So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious…”
Um, I’d like you to take your Bibles this morning. We’re continuing in our series to the book, A book of acts.
We’re looking at Acts chapter 17 this morning. A fantastic of scripture. Acts chapter 17, we’re gonna be looking at verses 22 to 34.
And as we’re turning there, I don’t, and I’m honestly, I don’t know cause I couldn’t hear, I didn’t hear the announcements. Did Mike say anything about the in gathering offering? Oh, okay. Well, thank you. Um, okay. I wanted to just mention it. I, I was supposed to, but I didn’t know if he would do what I would tend to do.
I couldn’t enthusiastically wait. As you know, uh, many of you know we have been, um, aiming towards a project over the next few months, basically through the summer months, to completely renovate this b this room, the lobby is major changes that were our goal to accomplish. Part of that process was to, uh, believe God to bring in an offering or commitments to that offering over the next few months that would total a half million dollars last week.
Um, we are still finalizing some of the counting of that, but I can say with complete certainty at this point that as we have the remaining commitments come in, we reached our goal of $500,000 last week.
Really excited about it. Just praising God, praising God for your generosity, and I believe. You’re gonna be really excited. Uh, you may not be quite as excited during the summer months as we’re readjusting a lot of things of how we’re meeting in the gym, in the prayer garden. Um, but come September, we’re we’re, we’re gonna have a good time around here.
Alright, acts chapter 17, verse 22 to 34. So, Paul, standing in the midst to the Aus said, men of Athens. I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription to the unknown God. What therefore you worship as unknown.
This I proclaim to you, the God who made the world and everything in it. Being Lord of heaven and earth does not live in temples made by man, nor as he served by human hands as though he needed anything. Since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place that they should seek God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him.
It is actually not far from each one of us. For in Him we live and move and have our being. As even some of your own prophet poets have said, for we are indeed his offspring, being then God’s offspring. We ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone. An image formed by the art and imagination of man, the times of ignorance got overlooked.
But now he commands all people everywhere to repent because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed. And of this, he has given assurance all by raising him from the dead. Now, when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, but others said, We will hear you again on this.
So Paul went out from the midst, but some men joined him and believed among whom also was Dionysius the gate, and a woman named Damaris and others with them. Lord, we looked to you this morning,
God, we’ve sung praises to you. We do praise you for who you are and how you’ve made yourself known in our lives. And now, Lord, I praise you for the scriptures that you have given us. This way that you have chosen to make yourself known, to teach us. And God, I ask that you would teach us from this passage.
We live in a day that is very different even in the history of the church, the day of challenge and confusion. A day in which we surely need insights to know how to live and to speak, and to conduct our lives to the glory of Jesus Christ in a culture which is post-Christian in every way. Lord, I pray that you would be our guide into truth today.
In Jesus’ name, amen. Your mic real quick,
I gotta tell you. That was very creepy.
Thank you. So do we need to go back to the dedication and start there? I mean, have you not heard anything? You’ve been very polite. I will say Thank you, Mike, by the way. All right. We’re living in a unique time as followers of Jesus Christ. Today, churches in Western society, particularly Europe and North America, have to deal with something they have never faced before.
A culture increasingly hostile to their faith that is not just a non-Christian culture. That would be true if we were ministering in India or China or um, middle Eastern countries. We now faced a culture that is post-Christian. For centuries, Christians have been able to assume that everyone around them believed in what many have called a sacred order.
That simply means that, uh, God is the ground of moral absolutes of right and wrong. He is the superintendent, transcendent being whether a person particularly identified their life under that authority or or embraced him into their lives. People recognized there was such a being. There was such a being that had a moral absolute for all human beings and was the source of values of rights and wrong.
The Western world has largely rejected the sense of a sacred order and the sense of moral accountability to God for our choices and values. People expect. To choose their own values and have their own moral code. There is no sacred order with which all people must align in many focuses, in many pockets, and in an increasing majority of culture of Western world.
