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Savior of the World - All Over the World

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Pastor Ed Allen is continuing his Advent series of sermons, "The Savior of the World."  Each week, he begins with someone from the congregation telling about their Christmas traditions as a child in a different culture.  Today in the 9:00 service, we heard about Bolivia and the Philippines.  This is to emphasize that Christ's birth is celebrated all over the world.

Today we looked at this statement:

The growth of the Jesus movement is unparalleled when considering both scope and duration (so much so that it demands our attention).

When the church began, Christianity was wildly countercultural and went against the grain of common customs and the widespread religious mindset.  Ancient people had to change their entire worldview (with some exceptions, such as the Jews).  They had no categories for understanding what they were being told.

And yet. . .

Here we looked at some statistics.  The Jesus movement exploded over the next 300 years.  Followers of Christ became 53% of the Roman empire.  It was an explosive rate of growth.

This growth happened despite persecution, over the course of centuries.  Other religions have experienced growth -- but not like this or over as long a time.

Islam is currently growing at the same rate as the birth rate and has grown in the past from conquest and birth.  Hinduism is spreading geographically because of migration.

Christianity has grown through conversion.

Christianity is not a mostly white faith.  If anything, it's middle-eastern.  Less of the world is unreached than ever before.

In 1910 more than 50% of the world's people groups were unreached.  30% in 2000 and 28% in 2017. 

In 2017, both Africa and Latin America passed Europe in the number of Christian residents.

Growth in Africa has been explosive, from a small percentage in some countries to 80-90%.  And this is despite 1.8 million martyrs in Africa since 1900.  Korea and South America have also experienced explosive growth of Christianity.

But these stories may pale in comparison to China.

In 2004, the official Chinese church had 18 million members, but grew to 38 million members in 2016.  The underground church is much, much larger, estimated at 5 times larger.

This growth commands our attention.

What does this mean?

1)  It means that Jesus came into the world to be the Savior of the WORLD.

2)  If you are standing outside of faith, this story begs you to reconsider.  (It's not proof that it's true, but it's significant.)

3)  We can stop worrying so much about the condition of the church in America.

God is still in charge; God doesn't need America.  God's church is doing fine.

4)  We need to remember that our lives are part of a much bigger story -- a story that God is winning.

Savior of the World: Why Do We Need a Savior?

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Today was the first Sunday of Advent, the beginning of our collective celebration which will culminate on Christmas, which is the anniversary celebration of our Savior's birth. 

Today's sermon focused on one of the most critical questions of our faith.  "Why do we actually need a Savior?"
 
This kind of question is not easily answered.  The reason for this is that it is difficult for us to understand or appreciate what separates us from God.
 
After all, isn't God capable of overcoming the separation between us even if we cannot?
 
There is a problem here that eludes us -- and that problem is Sin.
 
Sin -- whether we fully understand it or not -- has important implications for our life, our faith and our need for salvation.
 
First, Sin is a special kind of evil.   There are many evils in this fallen world -- from earthquakes to disease -- but Sin is special -- because it relates especially to the distinction between who we are and who we think we should be -- and who we are meant to be.   So many of us struggle with this -- and struggle with the reality that none of us can, or our own accord, become who we were meant to be without God's help.
 
Second, because of Sin, something is wrong with everything.  Sin is so pervasive in our world that it is literally part of everything.  Sin infuses even our most righteous deeds.  In this light, we cannot do what we were meant to do without God's help.
 
Third, Sin has no respect for our position or who we are.  As we are reminded in Romans 3, that all of us fall short of the Glory of God.  Without God's help, even our aspirations fall short.  We cannot know what is best to want and to hope for without God's help.
 
Fourth, the problem is us... and we usually don't know it.  God has given us marvelous capabilities -- rationality, logic, and discernment -- but in using these capabilities we fail to account for the pervasiveness of Sin and Sin's ability to corrupt every thing it touches.  We are so immersed in Sin -- that we cannot see its influence on every decision we make and every action we take.  We can neither recognize nor escape the pervasiveness of Sin and its effects on our actions without God's Help.
 
Fifth, (but perhaps this should have been first) Sin separates us from God and damages our relationship with him.  From the first Story in the Bible, we are told of Adam and Eve and how their sin of disobedience created distance between God and Man.  Our limited understanding of the nature of Sin keeps most of us from appreciating the extent of the damage that our actions create in our relationship with our Creator.  Indeed, most of us do not even ponder the potential ramifications of our sin.  Few of us are like David, who despaired at the possibility of becoming separated from God because of his sinful seduction of Bathsheba and his sinful actions to ensure the battlefield death of her husband Uriah.  Only God can help us to fully grasp the extent of the damage that our Sin causes in our relationship with him.
 
Sixth, the damage that we create (even without knowing it) is like a debt -- it must be offset by someone in order to restore the balance in our relationship with God.  The pervasiveness of Sin makes it difficult for us to grasp the distance from which we can and have fallen away from God -- that said, the fact that we cannot grasp the extent of our indebtedness -- does not relieve the fact of our debt.   We need a Savior not only because of the size and nature of our debt -- but also to restore us into a relationship with God that can begin to bear fruit.
 
In closing, once we recognize our need for him, Jesus is there for us -- to rescue us.  To restore us to life, to free us from bondage, to make payment for our sins, and, to bring us safely back home.
 
In him, not only can we experience grace -- but by his example, we become capable of extending his grace and love to others.
 
And that, my friends is why we need a Savior.
Posted by Kevin Baugh with

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