How has Christianity spread to so many people groups
in spite of hostile forces?
Step back and see the big picture of the history of global civilization and how God has worked through it! Get linked to the beginning of time and then into the future! Discover how people and events caused God's kingdom to expand!
How has the Gospel spread in your country?
God blesses a people that they may share this blessing. God seems to shower more blessings upon a people who turn toward Him and are obedient to His missionary purposes. History also shows us what happens to people who are not obedient and who hoard their blessings. God usually causes another group to bring judgment upon this people.
History viewed from a Christian perspectives, reveals how the expansion of the Gospel flourished despite killing influences. Ever since the Fall, God has been concerned about bringing people back to Himself.
Gain a new view about history and how you fit in! See God's purpose behind current events. You may even decide you want to influence history!!
God Uses Current Events
Adapted from 'A New View Of History' by John Holtzman
Don Richardson was a missionary to Irian Jaya (Indonesia). When he returned there on a visit, he found himself in the middle of a hot debate.
The Indonesian Government planned to relieve the overcrowded conditions on Java. They offered Javanese families a chance to resettle in Irian Jaya with a grant of 2 acres of cleared land and seed for the first year's crops. The Javanese spoke another language and were of a different race and religion (mostly Muslim). The Irianese (who were either Christian or Animist) were unhappy with this policy.
To soothe the anger of the Irianese, the Indonesian Government said that, for every three Javanese families who moved to Irian Jaya, it would give one Irianese family a home, a parcel of cleared land and seed. The Christian leaders asked Richardson whether they should encourage the people to take the Government's offer.
To help the Irianese pastors reach their decision, Richardson asked them to turn to Acts 17:26 and 27, and read: "From one man, God made every nation of men that they should inhabit the whole earth. And He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live." Based on God's Word, Richardson asked them who it was that was moving Javanese Muslims to Irian Jaya. "Is it the Indonesian Government?Is it the powers that control the Islamic faith? Is it Satan? Is it God?" Reluctantly, they finally acknowledged it was God.
Richardson asked them to continue reading Acts 17:27, "God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him." Knowing this to be the truth, Richardson asked them whether the coming of Javanese Muslims meant Christians had to convert to their faith, or was it so that they could become Christians like the rest of the local inhabitants. Gradually they began to realize that God had arranged a means by which the Christian faith could spread.
"Gentlemen," Richardson concluded, "what should you say to your people?"
The church leaders decided to train their people to become effective missionaries. They found they had actually been provided with an opportunity, funded by the Government, to witness to Jesus Christ!
As you read through this true story, perhaps you have found that you are now being confronted by an opportunity to make certain decisions because of personalities, events and realities that surround you. Let God's Word help you make the right one.
God's Purpose in World History
Every day our newspaper brings reports of plane hijackings, missiles and overthrown Governments. Tune into TV and you view people groups all over the world suffering famine, after-affects of nuclear exposure, torture and displacement because of inter-communal violence. In the face of such sad and disquieting news, can there be any real purpose behind all that happens in our world today?
The Scriptures say "YES"! We are taught that, from the beginning, God's purpose was to "bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ" [Eph 1:10]. Why? "That God might be all in all – that is, be everything to everyone, supreme, the indwelling and controlling factor of life" [I Cor 15:28 Amplified].
God's purpose is to make His name known to every people group so that His glory may be shown and His Kingdom set up, on earth as in heaven. God set out on His mission at the very beginning of the Old Testament and He continues to be faithful to His plan throughout history.
God has set before us a whole kaleidoscope of history (His-Story of Mankind). He has given us a record clearly showing us how this story has evolved so far. He promised Abraham, "I will be your God, and you will be My people. I will never leave you or forsake you." God clearly states, "I will make your name great and you will be a blessing."
Two thousand years after Abraham, Christ was born, lived on earth, died and was resurrected. Through Jesus Christ, we are heirs of this assurance given to Abraham. But, was that the sole and complete fulfillment of the promise? Knowing God's character as revealed in His Word, that is not the end of the line. We often have a tendency to forget the responsibilities that go along with the blessings.
