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1 Bible 2(Genesis 1:26-27; John 3:16; Romans 1:7, 16; 3:21-23; 5:12; 1 Corinthians 1:18; 15:3-4)

Romans 1:16-17, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, the just shall live by faith”

Our Theme – “God values all people and expects the church to reach out to the people groups in their neighborhoods and beyond”

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ACCORDING TO A POLL, AS OF NOVEMBER 9, 2015, THE TOP MOST RACIST COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD ARE

(1)        UNITED STATES tops the list by ranking as the most racist country in the world. In our country there is a major discrimination between the whites and blacks. Not just that, even other people who belong to different nationalities, who are migrants and refugees here have to face inequality in their day to day life. Although our Country is called the land of free and the land of brave, it seems like it is just a saying when it comes to racial comments passed by people here.

(2)        UNITED KINDGOM came in second. Seems like they still live in a superiority complex, as once they ruled the entire world. This country might not come as a surprise for most of us as Britain is not new on the racial discrimination list. Racial riots and discrimination is very common in communities of whites there. They are especially racist towards Desi people who belong from India. Apart from that they also pass a lot of racial comments on Americans, French and Bulgarians.

(3)        AUSTRALIA is the third most racist country in the world. Though Australia doesn’t seem to be one of those countries that can be racist, but apart from Indians, no one else knows the truth. Australia’s majority population consists of a lot of immigrants from different countries. And even after contributing to their GDP, Australians feel that any new person who shifts to Australia to make a living should return to their home countries. Back in the year 2009, a lot of cases were registered wherein many Indians became the target against discrimination. Almost 100 cases were filed back in 2009 and out of that 23 cases were racial contradictions between people.

(4)        RWANDA came in at number four; (5) JAPAN is known to be very liberal and outgoing; however, it still remains one of the most racist countries in the world; (6) GERMANY is regarded as one of the best tourism destination in Europe but long after the reign of Hitler, Germany still remains to be racist country.  (7) ISRAEL is not a new country which has been associated with controversy. As for many years now, a lot of crime has been committed against the people of Palestine and the Israeli Arabs. After the World War 2, many people who belonged here were forced to leave their own land, so that a new state could be formed for the Jews. And since then we can very well feel how Israel treats people who hail from different backgrounds;

(8) PAKISTAN is an Islamic majority country but even today there is a major difference between Shia and Sunni Muslins. A lot of crime and discrimination has been reported between the two.  Apart from their own racial discrimination, Pakistan is also known for its war with neighboring country, India. Apart from that, other races like Africans and Latin Americans are also discriminated here; (9) INDIA is regarded as the land of diversity, but even in diversity lies racialism. With varied cultures, India is considered to be one of the most racist Countries in the world. Even today when a child is born in the India family he/she is taught to worship people who have white skin and is suppose to look down to anyone with dark skin.

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INTRODUCTION

What is the difference between monetary value and sentimental value? Monetary value is what someone is willing to pay for an object. Sentimental value is how deeply a person feels about the object. If I had five people for dinner at my house, could you say that one was more valuable than the other because of what they look like? No one is more valuable than anyone else, particularly based on how they look.

In 1953 Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”  However, many people are still quick to judge others and assign a value to them based on their outward appearance. We call this racism, bigotry, discrimination or intolerance. The Bible doesn’t use the word race in reference to people but it does describe all human beings as being of “one blood”.

This of course emphasizes that we are all related as humans, and are descendants of the first man, Adam, created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26–27). These two verses are God’s answer to racism as they record that God created one man and one woman during the creation week. So every human is a descendant from that first couple, which means everybody is related to each other through Adam.

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ONE RACE, MANY DIFFERENCES

Acts 17:26, “From one man he (God) made every nation of men that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the time set for them and the exact places where they should live.”

While the human race began as two perfect people, eventually Adam and Eve sinned. Their one sin made them sinners by nature. Their children then inherited their sin nature, and everyone born since then is born with a sin nature. Romans 5:12, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.”

Since Eden, sin has affected humanity in dreadful ways. One such way is for a person to think they are better than someone else based on external criteria such as skin color or eye shape. That sin is called racism. Racism appears ridiculous against the background of creation especially when considering that God created in Adam and Eve the genetic makeup that resulted in the wide variety of people groups we see in the world today. Our knowledge of genes is growing every day, and scientists have isolated the ones that are responsible for the distinguishing features of each people group.

The truth is that these so-called “racial characteristics” are only minor variations among people groups. If one were to take any two people anywhere in the world, scientists have found that the basic genetic differences between these two people would typically be around 0.2 percent—even if they came from the same people group. But these so-called “racial” characteristics that people think are major differences (skin color, eye shape, etc.) “account for only 0.012 percent of human biological variation.”

