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Well, what a privilege it is to be back at Moody. My oldest son is with me. He came up with me today from Dallas, and he's a graduate of Moody Bible Institute. He met his wife, Emily, here. That was worth it alone. Starting in 1995 when he became a student until 2015 we've had one of our family, either my son or my nieces and nephews here for twenty consecutive years, so we're invested in this place at deep levels. And we're indebted to this place for the training, the inspiration, the encouragement, and the uplift they have been in my family. My dad grew up in Chicago. He was the son of a trigamist, a gambler who had three families without any of the other families knowing about it. My dad came to Christ and an aunt and a mom helped nurture him and our first connection to Moody Bible Institute was my dad back in the 1940's attended night school here. While attending night school here got introduced to a musical team from out west in Denver and transferred out there and met my mom at a small Bible college in Denver and out of that date the rest of us came. My dad started us on a path toward Godliness. He valued Biblical teaching, and he valued Biblical based music and gave me a love for both. I will never forget and will never be able to repay him. He is living now with the Lord as is my mom and as is my in-laws. We have a heritage and God gave us a lift. And we owe a lot to that exposure to Bible teaching through the Moody Bible Institute. My dad got exposed to Dallas Seminary when I was engaged to be married. We went around in a family gathering telling what your son what your bother will be doing in the next ten years. My dad without me ever being exposed to Dallas Seminary said, "My son will be teaching at Dallas Seminary." I didn't attend Dallas Seminary cause I didn't think I could get in, and now "I are president" which is really strange.
The second thought I have of being here and being there is the third president of Dallas Seminary. And I am only the fifth out of five in the ninety-three years of history. Dr. Don Campbell, when he was being inaugurated said we are all like turtles on a fence post. If you ever find a turtle on a fence post, you know it didn't get there on its own. Somebody put it there. My life has been filled with what I affectionately call turtle lifters who have given me opportunities that I didn't deserve and one of those is being here tonight. Dr. Nyquist, Paul, my friend, thank you for the privilege of being back at Moody. Some of you sitting here are wondering why you're not up here and I'm wondering that too. I'm here because of grace.
If you have your Bibles, turn with me to Acts chapter seventeen tonight. And I want to begin by saying that all of us are finding ourselves in a conflicted world. We come through the prior election year and we are in the second one hundred days. It's confusing. It's divisive. Dr. Nyquist spoke about it the other night. There are some for whom the elections were a renewal of hope. There are some for whom it's a reactive fear. As we watch what's happing in the turnover of Washington and the tours of the world unbelievable is the responsibility that you and I have as the representatives of Christ in our churches to stake out a claim for the cause of Christ wherever that falls. Critical Biblical issues that have split the populous of values of life and love on the one side and values of justice and compassion on the other.
I am finding myself wrestling with what I’ve chosen to call three C’s that I have to keep developing in my life. I’ve got to keep developing a Biblical conviction. I’ve got to have Biblical courage. And I have to continue to demonstrate Biblical compassion. Now if you put that into a triangle as I think about it for my life and my own prayer life, I’m asking God to give me the conviction. Now I want you to listen carefully.. I want to have the conviction as being convicted enough to be both, to be courageous enough to be both convicted and compassionate. That courage is needed for me to stay with the convictions of Scripture, but it is also a courage that I need to stay as I develop a heart of compassion. As I watch Jesus, he was courageous to be both convicted, never compromising truth, but incredibly compassionate to those who just yet didn’t get it. You and I, if we find ourselves critical of our culture because of the conviction of Romans one, and we don’t find ourselves by the end of that chapter, especially in chapters two or three, then we are shortsighted, and we become judgmental. We have to hold to biblical convictions and not bow. We have to be compassionate and not harden our hearts. It’s going to take a Biblical courage to do both of those.
I want to tonight in light of where we are in our culture… It’s obvious that there is a feeling in the culture and especially in churches that we’re witnessing a moment in history where Christianity that was once was respected, then tolerated, is now under suspicion and even attack. If you haven’t felt it, I don’t know where you’ve been. It was the Cambridge Declaration
So Os Guinness in his latest book, and I love the way Os paints the landscape of our culture. In his book, Impossible People, he states, “It’s surely undeniable that only rarely in church history has the Lordship of Jesus in the West has been treated as more pliable, or has Christian revisionism been more brazen, Christian interpretation of the Bible more self-serving, Christian preaching more soft, Christian behavior more lax, Christian Compromise more common, Christian defection from the faith more casual, and Christian rationales for such slippage more spurious and shameless.”