God promised Abraham a great name, descendants, land. Abraham certainly acquired great wealth in Egypt. What about the Egyptians? Was the promise not to be for them as well? What was Abraham doing when he sought to deceive the Egyptians [Genesis 12:13]? I believe it was because Abraham failed in his responsibility to God that Pharaoh was cursed. Abraham was to bless the nation but he was more concerned about keeping the blessing for himself.
Happily, in Genesis 14, Abraham paid closer attention to God's call upon his life. Instead of taking advantage of the chance to acquire wealth and fame, at the expense of the Sodomites [vs. 22-23] he said, "I have raised my hand to YHWH, God most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and have taken an oath that I will accept nothing belonging to you so that you will never be able to say, "I made Abram rich."
These terms continue to be available to His New Testament People Matthew 28:18-20 restates God's Old Testament constitution. Jesus sandwiches the responsibility in the middle of the blessing.
"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me," says Jesus. That portion is the bottom slice of bread. The top slice of bread says, "I will be with you always, even to the very end of the age." The same blessing God gave Abraham and his descendants; "I will be your God and you shall be My people." Sandwiched in the middle of this two-part blessing is the responsibility: we are to make disciples of all nations and peoples. The Greek word ethne today translates as ethnic (people) groups.
By baptizing people in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, we are helping them come into a living relationship with God. He can then reveal His glory among them and their people group. That is one part of our responsibility.
The other part is to teach the ethnic groups to obey everything God has commanded us. By submitting their hearts to His sovereignty so that He can establish His Kingdom among them.
God is actually prolonging History so that His purpose can be accomplished [Rev 5:9 and 7:9]. He is holding back the day of judgment, "not wanting any to perish but everyone to come to repentance"[2 Peter 3:9].
"This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations [ethne] and then the end will come" [Matthew 24:14].
How does this insight help us? As we realize our part in the Big Picture, we will view four things differently:
3. Prayer and
Our insight will guarantee us a new view of Scripture. We will ask ourselves, and others, are we trying to keep the blessing for ourselves, or are we giving it away? Are His people today living in obedience to His command?
An example of how we will rethink Scripture is given in the story of David and Goliath. Why did God tell us this story? So that we would be unafraid to tackle the giants in our own lives? Perhaps, but read 1 Samuel 17:45-47; David's goal was not merely to slaughter a giant; he was concerned that God's name should be glorified throughout the earth.
Are we glorifying God in what we do in His name? As we read Scripture we need to ask ourselves:
To what lengths is God willing to go, to enable His people to fulfill their responsibilities?
What means does He use? What attitudes do God's people show in response?
Then we will look at Scripture differently.
Next, after Scripture, we need to see history and current events differently . We are not to ask, "who won" or, "who lost?" We should not merely be concerned about who may currently be in danger. Instead we need to focus upon God's purpose. "What does he want to achieve through this event/circumstance? Why has He set this leader in charge of our nation? What does God want to make happen as a result of this communal riot? Why have we been refused permission to hold an open-air seminar?"
3. A New View of Prayer
Thirdly, our prayers will be different if we understand God's purpose in history and for our personal lives. When we look at terrorism, murder, rape, Governments which seem to threaten our choices and scourges like the AIDS virus; we are to say, like our forerunner, "Father, may Your name be glorified, and your Kingdom established in all the earth." We are asked by our Father in heaven to use these events to "bring glory to (His) name."
Praise God the Communists are coming! Can you pray like that? To be honest, I have a hard time even imagining myself doing that. But it is what we are called upon to do – it is never an easy road we were called to walk. As the Master, so shall the disciple be. Let us pattern our responses to everything that happens around us on Jesus. We cannot do that in our own strength. We need the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We need to continually call upon His promise: "I will never leave you, nor forsake you." Our prayers need to be transformed.
4. A New View of Life
Fourthly, our view of life will be altered.
This new view is best illustrated by a story which is told of a man who walked into a quarry.
"What are you doing?" he asked one of the workers there.
"Can't you see," the man replied. "I'm chiseling stone."
Another stonecutter, when asked the same question, said, "I am just trying to make a living."
A third man was asked, "what are you doing?"
His answer was, "I'm building a great cathedral."