Dr. Harold Page Freeman, Chief Executive, President, and Director of surgery at North General Hospital in Manhattan, restated, “If you ask what percentage of your genes is reflected in your external appearance, the basis by which we talk about race, the answer seems to be in the range of 0.01 percent.” In other words, the so-called “racial” differences are absolutely trivial— overall, there is more variation within any group than there is between one group and another. If a white person is looking for a tissue match for an organ transplant, for instance, the best match may come from a black person, and vice versa. ABC News claims, “What the facts show is that there are differences among us, but they stem from culture, not race.”

We are so quick to condemn atrocities like the Holocaust under the leadership of Hitler. And today, there is in my opinion, a Holocaust in our world today in regards to the decision of Roe v. Wade, and all the babies that have been killed because of that decision by our Supreme Court.  In the age in which we live that isn’t even considered a Holocaust. God looks down with disdain on any racism, even the private racism we might hold in our hearts. Obviously racism has no place in a local church or society. I will add in addition to racism God equally disdains the millions of babies that have been aborted.

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THE CHURCH & RACE – (History of the Church at Rome)

The Apostle Paul wrote to local churches in Rome around AD 57, likely from the city of Corinth. There was a sizable Jewish community residing in Rome at that time. Although we don’t know the details of the founding of the Roman church, Paul made it clear that he didn’t plant it (Romans 1:10-13). The history of the church set it up for problems between Jewish believers and Gentile believers.

The earliest church in Rome was likely a predominantly Jewish fellowship with some Gentiles. In AD 49, the Roman Emperor Claudius passed an edict expelling all Jews from Rome (Acts 18:2). The cause for the expulsion could have been the escalating disagreements between the Christian and non-Christian Jews. Along with the ban came persecution. The persecution and ban weren’t lifted until Claudius died and Nero took control (AD 54). The five-year expulsion was obviously and extraordinary event that changed the course of the church at Rome.

When the Jews returned to Rome, they found the church different from the one they had left. The once predominantly Jewish fellowship was now led and populated by Gentiles. The Jewish culture that was pervasive in the Roman church was now replaced by Gentile culture. Over time, the church would become fractured and divided along Jewish and Gentile lines.

In the midst of all the trouble, Paul intervened in the situation by writing to the church at Rome. When we approach the book of Romans in light of the historical context, we see God’s heart and plan for loving, cross-cultural relationships in the church. Living in harmony with those who come from different cultural, educational, or economic backgrounds challenges the church to continually engage meaningful spiritual transformation that is evidenced in authentic change of heart, mind, and identity.

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PAUL’S LETTER TO ROME

Paul laid out the theme of his letter in Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes; first for the Jew, then for the Gentile”, and addresses the issue of ethnicity and sets the tone for his presentation of the gospel throughout the rest of the book.

It’s heartbreaking to realize that the majority of people in our world are spiritually lost and without Christ. Within the pages of God’s Eternal Word you can find it is painfully realistic in its portrayal of people. It is no whitewashed version of the history of God’s people. In its honest presentation of its characters, the Bible proves that we all need to be forgiven of our sins. The “bad” people of the Bible is a constant reminder that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

For a very long time the old church sat empty and abandoned in a Philadelphia neighborhood. The decaying building blended naturally into the whole area. Storefronts were boarded up and an old school building was padlocked. Party stores flourished, but little else. Grim, un-swept, forgotten – that’s how it all looked. Then one night things changed. The old church sparkled with light. Parked cars lined the streets. The sound of music filled the air. What had been dead and abandoned had come to life.

You have seen people like that because for years they were dark and empty like that old church building. There was very little inside except anger, selfishness, pride, bigotry, racism, discrimination, intolerance and darkness. Then one day all was changed. Suddenly the anger, selfishness, and darkness were gone. It was as if someone had turned on the lights and the old became new. That is what happens when a person accepts Christ as Savior of their life as stated in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

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“WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT RACISM, PREJUDICE, AND DISCRIMINATION?”  That we’re all equal before God

 The first thing we need to understand is there is only one race (the human race). Caucasians, Africans, Asians, Indians, Arabs, and Jews are not different races. Rather, they are different ethnic distinctiveness of the human race. All human beings have the same physical characteristics (with minor variations, of course). More importantly, all human beings are equally created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27). God loved the world so much that He sent Jesus to lay down His life for us (John 3:16). The “world” obviously includes all ethnic groups.