If there is a moral absolute in today’s culture, it is this, you must not say that there are moral absolutes. That is the moral absolute to say otherwise is views as oppressing people and limiting their freedom to define themselves and choose what is right for them. Paul, in Act 17 arrives in Athens, which is the the undisputed, unrivaled, center of intellectual thought in the empire.
There. Paul comes, and I’m sure as a guy that grew up in a gentile town, deeply influenced by the Greek thinking and philosophy, which we see in a number of his writings. Athens would be the place that he dreamed of being in, and now he has come, and as he has arrived here in verses 16 to 21, he found a city submerged in idolatry As Pastor Mike took us th Am I ringing by the way?
Okay. Can I not ring?
All right. As Pastor Mike took us through these verses last time, He mentioned how Paul studied the culture, the words in the text, in the verses he cited, identify that Mike gave examples from missionaries and he had contact and I thought it was very compelling of, of how they were explaining. They were trying to exegete and understand their culture.
And he recognized for us as Paul is doing in Athens, that one needs to understand their cultural thinking if you are going to present the gospel to them. And in that context, this is what Paul is doing in Athens and as Paul does, does it here. So we need to do in our own cultural context. What Paul concluded about the Athenians is a guidebook for us.
He addresses first the Jewish community there, which would have had a very similar worldview to the one that he was embracing. As a, as a believer in Jesus Christ, there were certain bullet points that would certainly be there. And in verse 17 it says, after he saw the idolatry of the city, he first went to the Sy synagogue and there he talked to people that believed there was one.
God believed that this God was the transcendent creator and Lord of all believe that there is one moral truth and, and there were absolutes, morally for people to follow that people were accountable to that God and rejecting his authority was called sin in their lives. That was a foundational worldview into which when Paul went into the synagogue, he knew he was speaking to here in America.
In the past, evangelistic strategies would have focused on an assumption that people shared similar bullet points. What Paul saw in Athens was there was a group of people that shared his bullet points. They weren’t believers yet in Christ, but in the synagogue, he went to people that shared his worldview in a large degree.
There was also the marketplace of the Athenians highlighted in the group that he’s now speaking to in verse 22 to 34. The Aus were the leaders, the cultural elite, the intelligentsia, the political power brokers all gathered. That’s who Paul’s speaking to, and they had an entirely different worldview, and Paul’s way of addressing them is different.
Same gospel, but different methodologies. In America, we are seeing these two vying worldviews as well. DA Carson has written a book called The Cross in Christian Ministry. He illustrates the diversity of America using the experience of two recent, uh, graduates from seminary that had gone into church planning.
One of those had gone out into Tulsa, Oklahoma, and as he went, he said, the guy reported it took him an entire year to find a, a resident of Tulsa who would confess to not being a Christian. Now, of course, that’s a broad term, but nobody wasn’t Christian, at least in their own thinking by verbiage. On the other hand, there was another student that went to church plant in Washington, DC and what he did was he, he took, as many of us did when we were first church planning, he took surveys around just to try to, uh, find out where people were.
And as he took the surveys around, it was, uh, an association, uh, word process that he would use. And in the association process, uh, uh, activity, the majority of respondents there in DC associated the word Christian with the word bigot. Two completely different worldviews. Cultures background. One shares the bullet points, one doesn’t share hardly any of the bullet points, and yet living in the same land.
And what Carson was arguing is like Paul,
We have to be willing to address both the synagogue, if you will, the people that share some of those bullet points with us, but also recognizing that an enclos increasing way, particularly here in the Northeast, we have far more, more in common, not with the synagogue people of Paul’s day, but with those in the Areopagus.
So as we look at this passage, how did Paul declare the gospel in the AOP areopagus to people who did not share his worldview at all? And I find three things we can learn for our own living and declaring the gospel today. Number one, we learned things about our manner in declaring the gospel. In verse 16, going back to the section Mike covered, but it’s actually the foundation where we, we, we see the stirring of Paul’s heart as he’s looking at the Athenian culture.
