We're glad you're joining us for a new beginning with Greg Laurie, a podcast supported by Harvest Partners. Get more encouraging audio content when you subscribe to Pastor Greg's Daily Devos.
Learn more and sign up at harvest.org. ABC, Anything But Christ. How do we reach a culture like this? How do we tell them about Jesus Christ? As believers who want to share our faith, sometimes it would seem we're attempting to deliver a message many people just don't want to hear.
They think they don't need to hear it. Well, the truth is everyone needs the hope of Jesus Christ. Today on A New Beginning, Pastor Greg Laurie reminds us God built us with a hunger for God.
People may try to feed that hunger with the things of this world, but sooner or later, they'll come to realize their hunger is for something more. This is the day, the day when life begins. Let's grab our Bibles, turn to Acts chapter 17. The title of my message is how to reach our culture with the gospel. So there was an event that was being held, and a minister was asked to come and share just a few words, which sometimes is challenging for preachers because we can be long-winded, right? So the preacher got up to speak, and he quickly went to us a lot of time, which was five minutes, and he was continuing to speak, and now it's eight minutes, now it's nine minutes, so there was a moderator there. He cleared his throat, hoping the preacher would hear and stop. Still the minister droned on. Then the moderator lightly tapped the gavel to get the preacher's attention. Still this preacher kept preaching. Now it's 20 minutes, and it's ruining the entire event because they have other things that are going to happen, and now the moderator pounds down the gavel loudly, and still the preacher is speaking.
Moderator couldn't take it anymore. He took the gavel and threw it at the preacher. It barely missed the preacher and hit an elderly man who had fallen asleep in the front row. The old dude woke up, saw the preacher but still speaking, and then he said to the moderator, hit me again, I can still hear him. We've all heard that preacher, and sometimes we've been that preacher. Oh, not behind a pulpit, but we're the kind of person that when we come along, people want to go in the other direction, because here comes you or me with our message, and it's the way we deliver it that drives people crazy. So let's take a master class from a master communicator, the apostle Paul.
Let's take a page out of his playbook on how to reach our culture with the gospel. And so Acts chapter 17 is the story of Paul bringing the gospel to the city of Athens. At this time, Athens was sort of waning from its former glory, but it was effectively the cultural and intellectual center of the world. It was the base of the great Greek philosophers like Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and many others.
Their thoughts and teachings still impact many today, as a matter of fact. So Paul's just sort of hanging around in Athens, and he does what you would do when you're in a city like that. He went sightseeing. I've been to Athens. We went there as a part of a tour to Israel and walking in the footsteps of Paul, and I've actually spoken on Mars Hill where Paul addressed these people.
And so he's just checking things out. There's the great Parthenon, a temple built on one of their false gods. In fact, there were false gods everywhere in Athens. It was said it was easier to find a god in Athens than a man. It's estimated there were at least 30,000 altars erected to various Greek deities like Zeus, who was the king of all gods. And there's Athena, the goddess of heroic behavior.
Epaphrodit, the goddess of love and lust. Morpheus, the god of dreams. Poseidon, the god of sinking ships.
No, not really. That was a movie about the Poseidon. Forget it. That was actually the goddess of storms and earthquakes. And then finally there was Nike, the goddess of shoes. We know that for sure.
Okay. So all these various deities were there. And so Paul's just kind of taking it in. He's walking around the city. He's absorbing the culture. And now he begins his message in Acts 17 starting in verse 16.
We read, and I'm reading from the New Living Translation. When Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was deeply troubled by all the idols he saw everywhere in the city. He went to the synagogue to debate with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles and spoke daily in the public square to all who happened to be there. And he had a debate with some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. You might underline that.
I'm going to come back to it. Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. Then he told them about Jesus and his resurrection. And they said, this babbler has picked up some strange ideas. Others said he's pushing some foreign religion. Then they took him to the Council of Philosophers, also known as the Areopagus, and said, come and tell us more about this new religion. You're seeing some rather startling things, and we want to know what it's all about.
It should be explained that the Athenians as well as the foreigners in Athens seem to spend all of their time discussing the latest ideas. I'd underline that. It's interesting.
Underline that. So Paul, standing before the Council, addressed them as follows. Men of Athens, I notice you're very religious. If you were to give this statement today, you would say, people of America, I see that you're into spirituality.
