Mar22FriMarch 22, 2019
Well the story of the Orange Crush hockey team that I captained in 2018-2019 wasn't a pretty one. The official website credited us one more victory than we actually had lol. We had 5 wins and 13 losses and a goal differential of -32. We didn't like to play defense. However, having said that, the guys I bonded with on this team were a great bunch not to mention that two players were my sons! Last year we were on a team that won it all...this year not so much. However, I could tell you stories about each of the guys, don't worry, I won't guys. My highlight had to be Mark giving us the scouting report on the Silver Bullets before our last playoff game...the first place team that only lost one game all year. It can be an empty feeling for sure to go down in defeat; however, hockey is just fun. When I think of the real journey that people are on, I wonder how many feel defeated as they walk through their life.
In Acts 17, Paul was in the middle of his second missionary journey. Paul’s conviction was that he was on a global mission to the spiritual emptiness that was felt by so many. He could see the desperation with the array of idols and he had to get the message out. He had seen God miraculously provide, seen incredible people come to faith, experienced an incredible jailbreak and now he finds himself in Athens.
- a city that once was the world leader in art, theatre, philosophy and education, the home of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle. But in the first century A.D., Athens was a mere shell of that glory. There was nothing significant to it economically or militarily. It traded on its reputation of greatness,
Paul could see masses of people in spiritual need. They had spirituality in the form of mythology, they have a belief in a number of different gods and different belief systems about each.
1. A confident faith begins at home v16
Let’s consider some of the elements of the account we read. Stirred by what he saw, Paul began to speak in the first place he always did—a synagogue. He starts with those who are in the spiritual house of the day. In every other city, speaking of Jesus in a synagogue had two predictable results: some people would believe, fall in love with Christ, and begin a life of following him; and some people would actively resist. The ones who often resisted him the most were those who already believed they had a corner on the truth about God.
2. A confident faith takes it to the streets V17b -21
Having left the synagogue, Paul went to the marketplace, and in verse 18 he was challenged by Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. In the marketplace, people loved the sound of their own voices and theories, it was a new talk show every day and when Paul showed up as a guest, they were ready to dismiss him right away… “What is this babbler trying to say?” translation MEH, shoulder shrug, whatever. “He seems to be proclaiming foreign gods.” (If it’s not Zeus, Hercules or the like, well then they’re useless.
Then in verse 19 it says they took him to the council of city leaders, the Areopagus, and there he was invited to speak. “May we know what this teaching is that you are presenting? You are bringing strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean.” The attitude in Athens was like that of a king who has jesters come into his court to entertain him. The Athenians were bored and wanted to hear something novel and new. “Entertain us, man! Say something that we haven’t heard before.”
“The central idea of Epicureanism is that life has no meaning. Everything happens by chance. There is no predictability, no reason, no order, no direction. Nothing about you will live on when you die, so there is no meaning to be found in a life to come. Therefore the recommendation is this: ENJOY LIFE take care of yourself, avoid pain, and maximize your pleasure, because there is nothing higher to live for.”
“The central idea of Stoicism, on the other hand, is that everything is determined by an inexorable fate. You are just a drop in the ocean. There is no reason to value yourself particularly, because great forces in the world are grinding forward, and nothing you do or think or say or hope is going to change any of it. Your life is going to happen to you exactly as it has been determined.” ENDURE LIFE
The problem with these philosophies is that they leave you with no hope.
That is the reason the city of Athens was completely awash in idols. No matter how much you say about fate or random events, you want somebody to listen when you cry. You want something to hope for. So the idols grew more and more numerous in first-century Athens, and they grow as much today.
We live in an age that is addicted and desperate. People are buying every promise that is made, trusting the next technology, adopting the latest fad, believing the last guarantee. Idolatries pop up all over the place in our culture. Look at the price people will pay for sports memorabilia as if to live somehow through the athletes they watch.
Paul starts by paying attention, picking up on cultural cues, norms, attitudes. v22,23
How do you think Paul would connect with people in our culture? What would be his conversation connector?
If Paul had come here and was reading our newspapers, looking at our inscriptions, he might say something like this: “I’ve looked at the kind of country you are, and I see that you are great on equality of rights with an enormous desire to do good. But you are so morally weak that you have very little to offer, and your influence is waning. Let me tell you how you can become what you want to be, the answer to what you are missing.”
