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October 12, 2020 12:00 am
Take a Bible and open it to ask chapter 17 were going to be continuing in our study of the great man.
The apostle Paul. Now you know sometimes in life. God hands incredible opportunities like the opportunity he handed Gen. Pierre Beauregard of the Confederacy on July 21, 1861 Gen. Borg Lark was right close by. Here in Bull Run and Manassas and that his army fought the Union army by the end of the day the Union army fled the field in complete disarray. They really cease to exist as a fighting force anymore and the opportunity to march into Washington virtually unopposed was laid right in his feet.
In fact, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton said and I quote the capture of Washington seems now to be inevitable. The routes overthrow and utter demoralization of our army is complete. I doubt whether any serious opposition to the entrance of the Confederate forces could be offered." The matter-of-fact Stonewall Jackson was one of the brigade commanders under Gen. Beauregard said, quote give me 10,000 men and I will take Washington tomorrow." Well we all know Gen. Beauregard didn't take advantage of this opportunity for three weeks. He never moved his troops from Bull Run and by the time he eventually did move him the Union army had pulled itself back together.
The chance for the South to take Washington was gone forever. And the reason I bring all of this up is because were going to watch God hands. The apostle Paul, an incredible opportunity here in the city of Athens were to watch the apostle Paul Sable to take full advantage of that opportunity and were going to talk about why that happened to Paul and were to bring that forward, then talk about what difference does that make in our lives today.
Here the 21st century. So that's what were going to do. Let's begin little bit of background here.
Remember, the apostle Paul is on his second missionary journey is crossed over from Northwestern Turkey modern-day Turkey across to the northern Greek town of Philippi, he spent several months here in Philippi and established the church that he left a couple members of his team.
Dr. Luke and Timothy.
Here Paul moved 100 miles to the southwest of the town of Thessalonica here in Thessalonica. Paul spent six months established the church year and it was run out of town by mom he went 45 miles farther to the southwest of the town of Berea where he spent several months established a church and was run out of town by the same mob that ran them out of town in Thessalonica and so Paul headed south and came to the ancient city of Athens. As we saw where he was so overwhelmed by all the idolatry here in the city that he went out of the streets and just started preaching the Bible says verse 17, so the apostle Paul reasoned in the marketplace.
The Agoura every day with those who happened to be there. This was the ancient Agoura in Athens is like Times Square of Athens people moving through this place all day and night, and here the apostle Paul would set up and he preached that anybody who would listen. Now that's where we left off last time. So let's begin in verse 18, and a group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with Paul and some of them asked, what is this babbler trying to say, while others remarked.
He seems to be advocating for in God.
The Bible tells us that one day there was a bunch of Greek philosophers who were moving to the Agoura they heard Paul preaching and faster than you can say Socrates they were in a big old argument with him about what he was preaching now before we go on let's talk for a moment and see what we know about these two groups of philosophers. How about the Epicurean's wealth.
They were school of philosophy who were named after their founder the auger.
The Athenian philosopher Epicurus, a picturesque Epicurean, the if the Epicureans believed that pleasure was the chief goal of human existence. Their motto was Z drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.
These were the toga party people with the will of the ancient world. Now, all with them were the Stoics.
The Stoics were school of philosophy founded by an Athenian philosopher named Zeno to them the highest values of human life was not pleasure but was duty and self-discipline. They believe the world was controlled by fate and that our job about what they'd sent our way was to accept it. No whining, no emotion, stiff upper lip all the time. These were the Marine of the ancient world and so you got these two groups together you save a lot of them so I can be. These guys have a lot common know they didn't they didn't have anything in common. In fact, about the only thing in the whole world they could agree on is that they both thought that Paul was not that they agreed on and so verse 19.
They took Paul and they brought into a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, may we know what this new teaching is that you're presenting.
