Our God doesn’t blink off
This afternoon I get to teach a room full of students that our God doesn’t blink off. Instead, he is constantly working to expand the reach of the gospel in our lives.
What has God been doing for 4,000 years?
I teach Lesson 6 of Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Perspectives is a fifteen-week class about what God has been doing the last four thousand years, what he is doing now and how to find your place in his plans. It’s not easy, and it’s not cheap. But, if you want a bigger vision of how God is working to take his salvation to nearly eight billion people on our planet, you can’t miss it!
Lesson 6 of Perspectives covers God’s work between the end of the book of Acts (sometime before AD 70) and the beginning of the Protestant Reformation in 1517. That’s a lot of ground to cover in two hours of instruction!
When most of us Evangelical Americans think about church history, we think of God blinking off sometime in the first couple centuries after Jesus and blinking back on when the Reformation leaders left the Catholic church. This, of course, is a misunderstanding of how our God works.
For those fifteen hundred years God worked through his people expanding the reach of the gospel. The message of Christ moved through Roman civilization, then traveled to the Barbarians and then to the Vikings. Rather than blinking off and blinking back on, God’s work built momentum during these times to make us ready for a final push to the ends of the earth.
From the Apostles to the Empire
The expansion of the gospel began with the Apostles. Following Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension back to the Father, they didn’t stay in Palestine. Some of them traveled to surprising places. When missionaries arrived in India generations ago, they found churches in areas thought to be unreached. Those churches traced their lineage back to the Apostle Thomas. The Apostle, Matthias likely carried the gospel deep into Ethiopia. And, some stories tell us that Joseph of Arimathea might have found himself on the shores of Great Brittain. (Yes, the guy who took Jesus off the cross and let him use his tomb for a few days. SPOILER ALERT: Jesus didn’t need that tomb for very long!) In February, AD 313, Christianity became the religion of Rome. Then, as Rome drew to a close toward the end of the Fifth Century, God’s work was just getting started.
Greater than outside threats
As the church expanded through Roman civilization, they had decisions to make. Church councils discerned between true faith and errant views of Christ. Offenders were often excommunicated and exiled outside Romans civilization. As they found new homes, they taught people about Jesus. The Barbarians began to believe. Over the next four hundred years, faith in Jesus expanded as Roman civilization collapsed. Then, the next threat and frontier loomed on the horizon.
As Western Europe was coming together under the reigns of leaders like Charlemagne, a new threat arose. People from the north began to raid, pillage and plunder. Unlike the Barbarians who had brought the doom of Rome, the Vikings were seafarers. And, they had no respect for God or his people. We all know how Vikings do things. They destroyed monasteries, stole the church’s treasures and carried captives back to their homelands. Many faithful women were taken. Many of them refused to give up hope in their captivity. So, God continued the expansion of the gospel through captives taken involuntarily to the Viking homelands. Over the course of the next four hundred years, God brought much of Europe — including the Vikings — to hope in Christ.
So, what? That’s the question of the Twenty-First Century. What does this mean for us? The God who refused to blink off through the rise and fall of Rome, Charlemagne, and the Vikings is the same God who refuses to blink off in your life. No matter what foes arise or how tough life gets, you will not be deserted. Jesus paid the highest price to prove God’s love to us. So, whatever you face today, don’t forget that our God doesn’t blink off!
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38-39 ESV