God so loved the world…
There are 8 billion people living on the earth today. Every single one is important to God.
At the end of the first century there were approximately one million Christians representing less than one percent of the Roman Empire – which ruled much of the known world at the time. By 1900, Christians represented just over 30% of the worlds population, which was just 1.6 billion at the time. It was the ‘age of reason’ and a number of famous philosophers of the day declared that Christianity would decline rapidly and become non-existent by the end of the twenty-first century. They were wrong.
The number of people identifying themselves as (trinitarian) believers in Jesus Christ today is a whopping 2.48 billion, representing 31% of the people currently living in the world. So despite the many negative predictions of the decline of Christianity given by numerous philosophers, the simple facts are that Christianity grew from 1% to over 30% of the world’s population in the first 1900 years. Even with a booming world population in the last century, the number of Christians living in the world has kept pace with the nearly five-fold world population increase in the last 120 years. The figures have declined in what is termed ‘the west’ and at the same time increased dramatically in the rest of the world, so maintaining a percentage of just over 30% of the world’s population.
With all of the advances made in knowledge and technology across the globe in the past century, why would a third of the world’s population still want to put their trust in a miracle-working carpenter who lived over two thousand years ago?
In 1670, Blaise Pascal published Pensées (thoughts), which was a defence of the Christian faith. In that book, he writes about the yearning for God in mankind:
“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.”
Blaise Pascal, Pensées VII(425)
Pascal purported the concept that every human being has a ‘God-shaped hole’ inside which can only be filled by the love and forgiveness found through Jesus Christ.
Some countries have seen astronomical growth. In China the communist authorities tried to outlaw Christianity when they expelled all foreign missionaries in 1949. At that time Christians were just 0.1% of the population. By 2012, the World Bank reported that the population of China was 1,344,130,000. Ye Xiaowen, the Dirctor of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, told audiences at Beijing University that the number of Christians in China had risen to 130 million by the end of 2006, which means that in 60 years the number of Christians grew 100 fold to 10%. But the continent of Africa has seen the most explosive growth of all. The World Christian Database reports that since 1900 the number of Christians in the continent of Africa has grown by an incredible 4,930 percent! Why is this? It is simply the fulfilment of a promise.
The Apostle Peter was one of Jesus’s closest friends. Writing to the New Testament church in the first century, Peter said, “The Lord isn’t slow about keeping his promises, as some people think he is. In fact, God is patient, because he wants everyone to turn from sin and no one to be lost.” (2 Peter 3:9). When the disciples asked Jesus about the end of the world, he said , “This good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world as a testimony to all nations. And then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14). Jesus came to bring God’s love and forgiveness to mankind. He will come again to judge the earth, but not before people around the world have had an opportunity to understand God’s love and to be forgiven. It is a wonderful promise, a wonderful message of hope for mankind.
The Christian Message is truly ‘good’ news
The message of Jesus Christ is that God wants to know each one of us personally. The bible uses the word ‘sin’ to describe the selfishness that has caused our separation from God; “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Jesus Christ, God the Son, came into our world to teach us how to live a life pleasing to our Creator. His teaching can be summed up in one bible verse, “Love God with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and love your neighbour as yourself” (Mark 12:33). God did not have to send his Son to teach mankind and to suffer so terribly himself, but he chose to do so because he loves us so much; “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
God created everything good and he created mankind to be his closest companions. He gave us free will, but we chose to live without him, ignoring what he said and making our own rules. This mistake has had devastating consequences resulting in war, poverty, immense suffering to millions and even serious damage to the earth itself. Far worse than this it also results in separation from God for eternity.
Jesus came to put that right – “…whoever believes in him… will have eternal life.” Everyone is included in the invitation.
William Booth, the founder of The Salvation Army, had a mind-blowing vision while he was on a train journey. Booth saw that mankind was drowning in a rough sea, but that Christians were reaching down from the safety of a wooden promenade to pull out those who would stretch up their arms and accept that help. Surely we would have to be out of our minds to refuse such help in such circumstances!
If you would like to make a personal response to Jesus Christ, there is a prayer you can use as a guide in the CONTACT section.