Sunday, February 12, 2017

A Philosophical Transformation Series: God's Overarching History: The Big Picture

Photo from "The Fountain"
Accompanying Video: "The Spread of the Gospel"

Message Audio:

How do you see history? How does your mind frame the world around you? Are you seeing it from a Godly perspective, or from a secular perspective? Today we’re going to talk about God’s Overarching History: The Big Picture. Today we’re going to go from Genesis to John to Revelation and frame within our minds how God accurately portrays history.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth. Amazing. Over 6 days God makes the universe, Earth, nature, animals, and humanity. It was perfect, from the beginning. God is this self existent being, existing forever, in a timeless state, and he chooses to create a universe, laws, physics, and he creates life. You’re here right now because God decided to sovereignly create a human species. He wanted there to be us.

He creates the first two human beings, and designs a garden for them to live in on the surface of the pre-historic earth. God lives in direct contact with his creation, genesis 3:8 says that God himself walked in the garden. 

The Garden of Eden, via Wikimedia Commons
 It’s assumed that previously, before God made man, he had also made the angels, these spiritual beings who serve him. One of these beings named Lucifer, the most beautiful of all the angels, by some act of the will, manifests pride in his own heart. Isaiah 14:13 says “You said in your heart,‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high.” And perhaps it had something to do with God’s creation of man.

So Lucifer, also known as Satan, goes to the first two humans, and tempts them. God has created a perfect reality for his people to live in, but he also offers one option, one tree that they must not eat from, to allow for a sacred choice: to obey or disobey. It’s much easier to obey in this world, because there is only one tree that must be avoided. Yet as we know, scandalously, amazingly, shockingly, the first humans accepted the temptation, and decided to play god for themselves. They disobeyed god, and opened up a nightmare that would unfold throughout human history.

The perfect universe, and the perfect earth became fallen. This one decision changed everything, opening a door for Lucifer to become Satan, the fallen one. By successfully tempting Adam and Eve, Satan gained control over them, the earth, and everything on it. Humanity had given up their dominion over the earth, and ceded it to Satan. As 1st John 5:19 says “We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.”

Yet God promised, though man had fallen and would now face mortal death, through the human race would come one who would defeat Satan, and restore humanity to it’s place of fellowship with God.

Isaiah 46 verse 9 says “Remember the things I have done in the past.”

History is so very important. What do they say about history? Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. So we must remember what God has done and what he will do.

Historical revisionism is a very real threat. In fact the truth is, many of us probably don’t know much about Christian history. I didn’t know anything about Christian history until I attended a Christian college. You see in public education, any mention of Christianity is edited out. Did you know that the first settlers coming to America did so for quote “the glory of God and advancements of the Christian faith?” Unfortunately that part of the mayflower compact is often edited out. I had never heard of the great awakenings in the United States, or how Christians founded the first universities, orphanages, and hospitals. They didn’t change anything, they just kind of didn’t mention it.

History is so vital. So we must be certain as Christians that we are seeing history as it truly is, and not as the world has taught us it is. The modern view is fairly simple: Everything is getting better all the time. Humanity is “evolving” and doesn’t need that drab old religious stuff anymore. Through science and technology man will ascend the heights! In fact if you were to watch television, or television programs for many hours you would probably never hear mention of Christianity, churches or faith. It’s excluded. They edit it out of our daily lives.

We must fight the false narrative, to claim a Christian concept of history. So let’s continue. As we discussed, humanity fell away from God, and were expelled from the garden in an event we call the fall of man.

Soon the world has become so corrupted, that there is only one man and his family who must safeguard the future. At one point in human history the entire hope of the planet, the species, and the various animals of the earth resided on an ark, while the entire surface of the earth was covered in flood waters.

Screenshot from the Noah movie (2014)
Absolutely astonishing!

As we all know, God eventually raised up a nation called Israel to be a beacon to the nations. God planned to bring about a great revolution upon the Earth by raising up this nation. He gave Israel the law, which became a covenant, an agreement between God and the Israelites. If they would follow his laws, and live by faith, upholding justice and mercy, then He would be their God and they would be his people. Many of the greats we know of today all lived under this “old covenant” people like Moses, Aaron, Joseph, Isaac, Daniel, and others.

But ultimately all of these events were leading up to a moment when God himself would enter human history as a man, to save his people personally. This we know of today as the coming of Jesus Christ. All of the books of the Old Testament, hundreds of prophecies all pointed to the future hope of the coming of Christ.

Jesus Christ came, the God man, and lived a sinless life. He perfectly obeyed the old testament laws, all of them. Having lived a sinless life, he fulfilled the old testament laws, and established the new covenant through his crucifixion. This is why we call the last 27 books of the the Bible the “new testament.” It’s a new deal, a new arrangement. 

Ancient depiction of crucifixion
So you have human history coming to this point of culmination, to the point that the calendar was formed around this crucifixion of Christ, B.C. and A.D. Though recently they changed it to B.C.E. and C.E. Big shocker there, that they don’t want history to revolve around Christ, right? Revisionist history. They change history to suite their narrative, the secular one. The evolution narrative, the goo man, rising up, improving himself through self effort to bring about a bright future of human triumph. That’s the man-made narrative, but it isn’t Gods. And it isn’t the truth.

Do you see how we can fail to perceive history accurately? The world can really influence us to assume that we’re here to live a prosperous American life, and it affects our priorities. It affects how we live. It affects how we view ourselves and the people around us.

I want to see the world through God’s eyes. I want to see the world as a culmination of God’s history, not the triumph of man. There is no such thing, only to God be the glory.