BIG IDEA FOR THE SERMON
We are in a weird world and we have an awesome responsibility, so my prayer tonight is I just want to be an encourager to you, but I do give you a challenge. And the challenge is rooted in the text of Acts chapter seventeen. And here’s my challenge. I want to lay it out and I want to watch the text unfold before our eyes. Here’s my challenge. We need a generation of Christians who have troubled spirits and yet the willingness to engage a conflicted culture with a proclamation of truth in spite of the range of responses that they will see. Let me say it again. We need a whole generation of Christians who are ticked off. That’s Greek. It’s a marginal translation, but it’s in the margin. But are ticked off enough and upset enough to be willing to engage what we find ourselves in—a very self-conflicted culture—but with the proclamation of truth in spite of the responses that you and I might see.
I want you to see how that unfolds right out of the text of Acts chapter seventeen. Paul has just arrived in Athens. You probably know the text. You’ve probably preached the text. I’m not telling you anything new, but what I want to do is show you how it unfolds out of this passage. And I’m convinced after forty-some years in the ministry, twenty of those in the pastorate, forty in the classroom, a combination most of my life, I’ve never been more excited about my Bible study than I am today. You need to know that. I’ve never been more sure, not cocky, but sure of the inerrancy of the Scripture because the authorship of the Scripture is what guarantees the authority of the Scripture. And as I study the book of Acts… If you study the speeches in the book of Acts, in Acts chapter two, Acts chapter seven, and Acts chapter seventeen, Paul’s defence before the Romans, I am more and more convinced that the reason God stitched this book into Holy Scripture is to give us a paradigm of how we relate the truth of God to our culture where ever we find ourselves. In Act two as Peter is giving the day of Pentecost he is quoting extensively from the Old Testament because the Jews in Jerusalem had a background in the Scriptures, and so he’s tying them with a tether to the text. But when Paul is at Athens, he is in a culture that is very erudite as we will see. But he quotes no passage, but what he’s going to do is teach the Bible from Genesis to Revelation in a nutshell. And Paul finds himself in Athens, and he is provoked in his spirit.
v.16 Look at it in verse sixteen. He is waiting for his buddies to come down the coast, the east coast of Macedonia and Greece. He has left them, Silas and Timothy, and he is waiting for them in Athens. And while he is waiting for them in Athens in verse sixteen, his spirit was provoked within him. He has a provoked spirit. He’s actually ticked off, but what John Polhill comments is that Athens was known the world over for its magnificent art and architecture. They are, however, characteristically portrayed the exploits of various gods and goddesses of the Greek pantheon, and the most impressive buildings were temples to pagan gods. As Paul came to that structure, (the Parthenon and Acropolis) one of the seven wonders of the world, what he saw made him do what he did and his friend and physician and his companion, Luke, the physician-historian describes his response in verse sixteen. It says, Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was beholding the city literally under idols. The word that Luke uses is strong. It’s the word paroxynō. We get our word paroxysm from it. Literally, it means to sharpen. Figuratively it means to arouse or to stimulate, and in the negative sense, it means to stimulate, to provoke, to goad, to irritate, or to cause to be upset. The tense of the verb is the imperfect. As Paul is watching Athens this paroxysm of spirit, this grinding of spirit, this provocation of his innards continues and continues and continues. I need to tell you if you are bothered by our culture, good. If your culture upsets you, wonderful. If Paul was here, he would be ticked off with you because of what we are finding in our culture. But we don’t stop there. We don’t become an ostrich and bury our heads in the sand. And as Ecclesiastes chapter ten says, I think it is in about verse seven, He is not wise who says, well, this is the way it used to be. A most convicting verse that all of us need to remember. We’re not going backward. We’re only going to go forward, but if you’re upset, it’s a good place to start.
