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Truth About the Unknown God - Part 15

David Wright

Presenter

David Wright

Lead/Senior Pastor, Hendersonville SDA Church

Recorded

  • January 11, 2020
    12:30 PM
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To start with a simple question Have you ever been in a place or traveled in a part of the world where the overarching culture was vastly different than what you're used to perhaps it was primarily Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist or some variation between it could be all kinds of things on a slate but it was a virtually not Christian and there was a lot of statute and worship being in ways that are unknown and unfamiliar idols everywhere that you turn your anything like me being immersed in that type of culture can be sometimes quite uneasy not sure what everyone around you is thinking and feeling what they're doing having your own ideas of the roots of all of these types of things and what's behind much of them sometimes we see people worshipping with various Montrose in ways that are contrary to what we understand and know in Scripture sometimes they're humming sometimes are moving their bodies in ways that are different to us and it seems oftentimes over and over they're seeking to appease a god or one of the gods or all of the gods I don't know which through their dedication and through their prayers through their sacrifices through their incense through their food offerings and as you take all that in this never make you feel well uncomfortable be willed and perhaps how could so many people literally billions be deceived if you will have you ever found yourself wondering their eternal fate perhaps you desire to share truth with them but perhaps you're overwhelmed at the idea Oh how how will this ever be possible will today we're continuing our series on Paul the man of grace and grit and again today we're going to see a man of grit but we're going to see a time if you will that Paul doesn't always get everything just right it's not a huge mess up if you will but it's not the ideal either and you may say what are you talking about and we'll get to that in Tyler the truth about the unknown god if I were to retitle it now I might call it something. More like the very eloquent failure and that would truly be fair because it wasn't a failure but again it wasn't probably God's ideal but the reality is like it or not there are billions around the globe or right now that did not know the truth about God In fact the creator God whom we worship this morning is completely unknown to them you may remember that Paul is on the 2nd missionary journey has been traveling for some time we've been following this map and last he was in Tesla Nika and Berea and as we continue to follow Paul we find him now in Athens up here in the kind of top left corner and what do you need to know about Athens will Athens was the cultural centerpiece of the Greek world art galleries could be found in rare abundance the land was full of respected academies it was known for people like Plato and Aristotle and Socrates much of the art pre-trained the exploits of the various gods and goddesses and Athens had lavishly decorated music halls as well a stadium was built there at 3 around $330.00 b.c. and it was later rebuilt in what you see today and 144 a day it's a still very old stadium all made out of pure marble I understand seats about 50000 people this theater in Athens was also built about 100 years after Paul was there but I imagine they had a theater when Paul was there and this was just the revamped updated model of that as well as it was unsurpassed in sculpture and architecture and again much of the architecture were temples to their pagan gods plan you wrote in the time of Nero Athens had well over 25000 public statues and another 30000 in the Parthenon alone on the Acropolis the elevated part of the Greek city is the Parthenon in the temple of Ask any of the cities pagan god is built in for $47.00 b.c. and even today is said to be one of the most. Really satisfy and billions to be seen anywhere and so ancient descriptions testify that the marketplace as well was virtually lined with idols and so we pick up the story now in Acts Chapter 17 I hope you brought your Bibles with you today because we're going to be reading now as Paul ventures onto Athens and we're going to Star Universe 16 the book of Acts Chapter 17 beginning verse 16 now while Paul waited for them at Athens remember he sent for those that were with him for Silas and for Timothy I magine his fan little bit alone in this very secular culture says Now Paul was waiting for them or while he was waiting for them in Athens his fear was provoked within him when he saw the city was given over to idols and understatement if you will his spirit was provoked some say that's too light in translation Paul was infuriated at the sight it was a rather violent emotion his spirit was stirred why with jealousy for God whom he saw dishonored on every side his heart was drawn out in pity for the people of Athens who notwithstanding their intellectual culture were ignorant of the true God but I imagine the situation seemed overwhelmingly hopeless but it says in verse 17 it doesn't say he decided to move on to a more favorable location he doesn't say this place is too far gone but he says therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews so there was a bit of a presence there and with the Gentile worshippers and in the market place daily with those who happened to be there he could