So Jesus Christ, God with us, is crucified offering himself as a replacement for us. He takes our punishment for sin upon himself. Not only that, but Christ resurrects from the dead, and shows himself to hundreds of witnesses over a 40 day period. And Christ ascends to heaven, promising to return at the end of the age.

So from about 30 A.D. to 2017 A.D. we see a period of the rapid expansion of the church on Earth. It begins with a smattering of a few hundred followers, the twelve apostles, and Paul. From that little group, flying into the Roman empire after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem… Christianity today is the single largest faith on Earth with approximately 2.1 billion people indicating they are followers of Christ.

As we saw in the video, Christianity grew rapidly, and has been confronted by various contrary worldviews, first the paganism of the roman empire, then the barbarian tribes, then Islam, later on communism, and today the primary foe of Christianity must certainly be secularism, and naturalism, which began in 1859, when Darwin’s origin of species was first published.

We are part of this period in human history, when the Holy Spirit lives on Earth with us, and He is at work building the church on Earth, fulfilling Christ’s great command to go to all the nations and baptize them in the name of the father, and the son, and the holy spirit. The Salvation Army is part of the mission, founded in 1865, and enduring today along with many other fine traditions spreading the gospel far and wide.

So rejoice. You are part of a proud line of missionaries and evangelists who have fought under the banner of Christ, as his hands and feet, delivering the gospel to the world.

God asks us to remember. He says to us, Isaiah 46:11b “I have said what I would do, and I will do it.” And verse 10b “Everything I plan will come to pass, for I will do all that I please.”

God in the shadows, is the orchestrator of this grand theatrical sequence, one moment to the next, allowing for the free choices of man on a continuum of time and space, as His plan unfolds before our eyes. We see it in everything, even when we don’t realize it, his saga plays out before our very eyes.

Now this may be the point when many a skeptic would say “Why? Why should I believe God’s story? Because the Bible says so? Why should I believe that the Bible is God’s word?“

Well that’s talk about the Bible and History for a moment. Did you know the Bible is historically reliable? It’s true. Biblical data can in fact be tested, tested against history. If the Bible says that Jesus was crucified under a Roman governor named Pontius Pilate, we can look into history and see that there was indeed an ancient Roman empire, and it did control Israel at that time in history. Archaeology also shows that the Bible is historically accurate.

As an academic matter, we generally look into the past, and are able to understand ancient documents and respect them as authentic history by how many ancient copies of the document exist and how well they match one another. 

Via the Truth Project
Additionally, historians respect manuscripts based on how recently they are dated from the original events they depict. 

via The Truth Project
So it’s very interesting that so many people question the reliability of the Bible, when as far as historical tests, it passes with flying colors, not only passes, but is the single most incredible document ever to grace recorded history. Could the skepticism be rooted in emotion and resistance to the fact of a God who asks us to account for our actions? Very interesting.

Finally, one of several ways to indicate that the Bible is not only history, but also the word of God, are the over 300 prophecies predicting the coming of Christ and all he would do, that were all fulfilled by Jesus Christ when he came. A document can be considered to be the word of God in that it predicts accurately future events. Given the cumulative evidence, it becomes increasingly reasonable to conclude that the Bible is in fact God’s word.

God is sovereign over all this history, and the development of his creation, his people, and the spread of the church. Ultimately all of these events are culminating to a point when dark times will come, the church will undergo times of great persecution, the enemy’s kingdom will fully come about on Earth, all concluding with the return of Jesus Christ. He will rule and reign on Earth, establishing his millennial kingdom. And finally at the conclusion of all things in the old world, the final defeat of evil will occur, and the new heavens and the new Earth will be created. And the old will pass away.

That is our future destiny. Thousands of years ago God created man, and man chose to disobey God. The law came into effect, and Israel was formed. Then God came into human history, as Jesus Christ the son of God, to personally atone for the sins of the people. His church grows today. And Christ is coming again to establish his kingdom, and eventually create the news heavens and the new Earth.

Via The Truth Project
Our destiny as a species, as a people, is to live in the direct presence of God almighty, to worship him, to love him and be loved by him. To experience for eternity, millions and billions of years and more, the mysteries of his kingdom, and the work he has for us to do there. There will be great adventures, great joy, and wonder in this new kingdom he will establish. There will be no, no death, no curse, and no tears. It will not be boring. But every day will be an amazing, awe inspiring adventure, a constant experience of what we were always meant to be as people. What we are now is not what we were originally designed for. Our original design, which has been re-established in Christ is to be constantly in the presence and love of God, to enjoy Him forever, and to experience the wonders and mysteries of life in communion with him and with all other humans in a perfect state of existence. That is what we have to look forward to.

Today in your life, God is sovereign. When you live in the world out there, don’t forget who you are. You a prince, a princess, a king and queen, under Christ, destined to reign with Christ, destined to live in harmony with Him. This fallen world is a struggle. But we look forward to a great inheritance.

History is God’s story. And the world’s narrative fails to stand up to scrutiny. So believe the Bible. And Believe in Christ. Our faith in Him will yield a vast ocean of abundance and glory in eternal life, which is our destiny.

A Philosophical Transformation Series
3. God's Overarching History: The Big Picture
(Coming up...)
4: Theology: Understanding God
5: Anthropology: Who are we? Human Origins (The Fall)
6: Sociology: The Divine Image, the Family & The Social Order
7: Redemption of Man: The Cross (Paradise Regained)
8: Morality: How should we live?
9: Working to God’s Glory: Created to Create, Community & Charity, Giving & Building
10: Government & Law: The Unique American Experiment 
11:  The Future Destiny of Man: The New Heavens & New Earth
12: Everything is about Jesus: Closeness with Christ & Living Missionally