One Living Hope

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Receive His Power to Be His Witness – Acts 17:16-34

“Central teaching of church is NOT that we believe something was simply true, but we believe that something HAPPENED.  God did something in our midst.” – A. Stanley

 

Intro:

ie. good witness in legal case changes everything,

ie. Nate Robinson

But witnessing is fearful for most ppl

Intro- Fears are largely unfounded-, speeding tickets, fear of unknown

Ie. Words/title for this sermon

 

ie. photo of athens

“[Paul] was alone in the glorious Athens of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, and Zeno. …Athens – intellectual center of the world, and scholars from all over.” – R.K. Hughes

-well known for its democracy

*How should a Christian react to a sophisticated magnificent city dominated by a non-Christian religion

 

I. WHY SHOULD WE BE HIS WITNESSES?

 

-swamped by idols?

         idol of lust if choose over God, physical idols of cars/brand names

 

[16] Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols.

“The apostle stared long and hard at what he saw, for the city was truly “full of idols.” (30,000 statues of gods).

“provoked”= seizure medical term, irritate, great distress, God’s righteous jealousy for adulterous spouse & Paul’s jealousy for name of God

ie. Unrighteous v. Righteous Jealousy- just “making salad” v. friend’s spouse cheating

A. OUT OF JEALOUSY FOR GOD’S NAME & GLORY

(& love for people & great commission)

-we don’t speak as Paul speaks bc we don’t feel/see as Paul felt/saw-  provoked when saw His name is not hallowed

reflecting God’s reaction-  Paul infuriated b/c when humans created in image of God (imago Dei) are doing exact opposite of what they were created to do, God says he will not give His glory to idols (Isa 42:8), Terrible consequences

B.  BECAUSE THE TIME IS SHORT

ie. Gloria’s death-  don’t understand how someone can just be gone & life moves on

Glo’s verse – Jesus teaches how to fish for men

-2 things last forever-  Word of God & relationships

1 year closer to seeing Glo & seeing Jesus…. as JUDGE

C. SO THAT IF YOU SHARE YOUR FAITH, YOU WILL GROW

(IN CHRIST, IN RELATIONSHIPS, IN FAITH) – Wheaton Prof Jerry Root

1. Philemon 6 -if you share your faith you will grow

[6] and 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. (Philemon 1:6 ESV)

ie. DEAD churches where no life because no invited non-Christians there asking Qs

–  God loves me & forgives me-who wouldn’t want to know that?

      ie. Free gift like free ice cream social

No one ready for marriage or kids- if we waited until we were, we otherwise never share

If you never are put in awkward situations in your life, you’re probably not growing

If you share faith, you will have to grow in relationships-  by people scrutinizing your life

Ie. teach your child to witness, model prayer answered for your kids

– TEST of spiritual maturity is not how much knowledge you have or whether you teacher preach best but how much you care for the spiritual needs of others

 

Witnessing so hard…I’m not Paul-  no, but…

II.  HOW TO BE HIS WITNESSES:

– “you feed the people” – but only by the power of the Holy Spirit

Andrew shared his QT of Jesus feeding of 4000-  He supplies food & we just give away

 

A. BIG IDEA: Receive His Power to Be His Witness (fill-in title taken from Acts 1:8)

[8] But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

(Acts 1:8 ESV)

-same power (Gk. Dynamis) to work miracles was for preaching gospel effectively

-same power that raised jesus from dead (rom 8:11)

Partnership of no pressure

 

Not about being an extrovert (for majority introverts here) – Paul was introverted here

cf. Michael Yousef, “overcoming timidity”

but being connected with the Holy Spirit power

 

1.  Our Fears largely unfounded

Fears largely unfounded when seminary student did cold turkey sharing at Ogilvie thru TEDS & 18 of 20 said thanks

No correspondence class for swimming

Ie. Mom cold calling

People want to know-  it’s not a problem finding people who want to know Him

We know this because Jesus says fields ripe for harvest

Problem is people who don’t want to tell

ie. We get to play v. sit on bench

Otherwise the game plan will still go on without you

ie. If you fear striking out, don’t play baseball but you will never know joy of hitting HR – Prof. Root

 

2. Pray-  be still, & receive His power

 

3. Accountability with little steps

Ie. Working out, memorizing Scripture

 

(Paul not just disturbed- he reasoned/witnessed)

[17] So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. [18] Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. [19] And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? [20] For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” [21] Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.