have said it's too far gone and I wonder do you ever feel that way you don't even have to travel the world you can stay right here Henderson County Do you ever wonder if everything is just gone too far how can we ever get it back I mean we can talk more about the culture then but we can talk about our culture today couldn't we. We might put on a nice front we don't have statutes all over let's you count weird painted bears I don't know if the Hendersonville thing but under the surface of this American culture we see a sex crazed thrill jaded morally twisted spiritually dwarfs society when you see the billboards the movie trailers the social media post how will they ever wake up but Paul does what he knows to do he goes to the synagogue he needs to people where they are in the market place and then continuing on then certain epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him and some said Why does this babbler or what does this babbler want to say now who are these Epicureans Well there are more parallels they were materialists this life is it there's certainly no Reza let resurrections So you live it up now is all you have they taught that happiness and pleasure were the highest good sound like anyone in our world today both happiness and pleasure were to be pursued with bright old passion to go on netflix today that's what you'll find is that no eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die this was classic Epicurean sentiment then deny the existence of God but they believe the gods were indifferent to humanity like many today living with this same model live it up this is it Be happy live in let live live for pleasure and all of its forms you're worth it you deserve it everyone else is the Stoics on the other hand believed in the laws of the universe their world was founded on reason and science and self sufficiency they were also pantheists their idea was that God was in everything and the greatest revelation of God was to find him within dust you could be self sufficient there was no need for a god outside of us long as you. Understood and were in tune with this God within So really both the Epicureans and the Stoics put them together we have pleasure seekers and mystics those who feel that happiness and pleasure should rule and those that feel that reason and science can we say today evolution and the God that with the end that is my true guiding light at the heart of both groups is this center or at the center is self is the goal and then they want to know what is this babble or have to say Babel or was one didn't really know what they were talking about they grab scraps from everybody else they put them together to try and sound smart but they really had no idea what does he have to say 2nd half of verse 18 others said He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection so Paul's in this Greek heathen center it's all about self and pleasure he's preaching Jesus and the resurrection why those 2 because use is a key piece he's the central figure of our salvation he was not just another man he was the Son of God and the simple proof of this was in fact the resurrection true verse 19 and they took him and brought him to every opera gifts saying May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak for you are bringing some strange things to our years therefore we want to know it through the door opened and then what these things mean for all the Athenians and the foreigners who are there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing tell me something new and so Paul is clever enough he's win some enough he's logical enough what he says is intriguing enough that even this sand jaded culture wants to know more this is a huge opportunity in a culture that has everything what do you give them the one thing they don't have. And that's with exactly what Paul is done and so he is given this invitation to go up to Mars Hill your translation might say to airy fairy opera guests same place and what is that it was one of the most sacred spots in all of Athens where the wise men of the land and came together to discuss and to contemplate matters of religion it was there that men of renown would act as final judges or on moral or civil questions so around Paul you can imagine poets and artists and philosophers and scholars say if you will of Athens in all of their Gar the equivalent today would be like being asked to speak to Congress or to stand and speak before the Supreme Court yes this is an incredible opportunity you know I imagine a very intimidating one but being a man of grit I magine Paul prayerfully takes on this challenge. And so it goes to Mars Hill this is what it looks like today picking up our story in verse $22.00 then Paul stood in the midst of very obvious and said men of Athens I perceive that in all things you are very religious for as I was passing through and considered the objects of your worship I even found an altar with the inscription to the on known God therefore the one whom you worship without knowing him I proclaim to you he said they were very religious He didn't say they were very Christian there's a big difference and they are undoubtedly saw it as a compliment I'm sure and then he uses this idea of their altar to an unknown God as a way in Paul was familiar enough with the culture he had been in the marketplace he was talking to people all good things he knew his audience and he was going to use that to present the gospel we don't really know for sure but according to legend and Greek mythology how did this unknown God come to be well