You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears and we want to know what they mean now the Areopagus literally the word means that he'll of Aries areas was the Greek god of war and Aries counterpart in the Roman Pantheon was the god Mars and so therefore this is the hill of Mars or as the King James version translates it Mars Hill. It's a literal Hill so your picture of it in Athens just below the Parthenon. Here it is in the distance and will show you picture up close. If you're standing on the Parthenon looking down, this is Mars Hill now on the top of Mars Hill. There was a court that used to meet and therefore the court was called the court of Areopagus because it meant only Hill called Areopagus, and so this was the court where they drag Paul and this court was composed of the greatest minds in Athens. The greatest intellect in Athens.
The leaders of the philosophical school in Athens and their job. Their duty was to oversee the affairs of the city. One of their responsibilities was to oversee any new philosophy that came to town and decide whether it could be preached in their town and so that's why these philosophers drag Paul to the Areopagus to this court of intellectual and philosophical leaders because they wanted him to give an account of what it was. He was preaching so they could decide whether it was okay to preach it in their city on sale now let's stop for a moment and say the apostle Paul here has just been handed by God and unbelievable opportunity here you have the greatest intellectual minds and all the Roman world, and they invited Paul to come in and preach Jesus to them. That's what happens here, so doesn't like being invited to address the faculty of Harvard and talk to them about Jesus is like being invited to address the faculty of Luxembourg and preach to them about Jesus in here.
Yes, Paul has his opportunity by invitation. Well, let's look at his sermon, beginning in verse 22. Paul then stood up at the meeting of the Areopagus, and said, men of Athens.
I see that in every way. You are very religious for as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship. Remember we said two weeks ago that a Roman philosopher said there were more idols in Athens than people member that okay posted as I walked around and looked at your objects of worship.
I even found an altar with this inscription to an unknown God. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you the God who made the world and everything. It is the Lord of heaven and earth, and he does not live in temples made by hands and he is not served by human hands as if he needed anything because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else from one man this God made every nation of men that they should inhabit the whole earth, and God determined the time set for them and the exact places where they should live.
God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, so he is not far from each one of us, for in him we live and move and have our being. As some of your own poets have said in your Paul wrote several Greek poets we are his offspring. Therefore, Paul says, since we are God's offspring. We should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver so an image made by man's design and skill. That's not how we are watching. We think that Sally is in the past God overlooked such ignorance and idolatry. But now he commands all people everywhere to repent for God has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he is appointed and he is given proof of this to all men by raising this man from the dead when they heard about the resurrection of the dead. Some of them sneered, but others said we'd like to hear about this again from you and at that Paul left the Council and a few men became followers of Paul to believe. Among them was Ian.
This is a member of the Areopagus and also a woman named Apperson some others and after this chapter 18 verse one Paul left Athens and he went to the city of Corinth now want you to notice a couple of things about what we just read first of all, notice verse 34 says a few people became followers of Paul and believed as a result of the message he preached here that friends to stand in gross contrast to everywhere else.
Paul is ever preached everywhere else.
Paul is ever preached huge crowds of people to come to Christ. Hundreds and thousands of people to come to Christ.
Here, the Bible says on Mars Hill in front of this Areopagus court.
The result of Paul's sermon was very small yielded very little fruit. Virtually nobody came to Christ friends, in my opinion, something went wrong here. Also, would you notice the Bible says it right after this chapter 18 verse one Paul left the city of Athens and moved on to the city of Corinth and you know it's interesting in all the writings of the early church. There's never any reference to the church of Athens. Paul did leave a church behind in Athens. It's the only city he ever ministered in where he didn't leave a church behind when he left he left the church in Philippi left the church in Thessalonica. He left the church in Berea. He left the church in all the cities he is been on his first journey city and Antioch Lister Derby.
No church in Athens. In my opinion, something went dreadfully wrong in this city and you still alive what you think went wrong, why think Paul's going to tell us himself out of his own mouth. Listen to what he said. First Corinthians chapter 2, writing the Corinthian church, he says, verse 14 when I came to you, brothers, and remember, where did he come from well. Chapter 18 one says he came from Athens. He showed up in corn fresh from his experience on Marcio when I came to you look at the rest of the verse. I did not come to you with eloquence of speech or high sounding wisdom as I proclaim to you the message of God. Verse two for I resolved to know nothing while I was among you guys and Corinth, except Jesus Christ and him crucified. Verse four my message and my preaching and Corinth were not in persuasive words of human wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom but on the power of God, folks.