God doesn’t show partiality or favoritism (Deuteronomy 10:17Acts 10:34, “Then Peter began to speak: I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism”; Romans 2:11Ephesians 6:9), and neither should we. James 2:4 describes those who discriminate as “judges with evil thoughts.” Instead, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves (James 2:8). In the Old Testament, God divided humanity into two “racial” groups: Jews and Gentiles. God’s intent was for the Jews to be a kingdom of priests, ministering to the Gentile nations. Instead, for the most part, the Jews became proud of their status and despised the Gentiles. Jesus Christ put an end to this, destroying the dividing wall of hostility (Ephesians 2:14). All forms of racism, prejudice, and discrimination are affronts to the work of Christ on the cross.

Jesus commands us to love one another as He loves us (John 13:34). If God is impartial and loves us with impartiality, then we need to love others with that same high standard. Jesus teaches in Matthew 25 that whatever we do to the least of His brothers, we do to Him. If we treat a person with contempt, we are mistreating a person created in God’s image; we are hurting somebody whom God loves and for whom Jesus died. Racism, in varying forms and to various degrees, has been a plague on humanity for thousands of years. Victims of discrimination need to forgive. Ephesians 4:32 declares, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Racists may not deserve your forgiveness, but we deserved God’s forgiveness far less.

Those who practice discrimination need to repent. “Present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Romans 6:13). May Galatians 3:28 be completely realized, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

There is no intrinsic value assigned to people based on how they look. A person’s value comes from the fact that we are all created in God’s image. So every person has the exact same value before God. What does John 3:16 say about people’s value? God valued every single person enough to send His Son to die for every one of them. What would God think of racism? He would see it as a serious violation of His love for humanity. We are quick to condemn atrocities like the Holocaust under the leadership of Hitler, but God looks with disdain on any racism, even the private racism we might hold in our hearts. Obviously racism has no place in a local church.

The Bible doesn’t begin with the creation of a special race of people. When the first human is introduced into the story he is simply called Adam, which means humankind and from his rib God created Eve to be his help meet.  Their “race” is not identifiable; they are neither Negroid nor Caucasian and became the mother and father of all peoples. The division of humankind into peoples and races is not even mentioned until Genesis 10:1-32.

Their descendants filled the earth. However, the world’s population was reduced to eight during the Flood of Noah. From these eight individuals have come all the tribes and nations today. It’s likely that the skin shade of Noah and his family was middle brown. This would enable his sons and their wives to produce a variety of skin shades in just one generation. Because there was a common language and everybody lived in the same general vicinity, barriers that may have prevented their descendants from freely intermarrying weren’t as great as they are today. Thus, distinct differences in features and skin color in the population weren’t as prevalent as they are today.

When we read the Bible, one useful question to ask ourselves would be what story is the Bible telling us about the origin of humanity and its diversity? When we ask that question, we see several things. First, Eve is “the mother of all the living” (Genesis 3:20). Second, several generations later, the human line is narrowed again to one family, that of Noah and his sons (Genesis 6–9). All the families of the earth are descended from Noah’s three sons and their wives (Genesis 10). “From these the nations spread out over the earth after the flood” (v. 32 NIV).

Then in Genesis 11:1-9 we read of the Tower of Babel. Up until this point in the Bible, the whole world had one language – one common speech for all people. The people of the earth became skilled in construction and decided to build a city with a tower that would reach to heaven. By building the tower they wanted to make a name for themselves and also prevent their city from being scattered.

God came to see their city and the tower they were building. He perceived their intentions, and in His infinite wisdom, He knew this “stairway to heaven” would only lead the people away from God. He noted the powerful force within their unity of purpose. As a result, God confused their language, causing them to speak different languages so they would not understand each other. By doing this, God thwarted their plans. He also scattered the people of the city all over the face of the earth.

When God speaks in this story, He uses the phrase, “let us go,” referencing the trinity. To build, the people used brick instead of stone and tar instead of mortar. They used “man-made” materials, instead of more durable “God-made” materials. The people were building a monument to themselves, to call attention to their own abilities and achievements, instead of giving glory to God.

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THE GOSPEL BRINGS HEART CHANGE   … For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.

The Apostle Paul was not ashamed of the gospel because there is nothing to be ashamed of concerning the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is nothing to hide or sweep under the rug. There is nothing faulty in the gospel that needs to be improved upon or updated. The gospel of Christ is perfect.

What is the gospel? Christ died for our sins and rose from the grave so we might have eternal life by placing our trust in Him.

To the Gentile philosophers and thinkers of Rome, the gospel was foolish (1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God”). It was too simple and easy to be credible. And why would someone put their faith in the Jewish Man the Romans silenced by crucifixion? And who would actually believe in the wild tale of that Man’s resurrection?