this is what it says I can't prove it to you but according to legend around the 6th century before Christ and saw the Athens was subject to a terrible play and the city elders were the last to know what to do about it was devastating their society and so they were making sacrifices and offerings and prayers to all of their gods and to no avail what do we do well in desperation they sought after to me of these I'm saying that right he said to a phone asleep from 50 Sept 1st 57 years in a certain cave sacred to Zeus and he woke up with the gift of prophecy and so he comes and he starts to explain there is probably a god here that you don't know about and in our ignorance we should at least admit the fact that we don't know who he is and see if he will help us if we just humble ourselves and he came up with this kind of random idea let's take a bunch of sheep Let's go up to Mars Hill and let's say a special prayer if you like. The black sheep so be it if you like the white sheep so be it but if you are willing to help us have the sheep lay down and go to sleep the ones of your choosing then according to the myth sure enough some of the sheep lay down and it was in those places where the all of I don't didn't say if it was white or black I don't know but all the sheep that would lay down they decided to build an altar to this unknown God and according to the legend within a week the plague had stayed and so all over every place that the little lamb laid down there were these little idols little altars and that's where that lamb was sacrificed that's the legend true or not I don't know perhaps that's what Paul is speaking to perhaps it's not that at all maybe it's something different entirely but this is a way that Paul is choosing to get in as far as their thinking their methodology how they reason and he's saying Guess what made them Athens you know that there's this unknown God I see altars around them all over the place but I know that God's name and I'm here to introduce you to him continuing on 2nd part of verse 2523 Therefore the one whom you worship without knowing him I proclaim to you verse $24.00 God who made the world and everything in it since he is Lord of heaven and earth Lord it was who they told talked of of Caesar and so on but since he is Lord of Heaven and Earth does not dwell in temples made with hands nor does he worship with men's hands as though he needed anything since he gives to all life breath and all things and he has made from one blood every nation of man to dwell on all the face of the earth and as determine their preprinted times and the boundaries of their dwellings and he goes on and on and on this unknown God is the Creator of heaven and earth Paul is saying he's the one that made everything and because he made everything it means he owns everything and because he owns everything it means he doesn't need anything certainly doesn't need anything from you and you might say well why is this important big. Is the mindset of every false religion including false Christianity is this idea that the purpose of worship is to get God's favor or to somehow get his attention to appease this God this upset or frustrated or angry with me but if I can worship him in the right way if I can bring the right sacrifice if I can do something to appease him then maybe he'll have mercy on me which leads to a religion of doing and doing and doing and doing in the hopes that he'll have mercy you member Lige in the Prophets a veil in the middle of their trying to get their god to respond the lie just starts to them and say maybe your god's asleep shall know louder and if you go back to the story they don't object. They say I mean doesn't say this either but I imagine they're thinking in their minds this is a good idea and so they get even more drastic to get their Gods attention where they start to do cut themselves this is the heathen mindset if I sacrifice enough if I do enough God will pay attention and heal a peace he'll do something that he wouldn't do otherwise but friends that's not the God we serve we don't do good things in order to win God's favor to appease him of his wrath in fact is just the opposite contrary to all heathen worship is a god unknown to the majority of the world who is willing to give of himself totally and completely for you and for me the Creator of All heavens on earth the all powerful God who speaks and things come to pass this same God is willing to put his life on the line to die in our place that we may live with him for eternity this is unheard of who does that and Friends this is the power of the Gospel but sadly even in Christianity we can slip into this heathen model I pay my time by attend church if I go to prayer meeting if I say my prayers but friends that was never intended to be a means to appease an angry god that has always been the devil's deception Xyrem ages $115.00 he say misrepresented God and mis interprets the rites talking about the sanctuary service as the context that point to the Savior men were led to fear God as one who delighted in their destruction the sacrifices that should have revealed his love were offered only to appeal his wrath that's how Satan is still today misrepresenting the character of God you know you stop and think about the entire theme of the sanctuary is God's method of what God is willing to do to save lost humanity. God intended in that service to show everyone the gifts he was willing to give to his people but the devil had it twisted around and we bought it hook line and sinker that no it's all about me and my sacrifice