It says that he was provoked, we get the word parm from it, uh, to be overcome with emotion, rage, coughing, laughing, or examples. You just, you just overcome. Certainly there was a sense in which there was a righteous indignation as he saw the city just, just submerged in idolatry, every house, every building.
Uh, Mike talked about that in his sermon when he presented it, what it was like in Athens. And there’s a sense of, of, of grief out of his love for the, the living God that the, that the people have rejected and turned to such adulthood. But there is also a stirring in his heart of love for those peoples who are missing out on what he wanted to give them.
There is a, a passion within Paul for these people that, that, that challenges him to boldly speak out for Christ in this arena. But his manner of doing so is compelling. One, he is driven by and compassion post-Christian world has a unique challenge for the believer and by the believer. Just to define that, I mean, a person who believes in Jesus Christ has embraced him as Lord and Savior of their life, who really believes that God has authority over every part of our life, through the Lordship of Christ.
We are prevent presented with a unique challenge. And it is a unique challenge because living in a post-Christian world means that people’s view of morality is that people. Are the ones that should determine their own beliefs. This is certainly true in the doctrine of anthropology. There is no area of life in a post-Christian world as we are seeing it today.
I’ve said this in our thinking like a Christian seminar. I’ve said it other times. Anthropology, the doctrine of humans, the doctrine of man. Anthropo in the generic sense is basically the greatest assailed, uh, belief system of, of biblical theology. Virtually every hot button. That is being addressed towards those that name, the name of Christ, whether it is abortion, euthanasia, sexual identity questions, gender identity questions, the definition of marriage, sexual purity, definitions, all those things.
There is a perspective that we should be free. There is a worldview that says, I have to determine I’m the master of my own destiny. I have to make my own choices. And I, I don’t believe there is a moral absolute for everybody that is a, a post-Christian concept says, it doesn’t matter what has been the teaching of the Bible or, or, or the, the church for all of these centuries on these subjects.
I am a free agent to determine those things and no one has the right to speak into my life. We get it with a worldview that that is saying. There is no divine authority over those arenas. Of course, nobody has the right to speak into yours. But God is saying he’s already spoken on those arenas. So we’re in a post-Christian world on those things.
But at the same time, in a post-Christian world, there is also a deep intrinsic embracement of many of the moral values of Christ. These are, these have been in our culture, whether everybody, I don’t mean everybody was Christians at all, but there were things that were valued, and people still have these values.
Values in a way many utterly non-Christian cultures don’t have. But even in a post-Christian time where Christianity is not the dominant worldview, there are still vestiges of that in the way people view how you should treat other people. And they come from Christ, whether knowing or knowingly or unknowing.
People should be faithful to their spouse. You should look out for the disenfranchised and the weaker. You should forgive and not seek revenge. You should be generous, kind, self-controlled, that love, not power serving, not being served, doing for others what you would want them to do for you. All those things are associated with Jesus and are associated in people’s minds that yes, this is just, this is proper human behavior.
It doesn’t mean we all do it at all, but we we see those things. Where did that come from? Well, it doesn’t come from secularism, which basically says there’s no God secularism basically is traced back to it’s a survival of the fittest that doesn’t describe the survival of the fittest that describes a Christian ethos that is still largely embraced.
In our culture today, even by post-Christian individuals, that puts a tremendous pressure on Jesus followers. Here’s why.
No, knowing that that is the Christian ethos, that those are moral absolutes, that that just, people would just say, people that would absolutely say there’s no right or wrong. There’s no it’s, but will inherently say, well, that’s wrong. Of course that’s wrong. It’s wrong for you to lie to me. It’s wrong.
Where does it come from?
They are doubly turned off by professing Christians that act differently when Christians are arrogant. Pushy, fighting for their own turf speaking, scornfully of others. A post-Christian world reacts with great indignation. I remember watching a show, it was a daytime talk show. It just happened. I don’t even remember why I was home, but I was, and I saw this thing and it was, um, the, the couple that had the most abortion clinics in the metropolitan New York area, and they were being interviewed and they were then allowing people and across the whole idea was conflict.
