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The Religious Wrong (Part A)

Cross Reference Radio / Pastor Rick Gaston
The Truth Network Radio
December 26, 2023 6:00 am

The Religious Wrong (Part A)

Cross Reference Radio / Pastor Rick Gaston

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December 26, 2023 6:00 am

Pastor Rick teaches from the book of the Acts


Was there religion made in heaven or elsewhere? And that's what it always comes down to. And I want to stress that when you complicate the gospel, you're not helping anyone.

It is a simple format. It is man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. It doesn't say, well, you have to go off to a seminary and learn how to be a Christian. You know there is a such thing as on the job training with the Lord. We're in the book of Acts chapter 17, verses 22 and 23, but we will take verses 23 to the end, which is verse 34 for exposition. So if you have your Bibles open, or not, chapter 17 beginning in verse 22.

Here's who these folks are. Not to draw attention to the religious right, but they're wrong, and they're very religious. And we have a reason for saying these things about those who worship false things. Here's a perfect opportunity as Christians go. These men had invited Paul to come up and tell them about Christ. I mean, what Christian doesn't want an opportunity like that?

Just to lob that up for me to smack it out the window. And he's going to clearly lay it out with respect. And yet, they're going to dismiss what he has to say, most of them. This is a reality.

It's a part of life. Just because God opens a door does not mean that it's all going to work out just fine for you. Moses, God opened a door for Moses, and the people turned on him very quickly. And so this is just being sober-minded, mature in our faith, even our Lord. There were places that he had gone to, and of course with his teaching and even the miracles, he was rejected. Matthew 13, 58. Now, he did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief, and that's what it comes down to. That's what we're up against, those who don't believe. These are educated religious men, and the most educated of their day, many would say. We look now at verse 22. Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious.

Well, they would have agreed with that. But, as I mentioned, this discussion on religion is not going to go the way that Paul would like it to go. He has had a lot of success in other places, Philippi, Berea, Thessalonica, but here he won't be persecuted for what he teaches.

He'll be laughed at. And that is a part of sharing the gospel. His audience, these religious men, they were self-impressed intellectuals at that. It's not written anywhere that a person who is intelligent is obligated to be arrogant. That is something that Satan attaches to intelligence. I think God wants all of his people to learn as much as they can, but to properly manage these things, and these rebukes are throughout Scripture. So, they supposed themselves to be the custodians of all knowledge, and they were bringing Paul up to inquire about what he had been preaching there in the city of Athens.

With them, you were nobody until they said you were somebody. And this is not the way that Christians should behave, but yet many do, unfortunately. An arrogant pride blankets many places on the earth in some churches. Isaiah chapter 5, Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and prudent in their own sight. And that is not the only place in Scripture where having a high-minded attitude of oneself is rebuked.

God resists the proud and the distinction between a decent pride where you are enjoying a success versus an arrogant pride where you are belittling others. He says, Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious. Now, literally in the Greek, very religious is spirit-fearing. Well, they're mindful of the spiritual world. That's the idea, and this proper word by the New King James translators, they were religious. But religion can't wash away sin. And this is where he's going to try to get to. He's going to say God commands repentance.

It's not a suggestion. It's a commandment. And they're going to scoff at that because those who are not ready for the truth of God, they resist accountability, especially that of Jesus Christ.

They like to form their own system of accountability and standards, which is idolatry. But it is the greatest need of a human being to repent, to get right with God. There is no greater need. Everything else is going to die.

I mean, again, you could throw a baseball 200 miles an hour. If you're not right with God, this is going to not help you at all. It's not going to help you either if you are right with God.

All these things are wood, hay, and stubble. What matters is a relationship with your maker. And yet, the resistance to this is global, and it is only increasing as we are approaching the last days. So what? They were religious.

Was their religion made in heaven or elsewhere? And that's what it always comes down to. And I want to stress that when you complicate the gospel, you're not helping anyone.

It is a simple format. It is, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. It doesn't say, well, you have to go off to a seminary and learn how to be a Christian. You know, there is a such thing as on-the-job training with the Lord. But don't complicate the gospel. And it's done all the time.

This is unfortunate. These men were notorious for making things complicated. And again, their religion, there was no unbroken witness of their religion from the time of creation as with ours. We can trace the origins back to Adam all the way to this present day with the prophecies assisting very much.

No one else has this. To just make bodacious claims about God is wrong. And God doesn't appreciate it himself.

If someone were to make bodacious claims about me, even if they were flattering, if they were not true, I would be a little disturbed by that. And God finds this an abomination. And religion, particularly religion without the Holy Spirit, is a negative force in the world. Wars have been, many wars have started because of religion. And to this day in the world, there are religions that are very much a negative force. It is supposed to be a governing force on the individual's life and therefore the society. And this is where we are in this section of Acts.

This is what we're considering. Those who are intelligent, very religious, and very wrong at the same time. Just because you can get high grades does not mean you know what to do with life. And if it did mean that, then there'd be no problems, would there? This religious conversation, a governing force in one's life, be you a Christian, a pagan, or an atheist, or something else, it always should come back to, is it true or not? This goes all the way back to Cain. Cain and Abel. What Cain did was just, he was religious, but he wanted religion his way. He did not want to conform to God. He wanted God to conform to him.

