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February 3, 2021 12:00 am
You will begin the produce is God at the same point. By the way that anyone has to start out with the pre-Christian world like that more American you began with Genesis chapter 1 verse one and so Paul begins his declaration of who God is telling these Athenians the next shocking declaration and that is this unknown God, whom I know created everything to Athenian philosophers and they should define our evangelism as well. When the apostle Paul was introducing unbelievers to the true and living God. He approached them thoughtfully and carefully. That's not to say Paul didn't confront their false belief systems because he did will see both of these things today. This is wisdom for the heart with Stephen Devi Stevens in a series called introducing God and he is calling this lesson. Setting aside superstition a few years ago your research Center survey thousand US adults to identify the spiritual experiences that they claim to have had in life of those surveyed 29% said they had been in touch with someone who had died 18% said they had seen or been or the ghost it's 47% had contact with the deceased person or a ghost Gallup poll found that three out of four Americans believed in something paranormal. In other words, the majority of people believe there is something out there something otherworldly. Some kind of otherworldly creatures or creatures out there. I came across this recently. One Sunday school teacher in British Columbia thought that she would set the record straight with her students and second grade some of her kids raised the subject of fairies being real, and she assured the young class fairies were not real.
Only make-believe one little boy would be happy about me.
I get back. She stood firm and repeated fairies are not real and finally blurted out. Fairies are to real my daddy rides a fairy Laporte McNeil every single day.
It is very surreal.
All right, in a New York Times article I came across not too long ago and is ironically entitled conjuring up our own gods journalist wrote that more than 90% of those who do not belong to any church do not belong to any religious system all say that they pray for some divine being, 39% of them pray often, if not weekly, but not this, they are prone to believe in ghosts and Bigfoot. The article ended by declaring, and I quote Americans are obsessed with the supernatural is not really a new phenomenon and it really is and just American is around the world. I did a little research on found in the Middle Ages of the flickering lights in the marsh blog was considered to be ghosts of departed people reading goblins.
The popular view in the Middle Ages about fireflies was that they were the souls of deceased unbaptized infants. Many thought ghosts manipulated human life on ancient maps back before the world and fully discovered photographers or mapmakers would put down what they knew and then at the edges of their map beyond anything they had knowledge of our understanding. They would often write in the margin. The words quote beyond the here there be dragons. Frankly, superstition is the bad side of a good thing.
It really is. It's the world's attempt to explain the supernatural to try to come up with an explanation about the truth that is stamped on every human heart and conscience about a creator and about immortality. This isn't all there is.
Romans chapters 1 and two and it's really up to the believer to contradict or confront the notions and speculations of the darkness with the light of the gospel that Paul writing to Timothy in second Timothy chapter 1 verse 10 said he was effectively preaching and teaching the truth about Jesus Christ, who is bringing to life or bringing to light, life and immortality through the gospel. This is the mission of the apostle Paul as he enters a very superstitious city by the name of Athens.
Now in our last study. I pointed out to observations from a Luke tells us in acts chapter 17.
Let me return you there. First, we learned that Athens was intuitively religious and secondly that Athens was intellectually curious back today.
You can see the remains of Athens obsession with speculations and curiosities of the unseen world. One author living in the days of Paul said that there were more than 70,000 statues of the gods in Athens. They line the streets they they filled the parks they adorned the temples and public buildings all dedicated to their glory. There were temples literally everywhere, a temple to Nike the got a victory at Temple do Athena goddess of wisdom to areas the God of war to Pfister's the God of craftsman and sculpture to Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty to Eros, the God of sexual desire and that the Romans would pick it up and they had their counterpart to Eros.
They named him Cupid and like Eros, they both just sort of flew around with a bow and arrow shooting people. They were bringing under their spell away and pulsate all the working classes and tradesmen belong to Jill's we would call them unions and they paid dues to their patron God, they would have annual feasts they would offer libations to their patron god or goddess that had made them prosperous, he can imagine if you could travel back to Athens during the days of Paul, the difficulty of a believer in Athens to decide whether or not to offend his business partners by not attending the feast, or they would give libations to their patron God, perhaps even losing that career path. I little doubt that many believer would be kicked out of the Guild and deprived of employment because of their lack of political correctness.
The pressure has always been on the believer to contrast their life to the speculations of the world just Paul is touring the city, he would have been struck of course by the Acropolis of the Acropolis was this ancient Citadel. This platform built on the rock upon which buildings were seen from every direction. The most famous building on the Acropolis would been the Parthenon.
It was a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena on the namesake of the city of Athens, the Parthenon is considered the enduring symbol to this day of ancient Greece. It is a massive building it's nearly the length of a football field it is five stories high.
Paul would have also seen the only (this was a famous theater, was in full swing when Paul arrived, the theater was wildly popular. It will also be the place for musical concerts and poetry festivals as well as plays Paul no doubt would've stared at one particular temple built with incredible beauty and with its sculptured columns that form the porch of a temple dedicated to Athena, and Poseidon, and then for our primary consideration. Today there was the Areopagus, the Areopagus was a natural stone outcropping that jutted up 500 feet in the air and it served as the outdoor court for the Supreme Court of Athens today. All the names of the Supreme Court justices before Paul before whom Paul stood have long been forgotten except for one who will shop a little later on in this text, but I want you to just imagine the scene as Paul is taken up these stones, stairways, and they have been restored if you walked up the stairs to the top of the Areopagus, where the Council has convened many of these stairs and on top of this windswept open chamber where Paula can have this panoramic view of Athens as he introduces to them the living God is about to introduce God in several of his attributes to a city that is intuitively religious that is intellectually curious. Let me give you 1/3 observation that will look at the tax.