But, uh, they were allowing people to ask questions. And there were apparently a number of Christians that were there, evangelical Christians, and, and very pro-life. And I, I remember watching it and it was really an uncomfortable. Uh, show for me because what happened? This couple that was quite winsome and compelling and, and very oriented.
Uh, so they we’re doing this out of compassion, and of course they’re making millions of dollars, but, but what they’re doing this out of compassion for women that are in trouble. And then they allowed questions to come and we didn’t do well. And, and people would come up and they, they got into terrible name calling of the couple.
One, one person was actually, so you should burn in hell for you to, you know, and they go and, and finally there was one older lady that just totally popped her cork and she didn’t, as, as they say, she didn’t cuss. But when she spit, the grass wouldn’t grow. And su she’s up there just laying into these people with such rage and, and next vein sticking out, you know?
And, and the lady finally said, that’s not a very Christian way to talk. Now we might say, who are you to say what Christian is? But the fact is there is a foundation in our Western world that there are understood. You don’t speak that way to people. You don’t, that Jesus didn’t respond with vitriolic rage and destructive talk.
Our post-Christian world knows that, and we are being. We have to recognize that our manner of doing life with our world is being held with a standard. And they would say, I don’t believe in God. I don’t believe in, in, in a, a moral absolute. But what they do believe are many of the things that Jesus values.
And they expect anybody that identifies with him to, to inherently. And if we don’t, if we’re, if we come across as we’re just vindictive, we’re mocking that we win by derisive and, and derision. We’re not doing what Paul did here. What Paul did here in this passage is he shows compassion. I’ll show you more of that in a moment.
It has never been more true. You’ve heard this before. If people don’t know how much you care, they don’t care how much you know. We need to have that going through our mind all the time. We don’t win any arguments when we just win the argument in our mind.
Compassion. The second thing that was true of his, his manner is a little surprising. He was complimentary. He complimented and affirmed their conduct in verse 22. I perceived that in every way you are religious. Now he might say, well, he was just sort of, you know, he was just baiting them cuz he saw all these idols that that irritated him or made him indi.
No. Well, but the word is really quite complimentary. It means you’re devoted people. I see in you something and, and even your, your recognition that there is, um, a, a, an unknown God, which is what he taps into. He says, I, I see you’re a devoted people. There, there is a, the longing in you. I see something good in you.
For a lot of my Christian journey, certainly the early years, I viewed my way of influencing people to Jesus. This way,
I need to be more patient than anybody else. I need to be more kind. I need to be more happy. I need to be more at peace, because that’s the only way anybody can really see the difference Jesus makes. And I was one. And maybe, uh, you are and say, you know, I gotta keep my testimony, I gotta be a good witness.
I gotta, I gotta, I gotta, I gotta it it that, that somehow we have to communicate. We got it together, which shows that Jesus has it together. You don’t have it together.
He does. But he’s involved in your life because you don’t have it together. And so much of, I’ve gotta be a good witness, I think we should say. To who? To you that you gotta look on top of your game. Those kind of people that always have their lives, everything, purpose. Are you drawn to those kind of people?
I’m not, those people scare me. They make me feel like a less 10. It’s people that are broken people. I had a conversation.
With a young woman that had grown up in our church and now well into her adulthood. She has, she’s not involved in Christianity. And we had a really honest conversation and, and I was talking to her, she was asking, we were processing, and I was talking to her. I said, you know, when I was younger, if you’d asked me do I struggle with fear, it wouldn’t have even made my top 10 list of struggles.
I have a lot of other sins I could have identified, but, and I said, you know, I just, I don’t even know how we got on the subject of fear. And I just said, you know, but I’ve realized fear is one of the most influential issues in my life. I fear I’m not enough. I feel I’m not, uh, capable. I feel like I’m not this, I’m not this.