and what I bring to appease Luke 1910 for the Son of Man is come to seek and to say that which was lost he takes the initiative there's a complete opposite of every heathen religion it's not do do do more sacrifice more offering more self infliction reciting more Hail Marys all heathen religions are based on works fear of peace in an angry god. And sadly even within Christianity even within Adventism even in this church this morning someone has a backwards picture of God and it's a heathen picture it's a works based picture and it's the one that we have to earn God's favor Have you ever heard this I can't go to church when I know if I went to church a lightning bolt would come straight down through the roof and just fry me right there he then picture of God Let me ask you this Have you ever messed up and then you feel like you can't pray now granted since separates us from God but that doesn't mean we can't pray but same comes in we messed up Satan comes in the presents these heathen ideas of appeasing an angry God And so you have come up with a plan and you say here's I'm going to do when you get up earlier and you spend more time as word I'm going to be early for Sabbath school for a change I'm going to put a little extra in the offering plate as it comes by and then maybe I can approach God then maybe I can pray to God he the idea but we think it all too often don't we want to statics commentary on our own experience with a loving God Don't get me wrong all of those things are good things to do of course. But are they required so that God will love us again absolutely no. God will always love his kids no matter how they treat him re my bible going to church giving offerings Those are all good things but not ever as a means to peace God not ever as a means to earn forgiveness not ever is a means to earn the right to talk with God No they should always be a response to a loving God that 1st love us and gave Himself for us for meaning verse 28 for in Him we live and move and how our being and also some of your own poets have said for we are also his offspring here Paul goes again quoting a Stoic philosopher era to slow soul i.i. the 3rd century b.c. who has originally written something like this Zeus fills the streets the margin to still to see this runs in the shores and the rivers everywhere our need is we also are his offspring and so is that last line that Paul borrows but the God whom Paul proclaimed was not Zeus Paul is introducing him to the God who created the universe to Jesus but notice how it's a little bit clouded I mean trying to be relevant he's trying to be clever he's trying to converse on their ground that's not necessarily bad he's trying to use philosophy and reason he's trying to quote their authors but I fear as a result his message gets a little bit clouded. And we'll come back to that accept verse 2529 Talk Therefore since we are the offspring of God We ought not to think that the divine nature is like gold or silver or stone something shaped by art and man's devising truly these times of ignorance got overlooked but now commands all men everywhere to repaint call to repentance that's good because he has appointed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness this is true by the man whom he has ordained which is Jesus he has given assurances of this all to all by raising him from the dead was the proof the resurrection All good points to be making Paul but as soon as he mentions the resurrection they're done listening I was saying verse 32 when they heard the resurrection the dead some mock while others said we will hear you again on this matter so Paul departed from among them however verse $34.00 some men joined him and believed and it lists a few who they are in God's grace in that secular place in that hedonistic culture Paul calls for repentance and some repent some joining and believe you can say well hey for Athens that's pretty good and that would be true in a sense but I can't help but think that perhaps Paul watered things down too much that he tried to become too relevant perhaps he was intimidated perhaps he wanted to appeal to reason to be philosophical to fall back on his vast education and knowledge and wisdom his ability to debate and win arguments and perhaps because of this desire to be relevant did not give the straight testimony Where's the cross of Jesus Christ where is it things are alluded to things are spoken of repentance resurrection He's a creator god all very philosophical way. But why don't you just get straight to the point Paul why don't you tell me how this god is so vastly different from everyone else that he would lay down his life according to prophecy and all these other things but he is kind of shrouds over that and he can point out the things that he said you could say I was faithful and perhaps you're saying you're being overly critical of Paul I'm not perfect either and even that gives me hope that of Paul didn't get it just perfect maybe it's Ok for me too but I wonder if you would have given this straight testimony what the outcome would have been yes some believed but notice not enough for him to write a letter to them later I mean we can turn to Romans we can turn to 1st and 2nd Corinthians both places he later visited both equally if not more secular but I can't invite you to turn to the book of Athenians it's not there let me read you a quote in regards to Paul's work in Athens comes from ministry of healing 21325215 many suppose that in order to reach the higher classes a manner of life a method of work must be adopted that