Community Bible Chapel Podcast
Our culture is all about inclusion.
-As we consider this last question of the culture, the words of Madonna capture the belief of our culture. “I do believe that all paths lead to God.”
-If nothing else, the prominence of that statement should cause us to realize that it’s Time to Engage in the culture.
For the past three weeks, we have been considering the necessity of that.
-We started by learning from the heart of God – to love people
-We are God’s ambassadors
Message, method, character of the one we represent.
-Last week we spoke to the Question of Evil
-And framed it as we were created in God’s image, fell in sin, and in Christ God has fully dealt with sin and suffering.
Today, I want to take some time to help us to answer the Question of Exclusivity.
-A pre-supposition is a general belief we hold and apply to any issue it relates to.
1. No truth
-The belief of our culture is that all things are relative and there is no common truth that is true for everybody.-That means that anything we hold as true might change over time or due to circumstances.
2. All ideas are equal
-Since there is no truth, every idea has equal footing.
-And that’s okay for some things.
-My idea of going to Maine for vacation is no more valid than going to Florida.-But when we start to talk about lying, rape, or murder, then all ideas are not equal.
-And if we are going to hold to a “truth” that “all roads lead to God” we better be able to back that up with some rational thought.
3. No sin
-People are basically good and since there is no right or wrong, and all ideas are equal, then there is no such thing as sin.-If someone feels guilty because they do something wrong, we just blame their parents for improper potty training or society for inflicting wrong values.
-Then we counsel them to build self-esteem and self-actualize so we don’t feel bad about ourselves anymore.
Now, when these become “truth” in a culture, we have eliminated our need for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
-So, our work is cut out for us.
-Thankfully, the Bible gives us great help in bringing the Gospel to our culture.
-Paul enters into Rome and engages a culture that is very similar to ours today.
Our Attitude v. 16-17
-Paul entered Rome and looked around.
-What he saw bothered him greatly.
-Paul was “greatly distressed” at the depth of their false worship.
-God is “provoked” as Isaiah 65:3 speaks to his response to the worship of idols.
1. People are missing the reason God created them – His glory.
2. God is dishonored by blatant rebellion.
3. The consequences of sin cause untold problems in this world.-Those things should cause us to be “greatly distressed” as well.
-Yet, Paul didn’t go in and tip over their idols or rain down thunderous accusations.
-Nor did he get all paranoid over how non-believers were acting.
-Instead, much like Jesus entering into Jerusalem, he had compassion on these people.
-He restrained his emotions and began to calmly reason with the people.
Gospel for all v. 18-21
-The text speaks of three groups of people that we have today.
-He went to the synagogue to reason with the Jews.
-He brought the Gospel to those with a Biblical background.
-Today, that might be Jews or nominal Christians.
-Both groups would have a Biblical knowledge from which we might start.
-Nominal Christians would be people that would call themselves Christian, but when you asked them why they would go to heaven, they would say “my good outweighs my bad” or “I’m a good person”.
-And when you ask them about Jesus, they would say: “oh, yea, Jesus died for my sins.”
-In a sense, in that line of questioning, you are reasoning with those folks and proclaiming the Gospel to them.
-It might be evangelism or it might be discipleship, but they have some knowledge Biblical things.
-They might not have all the pieces to their salvation but you don’t have to start from square one and we can reason with them using the Scriptures.
-He spent time in the market place, with its mix of beliefs.
-Paul would have engaged with people of all kinds of backgrounds.
-We might call that street evangelism today – it’s sort of like a shot-gun blast and see who gets hit with the truth.
-Because of the post-modern view of our culture, everybody makes up their own beliefs, so while in the market, you will have to ask questions to understand how to proclaim the Gospel in a way it can be understood.
-Paul ministered to the intellectual elite – the academics of our day.-This can be a hostile group toward the Gospel and considers it foolishness.-These groups represent people of all groups today as well.-Paul proclaimed the Gospel to these different groups because the Gospel is inclusive of all people.-The Gospel story intersects all people because all people are in need, whether they know it or not.-To answer the question of exclusivity, we need to continue to learn with Paul.Paul’s strategy? v. 22-31Common Ground v. 22 “I see you are religious”
-Our culture is very “spiritual”, which is surprising due to the materialistic belief.
-That means that they believe in naturalism, but there is this idea of Mother earth, yoga, and eastern mysticism mixed into it.
-They look to the “power within” rather than the power without.
-Spirituality today is self generated, self defined, self authored, and has no authority other than self, and is intensely pragmatic. (must work for me)
-Athens had lots of idols and beliefs, so Paul looked for common ground in their spiritual interest and began is discussion there.
-Some common ideas we share are:
-There is a God.
-If they believe that all roads lead to God then there must be a God.-We want to ask them about their belief.
-There is a road.
-We might ask how they know all roads lead to God?-Logically, not every road leads to Cooperstown, so maybe it’s worth considering that not every road leads to God.
-It amazes me that people just float along with society and never question something so important as their salvation.
-They spend more time filling in the basketball bracket than they do researching how to get to God.
-Thankfully, you have done that research and God has placed you right there to be His ambassador to explain the One true God to them.
-Start by looking for common ground and work from there.
Defining who God is v. 24-31
-Paul begins his reasoning by describing who God is.
-Before you can talk about Jesus, you have to establish some understanding of God.
-The Gospel is intricately tied to the character of God and some understanding is necessary.
