Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Going Deeper for the week of August 12, 2012

There are many things which can distress us in this world, and in particular in the North American culture.  What distresses you the most?

After thinking through that question for a while, read Acts 17:16-34 and see how Paul handles things which distress him in the Greek and Roman culture?

As Paul is waiting in Athens, "he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols".  But how did he respond?  Did he put together a campaign to protest the idols in the city?  Did he gather the church in worship so that he could preach against the evils of the Greek and Roman culture of the day?

No.  Paul "reasoned" with Jews, Greeks, and even Epicurean and Stoic philosophers.  He did not start by condemning them.  He started by speaking their language.  He "reasoned" with them.  And after "reasoning" with them he gained a hearing.  So let's look at Paul's message.  What did he say, and how did he say it?

(Read verses 22-31)

Paul begins by recognizing that they are "very religious", then he uses one of their own cultural symbols (an idol to "the unknown god") as an opportunity to share the truth about God and the good news Jesus brings.

In the end, he still calls them to "repent" (see verse 30) and explains the truth that there is only one God, who sent His Son Jesus to judge the world with justice (notice this is Jesus' job and not ours).  And Paul proclaims the truth that Jesus is the true Son of God because He was raised from the dead.

All the elements of the good news are there.  Jesus as Lord, Savior (through His life, death, and resurrection), and rightful judge.  But Paul does not begin with judgment, rather he begins by working within the culture to present the good news in a way people can understand.  

So what do we learn from this?  How should we handle things in our culture which distress us?
Let's discuss ...


  1. I think the most distressing aspect of our current culture is the worldview that attempts to push God out of the picture at every opportunity. It saddens me to see Christians buy into this view and fall captives to lies and distortions about God and His holy word. It is hard to communicate with an ubeliever about this beause it is impossible, in their current state, for them to even understand what you are saying. I am learning that engagment with a person like that is futile except on a very basic level and prayer is the most important thing. Communiating God's words and not my own is best when I am able to do that because God's words are powerful. With a believer who has been snared by the world's vain philosphies I think we need to be very direct and communicate in a loving manner but very truthfully, as they may be able to hear us.

  2. The tough part is the discouragment when evil abounds. I think it is vital to cast our eyes on Christ. I heard the encouragment last night that as we read scripture we should ask, what does this tell me about God? Then we should ask, what does this tell me about myself? I plan to start reading scripture that way because then I will be reflecting more on God and that will bring joy to my heart. I will also be reflecting upon myself and who I am with God in my life and how I might live it to please Him.

  3. "Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the Lord. - Jeremiah 9:23-24
    Wow, if we really believed that knowing God is more important than being smart, healthy and rich what an impact we would have on the people around us. We would certainly stand out as being very counter-culture. People would immediately recognize that we are different.

  4. Our approasch to evangelism is often that we need to meet peoples basic needs before sharing the gospel with them. Actually, I think it's pretty clear from this passage that what is important isn't education, health or money - it's knowing God. That needs to be the starting point. This "self-actualization" lie that has been fed to us by our current culture is leading people away from a relationship with God.

  5. This is certainly not to say that we don't extend mercy and kindness to those in need but what they need fundamentally is Christ.

  6. Wow Bobo! Thank you for sharing. There is certainly a lot there. I agree with you that what people fundamentally need is Christ, and that knowing God ought to be our greatest pursuit. So I have asked myself the question, "What does it mean to know God?" and "What does it mean to share Christ?" I believe "knowing God" is more about knowing His character, His heart rather than just knowing things about Him (such as attributes like omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, etc.) While knowing these things are important, it does not result in good fruit being borne in our lives or in the world. However, when we come to know God's character ("The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness ..." Exodus 34:6) that is when we discover God, and we can learn His heart and ask Him to give us His heart for others.
    And that is when we will be able to truly share Christ. Sharing Christ is not primarily sharing information, it is introducing people to a person and you cannot properly introduce people to a person until you really know Him - His passions, His heart, His character, etc. So I think that is the answer because if we are developing the character of Christ, then we are learning to see the world as He does and we are able to graciously share the truth without fear.