Preparation For Jesus Coming
SUBJECT: Preparation for Jesus' Coming
TEXT: "But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law." (Galatians 4:4)
INTRODUCTION: "The practical value of this study of world conditions at the birth of Christ lies in the discovery that modem conditions are closely parallel. It is the growing conviction, the considered judgment of men who can read the signs of the times that once again in world relations – social, economic, moral, and religious – God's flood tide is coming, and that our generation is seeing what men saw twenty centuries ago, the lines of preparation beginning to converge, beginning to point to a new day of the power of the Son of Men." (James Stewart)
III. Moral Preparation
CONCLUSION: The mind and mood of the present day would strongly suggest that God is preparing the way for the Coming of His Son to the hearts of men with unprecedented power and glory. The evidence seems to indicate that we may be ready to see the greatest revival of the coming of Christ to man, that mankind has ever experienced. "Even so, come Lord Jesus!"
SUBJECT: Preparation for Jesus' Coming
TEXT: "But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law." (Galatians 4:4)
INTRODUCTION: Jesus' First Coming was not accidental. It was a planned coming – planned by God. The time was ripe for Jesus' coming. The geographical location for Jesus' coming was central – Palestine – linking up the three great continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa. Further, "it was when all the factors – social, economic, moral, religious – had converged upon him that the man of God's right hand came forth. It was when world conditions were exactly ripe for it that God's supreme revelation in history came." (The Life and Teachings for Jesus Christ; Stewart; pg. 15)
"The practical value of this study of world conditions at the birth of Christ lies in the discovery that modem conditions are closely parallel. It is the growing conviction, the considered judgment of men who can read the signs of the times that once again in world relations – social, economic, moral, and religious – God's flood tide is coming, and that our generation is seeing what men saw twenty centuries ago, the lines of preparation beginning to converge, beginning to point to a new day of the power of the Son of Man. Today, as then, God is matching the hour with the Christ and there is an opportunity now, unprecedented for nineteen hundred years, for Christ's evangel to get a lasting grip. For Jesus and for men the fullness of the time draws nigh." (The Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ; 16) (James Stewart)
PROPOSITION: God prepared the ancient world for the coming of Jesus. Again, God is preparing the hearts of men today for the coming of Jesus!
Let us note the factors that existed at the time of Christ's coming that helped prepare the world for Christ's coming. Let us further note the similarities between the factors that existed in Jesus' day and those factors that exist in our day which prepare the hearts of men for Jesus' coming in new and glorious ways.
I. Political and Social Preparation
World of Jesus' day was united by (1) Roman Peace, (2) Great Roads, (3) Common language – Greek.
Similarly today, the world is as one big neighborhood. Modem means of communication has brought the nations close together. Because of modem means of communication (satellite T.V., etc.), ideas can be spread throughout the world
in a very short time. There is an unprecedented opportunity to communicate the Gospel almost simultaneously throughout all parts of the globe. The world is becoming more and more politically, socially, and geographically prepared for a new day for the power of the Son of Man to be manifested.
II. Economic Preparation
On the surface, conditions seemed prosperous in Rome and Palestine just preceding the coming of Christ. Appearance, however, often deceives and this was true of the economic conditions in Rome and Palestine. Two out of every three men on the streets of Rome were slaves, living in dire poverty, and mere property of the few rich landholders. In Palestine, heavy taxation and a growing overpopulation "made it impossible for the land to provide food enough for its own inhabitants – these things had precipitated a period of unexampled depression among the great bulk of the people." (Ibid; 19)
Economic depression in Rome and in Palestine among the common populace caused great worry and anxiety and despair. In the midst of the deepest darkness the Brightest Light from Heaven shone forth and the Voice of hope and cheer sounded forth.
Our world increasingly is becoming prepared economically for an unprecedented coming of the power of the Son of God to the hearts of men. "Certain it is that it has been out of some of the most depressed and desperate human situations that the great historic revivals have burst, like the break of a new day." (Ibid; 19) The majority of the world cannot base any hope or take any comfort from material things, for the vast part of the world's community wallows in sickness, poverty, disease, and depression. Is there any hope? Christ's coming to the hearts of thousands of poor people, is showing these people that there is hope! "The brother who is poor may be glad because God has called him to the true riches. " (James 1:9) Jesus is coming and will increasingly come to the economically depressed peoples of the world.