And so he brought what was rejected. John, in his letter, points out that Cain had some big issues and they were all bad. Cain, who was of the wicked one, and murdered his brother.

I think that's pretty straight out. There are a few people in the Bible, you don't have to say, I wonder if they're in heaven or hell. Because the Bible tells us, we know that Judas, you won't see him in heaven. Because he is the son of perdition, according to the scripture.

And well, here's another one. Cain, who was of the wicked one, and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him?

Because his works, that is his brother Abel, I mean Cain, because his works, Cain, were evil and his brothers righteous. He resented the religion. It was a religious issue. It was an issue on what one believed concerning God. Either theirs or the true God has revealed. And Satan, he does not hate religion.

He's invented most of it. Now, man-made religions are more than a nuisance. They are a nuisance too. They detour souls from truth, from God, and we should be alert to this. Man-made religion has been a problem since Cain, who made the first religion.

The first record we have in scripture in the book of origins was Cain. And it is a problem mainly because of an inferior and defective view of God. Because the view of God doesn't come from him. And a sinner cannot successfully make up things about God.

And that doesn't seem to stop them. And this is idolatry. Idols are not always made with tools. A person can fashion an idol in their imagination.

In fact, the ones that they fashion with stone or marble or whatever tools they use is first fashioned in their head. And now folks are too sophisticated in most circles to pray to a statue. Although we have a whole religion that is dominated by this practice. And it is forbidden in scripture. I don't get it any more than you.

Where do you get these things from? Praying to another human being, praying to statues? This is not from the Bible. Please stop using the Bible then or claiming that it is acceptable in scripture when it is not. Man-made religion essentially is man reaching for God in the sense of they are calling the shots. Whereas God's religion is God reaching for man, revealing himself to man. Don't be afraid of the... You know we have this thing, well Christianity is not a religion. Well that's true compared to other religions.

But it's actually a little flawed. Because even James talks about pure religion. It's just a system of our beliefs. And Christianity is a system of beliefs. We call it doctrine.

There is a systematic theology that we should develop. This is why I believe this and this is why I don't believe that. Because there is a system to it.

There's nothing wrong with that. It only becomes wrong when it is counterfeit. When it does not originate with God himself.

And it's not difficult to establish that. So religions that theorize about the spiritual realm are idolatrous. And these men, as intelligent as they were, had not a shred of evidence for what they believed.

None. They're groping around for truths without caring for truth. Whereas God says, I reach down for my people. Luke chapter 19 verse 10, the son of man has come to seek and to save that which was lost. And it's fundamental to tell somebody, you know, God does want you to believe, to receive him. And if anybody, I think, disagrees with that, they are departing from the clear teaching of the word of God where God, it says God desires all men to be saved. That's what he wants. Long suffering, willing that none should perish. Those who go to hell are not there because God wanted that.

Not his first choice. It was the consequence. And I don't know why people think a baseless or half-truth religion is somehow acceptable to a holy God. All of this belongs to what Paul is facing. Paul is dealing with people that have no basis for their beliefs.

And how do I deal with that? Certainly, as he's walking through the city, he's provoked by the idols, he sees there are many objects of worship, and he wants to reach them. We do too. We want to reach lost souls also. But only God can show man the way to God. And when Jesus said, I'm the way, the truth, and the life, no man comes to the Father. He's saying, I am the way, and you can't get there without me. Nothing has changed.

It's always been this way. If you were in ancient Israel and you said, well, I'm going to tell you the way to God, and it didn't agree with God, you were a false prophet. Verse 23, for I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship. I even found an altar with this inscription to the unknown God.

Therefore, the one whom you worship without knowing him, I proclaim to you. Now, he's trying to identify with them. I think there's some over-identification, at least a lesson for us, to be careful about identifying with those who have wrong views about God, because he's not going to have a lot of success with these folks. Now, that's not necessarily to charge Paul with wrong, because when he gets to Corinth, he doesn't.

In fact, we don't read of him using these tactics again. I'll cover that towards the end. But here he says that there were many objects of their worship. That's their idols. All of them wrong. The world is irritated by that. What do you mean, they're all wrong?

Yeah, that's exactly what I mean. I don't have to agree with them, because they don't like my position. I can tell somebody who has lost, I don't agree with you. I agree with the Bible, and the Bible doesn't agree with you. It doesn't even like how you chew your food.

No, that's a little too much. But anyway, a human can worship many things, because he has the capacity to worship. It's built into us this desire to worship God, to know God. But that does not mean that the person will submit to God.

And this is, of course, everywhere. Every idol proves the capacity for God and proves the capacity for sin at the same time. It is most certainly a fact that wrong worship is easy. It is very easy to worship a false God, a lie, something that has no basis in truth. And I have found it is very difficult sometimes to worship the God of truth because of my flesh, not my spirit. My spirit is 100% with God. My flesh is not.