That's effectively what he was saying. And I was walking among your many altars, and one of them had this inscription on it to an unknown god. You've been worshipping him without knowing who he is, and now I wish to tell you about him. That's a powerful text, and we'll stop there. You know, we live in a unique time in American history. I would say the days of cultural Christianity are over. What is cultural Christianity? Well, there was a time in the late 50s, early 60s, when many Americans would identify themselves as a Christian even if they were not. Church attendance was much higher. Biblical values were reflected even in television programs like Father Knows Best and Leave It to Beaver and things like that.
There was sort of a respect for certain bedrock values. That is not the case today. Our culture today is more biblically illiterate than it has ever been. It's shocking how little people know today about the Bible. There was a time in our public schools where the Bible would even be taught as literature, not as the book given to us from God, but at least telling people you need to have a general understanding of Scripture.
No, those days are gone as well. So our culture, our nation, is a lot more like Mars Hill than any other time. Mars Hill was the place where the philosophers would speak and trade in the latest ideas of the time. They were a completely secular culture.
We're becoming more of a secular culture. There were two primary streams of thought at this time, the teachings of the Epicureans and the Stoics. Epicureans and Stoics. And people still believe in these philosophies today. Let's start with the Epicureans. They believed in the pursuit of pleasure.
Sound familiar? Their belief was there was no order, really, to the universe. There's no God, no absolutes, no future judgment, so you might as well live for the moment. They were effectively the party animals of the first century. Their philosophy would be, hey, we're all gonna die, so let's just eat, drink, and be merry, and enjoy the moment.
I think our modern equivalent would be the Playboy philosophy, the pursuit of hedonism, casting aside all absolutes or codes and just do whatever you want to do. And we all know people, and some of us used to be these people, who lived for pleasure. You lived for that buzz. You lived for the rush. You lived for the experience. You lived for the excitement. It reminds me of going to an amusement park where you spend a lot of time waiting in lines.
And then you get on the ride, and the ride's over so quickly, and then you go and get in another line, right? And some people spend their entire life waiting to get on the ride, waiting to have the pleasure, and there's a deadness to all of it. As the Bible says, she that lives for pleasure is dead even while she is living it. It's been said, the cure for hedonism is an attempt to practice it. That is why so many people who become rich and famous, especially quickly, burn out, or they find themselves addicted to drugs or alcohol, or you hear that they're into their second, third, fourth marriages, or they're taking their own lives because they have chased after their dreams and they've realized their dreams, and sadly, in many cases, their dreams have turned into nightmares.
Living a life for pleasure is, in reality, a pleasure-free life. So those are the Epicureans. Then there's the Stoics.
They were more disciplined. They believed that God was in all things. God was in nature, God was in the trees, and in the ocean, and in the sky, and in the animals, everything, sort of a New Age belief before it was called that. Billionaire Elon Musk was asked a while ago if he believed in God, and Musk said in response, and I quote, as Einstein would say, I believe in the God of Spinoza. Now, I didn't even know who Spinoza was. I had to look that one up, and apparently, Spinoza believes that God does not concern himself with what goes on on this planet, that there is a God, but he's not involved in our lives, sort of a distant, disconnected deity.
That effectively was the belief of the Stoics, and so that is what they chased after. So this is the audience, if you will, that Paul is addressing in his day. As verse 21 says, they spent all their time discussing the latest ideas, sort of like an ABC religion.
ABC, anything but Christ. Pastor Greg Laurie will have the second half of his message in just a moment. Many listeners write or call us sharing their stories of how these daily studies in God's Word make an impact on lives. I started listening to your message.
I transport a lot of veterans to medical appointments and things of that nature. I keep the radio on to your station, and the veterans have a chance to hear the Word, some of them for the very first time, and a couple of them have decided to give their life another chance. A couple of veterans who had attempted suicide found peace and comfort in the words that were given through your messages.
I want to say thank you very much, and God bless you. What an encouragement to know that Pastor Greg's messages are touching lives in some unexpected ways. Do you have a comment to share with Pastor Greg? If so, call 1-866-871-1144.
That's 866-871-1144. Well, today we're discussing the challenge of reaching our world for Christ. Pastor Greg's message is titled How to Reach Our Culture with the Gospel.
You know, people will talk about anything. Oh, I believe in this, and I believe in a little bit of that, and I believe in some of this other thing where I just made up a bunch of stuff, and this is what I believe now. And so here's Paul now with this challenge that's not unlike the challenge you and I face every day. How do we reach a culture like this? How do we connect to people like this?
