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October 9, 2020 12:00 am
Let's take a Bible and open it to ask chapter 17 were to be continuing in our study of the life of the great man. The apostle Paul and all you know when when Moses walked down from Mount Sinai carrying, of course, the 10 Commandments on two stone tablets. I don't know exactly how much those stone tablets way, but I don't think it was 5300 pounds reason I mention that is there is a copy of the 10 Commandments that's in the center of the news today that does way. 5300 pounds is located in the rotunda of the judiciary building in Montgomery Alabama. Let me show you a picture of it and this copy of the 10 Commandments was placed there by Chief Judge Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court but was set up on July 31 of 2001 and just this week, the US District Court commanded him to get it out to remove it.
He has 30 days to do that because in the opinion of the US District Court. This copy of the 10 Commandments is the case of the government promoting religion, which is just not something as you know that's allowed here in the United States of America. Now we're going to see today. The apostle Paul arrived at the city of Athens and were going to find out that there is no court anywhere in Athens that would've ever demanded a copy of any religious symbol to be removed from that city. As a matter of fact that city not only promoted religion but that city was overrun with religious symbols and artifacts, and working to see how all of that plays into the reaction of the apostle Paul. And then of course were to answer the most important question, which is what differences that make to you and me.
So altogether little bit of background. Remember, the apostle Paul is on his second missionary journey. He along with his three friends, Silas, Timothy and Dr. Luke have crossed over. Let's show your map from Northwestern Turkey and of going across the Aegean Sea to the town of Philippi here in Philippi. The apostle Paul established a church he left Dr. Luke and Timothy here in Philippi to work with that fledgling church. He and Silas walked down the nation way the famous Roman road to the downtown of Thessalonica hundred miles away. He spent six months in Thessalonica preaching, establishing a community of believers and of the Jewish people in that town who were not believers develop his hatred for Paul that was on believable and they eventually succeeded in putting a mob together, and running them out of town and so then he and Silas continued on 45 miles to the town of Rio and that's where we left Paul last week. So let's pick up here in acts chapter 17 and see what happened first. 13 and when the unbelieving Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word in Berea, they went there to agitating the crowds and stirring them up that you get the picture here right these unbelieving Jewish people in Thessalonica hated Paul so much that it wasn't good enough just running out of Thessalonica.
They want running out everywhere so they followed him.
The 45 miles to Berea cause trouble there and ran them out of town there as well. Verse 14 and the brothers at the Rio immediately sent Paul to the coast, but saw Silas and Timothy stayed at the rear salon. I thought you said that Timothy had stated Philippi.
Willie had but it's obvious from the Bible that Timothy has now rejoined Paul. So Paul leaves Silas and Timothy here in town to work with the fledgling group of believers there and he is driven outward indigo verse 15 the men who escorted Paul brought him to Athens and then they left.
They went back home to Berea with instructions from Paul for Silas and Timothy to join Paul as soon as possible, which show your map let's see what happens here from the rear.
The apostle Paul goes down straight south to the town of Athens and what do we know about the town of Athens that the apostle Paul arrived at well I think most of us here realize that Athens along with Sparta Werther. These were the two key city states in Greece for 600 years before the apostle Paul ever got there.
However, at the, the, the Athens that the apostle Paul arrived in was not the Athens of 600 years before that. Athens, of course, was the home of pure democracy under leaders, political leaders like Pericles, it was the intellectual capital of the world being the home to people like Plato's Socrates and Aristotle Zeno Epicurus and all these other Greek philosophers. But when Paul got there.
The city had been devastated after many wars with Rome. It was poverty-stricken, it was no longer a political capital of anything. It was no longer a commercial center. Actually, it still was looked at as the intellectual capital of the world. All of the different schools of philosophy like the Stoics, the Epicureans, they all had their centers in Athens but Athens was really a very minor city in the Roman Empire by the time the apostle Paul got there he was living off the fumes of its reputation.