v. 17 There’s a provoked spirit. That’s what Paul saw and how he responded, but he had a willingness to engage number two. Watch what he does in verse seventeen. It includes both his audience as well as his apologetic. So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be present. Notice, out of his provocations of spirit comes an intentionality of reasoning in the religious setting but being available in the cultural setting to be used by God in whatever way God would choose to use him. You see his audience was both intentional and incidental. You see the places and the people, the civil and religious, and the frequency. All are mentioned in that verse. His audience was all phases of his culture. I wonder if we have been too selective in who we have been talking to. And would we dare to take on the religious establishment before we get too critical of the political establishment? Paul was reasoning. You see, there is reason to believe the Biblical text. And he’s reasoning with his Jewish brethren, and he’s reasoning out in the marketplace, the Agora as anybody would come along. Intentional and incidental, planned and improvisational, there he was. But his apologetic… Alistair McGrath, the theologian from overseas, did a lectureship at Dallas Seminary a number of years ago, the William Griffith Thomas lectureship, and he talked about apologetics. And here is what he said, “Apologetics can be thought of as having two components. On one hand, it involves the countering of objections to the Christian faith. On the other, it involves setting out the attractiveness of the Gospel. Helping people understand what the full glory of the Gospel really is, often involves taking the trouble to explain central Christian ideas to people who may recognize the words, but not the reality they represent.” You see what Paul encountered caused his to engage as he did, but what he found was a conflicted culture. He had a provoked spirit. He had a willingness to engage. But what he found was a conflicted culture. I love this. It’s so paradigmatic. It’s such a pattern for you and me.
v. 18 In verse eighteen it says, Some of the Epicurian and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him. Some were saying, “What would this idle babbler wish to say? Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities. Notice the disrespect and the misunderstanding because he was preaching—don’t miss this—Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, that’s Mars Hill. May we know what this new teaching is that you are proclaiming for you’re bringing some strange things to our ears. We want to know therefore what these things mean. Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new. They just wanted to know the latest and Luke’s parenthetical thought is they just sat around wanting to know what is new. And I want you to notice these are two competing philosophies that vied for control of Athenian thought at the time and like today they were mutually contradictory to each other. They met at Mars Hill. This is where they confronted him at the Areopagus or what’s call Mars Hill.
Here were the philosophies. There were the Epicureans and Stoics. I’m not going to go into big detail here, but the Epicureans with Epicurus in 340 to 270 BC. It was hedonistic at its core. They wanted to have freedom from pain, freedom from disturbing passions and fear. They thought that God was way away from everyday life and life only goes around once so get the gusto if you can get it. It’s going to be gone. Enjoy life. It’s just the “Just do it” philosophy. On the other hand was the stoics taken from the word for a pillar. That wasn’t started by a guy named Stoic, but Zeno of Citium lived about the same time as Epicurus and his philosophy was very pantheistic, rationalistic, and fatalistic. God is in everything. Nature had its own purpose in history. If there was a theme song from yesteryear it would have been what Doris Day sang, “Que sera, sera. Whatever will be will be. The future’s not ours to see. Que sera, sera.” The modern expression, “Whatever.” That’s it. Now ironically, this as mutually contradictory philosophy was acceptable in the culture but contradictory with each other. And Paul confronted these two extreme philosophies with the Gospel of Jesus and the Resurrection.
The Athenians scorned him calling him a babbler which is like a bird picking at seeds, a seed picker. We could translate that a “nitpicker.” But I want you to step back with me a few years before that into the life of Jesus. And here is Jesus preaching himself to be the Messiah and he has two philosophies. One over here call the Pharisees with Judaism and ironically over here you had the Herodians who were pro-Rome and pro-Herod. These two could never stand each other, could never get along until Jesus shows up. And then they’re willing to be bedfellows and take counsel together how they might get rid of Jesus. See, you can live in a mutually contradictory culture. Both of those positions can’t be right, but both of them can be politically correct but still totally absent of the truth.
If you take a step back into the life of Christ, you see it. You see it in Paul’s life with them but come forward with me. Journalist Truitt Anderson observes, “Never before has a civilization made available to its populace such a smorgasbord of realities. Never before has a communication system like the contemporary mass media made information about religion, all religions, available to so many people. Never has a society become consumers of belief and all beliefs to become merchandise.” Anderson states that, “America has become the belief basket of the world.” Anything and everything is available on your phone, on your iPad, on your computer, in the library. So what do we find today? Here’s the irony. We find atheism over here that’s okay within the culture and on the rise. And we have pluralism over here. Multiple ways all of which are all okay. They will all get you there. Now multiple gods and no God doesn’t match. That is mutually contradictory. One of them is wrong or both of them are wrong. Christianity, Jesus, and the resurrection is here in the middle. Ironically, between atheism and Christianity some are not willing to go that far, but they want a secular public square. Let’s keep God out of it if there is one, so it’s a functional atheism within the public square. Over here there is a functional syncretism pluralism, so Oprah and her gang are all right. And so even in my home state of Arizona where I grew up part of my childhood, in Sedona, the harmonic capital of the world, conversion capital of the world, you have Christian Spiritism going on where they are calling on Jesus and Satan at the same time to manifest themselves. That’s where we are. We are in a self-inflicting culture. It was true in Jesus’ day. It was true in Paul’s day. It is true in my day and yours. So I tell my students, “Welcome to the first century.” We’re back where Rome was in charge. Taxation was high. Slavery was brutal. Racism was terrible. Oppression was real. Emperors were ultimately asking people to worship them. But here’s the good news. If Christianity can be birthed in the fullness of time in God’s plan and program in the first century and flourish. Christianity can be birthed in the hearts of men and women and boys and girls today and flourish in the 21st century because Jesus, evidenced by the resurrection, is still the hope of the world. Don’t lose that. Don’t lose that or we’re in trouble.