How do we tell them about Jesus Christ? Because really, as the Bible says, there's nothing new under the sun. Ecclesiastes says, history merely repeats itself. It's all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new.
How true is that? It's just a repeat of it in a new way. Malcolm Muggeridge once said, quote, all new news is old news happening to new people.
Right? So things are not as different today as you think they are. I think these first century principles apply to us in the 21st century. So how can we be better communicators in the time in which we live? Point number one. Effective communication begins with a burden.
Effective communication begins with a burden. Look at verse 16. While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed that the city was full of idols. He was greatly distressed that the city was full of idols. The word used here for distressed means seizure, spasm, or outburst. So this is a visible reaction from Paul. You know, if you're upset by something, someone might say, hey, you don't have a seizure, man. Paul was kind of having a spiritual seizure. He was just grieved to see the absence of the living God and in his place every conceivable substitute. And I wonder if you ever feel that way.
I know I do. You know, when I look at a news site, it's so frustrating to me to see the evil in the world. The horrible things that people do to people. The wrong ideas that people fall for. The tragedy of so many human lives. And then we look at all these idols, all these false gods.
I would say for us today, for us celebrities are false gods. You know, what are they up to? What's the latest thing? What did they just post? Oh wow, look at how they look here and they're using all these filters. They don't even look like the people.
They are. And I think people sort of put these people on pedestals and these ideologies, et cetera. But I want you to remember something. When you look at people doing godless things, they are not the enemy. The devil is the enemy. I think we forget this sometimes. And sometimes even in our world of politics, you know, we get really worked up. They're so evil, they're so bad.
Okay, hold on now. Here's what the Bible teaches. They are a sinner under the captive of Satan.
Now granted, they're doing evil things. And what they're doing is wrong, but we're not supposed to hate sinners. We're supposed to love sinners. Hate the sin, sure, but love the sinners. Don't forget, Jesus was called the friend of sinners.
2 Timothy 2 26 says, Pray that they'll come to their senses and escape from the devil's trap, for they've been held captive by him to do whatever he wants. Don't forget, you used to be one of them. How were you reached? By someone yelling at you?
By someone hating you? No, I'm sure it was the love of God that got through to you, right? Someone show God's love. Satan is the enemy. Sinners are not the enemy.
They're under his control and we're praying that they'll be set free. It's interesting, the phrase that Paul uses, therefore people being held captive, it means they're caught alive. Caught alive. The only other time that phrase is used in the New Testament is when Jesus says, follow me and I'll make you a fisher of men, or a better translation would be, follow me and you will catch men alive. So here's the choice.
They can either be caught alive by the devil, if you will, or caught alive by Christ through our evangelistic efforts. And I think we often sort of want to withdraw from culture. Culture is evil. I don't watch TV. I don't go online.
I don't go to movies. I only go to Christian restaurants and I eat Christian food. And I have a Christian pillow. And Christian slippers. And I listen to Christian radio and only watch Christian television.
Okay, no, it's fine to have these assets out there, but we need to reach the culture that we're in. Paul went into their world. The Areopagus, Mars Hill, was sort of the town square. He just went right there in the epicenter of everything, said, hey, I was walking around your city, I was checking things out, and I saw that you have all these gods you worship, but there was one altar erected to the unknown god. I think the idea was, hey, in case we miss one god, let's just erect this to the god we missed, right? I want to talk to you about the god you don't know about. Bringing me to my second point, Paul was culturally relevant.
He was culturally relevant. It's called reading the room. Paul quotes one of their secular philosophers to build a bridge to his audience.
He says, I want to talk to you about the unknown god. I notice that you're very religious, or as I said, we might say today, you're into spirituality. This is a great way to start, and I do this all the time. I do this when I preach. I do this one-on-one.
I try to find a little bridge to walk over with the person I'm speaking to. I have a book called Lennon, Dylan, Alice, and Jesus. I know that's a weird name for a book. I've done some other biographies on Johnny Cash, Steve McQueen, Billy Graham. This one is about these rock stars that are known by many people and what happened in their lives spiritually. This co-author I work with, and I were able to dig up some really interesting things about people that are in the public eye who actually encountered Christ. I'm not saying all of these people are Christians. Some of them are, some of them aren't, but basically my premise of this book is to show that no one is beyond the reach of God. So here's... Like John Lennon as an example, of course part of the Beatles, and everyone thinks John Lennon was the most anti-Christ guy that ever lived, because after all, he wrote the song Imagine.