Not often the reality of being a great city anymore, but historians tell us it was also one other thing that Athens was the center of when it came to the Roman world and that was religion if you had a new God, a new goddess or new religion that you wanted to promote historians tell us you didn't take that new god or goddess to roll. You took them to Athens. You see today what Paris is for fashion what con is for film what Nashville is for country music back then. Athens was for religion and the Athenians were very politically correct in that they never weighed between one daughter and goddess of the other. They never said will some new God is better segments of old God we had. So the old God goes in the new God days they didn't do that.
What they did is they just took them all. They didn't care.
So if you brought a new God. The counter new goddess detail.
They just had a big old ball of religion chewing gum in town and eighth grade lick it and just stick your religion right on the ball, chewing gum that sticks your new God right on the ball to Ingo and the result of this was that the Roman poet Livy actually wrote and I quote there are more gods in Athens then people" now this is the Athens that Paul arrived what happened. Verse 16 while Paul was right waiting for them. That is Silas, and Timothy in Athens to arrive from Berea he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols that when we think of Athens. We think of a building. All of us would building to we think of the Parthenon that show it to you and we say well you know we think of this building and so many others like it that are unbelievable for of works of architecture (remember the days of the apostle Paul. People didn't look at these buildings as works of architecture. This building and all the others like it were temples to pagan deities to gods and goddesses as a matter fact the Parthenon with a temple to Athena, the patron goddess of the city of Athens and historians tell us there was an enormous statue of the goddess made out of white marble and gold that stood in the middle of his temple that was so enormous it could be seen from the sea as you were arriving by boat and so is Paul walked around the city.
My point is, as he was sightseeing. What impressed me most about the Athenians was not there artistic prowess. It was not there architectural achievements. What impressed Paul the most was there slavery there slavery to idols and Paul just couldn't contain himself. The Bible says he was greatly distressed.
This word literally is the word in Greek that we get our word peroxisome from an English with the word means is Paul was irritated he was exasperated he was fed up he had a peroxisome right there in the middle of the city. Paul did back lips down to the main street of the city emotionally and said you know what I have had it up to here with all of these idle what he do verse 17 so Paul reasoned in the synagogue with the Jewish people and the God-fearing Gentiles who was they who were there, and he also reasoned in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. Paul's motto was, when confronted with error confronted with truth and that's what he did. He went into the Jewish synagogue, and he preached the truth about Jesus Christ, the one true living God. He went into the Agoura. Let's show you a picture of the Roman army of the ancient Agoura here in Roman times we got the picture were coming there. It is these are the remains of the Agoura and you know the Agoura was like the marketplace. It was like a meeting place. It was like Times Square for the city of Athens and the Bible says that every day the apostle Paul went right here in this Agoura and no matter what you came to town looking for what you found in the Agoura was the apostle Paul in your face telling you about the one true and living God. He turned the Agoura into a Billy Graham Crusade, so to speak. Now this is where we want to stop today were in a pickup go on the neck and the next message is a lot more going to happen in Athens but here's where we stop with the apostle Paul out in the city every single day preaching Jesus Christ.
But it's time for us to ask our most important question and you are aware of what that question is.
I know you are so everybody ready to go I come on now 123 right you say Launcelot say is wonderful. You know I love the Parthenon and I really always want to see the Agoura and thank you for all of that. What different does any of this make to me. Well, let's try to make that connection together showing friends. What was it that because the apostle Paul to have a peroxisome spirit. Athens, what was it that just sending off going crazy.
Well, it was all the titles that he saw in this city and the reason they bothered him so much is because the apostle Paul knew the 10 Commandments he new commandment number one I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other gods before me.
The new commandment number two you shall not make for yourselves an idol of any kind.
You shall not bow down to them or worship them for I the Lord your God am a jealous God.
Now, historians and anthropologists tell us that idolatry has been an issue for the human race ever since the human race began, and I want to take a minute minute and make sure we understand why you see friends. God created human beings. Every man woman and child alive to worship.
Anthropologists tell us that they have never found a race of people, civilized or uncivilized, that didn't worship something. When archaeologists dig up any civilization they always find gods and goddesses of some kind. The reason for that is that God has put a worship pacemaker inside the heart of every human being. We are built to worship something and it's a pacemaker.