III. Moral Preparation
The world that Jesus came to was a world plighted with moral rottenness. "The world was growing old and not even Caesar could make it young again," says Mommsen about the ancient world. The innocence of youth had faded away "and only the worm, the canker, and the grief were left." (Ibid; pg. 20) Women and children were treated as things to be used selfishly, and they had no legal rights. Marriages were dissolved on the slightest pretenses. Men openly accompanied mistresses. In the Greek world, prostitution was a widespread and commonly accepted practice. Concerning Roman family life, "Seneca writes that women were married to be divorced and divorced to be married and that women dated the years by the names of their husbands." (Bar. Ephesians, 202) "It is not too much
to say that the whole atmosphere of the ancient world was adulterous." (Ibid. pg. 20) The sick, weary, corrupt world into which Jesus came, was ready for a new message and new power – a message of redemption and a power to live clean and righteous.
Today, like as in the world of Jesus' day, there is a widespread break-down in morals. Immorality, violence, dishonesty, and perversion are deeply woven into the fabric of our society. The moral law of God has been disregarded, and even theologians have invented "situational ethics" and advocated "relativism" in morals. A sickening tolerance has invaded even the churches, and many ministers no longer point the finger at people and say, "Thou shalt not", but rather pat the shoulder and ask, "Is it meaningful?"
There is a saying: "He who spits against the wind spits in his own face." "You don't break the moral laws; you break yourself upon them … If you work with the moral universe you get results – it will back you, sustain you, and you will have cosmic support for your way of life. But if you go against the moral universe, you get consequences – you'll be up against things, you'll be frustrated." (E. Stanley Jones; Word Became Flesh; pg. 71)
Modern man has tried to get a 'kick' out of life, and instead he has gotten a 'kick back'. There is today, however, a growing dissatisfaction with the "ethics of the dust." In ignoring the North Star of Morality, man is terrifyingly lost and is beginning to cry out for a fixed landmark by which he can once again get his bearings. Jesus Christ alone is that North Star. Jesus Christ is the Hope for Moral Cleansing in an immoral society. Christ alone can give a clear moral sense of Right and Wrong, and He alone can give the power to do Right!
IV. Religious and Intellectual Preparation
"The old gods of Rome were either dead or dying. To fill the gap, two expedients were tried. On the one hand, a whole new batch of gods imported from the East, outlandish, oriental deities brought in to stir Rome's jaded senses – till among the philosophers the overcrowding of Olympus, where the gods were supposed to dwell, became a standing joke. On the other hand, the strange phenomenon of Caesar worship appeared; the emperor himself was accorded divine honors. But all expedients failed. What was a whole Pantheon of god's worth if they had nothing to say to a man with a broken heart? What could the divinity of Caesar say to a soul stabbed with the remorse of sin? When everything had been done that could be done, the hungry hearts of men were hungry still." (The Life and Teaching of Jesus Christ; pg. 20) (James Stewart)
The Jews for centuries had longed for the coming of the Messiah. At the height of this expectation, Jesus came. Jesus used the Jewish and Greek thought categories to introduce the truth regarding God and eternal life. All the gods of Rome and Greece had failed and the Jewish Messianic expectations were high.
The fullness of time had come religiously. The hearts of men were prepared for the coming of the Son of Man.
In many ways, the hearts of men today are prepared as never before for the coming of the Son of Man with unprecedented power. We may be on the verge of a world-wide revival. What evidence is there for such a statement?
Men are turning and will turn to God by the masses in our modem day, because the religious and thought systems of twentieth century man have miserably failed.
Man's modem-day gods have been weighed in the moral and spiritual balances, and have been found wanting.
The religion of Humanism has failed. The belief of humanism can best be expressed by the phrase, "Glory to man in the highest." There is nothing that man cannot achieve, given enough time. Man, says the doctrine of humanism, is inherently good. But the shrine of humanism has been dishonored in the twentieth century. Look what so-called "inherently good men" have produced in the twentieth century – growing crime, devastating wars, racism, hate, pollution, corruption in morals. The serious-minded man is turning from humanism to realism – and that realism is found in Christ.
The religion of scientism is the religion that worships science and claims that science is the cure – all for all of man's problems. The attitude of scientism is expressed by Adam Smith in the beginning days of modem science: "Science is the great antidote to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition. When we have learned to make sensible use of science the world will not be filled with war, ignorance, prejudice, superstition and fear." (Conversion; E. S. Jones; 25) We almost smile at this naive statement. Science has not only given us unprecedented power to use gadgets, but science has created unprecedented fear. "Some of the makers of the atomic bombs called together the ministers around Chicago and in a two days conference announced: 'Frankly, we're frightened. We can produce the means in atomic energy, but we can't produce the ends for which those means are to be used. Unless you ministers can produce the moral and spiritual ends for which atomic energy is to be used, then we're sunk.' Science turned to religion and cried, 'Save us or we perish'." (Conversation; pg. 25, 26) Worshiping science does not satisfy. Science can tell the 'how's, but it can't answer the 'whys' of life. Only Christ can do that. This is why many great scientists are turning to Christ, and will continue to turn to Christ.
