had Jesus stopped there, they would not have been able to argue with Him. They would have found no fault. But Jesus went on:
And the second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.
You Can’t Love God and Hate Someone Else
Jesus was saying that it’s not enough to say “I love God.” To love your neighbor as yourself is just as important. In fact, if we say we love God and don’t love our neighbors, the Bible has something to say about it:
If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also. (1 John 4:20–21, emphasis added)
The word liar is awfully strong, but I want to bring a breakthrough right here. In 1 John 2:4, we find the word liar again. “He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (emphasis added)
It says here that if we do not keep His commandments, we are liars and the truth is not in us. What commandments? Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.
“On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:40). In these two statements, all the commandments are fulfilled.
“Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31–32)
Love and Truth Keep Us Going in the Right Direction
Once again, Jesus used the word if. If we live in His Word, then we are His disciples. Jesus gave a lot of words, but He summed them all up with loving God and loving your neigh- bor. If you love God and your neighbor, “you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
Notice the word truth. It’s not just the truth that sets you free, but the truth you know and understand. I believe that if we don’t love one another, no matter what the color of our skin is, the truth of God’s Word that comes to set us free cannot be in us.
Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. (1 John 2:3–6)
Racism is a Curse that is Blocking God’s Blessings
In Hosea 4:6, it says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” Our division, our separation from each other, especially because of race, is not only bringing curses on us, but is also preventing the blessing from being released.
We have available to us the Spirit of all Truth. Jesus promised He would lead us and guide us. God has given us the knowledge for everything we need: to build His kingdom, to raise our children, for business, for healing, etc. It’s all right here waiting, but that truth cannot get in us if we don’t love one another. God wants to personally lead us, to guide us to all His power and blessing, but we can’t hear His voice or receive His direction—His truth is not in us—until we love one another.
In a town where Tiz and I used to pastor, there was another pastor who was really against people having mixed marriages. Everybody knew that if a mixed couple walked into his church, he would somehow put into his sermon that God didn’t want people of different colors to be together. He would even throw in Scriptures like, “What communion has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14).
What is the Cause Behind the Curse of Racism?
Can you believe that? Once again I am not trying to be hard, but remember, “A curse without a cause shall not come” (Proverbs 26:2). There cannot be a bigger curse than someone thinking he is better or worse than someone else because of the color of his skin.
I know that what I’m teaching here is a very sensitive subject, but when God told me to teach on the ten curses that are blocking the blessing, this is one of the first curses He spoke to me about.
In every church Tiz and I have pastored, we have made it a point that we would have a multiracial church. In Santa Fe, New Mexico, we met a couple and invited them to church. When they walked in, you could see this look on their faces. At that time, almost thirty years ago, our church was about 95 percent Hispanic, 4 percent American Indian, and, well, my family. This couple said to us, “Your church is Hispanic. It’s just not done here.” I said, “Well, it is now.”
We faced the same thing when we moved to Australia. Once again, it was many years ago, and things have changed, but it upset people when we began to bring Aboriginal people into the church. I say this with all the love of God in my heart: It does not matter whether you are black, white, Hispanic, Asian, or any other color or ethnicity. God made you, and you’re perfect in His sight.
Don’t Let Racism Stop God’s Blessings in the Last Days
When we were pastoring our second church in Australia, I saw a commercial on TV that I thought was great. It showed a little white girl on a swing. As she was playing, a little Island girl walked by, then an Asian child, then a small black child, etc. After six or seven different children walked by, you saw her take her mother’s hand, and as they started walking, she looked up and asked, “Mom, what color is Jesus?” “Honey,” her mom replied, “Jesus is the light of the world, and pure light is made up of every color in the rainbow.”
Why can’t we break the curse of racism? I saw a special on TV where they interviewed an old white man who had preached many years ago with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This was a secular show, not a religious one. They asked him about racism in America today, and this is what he said: “We have a long way to go, but we have made great progress everywhere. Everywhere except the church.” I want you to listen to what this man said.
Remember, this wasn’t a Christian program. This was a secular program, and he was making a statement of fact. As far as racism goes, we have made great progress, everywhere except the church. Once again, let me say that America is more racially divided on Sunday morning than it is Monday morning. How can this be? The church, God’s family, ought to be the first place we love one another, not the last.
I believe that God is about to pour out His Spirit as never before. God’s Word says He is. The gifts of the Spirit will be revealed through the whole body of Christ. Isn’t it going to be wonderful when God confirms His Word with signs and wonders? Would you like God to use you in this end-time outpouring? Have you ever prayed for the gifts of the Spirit? What if the Lord wanted to give you the gifts of healing, the gift of prophecy, or maybe the gift of miracles?
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing….And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:1–2, 13)
Live in Love Toward God and Others Every Day
It’s so simple. The key to God’s power in our lives is two things: love God and love each other. I want to ask you to come into agreement with me right now. Let’s kill the curse of racism by destroying it at its roots. Remember they will know you are My disciples by one thing: you love one another.
Father, we come to You right now, in the name of Jesus. We break every curse that comes on us as the body of Christ through racism and anti-Semitism. We break the curse of our spiritual fathers that has come to block the blessing of God from our lives and our churches. We ask Your forgiveness for their behavior, and we break every curse that may be on us for our own prejudice. Father, we repent. Now, we claim by the name and by the blood of Jesus that we remove the curse and release the blessing. Jesus said, “They will know you are My disciples by this one thing—you have love one for another.”