Let me tell you about the God who can make you who you hope to be.” He affirmed their spiritual quest
He looks for an opportunity to plant a seed of truth v24-28
Paul looked at the Athenian culture, read its literature, and found a way to open the door to conversation. Then he said, “The fatalism of Epicureanism and Stoicism is killing you. You long for significance, and you think that you can serve deities by making them temples or statues. But God needs none of those things. He is the giver of life. We give nothing to him by these kinds of efforts. You have gotten lost groping for a way to know God. But I will tell you about him. He has made us. He has given us our very breath. We are his offspring! He knows the history of each place and people. He is intimately acquainted with us. He has made us long for him, and he is near enough for us to find him.
The things your idol worship is saying you hope for, I am telling you how to find! There is a God who is powerful and intimate and personal, and he is reaching out to you. He can be known. You are significant. He cares for you. He knows you. He will listen to you if you call.”
Reaping – bringing people to a decision v29-34
Then Paul brought his teaching to a sharper point: “This God establishes justice. The most important decision we will make in our life is to either accept or reject the offer of God’s love in His Son Jesus. The climax of Paul’s message is the Man whom God had raised from the dead and a few believed.
Sometimes we get hooked on #s and what is first and foremost is that we are faithful to God’s message and we share it and Jesus showed us that there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner that repents than 99 righteous
What about us?
- A confident faith must begin in our church with each of us and we need to be open to the leading of the Spirit and when we are, it will be contagious.
- A confident faith must engage its community. We must be missional.
So how do we engage our community?
- Take the school class picture approach!
Do you remember back in the day when we would get our class pictures back and look at them with our friends? The first place people look is themselves…what was I wearing, how was my hair, did I have a stupid face??? I'm sure you were interested in your friends and what kind of faces they may have been making, but you first wanted to see how you looked in the picture. That's because no matter the person, everyone's favorite subject is themselves.
So, we start by learning to listen well and listen more than you talk. We take a genuine interest in the life of others that the Holy Spirit can lead us to a place of understanding and an opportunity to share.
Don’t critique their statement, or launch into a barrage railing them for having screwed up beliefs…just listen to build trust, to let them know that you won’t judge them, and won’t look down upon them for their views (or lack of) on faith.
- Be sensitive to the signal light in the intersection.
Where is this conversation going…red light, yellow light, green light.
Ask the Holy Spirit to lead the conversation.
Share your challenges, struggles and how your faith has made a difference.
Is there an opportunity to pray for them?
Are they interested in knowing more?
- Sharing The Truth
Planting seeds of truth- It is at times such as these that we can talk more openly about the hope that we have in Christ and how it impacts our lives.
Reaping the harvest- The opportunity to lead someone to the Lord.
People Need Jesus - everyone has a story!
We have grown too used to living with idolatry, with the sorrow of our world, with its decay. We don’t care enough any more. Or if we do care, we don’t listen long enough to have something to say that is meaningful. I urge upon you the example of Paul, who for the sake of love cared enough to listen and speak.
We need to start listening to our unchurched friends. Nothing is more simple, more accurate than to understand where they are coming from. There is a lot of brokenness and openness. People are asking questions now and do we have answers when they ask what is the hope for this world? Do we have hope? Are we ready to be open to the Spirit leading us to speak to what God has given us?
At the same time Jesus himself reminded us that wars, disease, lawlessness, and earthquakes would increase as the time of his return approaches. He is the calm in the midst of the storm, He is our refuge. There is a sense of urgency, we need to act. May we not lose the opportunities afforded to us to cultivate friendships and spiritual conversations.
Songwriter Steve Green sung this song, "People need the Lord ... At the end of broken dreams, He's the open door ... When will we realize that we must give our lives, For people need the Lord. People need the Lord."
And that's what the message of Christianity is all about ... it's about helping people find God ... helping them find God's assurance of hope, love, spiritual renewal and best of all, his gift of forgiveness, salvation and eternal life in Jesus.
Would you commit today to praying for three friends who need the Lord?
1 Peter 3:15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect
Philemon 1:6 ESV I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.