I hope you had a wonder-filled Christmas. The past two weeks we re-published two of three US Renewal Classics about the greatest life ever lived.
We’ve saved the best one for last.
The most widely-spread teaching I’ve ever given is how Jesus Christ altered the trajectory of history. We share it here under the title How the Birth of Jesus Changed the World.
Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year.
Twelve Ways Jesus Christ Changed the World
Individuals – “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).
The essence of Jesus’ mission was to save the individual lives of every person who chooses to put their trust in him. He didn’t just point the way to a set of ideals or moral principles as many other teachers did. Rather, he promised when we were “born again by his Spirit” he would come to live inside of us, guiding and empowering people to live meaningful and godly lives. This was a new dynamic to live a productive life. Over the past two thousand years, it is the Spirit of Jesus Christ in millions, and now billions of people, that has altered the landscape of history through changing individual lives.
Women – “There is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
No one altered the role of women is society more than the teachings of Christ. Prior to New Testament times, women labored in harsh, subservient roles, often nothing more than slaves to men and their families. Loren Cunningham and David Hamilton point out in their book Why Not Women? that the Roman philosopher Cicero likened women to “slaves, dogs, horses, and donkeys”–all possessions to be used and cast away. All of the women’s rights we enjoy were produced by the Christian faith. If you’re a woman, living in a Western nation, you can thank Jesus Christ for the freedoms you enjoy.
Family – “Wives, submit to your husbands. . . Husbands, love your wives. . . Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right” (Ephesians 5:22, 25, 6:1).
The application of Jesus’ teachings also gave permanent strength and completeness to the world’s most important institution–the family. Wives were not slaves, husbands weren’t to be tyrants, and children possessed significance. The Christian truths of submission, equal worth, partnership, equality, and self-sacrificing love gave harmony and protection to family relationships that over hundreds of years became the foundation of Western civilization and culture..
Church – “I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).
Though the Church has not always properly applied the teachings of Christ, it is also true that no group of people have made a more positive impact on the world than the Christian Church. God’s people transformed the Roman Empire, rescued “learning” from the destruction of the Middle Ages, raised Europe out of barbarism, pioneered the New World, and sent Christian civilization to the ends of the earth. History would be unrecognizable today without the acts of God’s people in every century.
Government – “The authorities that exist are appointed by God…he is God’s minister to you for good…an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil” (Romans 13:4).
Prior to the Christian faith being applied to civil government, people lived in perpetual fear of massacres and tyrants. Your town could be here one day and be burned to the ground the next. But after the coming of Christ, the biblical role of civil government began emerged through the Magna Carta, British common law, republican governments, democratic principles, and human rights. These things weren’t the evolutionary march of history–they were incremental applications of Christ’s teachings to human governments. Do you appreciate the relative tranquility of a just social order? All of these things–which are not enjoyed in many non-Christian nations in the world–are the fruit of faith in Jesus Christ.
Education– “In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3).
The great literature of Greece and Rome (and all of the ancient world) would be lost if it weren’t for Christian monks who preserved that knowledge during the Middle Ages. The first universities in Paris and London were started by believers who had a thirst for knowledge and wisdom. The printing of the Gutenberg Bible was considered by TIME magazine the most important event of the past five hundred years because it made truth and knowledge easily available to the masses, The first one hundred and twenty universities in America were started by followers of Christ for the advancement of the Christian faith, Most of the major milestones in human education flow from one fountain: faith in Jesus Christ.
Business – “Do you work heartily as unto the Lord, not to men. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Colossians 2:3).
For thousands of years there was no middle class and no freedom for individual initiative. During the Christianizing of Europe, this all changed as believers applied biblical concepts of labor and industry which eventually became free enterprise capitalism that led the world out of its mass poverty. As Adam Smith wisely pointed out, the Wealth of Nations was simply the fruit of applying the teachings of Christ to economics. The large and growing middle classes, the endless business opportunities, the Protestant work ethic, extensive philanthropy, and the standard of living we share today is the fruit of the teachings of Jesus..
Science – “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:3,4).
Rodney Stark in his book For the Glory of God rightly points out modern science was born of the Christian faith and not in opposition to it. From Galileo to Faraday, from Pascal to Einstein, the leading scientists of both the past and present have overwhelmingly been people of faith who used their trust in Jesus Christ to unlock the mysteries of his creation. I once visited the Kennedy Space Center and gazed in awe at the technology and scientific genius that put men on the moon. None of this would have been possible without believing in a God whose creation can be understood. That Creator is Jesus Christ.
Arts – “Don’t be drunk with wine but be filled with the Holy Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:18,19).
Francis Shaeffer pointed out in his book How Should We Then Live? that the coming of Christ greatly influenced the arts. Prior to Christ’s birth, all music was played in minor chords, showing the incompleteness and lack of harmony in life. After Christ’s death and resurrection brought wholeness to individuals and nations, people began creating major chord music and realistic art–an expression of their reconciliation to God. When lives are changed and brought into right relationship to God, they sing, paint, and give him glory in the arts. This is why more hymns and songs have been written about Jesus than any other person in history.
Faith – “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Ephesians 3:17).
Jesus lived a life of complete faith in the Father and imparted that faith to his followers. If Abraham is the father of faith in the ancient world, then Jesus is the engine of faith in the modern one. Faith in him led to caring for the poor, ministering to the sick, starting hospitals and schools, sharing the Good News around the world, applying Christian principles to government, economics, and social issues, and every other engine of progress. It’s hard to imagine a world without faith in God and the Lord Jesus Christ. Over two billion people now share that faith worldwide.
Love – “that you being rooted and grounded in love may…know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:17, 19).
The love of Jesus Christ has made an indelible mark upon the world. For two thousand years, followers of the loving Christ have carried his compassion and care to peoples everywhere. Nations have been won through his love; The majority of hospitals and compassion ministries have been launched in his Name; When there are earthquakes, tsunamis, fires, and typhoons, God’s love through his people runs to alleviate human suffering via the Red Cross, World Vision, and thousands of other groups. Where would our world be without the love of Christ as expressed through his people?
Hope – “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:17).
Christ changes individuals and nations by giving them a firm hope in a future he has secured through his death and resurrection. There is life after death. There will be a resurrection of all people. Jesus is coming again to bring his redeemed people into an eternity of love and blessing. Because of these truths, the follower of Christ lives in perpetual and mind-boggling hope in the future that Jesus Christ will provide. Hope is not a wish or a dream–it’s as real as the nail-scarred hands and empty tomb. Hope gets us through the day, helps us handle tragedies and death, and points our hearts upward.
Jesus Christ is the hope of the world.