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The Light Shines On Mars Hill Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
The Truth Network Radio
October 11, 2022 1:00 am

The Light Shines On Mars Hill Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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October 11, 2022 1:00 am

Where can we find God amid our heartaches and tragedies? The Apostle Paul told the Athenians, in a city saturated with idols, that the one true God is not far from us. In this message, we identify three responses to the Gospel. The reactions are mixed—much as it is today in our idol-saturated culture.

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Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.

Mars Hill in Athens is a mound of granite, facing the famous Acropolis, with its temples to pagan gods. Here, Paul the Apostle preached the Gospel with power to a group of philosophers who enjoyed argument. They were watching the beginning of a spiritual tidal wave. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, you and I stood on Mars Hill once, a place with a commanding view of the Acropolis. Dave, I remember that very well. Of course, we were younger at that time.

But here's the point that I want to make. We today are on Mars Hill. We're surrounded by philosophers and a culture that is totally against us, and yet the Apostle Paul gave us an example of how to share the Gospel in the midst of that context. And you and I need to know how to share it. I've written a book entitled No Reason to Hide, Standing for Christ in a Collapsing Culture. Let me ask you this question.

Is America being Sovietized? That's an interesting question, and I'm going to be answering it at the end of this broadcast. But I need to tell you that the book is available for a gift of any amount. Here's what you do. Go to,, or if you prefer, call us at 1-888-218-9337.

Ask for the book No Reason to Hide. Paul did not hide on Mars Hill, and we should not hide in our culture either. Let us listen. As all of us know, atheism is growing in Europe, but it's also growing here in the United States of America. I didn't see it on a bus, but somebody gave me a Tribune article that showed a bus with a slogan, In the beginning, man created God. Now that slogan would be correct if they had changed the last word, if they had put it in lowercase and then pluralized it. I hope there's a word like pluralized.

At least there is now. In the beginning, man created gods. That would be true. It's like the great theologian Calvin says that man's mind is an idol factory, always developing idols. And every time we preach the gospel, we have to confront the idols of our culture. And in a few moments, we're going to see how the Apostle Paul did it. But first of all, in context, Paul, you remember, he began in Philippi. He preached the gospel there last time we noticed.

Remember, this is a series of messages entitled Light Shining in Darkness, How the Gospel Impacts Culture. And there were three people at least who were converted there in Philippi. And then he comes to Thessalonica, Acts chapter 17.

It says, now when they had passed through, they came to Thessalonica where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in as was his custom. And on three Sabbath days, he reasoned with them from the scriptures. You see, when the Apostle Paul went to a city, he went to those who are already seeking God. He went to them first.

When we share the gospel, it is easier to share the gospel with those who are open on the God-ward side. And he knows that those who were in the synagogue, they were open to the possibility of knowing God better and instructing them. And so he went there and he reasoned with them from the scriptures.

Of course, he ran into problems with a law. You'll notice it says in verse 7, and Jason, who received them, there is now a riot that is breaking out. And they were all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus. You'll notice Caesar decreed there's only one, and that is Caesar.

And they cannot tolerate another God by the name of Jesus. Someday, I am going to speak on the topic of the role of law in America and give you some examples of how the church is being marginalized simply because of laws that are being enacted. When we were gone recently, we saw something on the national news that said that there was an area of California in which parents did not have an option. Their child were taught about homosexuality at the age of five. They were being force-fed that agenda and it was against the law to take them out of school.

Watch laws. Show me your laws and I will show you your God. Well, anyway, Paul then goes to Athens and that's the story right here in the 16th verse. Paul, he leaves and he goes to Athens and you'll notice it says in verse 16, while he was waiting for them, that is for Silas and Timothy in Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. You and I, as we walk the streets of Chicago or any other American city, should have hearts that are burdened because we're living in a nation filled with idolatry, filled with idols. There's the idol that we could call the God of my health and wealth, the God who exists in order to give me money and to make me happy. There's that God.

