Sunday, April 17, 2016

Christianity Spreads

Up to this time, Christianity spread by common people "as you go" method.  Took gospel with them wherever they went.
Acts 13:1-3 - missionary movement begins - missionaries sent and supported.  Vocational missionaries, preachers, teachers - called by God. 
Therefore, as a result, Christianity spread much more rapidly.

I.  The Growth of Christianity
Roughly 70 years after Christ's crucifixion - AD 100 -  360:1 - non-Christians to every self-described Christian
                                                                 AD1000 - 220:1
                                                                 AD 1500    69:1
                                                                 AD 1900    27:1
                                                                 AD 2000      2:1

Has the growth slowed?  in decline?  According to a 2015 Washington Post Article:  Not true - although may be true here in America.

USA ----- survey of American adults regarding religious "SELF-IDENTITY.
                                                 1990                          2008
                 Christian                    86%                          76%
                Agnostic/Atheist         0.7%                         1.6%
                 None                        8.2%                          15%

(1)  there are far fewer atheists/agnostics that we're led to believe
(2) the 'nones' are the fastest growing category.
(3) the issue is NOT fewer believers, it is that it is more acceptable to say "I'm a none" these days.
(4)  the decline in church attendance is within main-line denominations which say "Christianity must abandon its historic beliefs to survive", and they die or are dying. 
In fact - the liberal churches are declining, while the conservative churches are growing both in the USA and around the world.  (AS Churches abandon Biblical views, they decline).

II.  The Influence of Christianity - practical change - example:  Book entitled "Under the Influence".  Christian influence on society as a whole is mind-boggling.

III.  Reasons for Growth and Influence
are many - some beyond knowing (assume the work of the Holy Spirit, BUT the Christians had large part in this.  Holy Spirit worked with them and through them!

Christians believed they were:
(1)  Compelled
           transformed => therefore motivated, driven, from within
Rom. 1:14-15, 1 Cor. 9:16 

(2)  Commanded  - Matt. 28:18-20   Sometimes compulsion dies but the command doesn't!

(3)  Commissioned     ie:  a command, charge BACKED by authority!!  "go....I'll go with you"

On one hand, God is capable of convicting, converting people without us.
However, He has chosen to include us, to use us, to work with and through us, and to back us!!!  Example: "I got your back".

IV.  The Future of Christianity?
All agree on His return at the End.  BUT, between now and then?  what to expect?

Are bookend views:
#1.  Pre-millennial view:  "it's gonna get worse and worse!"   Backed up by:
           A)  Scripture:  1 Tim. 4:1  Rev. 13:7-10
           B)  Experience:  WWI --> WWII --> today??

#2.  Post-Millennial view:  "it's gonna get better and better!"  Backed up by:
          A)  Scripture:  Dan. 2:34-35, 44-45       Matt. 13:31-32
          B)  Experience - Example:  "Under the Influence" - America's 1st. 200 years.

Conclusion?:  Don't know, but probably some of both.

V.  Our Current (contemporary) Responsibility:   Remain Faithful
Faithful to:  (1) Proclaim - the gospel whether it's popular or unpopular, accepted or unaccepted, whether we're criticized or not criticized, etc.
                  (2)  Promote - the gospel
                  (3)  Practice - the gospel - this is not just religious ideology - it is a lifestyle!!!!  Live it!!!
1 Cor. 15:58 - "not in vain" ==> will make a difference - an eternal difference.

Monday, April 11, 2016


The Book of Acts =>growth of Christianity=>conflict with the Jewish community

Gospel is:  #1.  offensive - (sinners, separated from God)
                #2.  intrusive - (evangelistic - written into DNA of the faith)
                #3.  exclusive - ( the "only way"0 - if don't come through Christ, don't get there

It challenged their 1) religious beliefs - (temple, Law)
                            2) social norms - (traditions, culture) - for the Jewish people, their religion was their way of life.
                            3)  political practices - (how things run, AND who's in charge!!) - challenged the high priest's authority.

So, Christianity was, at least, annoying, and maybe threatening!!!

IF it was accepted and practiced, it would TRANSFORM THE JEWISH CULTURE!
(ie:  the traditional, accepted, Preferred culture)

So, the growth of Christianity resulted in:
I.  Conflict with Jewish Community
and ALSO -
II.  Conflict with the Gentile Community as well!!