 

B. BE INTENTIONAL WITH WHO GOD HAS PLACED IN YOUR LIFE

-Realize each of us strategically placed

 

3 types of people Paul addressed:

1. Religious (“Jews & God-fearing Greeks”) in (synagogue or church)

2. “Marketplace”/city square  -Socratic method to people in street

3. Intellectuals (“Epicurean v. Stoic philosophers” chart) – (Areopagus =  university)

Epicurean = deists & similar to modern hedonists,

1. everything happened by chance,

2. death was end of everything- you died & that was it

3. believe in all gods but gods too remote to care or influence so

4. eat drink & be merry pleasure principle“  -escape pain

 

 Stoic = pantheists & fatalists, nice guy humanitarians

1.  Everything is God

2.  Everything is God’s will

3.  So be self-sufficient

4.  “Grin & bear it”- endure pain

 

[Paul had everyone’s attention on the Areopagus = “Mars Hill.”

-where the leading men of Athens met to decide criminal cases but became more of a council to guard city’s religion/morals…

His “hearing” was an invitation to explain Christianity to the leaders of the city & discuss whether could stay or go.

All networks together offered 2 hours on prime-time television, free of charge, to explain the Christian faith. – – Ray Pritchard]

 

C. BE OBSERVANT & RESPECTFUL

Athenians very…. sinful?  idolatrous?  stupid? (nor other pejorative comment) NO-  “religious”

[22] So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. [23] 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.

-”religious” = ambiguously could mean superstitious or rule based but also complimentary

-greatly irritated Paul showed restraint & was respectful

-”observed” = looked & considered, by observing he learned about their own acknowledgment of ignorance from which to start the conversation:

“brilliant -for he pointed directly to the problem.

-The Athenians were supposed to know everything, and they did, almost. But on the most important truth they came up short—they did not know God. Paul did not say this—they did (“TO AN UNKNOWN GOD”). Many of them probably grasped the apostle’s irony.” – Hughes

-Athenians NOT atheist but Agnostic

 

D. BE ABOUT RACIAL RECONCILIATION

[Piper]

1. God made all ethnic groups from one human ancestor & 2. All members of every ethnic group are made in the image of God..

Acts 17:26:

[God] made from one, every nation [pan ethnos = every ethnic group] of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times, and the boundaries of their habitation.

Notice two things from this text.

“a. notice that God is the MAKER of ethnic groups. “God made from one every nation.” Ethnic groups do not just come about by random genetic change. They come about by God’s design and purpose. The text says plainly, “GOD made every ethnos.”

b. notice that God made all the ethnic groups from one human ancestor. Paul says, “He made FROM ONE every ethnos.”

-Paul’s zinger to these Athenians on the Areopagus. The Athenians were fond of boasting that they were original superior race v. barbarians. Paul chooses to confront this ethnic pride head on. God made all the ethnic groups—Athenians and Barbarians—and he made them out of one.” – Piper

2. It is God’s purpose and command that we make disciples for Jesus Christ from every ethnic group in the world, without distinction.

Make disciples of “all nations” (NOT “YOUR nation”)—that is, every ethnic group. It’s the same phrase as in Acts 17:26, where it says he made from one “every nation”—every ethnic group. Just as all ethnic groups are created in the image of God, so God aims to redeem people from every ethnic group.

 

3. All believers in Jesus Christ, of every ethnic group, are united to each other not only in a common humanity in the image of God, but even more, as brothers and sisters in Christ and members of the same body (Rom, Cor, 1 jn).