The apostle Paul is not saying these things for no reason, and unless I completely missed the point in first Corinthians 2 and I don't believe I have what Paul is doing here is he's talking about he's reacting to a serious mistake that he feels he made in Athens. Look what he says. He says when I came to you guys and Corinth directly from Athens. Number one I did not come to you with eloquence of speech or high sounding wisdom like I tried to use in front all those intellectuals up there on Mars Hill. He says secondly I did not center my preaching and Corinth around persuasive words of human wisdom. Like I tried to do and funnel all of those philosophers up there on top of Mars Hill. Instead, he says, number three, I resolved to know nothing while I was among you, Corinthians, except Jesus Christ and him crucified, which is not in Athens.
What I base my sermon on up there on Mars Hill. You know, when you take affirmative Paul preached on Mars Hill and you compared to every other sermon. Paul ever preached, you'll find the sermon on Mars Hill is radically different. In this sermon.
Notice the apostle Paul. Paul Marcio never mentioned the virgin birth of Jesus never mentioned the sinless life of Jesus never mentioned the deity of Jesus as a matter of fact he never mentioned Jesus at all. On Mars Hill.
He never mentioned the sin of man. He never mentioned the penalty of man's sin being hell. He never mentioned Jesus's death on the cross is the solution to this penalty. He never talked about the blood of Jesus Christ paying for our sin, and he only mentioned the resurrection. At the very and I believe I know what happened upon Mars Hill.
I believe the apostle Paul left these elements out because he was trying to make the message of Jesus relevant to all of these intellectuals up there on that hill he was trying to approach them in a way that would make sense to them philosophically and connect with them philosophically, but you know what Paul learned the hard way. A very important lesson on Marcio we learn that in trying to be relevant and in trying to make the message of Jesus more appealing to people intellectually. There is a limit beyond which we cannot go without robbing the gospel message of all of its power and I believe Paul went beyond that limits and that explains why there was a lack of results that he saw in Athens in contrast to every other city he ever preached. Now let's stop there for a moment because we have a question to ask and it's most important question also way culture by with me okay so pretty here we go here's a question here. We don't like deep breath 123 try to see Alonso what sound a little confused what you what you really trying to say here. Can you, be a little more blunt about what you trying to say oh I love to bluntly let me tell you what I'm trying to say what I'm trying to say is that the apostle Paul squandered an incredible opportunity on the top of Mars Hill. What I'm trying to say is that the apostle Paul. Instead of standing in front of the most prestigious minds in the Roman Empire and said he hit the ball out of the park to hit a foul tip.
What I'm trying to say is that the reason Paul did that bluntly is that he was trying so hard to repackage the message of Jesus Christ, so that it made sense to these philosophers so that it connected with them intellectually. He went so far in trying to do that that he ended up robbing the message of all of its power and you say will not gotta tell you, I'm a little uncomfortable with this, I mean to stand up there and say the apostle Paul made a big mistake like that squandered a big opportunity like that just makes me feel uncomfortable. Why is the apostle Paul was a great servant of God, but he wasn't deity wasn't God in the flesh. He was capable of making a mistake in the impressive thing is not the Paul made a mistake.
The impressive thing is that you learn from his mistakes because the next city. He goes to what is he say he says to them hey you guys, I am never ever going to make the same mistake again that I made in Athens. From now on, all I'm going to know is Jesus Christ and him crucified. All I'm going to preach is Jesus Christ and him crucified. And frankly I don't care whether I'm in front of the inmates and send Quentin or whether I'm in front of the faculty at Harvard that make any difference now on its Jesus Christ and him crucified in the 21st century. As followers of Christ.