He was ticked off. He had a provoked spirit, but he was in the middle of a conflicted culture, but so are we. So what did he do? He proclaims the truth. He proclaims the truth. He doesn’t dodge the truth, so I want you to see what he does. As Paul engaged his audience without surrendering any Biblical truth. And this is going to surprise some of you. In any conversation about faith, there can be opportunity as well as opposition. Paul faced the opposition, but he took the opportunity, and he watched for an opening for the truth of Scripture to be appropriately advanced into the discussion.
v. 22 So how does that work? Look to verse twenty-two with me. Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus where they held court on philosophical ponderings and said, Men of Athens I observe you are very religious in all respects. Watch him build a bridge of conversation. For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship I found an altar with this inscription, ‘to an unknown god’ (singular). What were evidenced all over the region were idols that said unknown gods (plural) because as Greece won their wars and victories were won they didn’t know who to attribute the help to in the Greek pantheon, so sometimes they just built an altar of worship and put “to the unknown gods” not because they were worried about missing one, but because they just didn’t know the name of the one who helped them. And he said to them, “What you, therefore, worship in ignorance I proclaim to you.” He’s not saying now I am going to tell you about the god of this idol. What he is saying is you don’t know about a god I want to tell you about. So he picks that theme and turns it around and uses it with great wisdom and finesse. He states with their views on of an impersonal divine essence on one hand and a pantheistic conception on the other, and he moves them toward the living God who he’s going to proclaim as creator, redeemer, and judge.
EIGHT THINGS THAT WE DARE NOT MISS
Now, very quickly, he says eight things that we dare not miss.
Number one is that God is the Almighty Creator. This contradicts the philosophies of both naturalism and pantheism that was present. And here’s what he says in verse twenty-four. The God who made the world and all things in it, both the cosmos and its creatures owe their origin to God. I love the fact that in a naturalistic world, in a philosophical dialecticism that he found in Athens, he just goes ahead and says it. God created the world and everything in it. Remember John 1 without Him nothing came into this world that came into this world. Jesus is the agent of God’s creation. The spirit of God hovered over the face of the deep and God created the heavens and the earth, but Jesus is the personal agent of creation. Nothing could come into being that he did not make. Do you believe that? Let me ask you again. Do you really believe that? I’m a bass. I’m not a tenor. I can’t get you up there. When I get to heaven, I’ll sing with Jonathan, but you and I dare not miss that.
Number two, He is the Universal Lord. He can’t be confined to a shrine. Now that’s a huge statement in light of where he’s at. It says since he is the Lord of heaven and earth, He does not dwell in a temple made with hands. He’s not a territorial deity which is the popular philosophy. He is the God of heaven and earth and He can’t be confined in a shrine. He does not dwell in temples made without hands. That’s a theme throughout the Old Testament. He doesn’t quote it. He just asserts it. Thoroughly Biblical, just not text referenced.
Number three, He’s the Bountiful Giver. He who supplies our needs doesn’t need us to supply His. He says, Neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything since He Himself gives to all life and breath and all things. We give to God not because He’s poor, not because He can’t afford it if we don’t give it to Him. We give it to Him because we need to do the worship. But as David said in the Old Testament when they collected the offerings for the temple that he wasn’t allowed to build because he was a man of bloodshed and not a man of peace. He said everything we are doing we are doing because God has given to us first. We give to him not because He has need. He wants our worship. And we need to give it to Him not because he needs it but because we need to demonstrate that.