The way of Materialism has failed. America is the richest people in the world, and among the unhappy. The Scriptures are right: "Life does not consist in the abundance of things which a man possesses." The worship of things by adults has "turned off' young people, and has "turned them on to drugs – an equally disappointing substitute. Money does not have in it the ability to satisfy the soul's deep longings. A preacher told of seeing a caterpillar crawling up a "painted stick
in search of a juicy twig only to have to retrace his steps. There are the painted sticks of pleasure, wealth, power, and fame. Men climb them only to have to retrace their steps." A young man who heard this story, visited the preacher and said, "I have been climbing those painted sticks. I'm a weary man. Is there rest for a weary millionaire?" (Conversion; 20,21) "Cecil Rhodes ruled the gold and diamond mining industries of South Africa and was one of the wealthiest men in his day. Rhodes was a friend of General Booth (of Salvation Army) and when asked one day: 'Are you happy?' Rhodes replied: 'Happy? Good heavens, No!' A rich man can be very poor." (Radar News; June 1971)
The way of Positivism has ended in frustration. Positivism is the philosophy which advocates that there is no reality other then that which can be perceived through the five senses of man. Thus, according to positivism, all spiritual reality is ruled out. The way of positivism has failed, for Reality is bigger than the tangible physical universe, and man is more than a physical creature. The soul of man cries out for spiritual reality. Many positivists have turned and will turn to Christ as the only answer to reality.
The philosophy of Atheism and cynicism has not satisfied. "Well known is Mencken's impious creed: The universe, a gigantic wheel in rapid revolutions; man, a sick fly taking a dizzy ride on the rim thereof; religion, the fly's delusion that the wheel was constructed to give him the ride." (The Word of the Lord Came Unto Me Also; pg. 128) The despairing, atheistic view of life is described by Philosopher Bertrand Russell: "Brief and powerless is man's life. On him and his entire race the slow, sure doom falls pitiless and dark. Blind to good and evil, reckless of destruction, omnipotent matter rolls on its relentless way." (Ibid: 128) When man tries to get along without God, he finds he cannot get along with himself. The philosophy of Nothingness and the way of Atheism leaves man empty and barren and without any life purpose. Many have despaired so much of life that suicide was their alternative rather than agonizing existence. A Harvard doctor said over the radio: "The health of this country is being endangered by aimlessness and lack of purpose." (Word Became Flesh; 78) Carl Jung, the great psychiatrist, said, "The central neurosis of our time is emptiness." (Conversion; 19) Christ alone can fill that emptiness and give purpose and fulfillment to life. Therefore, the time is ripe for many atheists and cynics to turn to Christ.
The God of Freudian psychology has miserably failed. Fraud based his psychology on the idea of Insight. He believed that if a person was given insight into the self, then that self could be adjusted and restored to health. However, the mental institutions are filled today with thousands who have self-insight, but who are still mentally ill. Many of the leading psychiatrists (Carl Menninger, Carl Jung, and Smiley Blanton) have discovered that man's greatest need is not mere insight into himself, but rather, the ability to love and to be loved. Says Dr. Smiley Blanton, "After sitting for forty years in my office and dealing with disrupted people I've come to the conclusion that they are disrupted because they haven't loved or been loved." (Word Became Flesh; 94) Christ is the answer to
man's greatest needs – to love and to be loved. Therefore, the time is ripe for thousands – including psychiatrists – to turn to Christ.
The Social Worker who has sought to heal society's ills only through costly projects of social engineering has miserably failed. "The average length of service of the professional social worker is about seven years." (Conversion; 8) They get discouraged and give up because their efforts don't payoff. Society can only be changed through Christ. The revolutionist seeking to change society through violent means is no more successful, for no revolution excepting the revolution of Christ's love is powerful enough to change human nature and in turn to cure society's ills.
