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About this series
Hope of Nations
Standing Strong in a Post-Truth, Post Christian World
In the midst of these trying and challenging times, is there hope for America? In this new series called “Hope of Nations” our guest teacher John Dickerson, pairs his understanding of God’s Word with his skills as a reporter, to paint a picture of America’s potential spiritual future. Don't miss what we can learn from our past, and how we can protect our Christian values.More from this series
Here’s the third thing is the global rise of Islam. Islam is the fastest growing religion or ideology in the world. It’s growing at a rate of seventy-six percent.
Right now, Christians are about one in three people in the world. This includes all your different brands of Christians. Your thirty-one flavors, you know? Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, all of them, okay?
About one in three people in the world today says, “I’m a Christian.” About one in five people in the world today claims to be a Muslim. That’s rapidly growing. And by the time we get to 2050, out of every three people in the world, one will be a Christian, one will be a Muslim, and one will be something else – either Communist or Hindu or atheist or agnostic. This is interesting to me. Sometimes we meet people in American society right now who say, “Oh, religion doesn’t really matter.”
Well, if you look at world demographics, religion matters big time. Religion in every century of world history has been almost the most important thing of what happens among nations.
So, okay, I have given you a little glimpse, but let’s ask a way more important question – what if we could ask Jesus this question: Where will all these things lead? Would anyone want to know what Jesus says? I mean, if we could bring Him out here and put one of these little microphones on Him, like, “Jesus, where will all of this lead?”
Well, believe it or not, we know His answer, because His disciples asked Him the exact same question. And it’s recorded for us in Matthew 24. So, let’s see the question and let’s see Jesus’ answer to the question.
“As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, ‘Tell us,’ they said, ‘when will this happen,’” “this” is when Christ will return to set up His kingdom on earth, “and what will be the sign of Your coming?”
Christians always want to know, “How do we know when it’s the end times? What will be the sign?” Christians always want to know, which is good, because we are supposed to be looking forward to it, okay? But Jesus said, “No one knows the day or the hour.” No one can predict and say, “Oh.” Isaac Newton predicted that it will be the year 2060. So, I’m hoping to live long enough to see if he was right. Who knows? We don’t know. No one can predict the day or the hour.
Even Jesus, when He was on earth said in His humbled form when He was on earth, “I don’t even know,” at that time. “So, what will be the signs of Your coming, and the end of the age?”
In other words, from the time Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden until Christ returns to clean up the whole mess and redeem it and judge evil, and sentence Satan to a lake of fire, and redeem those who have believed in Him, all of history is called “the age” in this passage.
That includes Egypt, that includes Rome, it includes the Soviet Union, and Napoleon, and us right now. We are living in this age that will end when Christ returns.
And the disciples say, “When is that going to be?” Well, Jesus starts to answer and we’ll pick up in verse 6 of His answer. He says, “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. But see to it,” choose, “that you will not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.”
So, if we look back between where we are and when Jesus said this two thousand years ago, well, there have been lots of wars. There have been world wars, there have been civil wars, there have been regional wars, and there have been lots of Christians who have lived through those wars.
And Jesus says, “If you see war in your lifetime, don’t panic. It’s part of the process until I return, of humanity.” “See to it that you’re not alarmed.”
And then He says this, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom,” that’s when there’s a conglomerate of nations, “against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.”
So, it’s like when a pregnant mother is at eight or nine months and the contractions start getting closer and closer and stronger and stronger. Jesus says if you see the world shaking, don’t let it shake your faith. It means that the contractions are happening and it’s getting closer and closer to the birth, which in this case, is Christ’s return.
He says this in verse 10, “At that time many will turn away from the faith.” So, Jesus predicts that as the end gets closer, some things will get harder for some Christians in some parts of the world. That seems to align with the data we’ve got. “Many,” He says, “will turn away from the faith.” Many will just say, “It’s just too hard to be a Christian in this world.”