we will be suited by there for a studious tastes an appearance of wealth costly edifices expensive dress conforming to worldly customs fashionable society classical culture the graces of oratory are thought to be essential if you ever heard things like this she pointed says this is an error the way of worldly policy is not God's way of reaching the higher classes that will which will reach them effectually is a consistent unselfish presentation of the gospel of Christ period now we break down Paul's sermon again the Gospel is there in part creator of all things we are his offspring call for repentance the coming of judgment the resurrection. But I challenge you to go back this afternoon and read it again is that a consistent unselfish presentation of the Gospel or is he trying to impress somebody with speaking of their altars and their poets It seems like he's more concerned with being relevant than percent Brazelton the simple gospel message continue with the quotation the experience of the Apostle Paul in mean the philosophers at of Athens has a lesson for us and present in the gospel before the court area up against Paul met logic with logic science with science philosophy with philosophy we're all so impressed Paul you went toe to toe the wise of his hearers were astonished and silence his words could not be controverted But this is the heartbreaking part but the effort bore little fruit few were led to accept the Gospel henceforth Pollard up with a different manner of labor he learned and that's good he avoided elaborate arguments and discussion of theories and in simplicity pointed men and women to Christ as the savior of sinners and I think in this is a lesson for us today we try to make the gospel in the presentation the gospel so complicated that we had to be friends with them for 20 years before we can bring up spiritual things we must learn everything about their religion it seems before we can have a religious conversation and their arguments have to be so a labyrinth so well timed so articulate but here I see Paul learn very quickly to avoid all that. In simplicity he pointed men and women to Christ as the savior of sinners 1st Corinthians $21.00 to $5.00 and I brother when I came to you Where is he going now to Corinth this would be after the fact we can say the lessons I learned if you will did not come from excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God frighted term and not to know anything among you accept Jesus Christ and Him crucified we can say that's the key piece Paul that you left out in Athens where is it why wasn't it included Yes there was a few converts but just some I was with you in weakness in fear in much trembling and my speech and my preaching were not with or persuasive words of human wisdom but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God So what did Paul learn in Athens friends that power is not in human logic is not in scientific arguments is not in philosophy has not been able to quote their well known authors this is not found in books such as how to reach the postmodern want to one know is found in the simple presentation of the Gospel and Reliance not on human cloning from the power of the Holy Spirit to convict and convert and someone's going to hear what I'm not saying yes there are times that you have to change and adapt to who you're speaking to I get all that but sometimes we do that to a fault and that's the point I'm making later to the Romans Paul would write this for I'm not ashamed of the gospel of Christ what is the power of God His salvation for everyone who believes it's not the power of arguments it's not the power of how able you are to articulate the message is the power of God is the power of the Gospel you didn't write it you had very little of anything to do with it you just proclaim it simply. Simply what does it mean to you Are you a post-modern or Never mind I don't know how to say anything to you forget all that let the Holy Spirit deal with all that and why would Paul later write this I believe as a result of the lessons learned in Athens and yes in God's grace some were converted but perhaps not what could have been so what is here for us this morning 1st what we do is never to earn God's love but should always be a response to his love it's basic I know but we forget it all the time the Christ 13 this is our basic it is the great sacrifice was not made in order to create in the father's heart a love for man not to make him willing to save No no she raised God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son The Father loves us not because of the great propitiation or the appeasement we can say but he provided the appropriation or appeasement because he loves us Christ was the medium through which he could pour out His infinite love upon a fallen world so friends are good works not appease an angry God but should always always always be a response to his great love for us and as soon as we get tired and frustrated and angry and we've lost it haven't we when you go back to the Gospel when you go back to the crucifixion we don't weep again at the feet of Jesus for what he's done for us Romans 5 are saved by God demonstrates His own love towards us in that while we were still sinners Christ did what he died for us he demonstrates how while we're still sinners in rebellion to God Christ died for us while we didn't even want to. Listen if when we've messed up perhaps in a big way and we say Oh God is one thing to do with me if he would hear you when you didn't want anything to do with him if he were to die for