This does two different things. We're dealing with truth, accepting it, receiving it, believing it. God is not going to conform to the imagination of men. Again, the very thing which idolatry is. The world would say, this is very narrow-minded. And we would say, amen. Enter by the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction. And there are many who go in by it. Matthew 7, 13. When it comes to truth, we are to be very narrow-minded.

It would eliminate a lot of the weirdness in Christianity if more Christians were a little bit more narrow-minded. And so, you know what? I don't know. I'm not going to accept that. I see that as contrary to what the scripture does. Anyway, so it says, he says, I even found an altar with this inscription, to the unknown God. Well, they freely admitted that there could have been a God they missed. Maybe there's another one out there.

We're making them up all day. Maybe we didn't get to that one yet. And so Paul sees that and he says, well, that's what I'm going to preach on. That's going to be my sermon. And it is a good sermon, but you know, you don't want to criticize Paul. Because when you get to heaven, he's going to challenge you to a spelling test and win because he's real smart. But at the same time, you can't dismiss certain things that are there.

That's why they are recorded. With all the gods they worshiped, with all the gods they boasted about, and they boasted about their gods, they missed the only true one. All this intelligence and you got the wrong one.

You got a whole room full of wrong things. Incidentally, Lucifer is highly intelligent and he chose to be God's enemy. That's not too smart.

So you can be intelligent and not smart, not to properly apply that intelligence. Well, they left room for God, a God that they did not know. Paul's going to tell them. He says, I know him.

I want to introduce you to him. But will they like the terms? It always comes to that, doesn't it? Will the individual like the terms set by truth? Because truth does not budge.

It makes a demand. He says, this is how it is. So he says, therefore, the one whom you worship without knowing, him I proclaim to you. The unknown God is knowable.

Very straight and to the point. But Christ remains a stranger to those who want to dictate to him, to not receive his lordship. So I just closed something. Give me a moment here because I don't even know what verse I was in. Okay, let's go now to verse 24. And there he says, God who made the world and everything in it, since he is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. If these terms of creatorship are a problem, then you have a problem. If you have a problem with God creating everything from nothing, you have a very big problem.

And this explains why so much of the world wants no part of the scripture. Science is willing to just believe in a theory than reason. And the evolution of the species is still a theory. They still don't have the evidence, but that doesn't stop them from presenting their theory as fact. And as a matter of fact, there have been, from this church, some that have gone on to the universities and learned science and leaning towards evolution. Well, you don't know what you're talking about when you say the missing link.

Well, where is the missing link? Where's that connection that therefore proves without a fact that we have evolved from? You know, the basis of evolution is simply fish have eyes.

I must have come from them because I have eyes. That's a very, I'm just simplifying it for you because that's what Darwin did. And Darwin wasn't that smart of a guy. Ingersoll was intelligent as men go, and he is the one that used Darwin as his platform to resist Christ. Anyway, an idol is a representation of man's created ideas about God, of deity.

But we need to be firm in what we believe. So when Jonah was running, that great prophet, and Jonah was a great prophet, he had some mental issues for a while there with God, but that was because of his flesh. Because you've got to say, Jonah, are you crazy?

I mean, really, throw me overboard? Why not just repent? Why not just get right with God? Anyway, Jonah says, I am a Hebrew, and I fear Yahweh, the God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land. That was his theology.

We should be as sure of ours as Jonah. I believe in Jesus Christ, who was born of a virgin, who died for sinners and lived a virtuous life, a sinless life. I believe he was crucified for sinners, and on the third day he rose again. I believe he's returning, and I believe he is on the throne of God because he is God the Son.

That's what I believe to the world, and hopefully that creates questions. Well, he says here in verse 24 that he does not dwell in temples made with hands. Well, the Athenians relished their temples, the Parthenon, the temple of Zeus. They had them all over the place, and they actually believed that gods were living in these things.

That's not the same as Judaism. When the temple of God had there the mercy seat of God, which was the dwelling place in the sense that God would be available to his people, but not in the sense that he wasn't anywhere else. When Solomon dedicates the temple, he makes this clear. He makes it clear that we understand that God's not limited to a temple.

He says in 1 Kings 8, But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, the heaven and the heavens of heaven cannot contain you, how much less this temple which I have built. Jesus, when he speaks to the woman at the well, the woman of shattered romances, she had a hard life. There are things about her that are very admirable, though.

Just a little side note here. What I like about the woman at the well is she was not a fraud. She was not fake. When she told the men of the city what just happened at the well with Jesus, they didn't scoff at her. They acted on what she said. She had to have had a reputation of it. Maybe she wasn't the most moral, but she wasn't a liar.

She wasn't a fraud. And that's one of the things that comes out of this. That's We'd also like to encourage you to subscribe to the Cross Reference Radio podcast. Subscribing ensures that you stay current with all the latest teachings from Pastor Rick. You can subscribe at or simply search for Cross Reference Radio in your favorite podcast app. Tune in next time as Pastor Rick continues teaching through the book of Acts right here on Cross Reference Radio.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-26 09:43:48 / 2023-12-26 09:52:33 / 9

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