Imagine there's no heaven, no hell below you, above you only sky, et cetera. He said we're more popular than Jesus, speaking of the Beatles. Well some things happened toward the end of Lennon's life many people don't know about, and there was a moment in his life where he actually professed faith in Jesus Christ. Now granted it did not last, but I explore that.
What actually happened to this guy? And there's a lot of other things in there that you'll learn about people that have come to Christ, and I also deal with present day pop stars as well, many of whom have made professions of faith. I start the book with these words. There'll be three surprises when we get to heaven. Number one, some of the people we thought would be there won't be there. Number two, some of the people we never thought would be there will be there.
Number three, will be there. So, cause sometimes people misunderstand I think when I do things like that. Why are you talking to that person? And why are you doing this film here?
And what is this all about? I'm trying to build bridges. I don't want to just talk to Christians. I want to talk to non-believers and tell them about Christ.
Because someone did that for me. They came to my high school campus, and they shared the gospel and kind of entered my weird little world, and I heard it, and I understood it, and I believe, and I want to do that for other people as well. Good insight from Pastor Greg Laurie today, here on A New Beginning, and he comes back to close our study time in prayer in just a moment. Now Pastor Greg mentioned his book, Lennon, Dylan, Alice, and Jesus. You can find out more about that new book by going to harvest.org.
It's a fascinating read. And then we want to mention Pastor Greg's enlightening book called Revelation, A Book of Promises. You know Pastor Greg, some people have a rather cloudy understanding of prophecy. You know, they're not sure of the terms, and some prophecy is just so rich in symbolism that they wonder where they can get the key that unlocks all the meaning. Is your book sort of a passkey that helps us access that insight today?
Yeah, you know, I think that's a good description. You know, my objective as a pastor, as a Bible teacher, as an evangelist, is make things understandable to people. I don't see any value in speaking over someone's head and using theological terminology that people don't understand.
The Bible says of Jesus, the common people heard him gladly, which simply means regular rank and file people understood what Jesus was talking about. So, the book of Revelation. This is a book many people are fascinated by, but it's also a book many people are mystified by. And there is a password, a password or an encryption key that will help you understand the book of Revelation, and it's found right in the first chapter. I think you're gonna be surprised by how understandable this great book of the Bible is.
I write in a way, well, it says, oh, we're just sitting down over a cup of coffee and we're just reading the verses together and we're talking about them together and I'm trying to explain to you with simple analogies and other scriptures commentating on scripture and showing you how these great truths apply to you. So, it's in a book called Revelation, subtitled A Book of Promises, and we'll send it to you for your gift of any size. Now, some can only give a little. We'll send one to you.
Some can give more. Of course, we'll send one to you. But whatever your gift is, large or small, we will use it to continue to teach the word of God and proclaim the gospel. So, get your copy of Revelation, A Book of Promises, and we'll rush it to you.
Yeah, that's right. And we'd like to send a copy of this book to you right away. Hey, Dave, let me jump in really quick. Not only are we offering this book, Revelation, A Book of Promises, but we have this really cool graphic bookmark that we have put together that gives you a timeline of end times event. So, you probably wondered, okay, I know I've heard about the rapture and the tribulation period and the anti-Christ and the second coming. What happens when?
Well, this very beautiful little visual bookmark sort of lays it out for you. That's included in the book you're talking about right now. Yeah, that's right. So, we hope you'll get in touch today and ask for Revelation, A Book of Promises. We'll send it to say thank you for your donation. Just address a letter to A New Beginning, Box 4000, Riverside, California 92514. Or call us anytime 24 hours a day at 1-800-821-3300. That's 1-800-821-3300.
Or go online to harvest.org. Well, next time, Pastor Greg offers more how-to guidelines for sharing the gospel most effectively. But before we go, Pastor Greg closes our study in a word of prayer.
Let's pray. Now, Father, use us to be your light in this dark world. There are so many people that don't know you. They don't know anything about you, and that seems like a bad thing. But in some ways, it could be a good thing because there's no preconceived notions.
They're kind of like a blank slate. And we have the answer, the powerful word of God, the life-changing message of Jesus Christ. Lord, we want to give that message to as many people as possible. We commit ourselves to you now. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen. This is the day, the day when life begins. A New Beginning is a podcast made possible by Harvest Partners, helping people everywhere know God. If this show has impacted your life, share your story, leave a review on your favorite podcast app, and help others find hope.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-28 21:50:33 / 2023-02-28 22:01:08 / 11