Why?  For the same reasons!!! - Acts 19:1, 8-20, 23-20:2 - Ephesus = city of magic, so God used extraordinary miracles.  Had a large temple to Artemis (Diana) - goddess of fertility.  Was a huge tourist attraction, and very important to the economy.

Offensive                Intrusive               Exclusive
Challenges             religious beliefs      social norms - the established leadership
Threatens               traditions              culture  (lifestyle)

Jesus' warnings:  Matt. 10:34-36 - this not His plan or heart's desire, but the natural outcome.
                         John 16:1-2

What's next?
III.  Conflict with the (Roman) Empire!!!  as Christianity continues to grow.
Two add'l. accusations:  (1)  atheism - (won't worship the gods of Rome)
                                     (2) sedition - (won't worship the emperor as Lord)
(Synonyms for sedition  - rebellion, defiance, civil disorder)   

And, next:

IV.   Conflict with other people groups, governments, belief systems
examples:  Communism (Soviet Union, Chine, North Korea)

Question:  If we had a nation formed MOSTLY by Christian people, ideals, morals, values, the result would lead to far less conflict.

Question:  If that nation gradually shifted to a different world view (secularism), the result would lead to increase in conflict.
Example:  IF Billy Graham was holding crusades today, in his former, younger self, do you think the media response would be positive and uplifting and accepting?  (not likely)

New Testament writers give additional reasons (beneath the surface, internal.
Christianity is:
#1.  Morally restrictive - Rom. 1:18 -has many restrictive guidelines.  The other gods didn't care about morality.

#2.  Personally restrictive - contrast:  submit to rules on paper vs. personal, living LORD!!
                                                        argue with written Word vs. Holy Spirit convicting within.
What if personal Lord wants to take us beyond the guidelines? 
John 20:28

#3.  Demonically opposed - example:  most are on board with a "benevolent God" but not an evil being!
Rev. 12:17

Satanic kingdom is opposed to the rise ad spread of Christianity. 

Anytime you have a large group of practicing, "living the life" Christians, and a large group of non-Christians, there will be conflict!!!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Expansion Continues

Summary:  Resurrection in the Gospel accounts, then: 

Acts 1:8 - ->Great Commission & Ascension (40 days after resurrection) --> Pentecost (50 days after Res.) --> growth in Jerusalem --> persecution --> first martyr - Stephen

Acts 8:1, 4 -- gospel to Samaritans, Conversion of Saul, gospel to Gentiles (Peter & Paul)

Acts 11:19-26 - the growth, movement, expansion continues.


Acts 11:19 - "scattered by persecution ... traveled ... telling"
Note:  persecution did not hinder the expansion of the church ... it promoted it!

#1.  Hard times fit well in God's toolbox.
God works through difficulties to accomplish His purposes.

Rom. 5:3                Rom. 8:28                  2 Cor. 4:16-18
Working in all these.  God is always at work!!

Acts. 11:21 - "God's hand ..... with them" - they did the work, but God was with them in that work.

#2.  Ministry is the result of our efforts coupled with God's Presence  (activity)

Col. 1:28-29    1 Pet. 4:10 (garden hose verse)
True individually (Christian)  AND  Corporately  (church)

Example:  often repeated phrase = "go ...... and I'll go with you"

Acts 11:23-24  with Acts 4:36-37 - Barnabas - his influence = huge 
                                                                         his gift?  = EnCouragement

#3.  A little encouragement goes a long way ... especially coupled with God's Presence
This tool is simple, portable, versatile, easily used, much needed
AND coupled with God's Presence?????

("not my gift" does NOT mean that it is beyond my ability and responsibility!!!)

Acts 11:26 - "the disciples were called Christians 1st. at Antioch."
This label - probably given by non-believers, and probably in derision.
Nevertheless = distinction

#4.  God intends His children to be different, distinct
How??  we're the same people?  clan?, community?,  culture? 
1 Pet. 2:9

Example:  Ed's hymnal - is different not because of the content or color.  Is different because of the writings within. 
Comparison:  God's handwriting on your heart.  That's what makes you different and distinct!