I think we need to hear loud and clear with pulsing no folks, there is nothing wrong with us trying to read format the message of Jesus Christ in a way that makes better sense to our secular world in a way that makes more sense to the culture that were read as a matter of fact, this idea of making Jesus and the message of Jesus more relevant to the culture wherein this idea of contextualizing the gospel message lies at the very heart of the modern missionary movement. Ever since 1850 when British missionary Hudson Taylor to China started wearing Chinese close learning Chinese customs and speaking the Chinese language as a way of making the message of Jesus make more sense to Chinese people. We have embraced this as being an integral part of modern missions and friends. This is an integral part of what were doing here at McLean Bible church. Our goal is to reach secular Washington.
One of our core values number four says that we have to do ministry and evangelism in a relevant way. We've learned that here in Washington secularized people here in town. Most of them.
They don't believe God's bad they don't believe Jesus is bad they don't believe the Bible is bad they don't believe churches bad things believe it's all relevant to their everyday life and our job before going to reach people effectively. Here is we have to show people how Jesus in the Bible are actually the most relevant commodities in the universe to their life.
We've got to show them that we live in the same 21st century. They do we know current events where in touch with our world. We struggle with the same problems.
They struggle with.
We drive on the same Beltway they drive on and Jesus works in the 21st century that are challenging the city. And yet, having said all that I want to quickly come back and say we must never forget the lesson that the apostle Paul learned in Athens in presenting the message of Jesus Christ to secular Washingtonians or anybody anywhere friends we can be sensitive.
We can be relevant. We can be gentle.
We can be respectful. We can try hard not to be offensive, but we cannot take the heart out of the message or we don't have a message that were given anybody anymore. There's no power left in it and what is the heart of the message that we cannot tamper with number one, the utter deity of Jesus Christ. Number two, the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ on the cross. Number three the blood of Jesus Christ shed as the one and only payment for sin. God will accept number four that the plan of salvation that Jesus offers us is the one and only way to get eternal life, and get to heaven and number five that the resurrection from Jesus from the dead is real. It really happen and it is the supreme proof that we are not following a hoax. Now that is the heart of the message and yet you and I know that everybody here in Washington who is not a follower of Christ looks at those five things and says every one of those five things is water nonsense utter foolishness, and the fact that you and I believe these five things is just proof that we are uneducated poor mind. In simple terms that you know that I must be honest now when we go out to talk about our faith. We know what people out there think there is a tendency on every one of our parts to over apologize for what we believe there is a tendency on every one of our parts to over accommodate what we believe, so that we won't offend these people sensibilities and we don't want people out there thinking were stupid were unintelligent were idiots and all of this means if we're not careful it really is easy to begin waffling on these five things that you see on the screen in front of folks we dare never forget what Paul said in Galatians 511 in Galatians 511, he talks about the offense of the cross and what this means is that we can try as hard as we want to be gentle, kind respect, relevant and nonoffensive in our behavior, but there is an offense to the message of the cross that we cannot remove. You see, the idea that we are sinners in the sight of God. The idea that we are powerless to fix that ourselves. The idea that only be fixed because of what Jesus did for us, shedding his blood on the cross. Those ideas are sensitive to the ego and the pride of the secular mine and there is no way to change that no matter how hard we try to be nice and yet if we pull those items out so that it's not offensive to a secular mine friends we robbed the gospel message of all of its power and it's not worth the paper it's printed on. That's what Paul were here in secular Washington as we seek to make an impact on the city that wherein should we do that, sensitively, gently, respectfully, has not offensively as possible. Yes, but above all else friends. The most important thing is that we be true to the message. The most important thing is that we not resolve the message of the very heart that allows it to bring eternal life to people and change their earthly existence. Then we got on the radio doing not a sermon, just a thought. Now for about six years.
We do on secular radio total one minute spot.
Some of you heard it is a whiny doing secular radio will friends because our goal here is to reach secular Washington and secular people don't listen to the gods. Should you understand what I'm saying.
So where on HFS in DC, 101 and MZ cueing in the oldies station where on WTO P and Howard Stern and smooth seal. We are with these little one minute deals and we made the decision six years ago when we decided to do this and we were just going to tell people the truth. We were just gonna put it out there where the Bible says that we were going to try to be relevant in contemporary and creative.