On the surface, each of the workmen were doing the same thing; only their perspectives were different. Hearts surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus march to the sound of a different drumbeat.
Do you feel you need a new perspective?
Busy mothers – Cleaning the home, changing diapers, helping with homework and sorting out differences. What are you doing? You are raising up soldiers for the Lord's army; world-changers who will bless the nations.
Businessmen – What are you doing? Building up your empire? Entering new territory? Neglecting your wife and children? Or are you putting representatives into the harvest field? Members of your firm who are lights, through their lives to others with whom they come in contact?
Are you trying to make a success of your life – for yourself? Do you act as though the blessing is just for you, and your family? Or are you trying to give it away? To try and retain it is to lose it. We have seen that happen many times in the Old Testament. God has given us an ongoing picture of what He wants us to do with the blessing.
His purpose for your life is to make His name known. To reveal His glory to others who do not, as yet, know Him. To establish His Kingdom among the different people groups who do not know Him today.
Jesus came to give us life – abundant life. Let us drink from the very Fountain of Life and use a large enough vessel to give Him to others to drink as well. Jesus has promised that, when we surrender our lives to His will, rivers of living water will flow out to the thirsty nations.
"Whoever finds his life will lose it," says Jesus. "But whoever loses his life for My sake will find it." [Mt 10:39].
Lesson At A Glance!
We usually don't think of present day events or even history with God in mind. Yet God has a plan to redeem all nations and is working through history towards this. Looking at history in this way shows us the many ways in which the Gospel spreads even in current events.
In history we see cycles where God's people did not reach out. Periods of darkness followed, including invasion by pagan people, wars or plagues. If the Gospel was not advancing it was because Christians were not being obedient to God's plan to be a blessing to the nations. However, God will not allow His Kingdom to stop advancing. Throughout history He has taken away His blessing and passed it on to others, thus expanding the Christian faith over the centuries. The blessing of the Gospel is to be passed on or it will be taken away.
With a new view of history or current events you can now pray for what is best for the advancement of God's kingdom even if this may not be the best for you personally. Pray that God's will be done.
In each era the Gospel spread to different cultures & people groups. The story of the expansion of the Gospel tells us that God is still anxious for us to spread the message to all peoples of the earth. We aren't to focus only on our own spiritual growth. If we don't bring the Gospel to others, God may bring others to us, sometimes in painful ways. God is sovereign. The events of history are used for His purposes.
In roughly 400 years Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and his family succeed and fail at various times to pass on the blessing to the nations.
|God used Joseph to bless the Egyptians, but in the course of 400 years the Israelites became slaves rather than spiritual leaders.|
|Many nations learned of God's greatness through the Exodus. He gave them a strategic, central location in Palestine from which to proclaim His name, but instead of glorifying Him, they repeatedly brought dishonor to His name.|
Israel continued to receive and not give God's blessing. They brought dishonor to His name, so He raised up other nations against Israel to punish His people and to teach them about the one true God.
In exile the Jews began awakening to their responsibility of declaring God's glory. Though their understanding was limited, by 100 BC the Pharisees were "traversing land and sea to make a single proselyte."
|Jesus appeared in the world's largest and most powerful empire, and within 300 years the blessing had spread throughout the realm. However, the Romans failed to pass on the blessing, so God stirred the Goths to come and take it from them.|
|Celts/Goths (400-800 AD)||The Goths, Celts and other European tribesmen were converted by the Romans they captured, but they devoted their attention to beautifying the Scriptures rather than passing them on. So others had to come and get the blessing from them.|
|Since no witness was sent to the Vikings, they unknowingly came after it themselves. After 250 destructive years, they too eventually came to love and glorify God.|
|The misguided Crusades set back the Gospel among Muslim peoples, but in the same period others took seriously God's concern for the nations to receive His blessing.|
|Ends of the Earth
|In this era of modern missions, a growing number of God's people have devoted their lives to declaring His glory to the nations. Three successive eras have fueled unprecedented worldwide revival, reached most of the world's population, and positioned His Church to finish blessing all nations.|
And they sang a new song: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation."
After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.
1 Samuel 17:45-47
45 David said to the Philistine, "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I'll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 47 All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD's, and he will give all of you into our hands."