-our identity as redeemed children of God is even greater still than all ethnic differences.

ie. at retreat, i learned this when i felt part of my family missing in other room

“[There is not] Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all” (Colossians 3:11)..  So color and ethnicity have their place, but not as the main glory and wonder of our identity as human beings. Let us banish every belittling and unloving thought about other races from our minds.

– Piper

-Retreat taught us to be intentional re who we are targeting v. ignoring our ethnic makeup. Taught us not to run away from who we are.  But the goal isn’t that we all only reach our own ethnic groups (& perhaps repeat mistakes of our 1st gen)-  I pray it’s that by being aware & intentional (& not being passive), we learn how not to alienate others & grasp opportunities to reach others within our church walls (ie. T.M.), outsiders, community, ALL nations! (“both/AND” – like PR reminded me Paul 1st went to Jews then Gentiles)

        Through our church growth of past year, is our church really successful in making disciples of ALL nations & reaching lost?  If not, what can we learn from HS teaching here.

 

E. SLYLY LOOK FOR COMMON GROUND

[John MacArthur summary of 24-29]

“You can’t make God…he says…because God made you. God is not the God you made with your hands. He is beyond time and beyond space.”

That is why the Second Commandment in the Ten Commandment says, “Make no graven image.” Do not diminish God and confine God to some form.

You don’t give to God anything. He gives to you everything. God doesn’t need anything from us. (ie.God doesn’t need our money or work)

But He is near. He is not far from each one of us. You can know Him.

 

[24] The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, [25] nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

[26] And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, [27] that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us,

[28] for

“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;

as even some of your own poets have said,

“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

[29] 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.

 

In fact, verse 28 says, “In Him we live and move and exist.” He holds us together. The universe doesn’t operate on fixed laws just at random but because God is the operator.

And then Paul even adds in verse 28, “As some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His offspring.'”  Poets who wrote this also wrote there was a God Who had created man, and that God would have to be personal, and He’d have to be rational, because that’s what man is. And he’s saying, “You’re right!”  – MacArthur

 

3 Tips of How to Effectively Witness to People without Biblical Background

1. Don’t have to explicitly quote the Bible to those who did not accept authority of the Scriptures but still give a thoroughly Biblical message

reflected OT- Psalm 104. The psalmist says if you get food, you got it from God. If you don’t get food, that’s ‘cause God didn’t give it to you. Everything from God.

 

2. Recognize those things we can agree with in other religions!

-we must even study them  ie. Hindu god of Civa

-we can agree w/certaIn elements w/o compormising the gospel

-Paul’s remarkable example gives us permission to do the same in quoting even glimmers of truth that are found in non-Christian authors who are looked up to

ie. Tupac, Jay-Z: “Jesus doesn’t save”?

3. SLYLY

But Paul even uses quote re being offspring of Zeus!-  yet in v. 29 to make point of futility of idolatry, that it is inconsistent to be living offspring of God that is lifeless gold or stone (that can be domesticated or controlled by us since He is supreme Creator)

-”amazingly Met them where they were…found common ground with secular truth”- Hughes

-even though Paul did not agree with the overall philosophy, he agreed with a specific sentence & “milked” it

Ie. “Such a lawyer…”

-disagree w/o being disagreeable, agree without being agreeable (just like lawyer, fine art)

Learn this art -otherwise, you’ll just be known as the Christian that boycotts Burger King because you worship the true king

     -we “can quote appropriate words from well known writer/speaker w/o committing ourselves to their total context or background of thought”- F.F. Bruce

    “all things to all men so I might save some”

 

  if you think Paul compromise in the beginning, but you can do the same as long as you also tell people to repent at the end

        as long as someone thinks they are good enough or can do enough good things, they will never be saved

 

F. DON’T BE AFRAID TO SPEAK THE TRUTH

 

– be willing to speak the whole truth and be misunderstood or rejected

    Like people thought Paul rejected 10 commandments

  ie. friend you explicitly shared good news re Jesus with v. friend you didn’t

 

[30] The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, [31] 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 to all by raising him from the dead.”