The way of Nationalism and Militarism has also failed. "A Japanese doctor told me (E. S. Jones) that tuberculosis had been ousted as Killer number One in Japan in favor of heart disease and high blood pressure. When I asked him the cause, he replied, 'Spiritual uneasiness.' At the close of the war (World War II) the philosophy of a great people had collapsed – they were not a divine people with a divine emperor who had a divine destiny to rule. That conception of life went down in blood and ruin and left a vacuum. So this sense of vacuum has sent up the blood pressure of a whole nation." (Conversion; pg. 18) Said one of the great statesmen of our time: "I'm fed up." (Ibid; 18) Patriotism and devotion without conversion do not sustain. Christian Victory magazine notes: "In 3100 years only 286 have been without war." "Robert Page, a Washington official, once testified: 'Until human nature is changed, we'll have war." Page, who was director of research at the U. S. Naval Research Laboratory, declared: 'World peace will come only when all mankind turns wholeheartedly to God in complete humility and voluntary unconditional surrender." (Radar News; June 1971; Ray Brubaker) Many are beginning to realize the limitations of military armaments and are turning to Christ.
The Orient is becoming increasingly ripe for the Gospel of Christ. The Oriental religions are weary and impotent. "In India the gods lose their vitality and vigor every fifty or sixty years and have to be revived by certain reviving ceremonies and rites." Said a Hindu: "Ishwara (God) is growing old and decrepit, and is not of much use to us now." (Word Became Flesh; 6) The refreshing Presence of the Resurrected Christ will increasingly be welcomed in the Orient in the months and years ahead.
There is a new and widespread interest in Jesus Christ today. Witness this in the large number of books about Christ being read and circulated today. Many secular T.V. programs feature religious speakers and singers. Popular songs are written about Christ. Amidst the despair of the modern age there is a feeling that the only hope for our age is in some type of Divine Intervention. This is reminiscent of the ancient Jewish Messianic expectation. There is a great spiritual awakening among youth today. Drugs are found by thousands of youth to be
sterile and degrading. Christ is being found to be uplifting and ennobling and transforming.
V. The Coming World Revival and Spiritual Renewal
Many spiritual leaders believe that there has never been as great a revival of interest in and conversion to Jesus Christ, as there is now, in the last years of this millennium and as we come into the third millennium since the time of Christ! There are millions of people around the world whose hearts are tender toward Christ, and whose minds are open to investigate seriously the unique claims of Jesus Christ. It has been estimated by those who make a careful study of the growing worldwide movement of Christianity, that no fewer than 100,000 persons accept Christ as their personal Savior each day, throughout the world! Never in the history of Christianity has there been a faster growth of the Church of Jesus Christ!
Many believe that, amidst this unprecedented growth in converts to Christ, there is happening simultaneously the greatest persecution of Christians that there has ever been in the history of the Church. More Christians have died for the faith in the twentieth century than in any other one century since the time of Christ. In Christian News Magazine (WORLD magazine; Dec. 7, 1996), it is reported that approximately 160,000 Christians were martyred in 1996 alone! There are many Christians who have lost their lives in Central Africa, as a result of the brutal tribal wars. In a Prayer Bulletin, dated Dec. 6, 1996, which I received just today, the Bishops of the Free Methodist Church (of which evangelical denomination I am a 5th generation) just put out an urgent request for prayer because of the atrocities which are happening in Central Africa. The following are a few quotations from that Short Emergency Prayer Bulletin: "Free Methodists in Burundi, Rwanda and eastern Zaire continue to be caught up in the cataclysmic events of these days – war, violence, ethnic struggle and the frantic flight by hundreds of thousands of refugees trying to find safety. A hundred thousand Free Methodists who live in the area are directly affected. Tragic and brutal as well as heroic stories come out as personal news reaches us. There are massive numbers of widows and orphans being produced out of all these awful situations."
I believe that as we approach the Second Coming of Christ, there will be an all- out attack of the kingdom of darkness against the children of God, resulting in the slaughter of millions of believers. But, as we approach the End of this Present Age, I believe that there will be an amazing, "Harvest of Souls" for the Kingdom of God! "Though wrong seems often so strong, God is the Ruler yet!"
Christ is establishing His lordship in the hearts and lives of millions of people of all ages and in all the world's nations! During the last few years of my 27 year long pastoral ministry (as pastor of the Fort Collins, Colorado, Free Methodist Church), I observed and also participated in the amazing movement of the Spirit
of the Living God in the lives of many people. I share here a few examples of the mighty transforming power of Jesus Christ.