I feel what people are gonna say. I, I say, I’m realized so much of my life has been influenced by fear. And her statement, it was a little shaking, she said to me, well,
isn’t that a problem for you? Because you have been preaching about God helping you and, and, and, and yet you still struggle with fear. Now I can tell you, there’s a time of my Christian journey that would’ve just blown my mind, and I would’ve gone home and I would’ve gotten in my car and said, God, God, I’ve completely lost the chance with this young woman because I am.
What a terrible witness. I didn’t, here’s what I said. I said, you know, I am gonna deal with fear until the day I die.
But what I found about God, he’s the safest person in my life. He’s the only person that doesn’t say Get better, be more, do better. I say, I hear that voice lots of places, but with God, I hear, mark, I hate the sin that you’re choosing the air because there’s so much more. But I see beauty in you. I’m crazy about you.
And I just talked about, um, yeah, fearful guy and I’m well into the journey,
but he’s the safest person that I’ve ever known.
Here’s what she said to me. She said she grew up in our church and she’s gone totally different lifestyle, but she said if that was the view of, sorry, is, if that was the view of God that I understood, I’m not sure I would’ve walked away.
We can look at people around us that don’t name the name of Christ and we can seem like Jesus does. They’re beautiful people. They’re smart. I had a neighbor that named Bob. That I spent years processing the gospel, trying to live the gospel, trying to, but I’ll be totally honest and tell you that he, in his humanness, is what is one of the nicest, most compelling, enjoyable, fun, friendly, I mean, on my best Christian spirit filled day.
I’m more grumpy than Bob is. I’m more cranky than he is. So what do I do? I try to up my game so I can get a little, you know, because Bob can’t ever come to Jesus. As long as he seems nicer than me. I gotta get up here. So, so I can say, see. What the Lord is, no, we just take what we are and say he’s safe.
He’s for us. We love him. And man, I’m sorry I was a jerk out on the golf course or as angry. I mean, we can be broken. He deals with broken people and Paul says, the Lord says, you know what? I’m really glorified in you
when you’re showing your weakness. And then I come alongside and show my strength. Paul embraced and saw the beauty in these people. He compliments them. He doesn’t have to say, he doesn’t come into the areopagus and say, I gotta be on my game and I gotta show these people. I’m smarter. I’m more peaceful.
I’m, I’m more loving. I’m no, just says, you guys are really devoted people. Say third and I, I gotta scramble. He was conscious of common grace. He identified truth in their thinking. He quotes secular poets. These were godless poets, but he found in them truth. And in verse 29, 1 of them said in him, we live and move and have our being.
And another one said, for we indeed our God, our his offspring. And, and he says, I, I see you identify this unknown God. I want to just talk to you about, I want to talk about your own experience and show how God is present there, that you intuitively sense him. There are two, there’s a big conversation today.
There’s two methodologies. Apologetics. Apologetics is basically, uh, not apologizing for our faith. It is defending or explaining our faith. That’s what the apologetics is. And one method of apologetics is this, to show non-believers that theism and Christianity are built on rational arguments. This is probably the, the apologetics we have been more familiar with.
Evidence that demands a verdict. Josh McDowell, uh, Tim Keller, wrote a bestseller, the Reason for God in 2008, compelling arguments that answer the big questions and give clarity, uh, uh, about them. How do we know the Bible is the word of God? How, how all these, you know, these various things and. Tim Keller talks about the fact that it was a bestseller, his book, A Reason For God, but you know who bought it?
Christians. And it was very encouraging and it is a wonderful book. It bolsters your faith. It gives you confidence that, that you have answers to some of the questions. But Unbelievers didn’t buy it. It wasn’t a primary bestseller Among the audience that he wrote, he wanted, he wrote a second book. And it’s built on the concept of the second method of apologetics, which is to show non-believers how Christianity explains what they know in their hearts already to be true.