It's an idol of the imagination. There's also the God of my sexuality. No matter what I do, God comes and approves it because after all, I know better than God and no matter what his word says, I have my own idea and by the way, who are you to say that God doesn't approve of what I do? And so you have God of your sexuality who allows you to do whatever your desires dictate. We also have God of my self-authentication, God because I am basically God. I'm thinking, for example, of Eckhart Tolle in the book entitled A New Earth in which he says, you are the way, the truth and the life. When Jesus spoke those words, he meant all of us and Rhonda Byrne in the book entitled The Secret, which was so heavily promoted, says you are God in the flesh.

And so there we are. The idols of our culture self is God. It's the oldest lie. It's the oldest idol that one could ever imagine.

But men always make idols. In the beginning, man created gods. So the question is, how did Paul confront these folks?

Now let's look at the text. It says in verse 17, so he reasoned in the synagogue. There it is again with the Jews and devout persons and in the marketplace every day. So he's in the synagogue and he's talking to those who are open to God, who are more open to God than those who are in the marketplace.

One time I was flying from Regina, Saskatchewan, all the way to Toronto, and I intended to rest because I was tired and I wanted to read a little bit. But in God's providence, next to me sat a very well-educated, articulate Hindu. So we talked for more than three hours and I found that he was more open actually to the gospel and more open to spiritual things than the businessman that I normally sit next to who wants to just know how he can earn his next buck and could care less about God.

Yes, there are people who are open. And what we need to do is to recognize that they are more likely to believe the gospel. But Paul also, he'd go to the marketplace and there he would dialogue.

That's wonderful. And lo and behold, he comes across two kinds of philosophers, the Epicureans, you'll notice verse 18, and the Stoics. The Epicureans were materialists. They didn't believe in spirit.

They didn't believe in miracles. As far as they were concerned, all of the world was nothing but molecules. They'd have loved Charles Darwin and the implications of Darwinism. They were the materialists of their time. But you have the Stoics and they were much more spiritual. They were pantheists. They believed that the highest good of man, of course, is to deny the existence of the empirical world, which has so much pain.

They have a great deal in common with Hinduism, a great deal in common with the New Age movement that says that God is found in the depths of our soul. So you have these two kinds of philosophers and the Stoics, of course, in denying the existence of the external world, something like Plato did or downplaying it, believed that the best that you can do is to learn to endure. And so today we even talk about a Stoical approach to life. And Paul is going to preach to these two kinds of philosophers. And by the way, essentially today we stand on Mars Hill, don't we? On the one hand are the materialists, the atheists who don't believe in any kind of revelation, any kind of miracles.

All that exists is matter. And then on the other side, you find those who are into the new spirituality and they are much more akin to the Stoics. And we join Paul on Mars Hill and preach the gospel to the idols of our culture. How did Paul do it? First of all, notice how he connected with them.

He connected with them. You'll notice it says, verse 22, Paul standing in the midst of the Areopagus. That's Mars Hill. And by the way, you can go to Mars Hill today. I've been there a couple of times.

You can climb to the top of Mars Hill. It's also possible that the apostle Paul preached on the other side of the hill, which is where oftentimes philosophers met. We don't know exactly where it is, but if you ever visit Athens and you're there, you know that close by it is here that Paul preached this very powerful and important sermon, which models for us how to confront the philosophers of our day. He said, men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription to the unknown God. Actually, in Greek it is agnostos, agnostos theos.

And of course, you know that that's where we get our word agnosticism. So you see the Athenians, they had all of these idols and they thought possibly they had left out a God and they didn't want to offend the God that they had left out. So they had an altar to an unknown God. And that was for their agnosticism because they weren't sure whether or not they had spoken and acknowledged all of the gods. So Paul picks up on that and says, you have an altar to the unknown God, the one that you are agnostic about.

And that's the one I'm going to proclaim to you. What a wonderful way to begin a sermon. And so the apostle Paul, he connects with them because he knows that they are now going to dispute with him.