About 6 or 7 years ago, a dear friend of mine, Dr. Gil Carbajal, who, at that time was a long-time public school educator, received a call from God to start a Teen Bible Club in the Public School Junior High where he served as the School Counselor. With three or four teens, this Spirit-filled Educator began to meet weekly with these Christian Teens for Bible Study and prayer and a few words of encouragement. It was not long until other teens (both Christians and non- Christians) began regularly to meet together with their beloved public school counselor, Dr. Carbajal, and in a few months there were as many as one hundred teens (and other Christian public school teachers) meeting each Friday morning before the school day began. The Bible Club in this Junior High was so successful that several other public schools adopted this plan and program and started their own Bible Clubs. Today there are hundreds of teens meeting together each Friday morning, to fellowship, to sing choruses, to share burdens, to pray, and to get their "spiritual batteries recharged." Both Gil and his wife, Linda, (who is a counselor in a public high school) have witnessed firsthand for many years the mighty movement of God in the lives of hundreds of spiritually-open teens!
I have another close friend, Mr. Art Fowler, who has been used of God for many years as witness to hundreds of professional people across the nation – professional athletes, educators, government officials and politicians, doctors and lawyers and law enforcement officers. Through his simple and forthright witness to the saving power of Christ, many hundreds of people have accepted Christ – including truck drivers, policemen, airline stewardesses, celebrities, and even state governors and politicians. I call Art a "modern-day Philip", for, like Philip (in the Book of Acts), Art often witnesses to total strangers whom he senses the Holy Spirit is leading him to. The manner in which he "finds his contacts" is nothing short of miraculous! Art loves to read biographies of famous people or to read about high profile personalities in magazines (especially PEOPLE'S Magazine). There, as he senses the moving of the Spirit, he will begin "building bridges of friendship" with these people by phoning them, and eventually, he will set up personal appointments with them at which time he usually leads them to Christ. During the last few years since I have known Art, I have heard him share God's miracles in action through his witnessing, resulting in the salvation of literally hundreds of persons – including the governor of South Dakota (who, a year after Art led him to Christ, was killed in a plane crash). The list of persons whom Art has led to Christ is long, including over 200 patrolmen whom Art has led to Christ (after Art "pulls them over" by flashing his car light at night to get their attention!) Yes, there is only one Art Fowler, and no one should attempt to "pull over" police cars unless he is definitely led by the Holy Spirit to do so. His personal evangelism has been so unusual and fruitful, that Dr. James Kennedy has featured Art Fowler several times on his weekly national television program. We don't all have the special gift of personal evangelism, nor do we all have the
dynamics and daring personality like that of Art Fowler, but we can all be used of the Lord to help in the great spiritual harvest of precious souls in these days of unprecedented reaping!
During the last decade, I have witnessed a great interest, on the part of Christian parents, in enrolling their children in Christian Day Schools. I heard some time ago that there is something like 33,000 Christian Day Schools in America alone! In 1987, a few persons in our local Church (including my wife and me) had a vision to begin a Christina Day School – even though our Church facilities were very modest and even though there was very little monetary resources available. We started a kindergarten class in 1987, with only eleven students. Under the capable leadership of my wife, Venita Christian, and with the support of a few hand – picked teachers, and through the prayers of several dedicated friends, the Christian School grew rapidly, until there were about 225 students total in all the grades (pre-school thru 12th grades)! No one said it would be easy, but through diligent work, simple believing prayer, and loving cooperation by a growing number of parents and friends, the Christian School "blossomed" and became known in our community of 100,000 as one of the finest and most respected Schools in the city. Academically, socially, spiritually – the School excelled. Again, God's miracle power in action!