And Keller wrote this book, making Sense of God. He wrote it just a couple of years ago. It is not as big a bestseller, but there’s a much more majority of non. Christian people buying it because he is approaching it, saying like, Paul is, I, I I want to talk to you about you. You know, this, this is what I, to me, great preaching, great teaching is able to go into secular life and bring illustrations and say, you know, all truth is God’s truth, right?
All truth is God’s truth. And so if somebody is saying something that’s true, we can embrace it just like Paul is, these poets were utterly godless. If, if one of the poems it is is actually commending Zeus and doing all other things, and Paul is able to take this, but this part is true and he says even they, your own poets say this, that he is able to go in and to be conscious that God has given common grace.
Common grace is just God graces everyone with these things that you can look at in, in. The stars at night and recognize, wow, there is, there is something majestic here that can be tapped into this. Just a recognition. I gotta move faster. All right. Courageous. You must be willing to engage with people to listen.
To. Listen. What is their struggle with Christianity? How many non-Christians have you really asked that of?
I’ve had a haircut last out of my last four haircuts. I had four different people cut my hair. Two of them we got in a conversation and over in the conversation they explained to me why they would would never go to a church, and both of them were related to anthropological issues where they saw the church.
If we’re going to reach people where we are, we have got to learn how to enter into those conversations with people. People may not like what you say when you talk about, there were things Paul is gonna say here when he talks about the resurrection of Jesus. Some of them are gonna laugh at him, some may be have been irritated.
That will happen. But you need to engage with people in the marketplace. You need to listen, you need to learn, you need to love.
And then maybe we’ll have a chance to really talk about the one who has changed our lives. I’m gonna combine 0.2 and three, basically our message in declaring the gospel. He has four points here. God is creator and transcendent Lord.
All right. I’m gonna summarize at the end here. Is it, is it 10 14? Is that true?
Yeah, I, I I was just trying to talk myself into, wait, we don’t end till 10 30. No, that’s not true. Okay. Alright. I’m, I’m gonna have to stop. I just want to say this, here’s what I love about this passage. All of the truths that Paul presents are truths that speak into issues that people around you have.
Whether it is God as creator, it is speaking. I, I, I’m gonna use one example and I really am gonna close it, is this one where he highlights that God is so actively involved in our lives. It’s found there in verse 26.
This means there’s a purpose to their lives. This means there’s a purpose to suffering. There is no time in people’s lives when they’re more open to the gospel and to things of God than when they’re suffering, because a secular view has no place of suffering, suffering, pain, hardship, loss is just something to be avoided because it limits us from doing life the way we wanna live.
For the Christian, we can embrace him and say, no, there’s a God does it work? He’s not wasting experiences to understand that he’s actively involved in our lives and he’s sovereign over our lives mean He is a God of purpose. That’s suffering. Those are the moments,
as Alan Noble says in his book, disruptive Witness, which is a fabulous read. He said, modern people are more open to considering Christianity during times of stress, difficulty, disappointment or suffering. Why? Because worldviews without God in his analogy is like a, is like clothes too small for you. It’s a worldview that doesn’t fit our humanness, and you’re constantly feeling constrained by it.
No time more than when you’re suffering and you sometimes just feel like you rip out of the clothes. It doesn’t help me, this view that everything’s random. I need to know there’s a purpose. I need to know that there’s something behind the, there’s some good that is designed in this. Paul presents the whole view of that here in this passage.
I’m sorry to have to close. Let’s pray. Lord,
thank you for men like Paul and like Tim Keller, CS Lewis, and many others who have been able to engage truth with people with totally different worldviews. We’re living there. It starts with love. It starts with humility. It starts with transparency. It starts with us embracing our brokenness. Not that we’ve got it together because we have Jesus, but that we have a Lord that is safe in the midst of our weaknesses.
Lord, teach us to live like this. The love like this, the people might really see the surpassing glory is not us. It’s Jesus in whose name we pray. Amen. Amen. Thank you.