He is the Lord of Heaven and earth. He doesn’t dwell in temples made with hands. He is not served by human hands as though he needed anything because He is the one who gives life and breath and all things. And anybody and everybody you wonder about, you need to understand that God is the one who gave them breath. God created that person in His image. Before you and I have thoughts of destruction we need to remember that God has thoughts of redemption because He made them. He created them for His will, and by His will, they were created Revelation says. And they may not yet have understood the purpose of God for them, but you and I had dare not miss the fact that God is the one who gave them breath and life.
Number four. He is the Sovereign Sustainer. He is the sovereign sustainer of all and yet He is not sustained by any. And He made from one man (I am going to come back to that.) every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and their boundaries of their habitation. See the Greeks prided themselves as superior to all non-Greeks who they called barbarians, but Paul affirms here a common origin in Adam and hence argues against any racial or sectarian pride. Can I try something on you tonight? I have an idea. What is when we are asked what race we are, what if we all just wrote human? Now our ethnicities are different, our habitations are different, our nationalities are different, but if you understand the human race, there ought not to be a division of races. And he’s going to argue that because all of us have a common grandfather. His name is Adam.
And you need to understand what is happening in our country. You have a lot of Christian schools, not Moody, not Dallas. We’ve got a lot of Christian schools and a lot of Christian thinkers who are tossing overboard the idea of a historical Adam. Listen to this. I am going to do a cul-de-sac. It’s not in the slides. Listen to it.
- 1 The Bible mentions Adam by name twenty-three times in nine different books. It’s not a Genesis 1-11 question men and women.
- 2. Moses stated in chapter four that Cain and Able were the product of a physical union of Adam and Eve. Before you throw over Adam, you better find out where Cain and Able came from.
- 3. Adams inclusion in three genealogies, Genesis five, 1 Chronicles one, Luke, the physician, in chapter three of Luke, would put Adam if he were a mythological character. Are you kidding me?
- 4. Number four, patriarchs, prophets, and psalmist all mention Adam directly or by allusion in their writings like Job and Isaiah and Hosea and the psalms. It’s not a Genesis issue. It’s a whole Bible issue.
- 5. Jesus believed the creation of the original couple and the purpose of their marriage was rooted and grounded as He quoted from Genesis 1:27 and 2:24. I think I’m going to hang with Jesus if it’s okay with you. If not, then Paul.
- 6. Paul explained the doctrine of justification by the comparisons of the first and the second Adams in Romans five. He explained the reality of death and the possibility of resurrection in the contrast between Adam and Jesus.
- 7. In 1 Corinthians 15:22 and the contrast of Adam and Christ as to the origin and nature of their bodies would not make any sense without a historical reality of Adam.
- 8. And if that’s not good enough for you, Jude, quoting from the book of Enoch of the Jewish intertestamental literature says that Enoch was the seventh from Adam.
- 9. The intertestamental literature is loaded with references to a historical Adam.
- 10. And number ten, the references to the Devil as the serpent in Revelation twelve and twenty and the promise of the Tree of Life in Revelation 2:22 would not make any sense without historical interpretation and precedent of Genesis.
That’s just a little sliver of a whole study that you need to know.
THINGS THAT WE DARE NOT MISS
From one man, He’s the Divine Designer. He’s independent from His creation, but He’s intimately concerned about it. Why is God the divine designer? Out of one, He made the whole of the families of the earth. He determined their times and habitation… Why? So they would seek Him. Notice this. God did all of this to create people who would respond to Him in seeking for Him. Notice. This is His purpose. Don’t throw seekers off the cliff too quick. That they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. See, He’s not a wholly way out there as the Epicureans would say. He’s not in this desk and this speaker as the Stoics would say. He’s out there, but He’s not very far. Omniscience and omnipotence and omnipresence is pretty near when you think about it. He’s not far for in Him we live, we move and exist as some of your poets have said, "We are his offspring." There is a sense in which the pagan poet was right. We all come from God. That part is true. There is a part of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man as far as creation is concerned, but that's only one step. God wants recreation to bring spiritual sons and daughters into the family of God. That's a whole different relationship of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of not only of man, but a being a co-heir with Jesus Christ who was not ashamed to call us brothers. See, that's where he's leading.
He's the Eternal Father. The very living One who created us in His image. Being then the offspring of God, he goes on to say, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man.