We cannot turn off the houses turning to idolatry you ask. Well, it's very simple. The Bible tells us in Ephesians chapter 2 verse one that every human being born is born into our world dead in their relationship to God.
They are born separated from God alienated from God disconnected from God and so therefore a person outside of Jesus Christ cannot worship the true and the living God.
They don't know it there disconnected from them there separated from it. But remember, people have to worship something. That's the way were made and so secular mandalas. The only thing secular man can do and that is they go find something else to worship. They find something they can see they can touch. They can feel what they go find something they can relate to, to give their devotion to to give their loyalty to is this dynamic that has caused every culture, every people, every race and every nation to become idolatrous. Now that's if you walked up to the average American on the street and said you know we live in in idolatrous country and you are an idolater that you get a reaction that today would bristle and say what are you crazy me and idolater I don't have a little stone statue in my backyard with horns on it. They don't have some golden calf in my family room that we light candles and dance around to ignite. Now don't have some altered my living room that we sacrifice gerbils on or something like that, and idolater you lost your mind will friends listen, you don't have to have little statues in your backyard or sacrifice gerbils to be an idolater, listen to what is one commentator said and I quote he said there can be idolatry without physical idle. What ever sets up a rival interest in our souls, absorbing the laws and the service which belongs to God alone is is another God and an idol." Friend if you're here today and you never trusted Jesus in a real and personal way.
I got good news and bad news for you.
The bad news is that you're an idolater, so was I.
32 years ago of the living God wasn't the number one priority in my life is a matter fact God wasn't any priority in my life. 32 years ago, and that's all it means to be an idolater, you don't need to kill chickens or dance around the candlelight. All it means is that the mother thought that the living God is not number one in your life and you know as idolaters.
God tells us in the Bible that we are under the judgment of God.
That's the bad news, but the good news is that we can change that. Whenever we want. The good news is that by giving our lives to Jesus Christ and embracing him as our personal savior, we can we can know we can reach the point where God no longer sees us as idolaters listen to what the Bible says in first Corinthians 6. Don't you know that idolaters shall not inherit the kingdom of God and this is what you were this what I was 32 years ago but now you have been washed clean of all of that by your faith in Jesus Christ's friend. If you're here and you've never trusted Christ, we want to help you make the change from being an idolater into being a follower of Jesus Christ. And it's really a simple change to make. We can help you with this salon. How would I go about finding more information what you sign up for Christianity 101 will be having new sign-ups in a couple weeks to take a six week course in our either on a Sunday or Monday night and will give you the information you need to help you change from being an idolater into being a follower of Jesus Christ. Now for those of us here who are followers of Christ. If you don't mind a little bit of time I got left out like to go for preach in the metal and if I could because you see, even as a follower of Christ. Even though it's true that you and I will never be judged by God as idolaters friends. It is true that we can practice idolatry as followers of Christ. That's why John wrote in his letter.
First John 521, little children, keep yourselves from idols as followers of Jesus Christ friends. Anything that displaces God from being the number one priority in our life is an idol and we can be. We can be people who practice idolatry as followers of Christ. Now it can be. It can be all sorts of things.
It can be the Lord God money that does this and displaces God from number one in our life. It can be the Lord God power the Lord God prestige the Lord God human achievement. The Lord God career success. The Lord God ministry success. It can be the Lord God calls it can be the Lord God tennis it can be the Lord God sailing. It can be the Lord God your lawn in your garden. It can be the Lord God, my girlfriend, my boyfriend, my husband, my wife or my children, friends, listen idols don't have to be bad idols. Most of the time for us are good things, but they are good things, who have taken over the place that God says in our heart belongs to him and him alone.
This is what commandment number one's all about. I am the Lord your God.
You shall have no other gods before me.
Ahead of me, or in front of me and what is God asking from us here, as followers of Christ. He's asking that we make him the number one object of our love.
The number one object of our loyalty and our devotion that we don't allow anything, even a good thing to be above him in our hearts and how important does God consider this will pretty important you remember in Matthew 22. There was this young man who came to him and asked for in the law and he said Jesus he said your your teacher tell me what is the greatest commandment in the Bible. Now the rabbis you should know had boiled the Old Testament down to 613 Commandments.