And He says, “Many will betray and hate each other.” He says, “Many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people.” I want to camp on this for just a minute, because as I was reading this text, Matthew 24 is one of my favorite of the prophetic texts, because it’s from Jesus. The book of Daniel has got a lot of amazing stuff, the book of 2 Peter is rich, but this is straight from the mouth of Jesus.
And what was so interesting to me as I read this verse, having looked at all this data and research about world beliefs right now and where things are heading is this, that many – He says – many will turn away from the faith. So, there’s going to be a time when there are a lot of Christians and a whole bunch turn away.
So, the Pew Research Center, they actually have a statistic, it’s called “Switching in and switching out.” In religious terms, we call it “conversions”, when someone converts from Christianity to Judaism or from Buddhism to Islam. A person can convert. We all have our own free will.
And by Pew’s standards of measurement of what is happening today when they project it out over the next thirty years, the largest switching out of any religion in the world is actually Christianity.
There’s a minus sixty-six million. Sixty-six million people who were born into Christian families, raised going to church will abandon the faith at today’s rate between now and 2050.
Now, Christianity will hold its spot as a percentage of the population because Christianity is growing in certain parts of the world like Sudan, South Africa, southern Africa, China even Christianity is growing. But where will this minus sixty-six million happen? Mostly according to Pew researchers, in the United States and in Western Europe. Very interesting.
You know, Christianity in the world is so much bigger than the United States and we have to remind ourselves of that as Americans. But I was thinking, man, these words here: “Many will betray and hate each other.” It’s like, man, that just describes the political climate in our nation right now, doesn’t it? Many will betray and hate each other.
And then He says, “Many false prophets will appear.” You think, well, prophet. That’s such an old word from thousands of years ago. Who uses the word “prophet” anymore? Well, the one in five people in the world who are Muslim today, the one in three people in the world who are projected to be Muslim by 2050, they use the word “prophet” every day.
When they pray their memorized prayers to their god, Allah, they reference their prophet Mohammed. So, Jesus says as the end gets closer, there will have been many Christians and many will turn away. As the end gets closer, you’ll see people hating and betraying each other.
As the end gets closer, you’ll see many people deceived by false prophets. All of that seems to align with what we are seeing. I’m not giving a date or anything, okay? Don’t get me wrong. But it’s just very interesting, this was written two thousand years ago and the facts that I’m citing are all statistics from non-Christian researchers. It’s just interesting how God’s Word aligns with reality, even two thousand years later.
Because of these changes, Jesus says in verse 12, “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most people will grow cold. But the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”
This is my heart for you as a pastor, I just, I want you to stand firm to the end, no matter what happens in your life. I want your kids to stand firm to the end. I want your grandkids to stand firm to the end. I want us to be a Church of believers. It says, “No matter whatever happens in the world, or in our world, we will be the ones whose love does not grow cold and who stand firm to the end.”
Are you guys with me about that? That’s what this series is about. It’s not just about gaining knowledge, it’s about choosing to say, “We are strengthening our faith.” And verse 14, Jesus turns it positive. He says, “This good news of the kingdom,” the good news is that God loves all people, He died on the cross for the sins of the world, He desires all people to come to salvation and anyone who places their faith in Him has His forgiveness applied to them, and He wants this good news of the kingdom of God to, “be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations.”
Jesus wrote this, again, back before His followers, they didn’t even know what the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans were. They didn’t even know that South America existed. And He says, “I’m going to wait until I return until the whole world has heard about Me. I want every people group to have an opportunity to hear about Me,” and then Jesus says, “The end will come.”
So, what will all these things lead to? Well, whether it happens in our lifetime or two hundred years from now, ultimately, these things will all lead to Christ’s return. Ultimately, these things will all lead to Christ’s return.
And so, what we know as we make our way through a desert land at times, is that God will always give us our daily bread and that Christ is returning to take us to the promised land.
So, how can we respond? I want to very quickly give you three ways we can respond. Number one, the world needs the Church more than ever. The world needs the Church more than ever.