We were just going telling the truth and then we just let people think whatever they wanted to say. They say will like what is one of these things sound like I am so glad you asked Osama run one for you right now.
Here's one we recently ran all about him a hammer and this will we go on the radio and tell people listen to rap artist MC Hammer soon. I believe in Jesus Christ and I believe the only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ just being good doing any of good hammer handmade hammers got to be committed to Christ hi this is Lon Solomon.
Consequently, my church and hammers just standing on what Jesus himself said I am the way the truth and the life. Jesus said nobody gets into heaven unless they get there by way of me another founder of every other religious system disagrees with him. So who's right Jesus is also called save. Well, who rose from the grave, and who still live following the Savior annual in the just like not service okay so that's one that we rail that I got a call from a lady who runs one of these radio stations. The general manager and she said what are you doing Susan what would you runs like this on the radio. She said why don't you guys will like the Mormon wanted to go on the radio.
It's a nice warm fuzzy things that make everybody feel warm on the inside and all good why you gotta go on the radio and say following lately or you'll end up just like him wrong with you people well to her. I'll tell you the answer, but I'll tell you the reason why we don't then $400,000 a year to go on the radio and make people feel all warm and fuzzy.
We spent $400,000 a year to go on the radio and will people the truth from the word of God.
And that's why we do it will appear here today and you never trusted Jesus in a really the way you need to listen to what I said follow a dead Savior. You will end up disliking the good news of the Bible is we don't have a dead Savior women living Savior, risen Savior follow him, you'll end up just like you alive for all eternity present, join the winning team. Here you know what I'm saying but just a lot not to bother you that people in this town think you're crazy not to bother you that people think you're prehistoric and unsophisticated and unintelligent, and negative, and an well know I probably am. Some of those things.
Maybe I don't know. But the point is no bother me you don't like is 32 years ago when I gave my life to Christ.
My highest goal in life suddenly was no longer worry about what people thought of my goal was that it is my goal was to tell people the truth about Jesus Christ, we could change their lives away change my life and we get letters all the time every week from people who say you know what I'm walking with Jesus today and I'm a Christian today and I'm on my way to heaven today because I heard not a sermon, just a thought on the radioing that got the process going and I've given my life to Christ. You know what friends you and I were on our way to heaven today. If you got eternal life today of Jesus Christ to transform your life today. I guarantee you, you didn't get to where you are today by somebody giving you some water down one foldout presentation of who Jesus is. You got to where you are today by somebody telling you the truth, and the offense of the cross was in it and you dealt with it and that's why you're walking with God today.
Why would we want to get out a message to somebody else that people didn't give us why we going to get out a message to somebody else it wouldn't work for us. That's crazy so I don't care what people think and you know you shouldn't either. This Christmas season. You can have a chance to talk to relatives, friends, neighbors, coworkers about Jesus Christ and your faith next year. You gotta have that chance friends.
Yes, people like me, warm beef family. Be gentle. Be respectful. But don't you dare, don't you dare pull the offense of the cross out of that message or otherwise, you might as well not even waste your breath, we got a key first things first friends and first things first means the heart of the gospel message has gone stay units and then we let people deal with it the way God gave it out. I got help a student for Jesus.
Thanks for talking to us today about well just real down-to-earth stuff, you know, Lord, every single one of us here faces that dilemma of getting ready to talk about our faith and we know what people think we know how people look at all of this and there is a tendency in every one of us to want to accommodate lawful and back off and over explain an over apologized. God give us the boldness that comes from keeping first things first.
Give us a boldness that comes from preaching Jesus Christ and him crucified. Help us do it nicely, politely, kindly is not offensively as we know how but God help us stay true to the message and thank you that message change our lives or we want to be a part of seeing that message change hundreds and thousands of other people's lives right here in the city so use us as we stay true as we keep the first things first, thanks for talking to us today. Lord, thanks for encouraging our boldness today we pray this in Jesus name.
And God's people said they met