What did Paul; call the person who rejected God in the name of wisdom? A fool.

The gospel isn’t foolish; those who think they know better than God are foolish. To the unbelieving Jews, Jesus’ death was His end. They were still looking for a victorious, white-horse-riding Messiah to free them from Rome and reestablish the throne of David. The unsaved Jews wanted to silence the Christians and stop the spread of their gospel.

The speaker, an unbeliever, was lecturing very boldly against God’s plan of salvation. A man in the audience stood up and walked toward the platform where he was speaking, peeling an orange as he came, and asked the speaker “Is this orange sweet or sour?” “How should I know?” said the speaker. “I have never tasted it!” “It’s the same with salvation,” said the man. “You have never tried it. I have, and I know it works!”  The point – there are so many people today who are adamantly against God’s Word who have never tasted it. Like the man in the audience, I have tried it and I know it works!

The apostle Paul emphasized the urgency of this when he wrote, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). Only a Bible-instructed faith focuses on Christ – His death, burial, and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). His sacrifice for sin is what makes it possible for us to “be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). However, despite the self-evident reality of a Creator (Romans 1:19-20) and the “many infallible proofs” that Christ is all He claimed to be (Acts 1:3), people often use ridiculous, self-serving excuses as reasons to avoid a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul warned us that, “They are without excuse”.

So unbelievers in first-century Rome considered the gospel shameful because of its simple message and the focus on the lowly Jesus. They also considered the gathering of Jews and Gentiles in one church as shameful. Jews and Gentiles fellowshipping with one another wasn’t socially acceptable. But the gospel is heart changing. The application of the gospel leaves no room for bigotry.

The Apostle Paul fully expected the hearts of the Roman believers to be changed. He expected the Roman Jews and the Roman Gentiles to have love for each other. They were to stand together as brothers and sisters in Christ regardless of race. Race diversity was not supposed to cause controversy in the Roman congregation. God has a future, specific plan for Israel. But His plan for this present age is the church. The church should be one, for there is no partiality with God when it comes to race. It should be noted that just because ethnic backgrounds don’t matter when it comes to salvation doesn’t mean we should ignore them. God wants us to be sensitive to different people groups and seek to minister to them in ways that they can relate to.

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THE GOSPEL BRINGS MIND CHANGE … For it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth.

The power of God saves people from their sins; it also works in their minds to correct sinful thinking. The idea that Jewish believers were better than Gentile believers because of their history was wrong thinking. Paul corrected that thinking in his letter to the Romans. They could change that thinking through the power of God.

Four times Paul uses the phrase to everyone that believeth or something similar in his letter (Romans 3:22; 4:11; 10:4; 10:11-12). In each of these occurrences, Paul referred to the breaking down of the ethnic barriers between Jews and Gentiles in the church. What was the difference between the Jews’ need of salvation and the Gentiles’ need of salvation? There isn’t any because they both had the same need. If being God’s Chosen People didn’t make the Jews better and more acceptable to God than the Gentiles, and then nothing could make one ethnic group better than another. The color of one’s skin, how they dress, and their cultural norms don’t make one person better than another.

The power of God in the gospel is mind-changing because the gospel gives believers the ability to break the strong hold of prejudice. One might have grown up hearing, Those people over there are worthless, so don’t ever deal with them. One might have even had some bad experiences with those people over there that worked to powerfully confirm prejudices. And if not for God, such persons could live their whole life blinded by the narrow-mindedness of bigotry. However, the power of God is evident in the gospel and that power can change ones way of thinking.

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THE GOSPEL BRINGS IDENTITY CHANGE … To the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

The gospel has awesome power. It has the power to change our hearts, our minds, and our identity. When Claudius kicked the Jews out of Rome, he saw them as Jews whether or not they were Christians. But Nero, the next emperor, came to see Roman citizens as either Christian or non-Christian.

What made that change? No doubt the gospel worked in the lives of the Christians so that they began to see their commonality in their faith in Christ. They were no longer Jews and Gentiles but brothers and sisters in Christ. As the horrible persecution under Nero escalated, the believers in Rome would have become even more focused on their identity in Christ. No matter where a person grows up, where they go to school, the size of their bank account, or the color of their skin, the gospel works to powerfully change the identity of all who believe.

God chose to reveal Himself in the Old Testament through Israel, His Chosen People. As a special people singled out by God, Israel had both the great privilege and responsibility to love the Lord and obey Him. The Israelites had every reason to be proud of their special relationship with God. And yet with the gospel, heritage matters not. Paul didn’t say the gospel was to the Jews exclusively. He said the gospel was also to the Greek and he told the Roman believers he was God’s apostle to the Gentiles (Romans 11:13).