That's boiling down. Well yeah they did in the and and so this cost is not which, under which one of the 613 Commandments Jesus would you say is the greatest commandment. Watch what Jesus said, he said and I quote, you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. This is the greatest commandment, Jesus said of all the commandments and the other thing I want more than anything else. I want to be first place in your life. I want to be first in your heart and why is this so important to God will remember what 10 commandment number two said it said because I am a jealous God. You know I had this couple in my office for several years ago now.
The reason they were. There is because the wife was mad at the husband. That's often the reason I get people in my office are very seldom the other way around. But anyway of I had in my office and other because it was she was mad about this guy would travel leading he would green over traveled a lot and when everyone traveled in the cities he would regularly go to.
He tended to have a woman in those cities that he had built a friendship with whom he would have dinner with and maybe go to a show with the Navy to spend the evening talking to and his wife was really mad about this and he said to me as it when we were sitting there as part of his defense. He said will launder just friends and he does not like I have sex or anything with them what the wife said, you know, you just don't get it. Even if I believed you that you weren't having sex with which I don't. But even if I did.
The point is still the same. When I married you I have the right to expect that I would be number one in your life.
Number one in your heart and even if all you do is have dinner with them and go to the movies with them.
Whatever the point is, you've got some other woman in your life and because were married. I'm supposed to be number one in the only women I ladies you understand that don't. I'm not sure the guys always get that that you understand that, go to because the marriage relationship has an expectation that you're going to be number one in your partner's heart now friends the relationship between Jesus Christ and his followers is the very same way God has the expectation that he's going to be number one in our heart and this is really important to him.
Not long ago. As you know, a month or so ago we did a tour over in Turkey and the we had the privilege of going to Ephesus were to talk more about emphasis in acts chapter 19 unbelievable city.
Unbelievable archaeological dig there, but I want to show you a picture of the theater in Ephesus, where the great Ryan happened this is the unkind address down on a were sued on the tour but the and this is the theater that so that we acts chapter 19 was talking about. We went into this theater and I had the privilege of reading from Revelation to because you know in the book of Revelation, Jesus writes a letter to this church and the subject is exactly what were talking about, listen first to I know your GE your deeds. Jesus says to this church. Your hard work and your perseverance. You have endured hardships for my name and you have not grown weary.
Jesus starts off by saying you know what I really appreciate a lot of things about you guys, I appreciate the fact that you worked hard for me that you've endured for me that you persevere for me. I appreciate the fact that you been willing to suffer for me. However, Jesus said, I still got something against you guys. Because these are not the most important things to me first for yet I have this against you, you have lost your first love me.
Jesus you've lost me as your first love.
Jesus is have a change of heart and mind make a U-turn in your heart and do the things you did at first. When you were young believers when you first came to Christ when you were brand-new in the faith. You remember how you felt about me. Jesus said why want you to get back to feeling that way about me. Now I don't know about you guys but as a follower of Christ. I can relate to this man. I remember when I first came to Christ.
I mean I was so passionate about Jesus Christ and my love for him.
I mean nothing was even a threat. Nothing was even close to being a threat, but then you know as time goes on.
Slowly things start to creep in and I need all the things begin to compete with first place for it with him for first place.
I mean it was a girlfriend or boyfriend. As I said, these can be good things, a husband or wife, my children. The ministry here and if were not careful.
Slow erosion can start to happen.
Is it it happens imperceptibly. We don't really see it coming on and we don't go apostate or anything we don't deny the faith.
We don't forsake the Lord, we do all the right things on the outside that were supposed to do like these of these Ephesians they were doing all the right things on the outside. They were working hard and enduring and suffering for God we do to we go to church. We go to small group.
We do our Bible study. We say grace before meals.
We have our quiet time.