you I should say if you didn't want anything to do for him how much more now in that hoops that you made if he died for you while you were in rebellion against Him How much more in him to what can we learn this morning 1st what we do is never to earn his love but in response to his love and getting that straight will radically change our entire religious experience why did Jesus say if you love me keep my commandments to which I think we could add if you don't don't bother but one is the overflow of our love for Jesus everything changes instead of being legal istic I'm gracious instead of being judge mental I'm compassionate instead of being grumpy I'm filled with joy unspeakable Secondly preach the gospel of Christ in its fullness and with simplicity don't become preoccupied with impressive logic or science or philosophy don't be intimidated by the post-modern mind as if it's some new thing post-modern mind have been around forever No The formula is the same it's always been preached the gospel of Jesus Christ in its fullness with love and compassion but don't water down allow the Holy Spirit to do the heavy lifting now are there methods of reaching various classes Yes So we be aware of our audience yes do we speak to the Hindu the same as a Baptist No but friends don't let that intimidate you don't let that cripple your witness don't feel like you have to know everything about their religion to speak the truth don't feel like it's always your job to make it palatable don't rely on your own kind of logic but rely on the power of the Holy Spirit and please don't just mutter the Gospel under your breath but boldly proclaim. Jesus in the gospel that has transformed your life bear witness to it give testimony about it and that's why it's so important perhaps we get the 1st one right because if we're not in the right relationship with God If we're in a heathen relationship with God then we can't do that can we what is the Gospel meant for you may mean legal istic Judge Mental a hater and I'm better than everyone else is that a witness Yes by God's grace Paul read some in Athens but I don't want to be content with reaching some for the gospel I don't want to Athens experience but I'd rather see a movement of people rising up out of some of the most secular places on Earth because they're tired of what the devil has the offer they're tired of what secular society has offered and they finally had some in presented to them that is new that is transforming and they want to live for that I want to be sin sick for the last I want to proclaim with holy boldness the power of God that can forever change one's life and what Paul learned in Athens I believe he put the practice in Rome for I'm not ashamed of the gospel of Christ where is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes it's not the power my good works it's not the power of my logic the power of God for salvation so friends my appeal pretty simple has the gospel changed you yet has it changed you today have you wept through the Gospels lately have you seen that while you are still a sinner in rebellion to God Christ died for you if not I invite you to read the Gospels through to fall in love with the God who came not to be served but to serve and ultimately to die in our place because when the god of Matthew Mark Luke and John is realize it will impact everything from that moment forward instead of doing to appease you will do in response. And secondly what does your witness look like is it safe is it based on man's wisdom the last and latest book on how to reach whatever group is it seeker sensitive Is it politically correct or is a straightforward message with all love and compassion that we are sinners deserving only of death but that there is power in God for our salvation and through the death of His Son Jesus and to the acceptance of that gift not to work not to doing but the acceptance of that gift we can be saved and not just saved from physical death but saved from the grips of sin and so friends the reality is God's love is amazing nothing short of amazing the story of the great controversy in the debt that Jesus was willing to go to save you and me is nothing short of amazing and the story that we are privileged to share in simplicity with conviction and with the power of the Holy Spirit is equally amazing the question is will you share our Dear Heavenly Father what amazing words that we have just sung words that are simple but words are powerful but oftentimes those simple words amazing love that you would die for me in my place that you would leave your throne in heaven because of your value and love of us while we are in rebellion to you Well that's the key piece that we often leave out of our testimonies is that our pride is that our arrogance our we conceded are we hard to be able to simply say and express. That we are sinners or whatever it is help us to learn like Paul have a very simple straightforward kind compassionate but compelling testimony not because of our words not because of all the books that we've studied because the Holy Spirit is compelling us the Holy Spirit is giving us the words were simply so in tune with you were following your guidance were forgive us and help us to that in your brain Jesus knew. This media was brought to you by audio verse a website dedicated to spreading God's word through free sermon audio and much more if you would like to know more about audio verse if you would like to listen to more service please visit w w w dot audio Verse dot org.

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