And the whole question will be about whether or not they are able to receive this message. So first of all, he connects with them. And then secondly, he explains to them. Now, what is it that people need to know in our culture?

Three or four things. And Paul covers all of them in this wonderful sermon. First of all, they need a more accurate conception of God. And that's where Paul begins. He says in verse 24, the God who made the world and everything in it being Lord of heaven and earth does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands as though he needed anything since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And you'll notice, and he made from one man, every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth.

First of all, what he needs to do is to help them to understand who God is. And he begins with God as creator. He's saying, God made you. You didn't make God.

Look at all of the idols around here. They are man-made, but the God that I am proclaiming to you is not man-made. As a matter of fact, he is the creator of all things that exists. And because of him, you have your existence. That's the God I proclaim to you. And that's the God who can redeem you. So he begins by saying, yes, indeed, God is creator.

God is omnipresent. He doesn't exist in temples made by hands. In other words, you can't build a temple and you're saying, I'm building this temple for God and God is going to dwell there.

No, no, no. It says in the Old Testament, the heaven of the heavens cannot contain these. Solomon said, how much less this house that I have built. Oh yes, in Old Testament times, God was localized for the purpose of people connecting with him. But God pervades the entire universe and is everywhere.

And he's not limited to a temple or an idol that is made with hands. And then you'll notice, Paul says, you need to have a straightened out your doctrine of God and also your doctrine of man. That's the next part of his sermon. You'll notice it says, verse 26, and he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods, that could refer to the seasons, and the boundaries of their dwelling place that they should seek God in the hope that they might feel their way. One of the translations says, grope their way toward him and find him, yet he is actually not far from each one of us. For in him, we live and move and have our being, as even some of your own poets have said, for indeed, we are his offspring.

I read it quickly. We have to go through now and understand it in a little bit more detail. The Apostle Paul is saying, first of all, that God created man from one person. And by the way, I had lunch with someone who's an astronomer whose name most of you would know about a month ago, and he said that now science continues to have evidence that we all descended indeed from one set of parents.

And of course, we believed that long before science caught up to us. You know, I remember one time Time magazine had an article entitled about the city of Jericho, and it says, score one for the Bible. And then it talked about how recent archaeological discoveries actually confirm the biblical record. And I thought, no, no, no, score one for Time magazine.

They finally got it right. So the Apostle Paul here in speaking to them about human beings said, God determined the seasons, and God determined where all of the various tribes would live. If you ask the question, why did Ham go into Egypt and Jephthah went to Europe and Seth stayed in the Middle East, it is attributed to God that men might grope after God.

Now, what's in that text? What he's saying is that as people moved out into different areas and they began to understand that the earth was created for man, and that's why they were able to live in different parts of the country through agriculture and what have you, they should have said to themselves, surely God created this world, surely this is all of him, because of the light of history, because of the light of nature, because of the light of conscience, they grope after God hoping to find him. And everybody gropes for God. They don't know it.

They have all kinds of substitutes. The man who's involved in addictions and sexuality and ruining his life trying to find fulfillment and some reason to live, he's groping for God, but he doesn't know it. He thinks that he can get by by filling his life with all kinds of substitutes. People grope for God. And then notice that you say, well, is God difficult to find? Well, there's a sense in which God is hidden, but there's also a sense in which he's revealed himself. He is hidden, but he can be found. Look at what Paul says, that they should seek God in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him for he is actually not far from each one of us. Well, isn't that encouraging?

God is not far from any one of us, but at the same time, you and I know that we have to approach him through the Lord Jesus Christ. At the top of this broadcast, I raised the question of whether or not America was being Sovietized. And the answer I think is yes.

Let me give you two quick reasons. First of all, in the Soviet Union, there was no escape from the ideology which controlled the country. Today, I'm told that if you apply for a job, you will not be able to escape ideology.