Number seven. He's a Gracious Redeemer. God is not willing that any should perish, Peter said, but that all should come to repentance. He got that from Jesus, by the way, in Luke chapter thirteen. But look at Paul's repetition of this in verse thirty. Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God in his incredible grace dealing with us in our past as our brother was singing about. He's willing to overlook our stupidity, our ignorance, our lack of knowledge of Him, because now He is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent. Who does He want? Say it with me, "All." Where? Everywhere. To do what? Don't miss this. Biblical repentance for salvation is foundational repentance is what Hebrews chapter six called repentance from dead works and faith toward God. I can’t. He can. I’m not. He is. It’s not me. It’s Him. It’s not my righteousness because I don’t have any. It’s His. It’s not by works of righteousness but it’s His mercy that saved me. That’s the turn of thought. That’s the change of heart. That’s what He wants from everybody everywhere--Don’t miss the global impact of the mission--to repent. Why is that so important? Because if you don’t, you need to be reminded that He is not only the gracious Redeemer, but He’s the righteous judge.
Righteous Judge. Jesus has been delegated the right to exercise judgment. The question on a college campus is, “How could a loving God send men to Hell.” The answer to that is, "He doesn't. Jesus does." And the reason is that God has committed all judgment to the Son (John 5) that all may honor the Son even as they honor the Father. Whoever it is that doesn't honor the Son doesn't honor the Father who sent Him. Why? Because the One who will ultimately be the judge is the One who has already been judged by God. And that’s why He can be the just One and the justifier of those who come to Him in faith. Look at verse thirty-one. He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead. It's Jesus and the resurrection. The point. The time is limited. God has been gracious. Repentance is urgent. Righteous judgment is certain. Jesus is the judge. The resurrection is the crowning evidence of His right, and to deny any of this for whatever personal or philosophical reason is disastrous. It's that urgent.
A RANGE OF RESPONSES
So, I repeat. We need a generation of Christians who have troubled spirits and a willingness to engage a conflicted culture with the proclamation of truth in spite of the range of responses they will see. You say, “What is the range of responses?” I was hoping you would ask that. Here is unfolds right out of that. Here is a range of responses.
Look at verse thirty-two. Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer... Hey, would you be encouraged? They sneered at Paul. They sneered at Jesus. I did a chapter in a book we produced from the seminary a couple years ago With Joni Erickson Tada that she wrote the first and last chapter. It's called Why, Oh God? It's on a Biblical theology of suffering and disability as it relates to the church and my assignment was to do the gospels and as I looked at the gospels I went through the gospels section by section. One gospel scholar tells us that we only have evidence of about fifty days, fifty-two days in the whole life of Christ in the gospels, just samples of fifty-two days. And before He ever comes to the week of passion Jesus is accused, berated, plotted against, disparaged, spoken against, sneered at fifty times. You know what I learned from that? Of all that we have recorded in the Gospels an average of once a day Jesus took it on the chin for being who he was. They sneered. That's one response.
Others said we would like to hear more concerning this. So Paul went out of their midst. But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them. Here is the range of responses.
Let me suggest three applications to take away tonight. In the face of rejection, there is a need for us to stay courageous. In the face of rejection, in our culture, we need to stay courageous. Courageous to be both convicted in our Biblical stance, but also compassionate to those who have yet to know the Savior. Number two, in the future conversation there was delay. They said we want to talk more about this. So, in the face of delay, there is a need for patience. I want to come back to that in a moment. But in the event of faith the Bible teaches us there is a need for us to rejoice. All of Heaven rejoices. The Angels rejoice. The Father rejoices. Isn't that great? A set of pictures in Luke chapter fifteen.
So now let me tell you a couple quick things and I'll quit. Her name was Teresa. She was, she has been my wife's nail tech at the beauty salon for years. It was about a year and a half ago that I was asked to speak and teach the book of Revelation to the Bible study fellowship leaders around the world at a conference in Dallas. They did Revelation last year in a series. So, my wife was talking to Teresa at the shop and she was telling her what I was going to do this next week.
And Teresa said, "I've read the book of Revelation and I don't get it."
My wife said, "You're not alone."
She said, "Has anybody made a movie or a book about that?
