Why study the history of Christianity? There are at least two important reasons as to the importance of knowing the history of the church and of the Christian faith. The study should produce humility in the heart of the student. When you consider the struggle for truth that has occurred through the ages and the extremely high price that was paid by so many men and women, you realize what a privileged time that we live in. We live in a new axial age. The old axial age involved the opening of the world to new ideas and preceded the coming of Christ. Philosophy rose as a discipline and there was a world wide quest for truth. Today some are calling the time we live in the “information age”. The ideas of the ages are at our fingertips and research is readily available and only a click away. Because of this reality, rapid change can occur almost anywhere in the world especially among the young. Cultures that long repressed free thinking by their young people are virtually helpless to keep them from the information that is out there on the web. A case in point is the African pastor who wrote me an email to tell me that he regularly gathers his English speaking congregation to listen to my sermons off of our website. He wrote to thank me for helping to teach his people and himself more about the Word of God. Only God knows the possibilities that exist in such a world. Humility is also provided by the expanding of the mind to struggle with the great questions that challenged the church through the ages. When you see the pressures imposed upon the church from without, you can better understand where their ideas and practices came from. Harsh judgment is tempered by a greater understanding of the unique challenges of the geopolitical realities they endured. You begin to distinguish the difference between heresies and misguided thinking that is not scriptural in nature.
The other benefit is that you can see how heretics and heresies have continued to follow the same destructive paths in many forms through the centuries. For example, there was a man named Montanus who arose as a spiritual leader in the second century A. D., who began to say that the age of Jesus had passed and it was time to begin the age of the Spirit. He believed that the Spirit could lead him and others to write and say things that were equal in authority to what the apostles and others had written in the first century. He did not see the Scripture as a complete and final word. That same spirit pervades the abuses of radical Pentecostalism, Mormonism, Islam, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and an endless list of other false prophets and prophecies. It can be easily identified as another of Satan’s ploys to distort the gospel of Christ. The gift of discernment is greatly enhanced with a thorough knowledge of Christian history.
This is just a brief note to self. I got my holidays mixed up on my last blog. I have corrected it now. Note to self: Drink at least two cups of coffee before sitting down to write. I feel some heavy writing coming on so stay tuned.
Having taken a vacation from posting on this blog, it is time to blog again. As Labor Day weekend approaches my mind is on the age old battle for truth. The truth is powerful and effective, but it must engage those who walk in darkness. We cannot sit safely in our churches and expect to win the battle for truth. Paul wrote about the “weapons of our warfare” in 2 Corinthians ten and verses four and five. He made clear that these weapons are WML, weapons of mass life. Weapons are no good if they never leave the arsenal. They are also not effective if we only sit and clean them. Our enemy is not people. Our enemy is the devil who has taken the souls of men prisoner and would like nothing more than to chain them in darkness forever. Jesus came to set people free. He has commissioned us to be his freedom fighters. He does not ask us to provide the power. The power is already in the gospel. He simply asks us to get out of the barracks, arm ourselves from the arsenal, and enter the fields of conflict. Don’t be afraid. He said he would be with us always.
According to a news report, there was an exam given at Ohio State University containing a question which indicated that Christians just are not as smart as atheists. Only a case of severe ignorance or amnesia could cause one to fail to note that the very discipline of scientific discovery arose from a Christian worldview. The deeply held conviction of Christians that the world was created by God in an orderly and designed fashion led naturally to the exploration of that design. An actual study was done to learn about the people with the highest registered I.Q. in the world and the results fly in the face of the current notion that “atheists are just smarter.” Of the ten highest ranking people whose intelligence has been measured, eight of them are theists, and six of the eight are Christians. How’s that for a statistic? Without meaning to do so the close minded professor has raised another question. Why are atheist so self absorbed? One of the more interesting observations that I have ever heard is that Christianity actually opens the mind. The Christian faith invites exploration and testing. God challenges us in the Scriptures to test and prove him. Believers didn’t bring this subject up, but don’t fall for the drivel that you cannot be intelligent and Christian. The facts just don’t even come close to suggesting such a thing.
This summer we have the largest number of people engaging in mission trips in our history. The largest group is going to Oregon. There will be forty three in that group. They leave this weekend. Another group of eighteen leaves for Myanmar today. Our Moldova team was the second largest group that we have sent to Eastern Europe. They had a great experience and shared the gospel with thousands by children’s ministry and bible distribution. All of this activity and more raises a question among some as to why this is important.
1. It is important because of the command of Jesus. Jesus said we would be witnesses where we are and also to the uttermost parts of the earth. (Acts 1:8) You will never realize the true magnitude of the church and her task if you never engage in missions.
2. It is important because of how lost the world is. In many parts of the world the church is weak and outnumbered and struggles to even get the attention of the population around them. Just the presence of groups of committed Christians who have come a distance to touch lives raises the visibility and importance of those believers who live in the midst of a host of unbelievers. They suddenly are seen as valuable people to those around who marvel at the guests who have come to work with them.
3. It is important because of the opportunity for spiritual growth. Most people who have engaged in missions will tell you that their sense of their spiritual gifts and abilities have been greatly expanded while serving in one of these adventures. They truly are spiritual adventures in which you can sense the presence of the Lord and his pleasure at the efforts you are making to touch a lost and dying world. You have the opportunity to witness the power of the gospel and the impact the message of Jesus can make in the lives of people. This is life changing for you as well as those you touch.
I could go on of course. There are many other reasons. Let me close with this. Why is Crestview Baptist Church such a unique church? I submit to you that it is directly related to the way so many of our people have moved from being spectators to participants in ministry. There is nothing so transformational as making the choice to truly be the Body of Christ doing the things he did to change the world. “UNTO HIM BE GLORY IN THE CHURCH THROUGHOUT ALL AGES, WORLD WITHOUT END.” (EPHESIANS 3:21)