What we once were is no longer what we are in Christ. God seems to delight in changing people’s identity so that, in Christ, all people can stand equally on the same footing. It is noteworthy to mention that Paul didn’t write one letter to the Jewish contingency of the church in Rome and then another to the Gentile believers. He wrote to one church. In a world that celebrates diversity, the church should be celebrating unity. What we have in Christ is far more significant than our ethnicities or any other set of categories that set up apart.

The gospel unites people by changing their identity. Our identity in Christ should be evident to others. They should identify us as believers before any other ethnic or social identification. Spreading the gospel message ought to be more important to us than stamping our racism. Stopping racism would make our world a better place to live, but it wouldn’t change anyone’s eternal destiny. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ brings eternal change. That is why the Great Commission calls for the church to go into the world and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 18:19-20).

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CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

Jesus exemplified God’s grace. In John 4, He had a long conversation with a Samaritan woman, although the Samaritans were an ethnic group the Jews despised. As a result, many from her village followed Him. He was quick to heal Gentiles and praise their faith (Matthew 8:5-1315:22-28). And He taught His church to do the same (Acts 10-11). The Apostle Paul’s ministry was to the Gentiles. The completeness of Jesus’ message is summarized in Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Unfortunately, humanity has twisted the Bible to try to justify human fears and prejudices. The Bible tells us that God’s judgment is not based on appearances but what is on the inside (1 Samuel 16:7), and those who do judge according to appearances do so with evil intent (James 2:4). Instead, we are to treat one another with love (James 2:8), regardless of race (Acts 10:34-35) and social standing (James 2:1-5). Christian love negates all prejudice, and the Bible condemns racism.

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CLOSING ILLUSTRATION

Jesus Christ is the only answer to racism. It is only through His blood and the salvation He provides where we find cleansing from the hatred and racism that is in our world today and through this process our heart, mind and identity will be changed forever.

Matthew 16:25 says, “Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it”

During his reign as king, Manasseh sacrificed his own children to idols, ruthlessly killed people, and practiced all kinds of evil.  But after he repented and began to worship God, his conduct was radically altered.  Manasseh’s life illustrates the truth that what we believe deep within us has a profound effect on our behavior.  That’s why the lawlessness and violence of our day should not surprise us.

What can we expect from people when they have been taught that belief in God and absolute standards are untrue? It’s no wonder that the killing of innocence lives and the vicious crimes make the news every day.  The only solution to this problem is a return to belief in God and His absolute standards that He has revealed to us in His Word.  Manasseh’s life was dramatically changed, and the lives of people today are also transformed when they hear the truths of the bible and respond in obedient faith to them.

Since what we believe is so important, we not only need the truths of God’s Word that can save us from a Christ less eternity, but we also need these truths that can prevent us from making tragic mistakes in this life.  Sometime ago I read a story about a young boy who noticed a large, dust-covered book high on a shelf in his home.  His curiosity was aroused, so he asked his mother about it.  Embarrassed, she hastily explained, “Oh, that’s a Bible.  That’s God’s Book.”  He thought for a moment and then said, “Well, Mom, if that’s God’ Book, why don’t we give it back to Him?  Nobody around here uses it.”

It’s quite sad, but a factual statement, in many homes the Bible is rarely opened, even noticed or thought about. The only time its read is when there’s sickness or a death in the family, and other than the 23rd Psalm, it’s unlikely the person even knows where to look for the help that’s most sorely needed in today’s world.  So, how long has it been since you’ve picked up your Bible and actually studied it?  Yes, it’s God’s Book but He doesn’t want it back!

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Closing thoughts:

God wants us to keep His inspired Word.  He gave the Bible to us so we could learn more about Him and give us practical instructions on how to live a godly life on this earth.  It’s quite sad but there are thousands upon thousands of people today who don’t know Jesus Christ as Savior, who need to be changed from within, and given a new heart. Rather than merely being fixed up on the outside, they must be completely changed on the inside to overcome their sin and related fears.

This inner change only occurs when we admit our sinfulness and place our trust in Jesus Christ for salvation. I can say with all assurance the Bible delivers on its promises, because I have a new heart, and I’ve been changed from within.  Christ has done and He continues to do great things in my life and I like to extend to you the same invitation that the Samaritan woman gave to her neighbors, Come, see (John 4:29).  My friend there is nothing like opening your heart to Jesus, the living Word, to make the Bible, the written Word, come alive. It changed Manasseh’s life and it changed my life. Jesus will also change your life when you open your heart to Him because He opens your mind to His Word and will remove the racism that is within our heart.

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Salvation produces a change within that breaks the chain of sin.

 

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