 

QUESTION:  If God supreme, why doesn’t he punish idolaters?  (v. 30)

1.  God overlooked ignorance in past

2.  NOW commands all to repent

3.  Judgment day is coming- (v. 31) – universal, just, definite

 

REPENTANCE of IDOLATRY = degrades God & us as imago dei by worshipping our work over Him

 

What proof does Paul have that the divine representative of supreme Creator was a man they heard of called Jesus?  (v. 31b-  “has given proof of this to all men by raising Jesus from the dead)

 

G. EXPECT OPPOSITION BUT REMEMBER 1 SAVED SOUL IS A SUCCESS

[32] Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” [33] So Paul went out from their midst. [34] But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.

3 results: mockery (even burst out laughing), delay & belief

was Paul’s mission a failure?  but even 1 would be a success

-Dionysius of Areopagus, cream of the crop (later may have been Athens 1st Christian bishop & martyr) to lowest level of athens in a woman who wouldn’t have been allowed in the areopagus but was saved

 

—————————————————————————————————-

APPLICATIONS

 

ie. opportunities abound, even this weekend-  OC apologizes, neighbor compliments

 

When was last time you invited someone to church?

 

Pray for 10 every year & see 1/yr come to Christ – Prof. J. Root

Tell ppl you are praying for them-  Will anyone tell you stop praying for me every day?

 

Have we ever accepted non Christian FB invites to meet outside of church?

ie. T.M., Aimu, alpha, amplify, Grace Conf, block pty, fri, sun, support sophia/jimi on college/arts campuses

 

18] And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18 ESV)  (2000 yr old prophecy of Jesus that nothing will stop it  Paul may have wondered how in prison seeing Christians executed but this is what you are fulfilling by being here today).  Building of the local church (gathering of growing group of people) is the most important work of past 2000 years-  – Andy Stanley

      Invest in what will last forever in building His gathering of people through receiving His power to be His witness!

 

CONCLUSION

Was there no clear cut Gospel presentation here? Did Paul compromise the gospel by leaving out the cross?  Was Paul interrupted by audience?

 

Well, here IN 2 VERSES Paul tells us what is so different about the Christian understanding of God and the Christian way of how to get right with God and have eternal life.

[24] The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, [25] nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

Before as pharisee, Paul hated Christianity-  What was Wrong with the Pharisees’ Message of Salvation?

1. God is not Served by Human Hands – Bad News to those who want to work to earn God’s favor.

Psa 50 –

8 Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you;

   your burnt offerings are continually before me.

9 I will not accept a bull from your house

   or goats from your folds.

[10] For every beast of the forest is mine,

the cattle on a thousand hills…

[12] “If I were hungry, I would not tell you,

for the world and its fullness are mine.

[13] Do I eat the flesh of bulls

or drink the blood of goats?

 

2. God is not Served by Human Hands – Good News to the Weak

        [14] Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,

                    and perform your vows to the Most High,

[15] and call upon me in the day of trouble;

I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”

(Psalm 50:8-15 ESV)

 

That God is the kind of God who cannot be served, but loves to serve.

His message to the world – the Christian gospel – is not a “help-wanted” sign, but a “help available” sign.

He is not served as though he needed anything, but he gives to all people life and breath and everything. Maybe, just maybe, a God who doesn’t need me would be willing to be for me what I need.

-Jesus’ confirmation:

Mark (10:45). “Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

“Jesus came not because he needed us, but because we needed him.

That is why our greatest need is not for health/beautiful face/body, or wealth, even food or sex fulfillment, or marriage, or job, or obedient kids. Our greatest need is someone to die in our place and ransom us from the penalty and power of sin, so that we escape God’s judgment and enter eternal life.

….not by working for God, but by trusting in his work for us.” – J. Piper

Prayer:

Work for me today – not because I deserve it, but because we wait on you.

Serve me today – to subdue my will, so that I love what you love and find joy in doing your will;

The good news this morning is not that God offers to keep us from death or suffering. He doesn’t. The good news is that God works for those who wait for him (Isaiah 64:4), even in suffering and death. He forgives all our sins, he removes all our guilt, he takes away all our condemnation through the death of Jesus.

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