What the world doesn’t need is just an empty, stodgy religious-looking building with a whole bunch of people who are only concerned about themselves. That’s not what the world needs. What the world needs is the living, breathing body of Christ that loves the lost, that seeks the lost, that binds up the hurting, that helps the addicts, that as the world gets crazier and darker and shakes that is a place of hope and recue and healing and repair and restoration.
I want to paint a mental picture for you of a giant lighthouse out on the coasts up in New England where you have got those rocky, rocky coasts and those cold Atlantic Ocean waters. And you’ve got these big lighthouses that warn the ships: Don’t come over here. There are rocks over here. If you come over here, you’ll be shipwrecked.
And you think back before GPS and back before electronic mapping, these lighthouses were a matter of life and death. And some of these lighthouses would have what was called a lifesaving club.
A lifesaving club was a group, sometimes they were paid like firefighters, sometimes they were volunteers. And they would, in a storm, man the lighthouse and make sure that the light stayed on. And then if there was a ship out there and a ship crashed on the rocks, they would actually go out into the storm to rescue the shipwrecked. And so, the lighthouse was a lifesaving club.
I was reading Car and Driver magazine yesterday. Really religious publication. My favorite read every month. And in Car and Driver there’s actually this column about a lifesaving club in Montana for motorists who drive off the cliffs there. And there’s all these guys who have Jeeps and rappelling gear and they rush out to save the life.
Well, I want you to imagine the Church as this lighthouse, that in the storms of life, is this beacon of light and it’s full of people who go out into the storm to rescue people. What we have to be careful about is that sometimes, a lifesaving club can turn into a country club.
And we all show up and we’ve got our plaques on the wall, we’ve got all the lifejackets properly in line, but we are coming to the club but it really becomes about us instead of about the purpose. And here’s the thing. When we understand the Word of God, the more mature we get as followers of Christ, we understand this world is not our home, but we are here for a purpose. And it’s not to just bunker down and hunker down and just survive the storms. We will survive the storms and we will gather together and we have a refuge in any kind of storm that can happen in our personal lives or in the world. We have a refuge here.
But the point of the refuge, the reason God didn’t zap us right to heaven when we believed is that every one of us is to be mobilized as part of the lifesaving club. Because there are people in our neighborhoods and in our families and in our schools who have shipwrecked on the rocks of life, and they are drowning in those icy cold waters.
And God has appointed us now to be His lifesaving club. Did you know right now, that the fastest growing cause of death in the United States is not cancer, it’s not diabetes, it’s suicide. Suicide is rapidly the fastest growing cause of death in the United States. Are neighbors are drowning. Our neighbors are drowning.
And all this stuff about how the world is changing, if we’re not careful, we can take an immature approach and just say, “Well, how does this affect me? What am I going to do?” But here’s the thing, we are here to be the lifesaving club, because we know how it’s going to end. We know Christ is going to return and make everything right. We know our daily bread will be met every day.
But a lot of our neighbors don’t have that hope. A lot of our neighbors, they don’t know where they’re going to spend eternity. They’re afraid of death. They don’t know every day that their needs will be met. They don’t have a heavenly Father.
And we are here to be a lifesaving club. The Church is needed by the world more than ever. The true Church, the pure Church, the Church that serves and loves the lost, the Church that is a light in the dark.
And secondly, the Church needs Christ more than ever. He is the light that we shine, the hope that we declare is not just human ideas of self-improvement. The hope that we declare is that the God who made every individual in His image and who loves them came to this world as a person in Jesus Christ, He died on the cross for their sins, and they can have freedom from shame, freedom from guilt. They can have eternal life and they can have peace and joy and fulfillment in this life. And all this happens through Christ alone. The Church needs Christ more than ever.
As the world around us gets darker, if we are going to shine a light that’s truly supernatural in its capacity and scope, it will only happen as we lift Christ high. And as we elevate Him, the light of the Church is Christ. We need His message; we need His power.
I was thinking about this last night and I came up with a little bumper sticker phrase for us. It’s this: “Hope in Christ before the crisis so you can stand strong in the crisis.”