But you know what on the inside that passion for Jesus is not the same as it used that love for Jesus is not where it once was in our life is that erosion that takes place in and you know we become like Easter eggs you know these pretty things. There there gorgeous on the outside but the inside been all sucked empty. I mean, are hollow on the inside there's no life on the inside and it reminds me of a verse of Scripture second Timothy 35 which says having a form of godliness but missing its power and friends. You know what I've learned 32 years of walking with Christ that it's easy to have a form of godliness on the outside, go to church read my Bible, pray before meals were everything I'm supposed to do on the outside but on the inside I'm dried up like a shriveled old prune and is no power. There is no life there is no vibrancy there because friends the power and the life and the vibrancy of the Christian experience does not come from doing all these outward things. It comes from being utterly passionately and totally in love with Jesus Christ. That's where the power comes from.
That's where the vitality of the Christian experience comes from.
And so the message that Jesus sent to this church here in Ephesus.
The message that the first and second commandments end of the human race. The message that Jesus came to this teacher of the law as he came up asking this question is the same message Jesus sends to you and me today and that is if we've lost our first love.
We need to repent. If we've lost our first love.
We need to make a U-turn and get back what did Jesus say get back to the way things were at first they say will launch you know there's an old hymn that comes to my mind when you talk about this and has a line anything goes like this, prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. That's right, wonderful him call Kamal found and you know what friends this is true of every human heart. I don't care with your follower of Christ are not true. My heart you know I'm prone to wander, prone to go the way these Athenians went I'm prone to turn around and suddenly my whole life is filled up with idols that have threatened the place of God should have in my life. Maybe you're like IM I suspect you are willing to just say the good news is that God loves us in a way that is well done shift. It doesn't move.
Jeremiah 31 says I have loved you with an everlasting love and unconditional love. The wonderful thing is a matter where we are all over the map. With our commitment to Christ. The one thing that I love is that Jesus's love never changes for us and that's wonderful disabled Maņana like this thing about my heart that it's so evil. I come to some idolatrous person in my heart. I'm always another stop getting away with our local John Newton said the guy wrote amazing Grace.
He said the purpose of God in showing us the evil of our own hearts is to make a surprise. More highly the unconditional love of God the friends it's a wonderful thing to know that no matter where we go, the love of Jesus stays the same and in this Thanksgiving season. That's a wonderful thing to celebrate because I close by saying this is good to celebrate, but we should not presume on the love of God.
We should not use the love of God as an excuse to say well it's okay for us to wander all over the map in terms of our love for him because he's going to love us just to say yes.
He's going to love us just the same, but we should not presume on that we are to keep the bar high.
We are make it our goal is Jesus said to love him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength that he stays first place in our life and this is a constant challenge. It's not something you do once and then you never worry about it again.
It's gotta be a recalibration that we worry about every single day in our life. And you know the wonderful thing about repenting. As you can do it every single day that's for.
That's the cool part about that I want to close today by giving us a moment to really ask God to show us where we are. I mean, is Jesus Christ really number one in our life or have we left something, even something good. Children are ministry our spouse creep in and take over that role. So here's what I want us to do list our heads together close our eyes and with our heads bowed in our eyes close. If your follower Jesus today.
I just want you to ask God one question. The question is Lord, show me honestly who's really first in my life is you resistant Mills and then if he shows you that something else is in that role than friends right here. As you sit repent, change must take a moment pray Lord Jesus is indeed true of us. We are prone to wander, we feel it were prone to leave the God we love. Lord forgive us for that. I mean that pastors who we are as how were water. Thanks for reminding us today that what you want from us more than anything else is not some outward active service or some outward active loyalty. Ephesians had that what you want is for us to keep you as our first loan and so it's good for us to stop and examine our hearts and say, is that really the way it is with we don't want to be Easter eggs. God with all this pretty stuff on the outside and were hollow and empty on the inside.
We want to be vibrant and alive in our relationship with you. For those of us who when we asked the question, found that some of the Lord God was first in our life. Some hobby some career achievement were going for somebody in our family.
Lord allow us to repent.
This morning to re-enthrone you as our first love. Thanks for reminding us today. The real power comes from being passionately in love with Jesus Lord remind us every day to check it out. Slippage happens every day and make sure were going through this process daily and thank you for loving us the same no matter where we are. We appreciate that Lord would help us not presume on and we pray these things in Jesus name, amen