-The Person and reality of God starts us on the road to God and the message of the Gospel
God is the Creator -V. 24
-That is a hard sell in our evolution crazy – everything came from nothing – culture.
-But Paul states it as fact that God created all things.
-And even evolutionary science is turning from the false idea they have promoted that everything could scenically come from nothing.
-Without “something” to generate “something”, “something” is scientifically impossible.
-Naturalism is very un-scientific.
-They would have to conclude a miracle, but they don’t believe in miracles.-In proclaiming that “in the beginning God” created, you help them out of the very small box of naturalism and enter into the realm of infinite possibility.
God is Lord over all v. 24
-That includes both God’s sovereignty – God “over” us.
-And His providence – God “with” us.
-He cares for His creation.
-Our culture lives and acts as if we are lord over all, yet we can’t “add a single hour to our lives by worry”, nor can we control when the sun comes up, nor can we command our next breath.
-God is in control over all his creation and even though we might not understand all
He is doing, we know that it will all continue in His perfect plan.
God is Self-reliant v. 25
-The Greek’s had temples where they cared for and served their gods.
-In our culture – the god we serve is Mother Earth and her temple we worship is the Earth.
-That is witnessed in the media, the government, and our education system.
-God doesn’t need us to keep the Earth on its correct axis or the exact distance from the sun to sustain life (things we can’t do anyway).
-We can try to secure all that, but when God decides to destroy this world, it’s all Him. (flood – fire)
-Paul makes the point that God doesn’t need us to do anything for Him, and we need Him to do everything for us.
-He gives us “life, breath, and everything else”
-Some would say that religion is a crutch and they don’t need it.
-But without God’s sustaining hand and patience with them, they would not be able to draw another breath.
-We are 100% the recipient of His good grace.
God is Relational v. 27
-Paul states that God created us and gives us everything “so that” we might seek Him.
-And in seeking Him we find Him because “He is not far”.
-The gods of the Greeks were distant, unhearing, and uncaring.
-The Muslim god of our day – Allah, is distant – not available to people.
-The “spiritual” god of the New Age is just a force to be used, but there is no relationship available.
-The “godless” idea of atheism leaves us all alone.
-But the One true God is near and available to all those who seek for Him.
-Then Paul uses their writings and pulls truth from them to make this point.
“We are his offspring”
-God is not distant and unavailable, but as his offspring, He is our Father.
God is Living v. 28
-Compared to the Greek gods and idols, the One true God is a living God.
-He is not made by us – fashioned out of precious metal, stone, or wood.
-Paul has already established the fact that God made us in His image.
-In our day, the New Age has us believing that God is in all things, so we need to preserve him in all creation.
-But the reality is that a rock is part of God’s creation, but it is totally separate from the Creator.
-God is completely independent from His creation.
-Logically, if there is One true God who created everything, then we, as part of His creation – are accountable to Him.
-Post modern spirituality views us as accountable only to ourselves and if they believe there is a God, then He is love, so it doesn’t matter what they do.
-Now, thankfully, God hasn’t sent the lightning bolts in justice for our rebellion.-Paul tells us that He “overlooks our ignorance” – that’s mercy my friend.
-But don’t get too comfortable, a day is coming when He will judge all people for their sin.
-Notice it doesn’t say that God will judge us based on whether our good outweighs our bad . . . where did we even get that idea from?
-Even our human courts don’t do that.
-The judge doesn’t weigh the crime of murder in light of how many times
-God is just and will judge us on our deeds and we all have sin.
-Jesus is “the appointed man” and we have proof of that because He rose from the dead.
God is Merciful v. 30
-God calls us to repentance of our sin.
-Enter the Gospel – “Jesus died for sinners and rose again”
-As we repent of our sin to a just God, He forgives us for our sin in Christ.
-That is the one way God has provided for us to come to Him.
-Every other way leaves us in our sin and separated from Him.
Now, Paul didn’t speak of God’s faithfulness, Holiness, omnipresence and a number of other character traits.
-We may or not need to describe every characteristic of God depending on where the person we are speaking to is at in their thinking.
-But understand that in our culture, we will have to help people with right Theology before they will understand the Gospel.
-Without it they won’t understand that they are sinners, that God is just, they are separated from God, and that there can only be one way.
As I spoke of last week, these answers take work on our part.
-You won’t answer the question of why one way to God is inclusive of all.
1. The Bible doesn’t answer them in a single verse, so we won’t answer it that way either.
2. As we speak with non-believers it’s not just a lack of understanding, but a hard heart toward God that blocks their understanding.
-And they don’t have the HS to help them see God’s perspective.
All that to say – when we are speaking with people, we have to be patient and gentle as we speak the truth in love.
-It’s very easy to get in an argument and we have to be wise and compassionate.
-It also means we have to rely upon the HS as we pray for Him to soften and open their heart to the truth of God’s Word.
-And the results that Paul had is common to what we might see today.
-Some sneered, others wanted to hear more, and a few believed.
-Those who “sneer” at our message – don’t spend all your time on them.
-Paul went and spoke again with those who were interested in hearing more and to disciple those who believed.
-That doesn’t mean we pass judgment on those who “sneer” and some of them may come back individually and hear more.
Again, God’s Word gives us a perfect answer for the question of exclusion.
-Yes, God has given us one way to have our sin forgiven, but it is open to all.