You know, I kind of chuckle in the physical realm whenever a hurricane hits Florida again or areas where they know there are hurricanes, on the news they always show how Home Depot and Walmart and everywhere, all the generators are sold, all the bottles of water are gone.
And I always kind of laugh, maybe it’s because I’m a person who kind of thinks ahead a little bit, but I think, If you lived there, wouldn’t you buy a generator and water bottles like right after you move into your house? You’re in a hurricane zone. Why wait until the storm to just react in panic? Why not just plan ahead and then when the storm comes, know: I’ve got a plan.
That’s kind of the gist of this series to know, I don’t know what storms life may throw at us, but I know what I need. It’s a lot more than generators and water bottles. It’s Christ. And so, I’m going to hope in Christ before the crisis so that I can stand strong in the crisis. And that will allow me and us as a Church to only provide for our kids and our loved ones but to be a lifesaving club.
And when other people are panicking and scrambling because of world events, that we are able to stand strong and have some stability and say, “We have peace. We have stability. Come on in here. We’ve got you covered.” That’s our heart in this series. We are hoping in Christ. We are choosing.
Remember, Jesus said, “You’ll hear about wars and rumors of wars. See to it,” choose, “that you’re not alarmed.” We can choose today, we place our hope in Christ before the storm so we can stand strong in the storm.
And so, on Christ, we have staked our lives, our fortunes, our eternities, our families, our hopes and dreams rest on this reality that Jesus of Nazareth is God of the universe, that He came down among us as Messiah, that He died on the cross for the sins of the world, that He rose again on the third day, and that He will return to establish a kingdom of peace and prosperity. And until then, He will give daily bread to all of His followers and He will sustain us.
Peter writes, “In Him,” in Christ, “you have everything necessarily for life and for godliness.” The Church has no power apart from Christ. But in Christ, the Church has all the power it will ever need. In Christ, you have all the power you will ever need. In Christ, you can do all the things that He has called you to do. You have everything necessary for life and godliness in Him.
Romans 15:13 puts it this way, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him.” It’s when you trust in Him before the storm and in the storm, that’s when He fills you with joy and peace, “…so that you may overflow with hope.” This is written to Christian who were running for their lives. This is written to Christians who were in an uncomfortable situation. And he says, “You will overflow with hope.” And they did! They continued to change the world. Why? Because they trusted in God.
And He filled them with His hope by the power of the same Holy Spirit who lives and breathes inside of you today as a follower of Christ.
Third response for us is that now is the time to go all in for the kingdom. Now is the time. There are moments in life when you get shaken and then you get perspective.
Very often, as we do marriage, counseling here for couples who are – usually it’s some kind of, either someone had an affair or almost had an affair. And they get shaken and they are, “We’ve got to work on this.”
Or sometimes you’re going along and in your finances and all of a sudden you realize, Whoa, I’ve got to make some changes. And the thing is, when we really see where the world is headed, outside of our suburban cocoon, but the rest of the world, where we see where it’s headed, if we have got our eyes open, if we’re reading the Word of God, it should shake us up a little bit to cause not a panic, but a sense of purpose and urgency with purpose.
We say, “Now is the time.” We are the richest Christians in all of world history. We are the most free Christians in all of world history. We have the ability to film a video or write a devotional about Jesus today and have Christians around the world hear it today. No other church in history has had these opportunities that are before us.
And we see this window of global peace and this window of prosperity and opportunity. It’s not going to last forever. Now is the time for us to go all-in in raising our kids for Christ and in using what God has entrusted to us to tell others about Christ. Because our hope is in the One who will carry us safely to the promised land.
When we understand where the world is headed, we can’t go on living like Jesus is just another hope on a buffet of hopes.
And here’s what I want to challenge us with that we live in such a time when a small group of people, the American Church is not the whole Church, but we are the wealthiest Church in world history, could turn the course of world events if we choose to go all-in.
And the question for us, maybe the world is too big to think about, but how about changing our kids’ lives at least? Is, will we go all-in in our faith? Will we be Christians who understand what is happening and where it’s leading so we can respond with a stronger faith, an all-in faith?