There was nothing that thrilled me more, when I served as long-term pastor of the Fort Collins Free Methodist Church (1967 – 1994) than personally witnessing precious persons repenting of their sins and turning their lives over to Jesus Christ. The coming of Christ into the lives and families of seeking souls always spelled divinely-wrought transformation! Even though I never felt I had the spiritual gift of evangelism, I did, as a pastor, take Paul's exhortation seriously: "Do the work of an evangelist." As a young pastor of22 (in 1967), I determined that, in spite of my natural timidity, I would ask God to discipline me to "reach out in love" to hurting and spiritually-hungry people who desperately needed Christ. Since I grew up in a small local Church (where there were hardly any men in the Church), and since my own father did not become a Christian until very late in his life (about four years before his death), I decided that I would always try to lead both husband and wife to Christ together in their homes in the evenings. I dedicated three evenings a week (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday evenings) to go into homes to witness and hopefully to lead some couples (and entire families if possible) to a saving knowledge of Christ. In spite of my fears and hesitations, mistakes and human weaknesses, God saw fit to allow me to be His 'mouthpiece' to speak to hundreds of unsaved persons about their need for Christ. On an appointment basis (what we called 'Salvation by Appointments'); I had the glorious privilege of personally leading several hundred adults to Christ. There is only about 20-40 new converts per year, but over a period of some 25 years the Lord performed many transforming miracles right before my eyes. These included older persons in their 60's, 70's, 80's as well as teens, young adults, and middle-agers, Eight months ago, I had the thrilling experience of a 93 year old lady repeating after me the sinner's prayer, and a few months later I prayed with a
78 year old lady (who, according to her own confession, had not attended Church for 30 years). Less than two months after this woman prayed to accept Christ as her Savior, she died of a heart attack. This woman (who died on November 1, 1996) manifested such glory and joy in her countenance the last moments before she died, that her two children (neither of whom were known for their personal faith in Christ) both testified that they believed the holy angels came and carried away their beloved mother! The woman's son said, "If! ever doubted that there is an afterlife, I no longer doubt it now, after seeing the peace and joy on my mother's face as she died!" This 78 year old woman (who prayed the sinner's prayer only a few weeks before her death) is only one of several older folks whom it has been my privilege personally to lead to Christ. And, of course, there have been several hundreds of young adults and middle age couples with whom I have held hands (around their own dining room tables at the conclusion of a "Salvation By Appointment" Bible Study, as they repeated the sinner's prayer.) After pastoring for nearly 27 years, I left that wonderful pastorate, but I have not left my blessed memories behind of the nights in the homes of hundreds of couples who humbled themselves in my presence as they repented of their sins and turned in faith to the merciful Savior. Some years ago, I recall being in the presence of a family of seven (father and mother and four children and an elderly grandmother, all of whom opened their hearts to the Living Christ!
The Church I pastored so long never was a very large congregation. It grew numerically from about 35 to 350 during the years I pastored, and, because there was considerable mobility in this professionally-oriented, university city, I was actually pastor of many different congregations (for hundreds of people came and went through the years). I felt God's presence so often as I preached, taught, visited, organized, and carried on the multitude of pastoral tasks in a small but growing Church – but I never felt the power of the Spirit's presence as strongly as I did when I was in the hundreds of homes of unsaved people, leading them to Christ through my "Salvation By Appointment" Home Bible Studies. When I left this long-term pastorate, my Church Directory had about 170 names and addresses of families which composed my 'flock'. Out of these 170 families, there were 60 of these families with whom I had personally prayed to accept Christ. Many of the local Church are strongest and most active leaders came from these persons who had been converted and discipled through our Church's ministries.
Many local Churches throughout America, like our own local Church, have primarily increased in size because of consistent and solid "Convert Growth." Of course, there is nothing necessarily wrong with other kinds of growth in a local Church – biological growth through babies being born to Church members, transfer growth through believers who join your Church after they move to your community from another community, and 'side ways growth' as a result of believers who leave another Church in the same community to join your Church – but the most important growth is "Convert Growth" (i.e. growth as a result of your own Church's soul-winning efforts).
There are still a large percentage (perhaps 50%) of all Churches in America that have 100 or less members, but there is also a growing number of local Churches that number in the several hundreds, and even a growing number of mega- Churches in America (i.e., Churches that number in the thousands).
The growth of the Christian movement in some countries of the world is absolutely mind-boggling! The movement of God in South Korea is well-known, with several thousands of Christian Churches in Seoul, Korea, alone. It seems hard to imagine, but the largest Church in the world is located in Seoul, Korea, and it numbers about 750,000 members. One Church! And there are many Churches in that same city which have 5,000 or more members in them!
The growth of the Christian Movement is so rapid in the continent of Africa, that some believe in a few years that this continent will be basically a Christian continent (and this, despite the fact that there have been very bloody tribal wars in recent years in several African countries).
Millions are turning to Christ in the Latin American countries. Tens of thousands come forward for salvation at the city-wide, massive evangelistic crusades!
Even though the Communists forced all missionaries to leave the mainland of China in the 1940's, it is reported that the growth of the Underground House Church Movement has been phenomenal! No one knows for sure just how many Chinese believers there are in this huge country where persecution of Christians has been severe and brutal, but some leaders estimate that there may be as many as one hundred million believers in China today!