You'll be asked whether or not you believe in multiple pronouns, whether or not you are willing to celebrate pride. How are we going to navigate this culture? Those are the kinds of questions I ask and answer in my brand new book entitled No Reason to Hide, Standing for Christ in a Collapsing Culture. And by the way, let me give you another reason, and that is in the Soviet Union, the press and the ideology, the ruling ideology, they were fused, and that's the way it is today.

You look at the media, you can see big tech oftentimes wanting to cancel those with alternate opinions. So we are in the same kind of situation as people and Christians have found themselves years ago. That's why I've written this book, No Reason to Hide. It can be yours for a gift of any amount. Here's what you do. Go to

You can go there right now, or if you prefer, you can call 1-888-218-9337. If you want to receive help on how to navigate our collapsing culture, I believe that this resource will be of tremendous blessing and insight for you. Thanks in advance for helping us financially, because together we're making a difference as we proclaim the gospel around the world.

It's time now for another chance for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. Deep in all of us is the desire for a life beyond this veil of tears, and having the matter of our future destiny settled gives us a great sense of security. One of our newer Running to Win listeners has emailed us this question, Dr. Lutzer, how can we be sure we have eternal life? I can't think of a question that I would rather answer, because this is surely the most important question that could ever be asked. It's much more important than whether or not global warming is true, whether or not we should have nationalized health care.

This is the pivotal question. How can we have eternal life and be sure that we do? Now as long as you believe that salvation is based on our good works, even if you say, God does most of it, but we have to come along and he grants us the grace to be good so that we can save ourselves. If you believe something like that, I can assure you that you will not have assurance, because the question always is, have I upheld my part of the bargain? Have I done enough? Even if God grants us the grace to do good works, the question is, are my good works good enough, and are there enough of them?

What a rat race. What uncertainty. So what I'd like to say to you is that when Jesus died on the cross, have you believed that when Jesus died on the cross and that he rose again, his death is a sufficient sacrifice for your sins, 100% meeting the demands of a holy God, and you embrace that for yourself, and you receive Christ as savior, as your savior, then you not only have eternal life, but you know it. And the way in which you know it is, first of all, the Holy Spirit of God within you ministers to you that you are a child of God.

Furthermore, your assurance doesn't depend upon your own performance, which is very unpredictable and often fluctuates. It's based on the perfect work of Christ. We are saved by the righteousness and the works of another, not our own. And we are saved by faith.

When John wrote the first epistle of John, he says, these things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. I love this illustration. I've been at the airport flying standby. When I fly standby, I never know whether I'm going to get on the plane. When the plane is beginning to fill, they tell me, sit down, we'll tell you if we have an empty seat.

And I'm unsure. And you pace back and forth. But when you have a ticket, you can sit in the lounge and you can read a newspaper because you know you're going to get on that plane. Through faith and the finished work of Jesus Christ, we get the ticket.

We can enjoy life because we know that when that plane leaves, we are going to be on it. God bless you, my friend. Through faith in Christ, we have eternal life and we know it. Thank you, Dr. Lutzer, for telling us once again the greatest news anyone can ever hear. If you'd like to have one of your questions answered, go to our website at and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer. Or, call us at 1-888-218-9337.

That's 1-888-218-9337. Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles. He moved aggressively to cities in Greece and beyond with the power of the Spirit directing his energies. Next time, we'll hear more of Paul's dialogue with the intelligentsia of Athens and focus on the best way to approach people who've never heard the Gospel. It's no secret that America is in crisis. Pastor's book, No Reason to Hide, Standing for Christ in a Collapsing Culture, will be sent as our gift to you when you give a gift of any amount to support Running to Win. Just call us at 1-888-218-9337. That's 1-888-218-9337. Online, go to That's Or, write to Running to Win, Moody Church, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois 60614. Running to Win is all about helping you understand God's roadmap for your race of life. This is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-20 01:21:57 / 2022-12-20 01:31:03 / 9

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