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The Savior of the World - Facts About the Jesus Story

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Today Pastor Ed Allen preached again in the sermon series, "The Savior of the World."  Each service, first he talked with people from the congregation who grew up in different countries and they told how they celebrated Christmas -- pointing out that Jesus' birth is celebrated all over the world.

Today we looked at I John 1:1-4 and talked about the question, "What does Christmas mean?"  John doesn't include a birth narrative in his gospel, but he does talk about why Jesus came.

Six Critically Important Truths About the Jesus Story

1)  Jesus predated Christmas Eve.

Verse 1 -- "That which was from the BEGINNING."

John says the same thing in John 1:1-3.  John borrowed the term "the Word" from Greek philosophy to say that Jesus came from God the same way words come from the speaker.

Jesus was utterly unique and eternal.  John 17:5 -- He prayed about "the glory I had with you before the world existed."  Jesus was part of the Godhead.

When Jesus calmed the sea, the disciples realized he was in a completely different category than anyone else.

They began to see his birth was more than amazing -- it was essential.

Jesus was pre-existent, and part of the Godhead.  This is a consistent and essential theme in the Jesus story.

2)  The Jesus story was witnessed.

We read the Apostles' Creed -- "He suffered under Pontius Pilate" -- the story is set in history.  It actually happened at a certain time, in a certain place.

Verse 1 -- "... which we have heard, which we have seen with  our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched."  These were the elements needed for a legal deposition in ancient times.  He's swearing that it's true!

3)  Jesus IS Life!

Verse 2 -- "The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it..."

We have life.  Jesus is life.

Jesus is the source.  We couldn't see the source until Jesus appeared.

When we get connected to Jesus, we experience LIFE.

4)  When we accept the Jesus story, we can have fellowship with others.

Verse 3 -- "... so that you may have fellowship with us..."

We need community, and we know it.

"Fellowship" is deep, purposeful connection with others.

We need to hear this as a wonderful offer.  Jesus made life-giving connection possible.

We need to hear this as a challenge.  Invest in life-giving connection!

5)  When we accept the Jesus story, we can have fellowship with God.

Verse 3 -- "Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ."

The Father wants a relationship with us.

The purpose isn't Bible knowledge or more religion, but fellowship with God.

6)  The birth of the Savior is joy-producing!

Verse 4 -- "We write this to make our joy complete."

Pastor Ed finished the service by reading the Christmas story in Luke 2:8-14.

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.

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