There is a great openness to the Gospel of Christ among the masses of people who one time composed the former Soviet Union! With the new freedom which has been granted Christian believers, following the amazing collapse of Communism, there are encouraging reports of many spiritually-hungry Russian people seeking new meaning and purpose through Christ and the Christian way of life. My own cousin, George Christian, and his wife Drew, have been serving as lay missionaries to the Ukraine for the last four or five years. They were sent to the Ukraine by their local Southern Baptist Church in Texas to pass out 'Food Boxes' by the hundreds, door-to-door to the hungry people in the Ukraine, and to share a simple witness for Christ. The Spirit of God has honored the simple faith and fervent labors of George and Dru, and they have had the joy of leading several hundreds to a saving knowledge of Christ. Recently, I viewed a video of one of these out-door Church services, at which time George baptized 80 new converts! I was both thrilled and amazed as I viewed this baptismal service, for I knew George (with whom I played as we grew up together, just a block from each other) as a cousin who never 'darkened a Church door' and one who knew hardly anything about the Christina Faith! George was wonderfully converted as a young adult, and he married a deeply dedicated Christian wife. After working as
a competent mechanic for about 20 years, and faithfully serving the Lord in his local Baptist Church in Texas, he and his wife felt a strong urge from the Lord to go to the Ukraine. At the time, George was in his late 40's, but he sold practically everything he owned – including his nice house which he himself built – and went to a poverty stricken area of the world to serve his God whom he loved so deeply and for whom he had often witnessed while he served as a mechanic in a Texas city. He and his wife went to the Ukraine with the full blessings of his local Church, and with limited financial support. Even though it has had its challenges and life has not been easy for them, this couple radiates the joy of the Lord in their work, and God has given them "many souls for their labors". They have been used of God to start five new Churches, and they have witnessed to literally hundreds and hundreds of precious Ukrainian people – even though George and Dru do not speak the language themselves. Through translators, George preaches the Word, witnesses to prison inmates, organizes crusades, conducts baptism services, carries on business transactions, and uses his manual skills to build structures. When we were children growing up together (George is five weeks older than myself), he struggled to make it academically in school. He never went to college. But George was a young man who wanted to be authentic. He was not afraid of hard work, and he could do almost anything with his skilled hands. Even though he grew up in a non-Christian home), George had an open mind and a sincere heart. He was a risk-taken by nature, so when he found the Hidden Pearl – Christ Jesus – George became an excited, un-self-conscious, bold, simple witness for Christ. He becomes a "sold out" follower of Christ! He and his wife intend – if God wills – to live the rest of their lives in the Ukraine, to love people and to win thousands of souls to Jesus Christ. When I am with George and Dru, all they want to talk about is Jesus, and God's transforming power! They like to share scores of illustrations of how God has intervened in their spiritual battles with the forces of darkness. They have so many reports of spiritual victory in a land that is desperately hungry for God! They truly are on "fire for God."
There is so much evidence that God is moving in astonishing ways in our world today. Yes, through hundreds of thousands of local Churches in many parts of the globe, millions of followers of Christ are actively engaged in "reaching out in love" to their unsaved neighborhoods. The United States is ripe for a mighty spiritual harvest, and many Churches from many different traditions (Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Messianic Churches, Eastern Orthodox) are effectively harvesting souls for Master. Churches are uniting to sponsor city-wide Crusades where millions are experiencing spiritual renewal as they respond to Spirit- anointed evangelists like Billy Graham, as well as many other lesser known evangelists. There are hundreds of new "Church Plants", sponsored by many different branches of the Church of Jesus Christ. There are encouraging signs that many local Churches are beginning, as never before, to take seriously Jesus' Great Commission (Matthew 28: 19-20)
So-called Para- Church organizations are active and growing, resulting in supporting the work of the local Church. "Trinity Broadcasting Network", begun
by Paul and Jan Crouch, only some 20 years ago (in the 1970's), has grown into a network that now virtually covers the entire globe, with over 500 Christian T.V. stations transmitting the Gospel Message to millions of souls. Millions of souls have come to know Jesus in a personal way, and millions of believers are regularly encouraged, through the multitudes of sermons and Bible lessons and Christian testimonies and Christ-centered music which can be heard 24 hours a day, every day of the year!
"Focus On The Family", organized and led by Dr. James Dobson, has a staff of about 1200 persons, and the daily broadcast plus all the nearly 70 different ministries which focus on a vast number of various and unique needs of people – all a part of "Focus On The Family" – is being used of God to disciple vast multitudes of believers in the United States and in many other countries! Besides this most popular daily radio program, which features Dr. Dobson and a host of guest speakers who talk about a vast range of relevant topics, there are scores of other helpful radio ministers and speakers. And the availability of Christian music on Christian Radio Stations is greater than ever before. No believer anywhere in America need be without daily spiritual edification, for God's truth is sounded forth "from the housetops". With a large number of modem Bible translations, no Christians have any excuse for Biblical illiteracy, and the amount of Christian Books (covering almost every conceivable topic) is absolutely overwhelming! God has surely opened the "windows of heaven, and poured out blessings which are too great to be contained"!