It wouldn't be our first tool of evangelism but in that kind of a context Barbie said, "As a matter of fact I have." And she gave her one of the series of Left Behind. Teresa said she took it home, started to read it, didn't like it, and put it down. Felt compelled to read it, didn't like it, and put it down. Had a compulsion she couldn't get away from, read it all the way through, and came to Christ. My wife has been meeting on Wednesdays at Wendy's this last year and a half with Teresa discipling her. She's now coming to our church. I had the privilege of baptizing her. And now she understands our family. She loves our family. We love her. She's bringing the rest of her family and we're going to watch the dominos. Now notice, five years, but on this day... You know what I get out of this passage? Dionysius, he’s been a rocksitter, he's called the Areopagite. He's been there so long he's been called by the place. He's been sitting there wondering what's new for years. He called Dionysius the Areopagite, but on this day the Gospel comes home. And Paul preaches Jesus and the resurrection and Dionysius and a lady by the name of Damaris and a few others come to Christ in Athens no less. Philosophical education will happen! of Greece no less and it goes from there.
One more picture. I was sitting at a board meeting yesterday. I have the privilege of serving on the board or Bible Study Fellowship as Dr. Nyqyst said. There's a man who committed murder and he is in jail and he has had no one visit him for fifteen years, no one. Fifteen years. No one has come to see him. His name was Tom. But on one occasion somebody said, "There's going to be a Bible study here in the prison. You've got to give up your time in the yard if you are going to come to it.” And he came and he found Christ and he's studying the Bible and with tools, as you can imagine, being convicted of murder, with tools of tiny pieces of stick he built what I want to show you if it will come up upon the screen. He built this and it has all moving parts inside. It's electronic. There's a clock on the outside, a sailboat inside. There are cows and horses all built out of trash. In took him 1,500 hours and he sent it. He makes twenty-five cents. It cost him forty some dollars to send it. He just wanted to say thanks that someone had the courage in a very threatening environment to bring him the message of Jesus. And that day like Teresa and that day like Tom and that day like Dionysius because somebody was faithful to point them to Jesus, they came.
We need a generation of us who are upset, but so upset we'll take the initiative to engage. We’ll find a self-conflicting culture that doesn't have it connected, mutually conflicting, but we can take the message that doesn't change and the Person that God said is the only way and take them. And without even quoting a passage he went from Genesis to Revelation, presented the whole counsel of God in a few lines and they got it. Let's never give up. Never give up. Each one on the arm of another let's bring them to Jesus.
LET’S PRAYFather in Heaven the passage unfolds itself as a pattern for us as we face what we face in our culture. To trust in your word as we sang about it and it is true and when preached and lived will bring people to Jesus. In Your time, on a rock, in a cell, in a beauty shop, wherever You chose, do Your work. Don't quit doing it through us we pray. Lord, these pastors are my heroes. I have a team around me that makes it much easier than so many of them have. Lord, help them know that I love them and I love what they do and I ask that You would reinvigorate them with the truth of Your Word, the power of Your Spirit, the message of Jesus. That You'll still love them and want to use them as all of us have been put on a fencepost by grace. May we take that opportunity and point people to You we pray. In Jesus' name. Amen.
followers of Epicurus (who died at Athens B.C. 270), or adherents of the Epicurean philosophy (Acts 17:18)
This philosophy was a system of atheism, and taught men to seek as their highest aim a pleasant and smooth life. They have been called the “Sadducees” of Greek paganism. They, with the Stoics, ridiculed the teaching of Paul (Acts 17:18). They appear to have been greatly esteemed at Athens.
a sect of Greek philosophers at Athens, so called from the Greek word stoa i.e., a “porch” or “portico,” where they have been called “the Pharisees of Greek paganism”
The founder of the Stoics was Zeno, who flourished about B.C. 300. He taught his disciples that a man's happiness consisted in bringing himself into harmony with the course of the universe. They were trained to bear evils with indifference, and so to be independent of externals. Materialism, pantheism, fatalism, and pride were the leading features of this philosophy.
The Epicureans, who followed Epicurus (341–270 b.c.), said the chief end of man was pleasure and happiness. This pleasure, they believed, is attained by avoiding excesses and the fear of death, by seeking tranquility and freedom from pain, and by loving mankind. They believed that if gods exist they do not become involved in human events.
The Stoics, on the other hand, were followers of Zeno (ca. 320=ca. 250 b.c.) and got their name from the painted portico or stoa, where he traditionally taught in Athens. Pantheistic in their view, they felt a great “Purpose” was directing history. Man’s responsibility was to fit himself and align himself with this Purpose through tragedy and triumph. Quite obviously this outlook, while it produced certain noble qualities, also resulted in inordinate pride and self-sufficiency.