"Campus Crusade for Christ", founded and led by Dr. Bill Bright, has been used of God as a tool to witness to millions of people in many different countries, not only on hundreds of University Campuses but also in many other varied settings. Several thousand youth and older adults are full-time staff members of this outstanding Para- Church ministry, and each one of these "missionaries" is responsible for finding sponsors who will pray for them and support them financially! Through the use of the "Jesus" Video, there have been many millions of people around the world who have made serious commitments to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord!
The well-attended week-long seminars, conducted by Mr. Bill Gothard, have brought great insights into both the basic and the deeper concepts of disciplined Christian Living. Many lives have been permanently changed as a result of attending one of these week-long seminars.
"Insight for Living", the daily half hour radio broadcast which features popular preacher, Charles Swindoll, is probably the most popular preaching ministry on Christian radio today. His helpful expository messages and Bible Study Booklets and literally dozens of books which he has authored, bring unusual "insights" into the meaning and application of God's Word to millions of believers. He is indeed a most skilled and compassionate teacher of the Word!
Evidence that God is moving in special ways among the thousands of broken and confused men (husbands and fathers) in America today is seen in the amazing growth of the movement called "Promise Keepers" which was founded in 1990, when University of Colorado football coach Bill McCartney first gathered 72 men together. From that initial gathering of a small group of men, a fast-growing movement has now expanded into several states, with nearly a million men who attended one of about 25 different regional conferences throughout the United States in 1996. Who knows how many more men will be touched by this Spirit – impelled movement, in the next several years! I have personally had the privilege of participating as a learner and worshiper in a Promise Keepers' Conference each summer, since its beginning. I was one of 4200 men who attended the first large conference. I heard Coach McCartney express his vision for tens of thousands of men to be reached through his new movement called "Promise Keepers." The second year, the 4200 expanded to 20,000 men in attendance in Boulder, Colorado. The third year, there were about 50,000 men who attended the Promise Keeper Conference in Boulder. Then, before long by 1995, there were 13 different regional conferences Promise Keeper Rallies) which touched about 500,000 men! This last summer, there were about 25 regional conferences, with several hundred thousands more men attending! On October 4, 1997, there was an estimated one million men who gathered together on the Washington, D.C., mall for the "Standing In The Gap" solemn assembly, to express deep repentance and a desire for National Healing! At each of the great Promise Keeper Conferences, held in large stadiums, I witnessed literally thousands of men going forward on the first night of the week-end, to give their lives to Christ – following a powerful evangelistic message. Some of the nation's best speakers shared messages on the following day – practical messages which were designed to impact the lives of men in their various responsibilities as husbands, fathers, employees, Churchmen, and public witnesses. I have often knelt with thousands of men at these Promise Keepers' Conferences, to make a deeper dedication of my life to Almighty God. On Saturday Evening, after a long day of listening to multiple speakers of various races, Coach McCartney would deliver the last powerful message of the week-end, at which time he would challenge the 50,000 men (or more) to a life of deep dedication to God and a life of fervent love for the brethren of all races and ethnic backgrounds. McCartney's recurring theme has been God's uniting love and compassion which thousands all man- made differences of race and culture and backgrounds and status. Who would ever have guessed that God would use a football coach as the man who would "spearhead" one of the greatest men's movements in the history of the Christian Church!
Yes, it is true that no person is wise enough to predict with certainty when Jesus will return to earth the Second Time. Jesus Himself said that no man – not even the Son – knows the exact time when God shall send Jesus back to earth – the Second Coming. But, while no one knows when Jesus shall actually return in Bodily form to bring a close to this present age, we can say with certainty that Jesus is coming in our own day to the hearts and minds of countless numbers of men and women, youth and children, in new and wonderful ways. As the world
of ancient times was prepared in so many different ways for the corning of Jesus in physical form the first time, so God has prepared our present – day world as never before for the coming of Jesus in a spiritual way to countless numbers of people. May each one of us personally prepare our own hearts for Jesus' coming in new and glorious ways! . Even so, Come, Lord Jesus!
"Heaven's arches rang when the angels sang, Proclaiming Thy royal decree; But of lowly birth didst Thou come to earth, And in great humility. o come to my heart, Lord Jesus - There is room in my heart for Thee!"
CONCLUSION: The mind and mood of the present day would strongly suggest that God is preparing the way for the Coming of His Son to the hearts of men with unpredictable power and glory. The evidence seems to indicate that we may be ready to see the greatest revival of the coming of Christ to man that mankind has ever experienced. "Even so, come Lord Jesus!"