Athens was inwardly anxious with all that it believed with all of its buildings with all of its gods and goddesses with all of its temples. With all of it statues with all of its religious investments and and and and rituals. Athens was still at its core inwardly anxious. Let me show you where to pick the narrative back up we left off at verse 22 and Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus, these men would have been forming a semicircle around Timmy's 50 councilmembers and he said men of Athens.
I observed that you are very religious in all respects by the way, don't overlook this gracious, tactful introduction I observe that you are very religious.
Paul does not say I observed that you are very ridiculous.
Thank I observed that you are very superstitious, though I observed that you are very religious in all respects and in the Council by the way would've taken that as a compliment that would've been a kind approach to them, very religious.
You could literally rather would normally translate that Greek phrase he's effectively saying I can see that you are fearing the God is in his attempt right now to say what in the world is going on around here all the stuff you're making no I can see that you could translate was what I can see how religiously devoted you are and I think those men would've sat there, probably nodding their heads, thinking of the sky understands gives us the wonderful introduction and a good model for us notice.
Further, while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship.
I also found an altar with this inscription to an on known God. Athens had discovered so many things.
They were the birthplace of democracy, they were the home of Socrates and Plato and Aristotle, with all their sage advice. But the most important truth that had not discovered were troubled by. They fit the description of what Paul wrote to Timothy in second Timothy chapter 3 and were several Paul says that unbelievers are always learning but never able to come to the knowledge learn a lot of things, but never come to know the most important thing and so because of this there living in a world of inward anxiety and confusion, and they've erected these these pedestals and even temples took Tooley and tells us dedicated to the unknown God were probably missing one and we don't want to do that. So here you go. 11 you travel the world and and you see the same uncertainty played out in every culture fact I was reading in one a journal not too long ago I pulled it out. The Hindu practice of Kumari. I hope I translate that correctly. The belief that the supreme goddess of the cosmos who gave birth to everything through her work through her womb that she inhabits a young girl's body for for brief time into believing that this is shared. From what I can research and discover by many Buddhists as well. It holds that the supreme goddess telling you the cosmos from her womb in him dwells a carefully selected young girl for a period of time and that young girl then becomes the incarnation, as it were of the goddess in. She can be worshiped as deity. See the kernels of the gospel that you even though twisted in the she's worshiped. I went online and I watched about 15 minutes of an annual festival where she is dressed up in an amazing costume and people are nearly fainting around her. The goddess a few years ago that had been selected the cause quite a stir. Evidently the rules are that under no circumstance can the goddess ever leave a Paul she's carefully watched and cared for, typically living in the central palace but a few years ago may police authorities were outraged when they discovered that she had been taken at her approval with adult supervisors to the United States to take part in and in a video documentary of the Kumari tradition in which she returned home. The article said she received notification that she was now terminated as a goddess God was fired.
Basically what they're saying she was no longer worthy of being worshiped as deity.
However, good chuckle after pressure from the public will get this. Thanks for the public and and and her own show of remorse.
The government backed down and agreed that she could stay a goddess if and I quote she goes through an intense cleansing process that washes her of the sins of the countries she visited while traveling not just just think about that for a moment what insecurity, if even your goddess has to be cleansed from sin and can lose her deity in any Hindu ever hope to be cleansed of their sin and even be secure that the following deity that the last here in Athens with all of their ceremony and all other curiosity and all of the religious piety, Paul effectively finds them in the same state of spiritual anxiety.
Notice the end of verse 23 what therefore you worship in ignorance. This I proclaim to you is coming to the end of his introduction.
In other words, the God whose name you do not know is not calling them ignorant by the way, he simply say what you don't know the one whom you worship without knowledge of who he is. I'm going to proclaim him to you.
I'm going to tell you who is now with that statement.
What Paul does is is absolutely brilliant.
He sets the legal stage for his introduction of God.
In one of the things we miss when we speed read or speed and preach is the fact that Paul is engaged here in a legal trial. He's not standing before the Supreme Court because he thought this would be a great place to do a little evangelism and no Athenian law required that any new religious system and the following of any new God receive the approval of this counsel so that Josephus in my study I encountered one thing he said he was the first century Jewish historian who wrote that it was from hidden by Athenian law when they quote him in the penalty decreed for anyone who introduced a foreign God was death." The most famous example and by the way I'm to take you back to college or high school days when you may read this but the most famous example in Athens was 500 years before Paul arrived, Socrates had been roaming the streets of the city of Athens teaching. This growing band of followers. Most of them young people that the gods of Greece were not who they thought they were.
He he denied the omnipotence of the Pantheon. He denied gods were all-powerful and he rejected the polytheism of the culture that is the worship of many gods that while he didn't follow the truth of one God, the true and living creator. He didn't follow the superstitions of his culture either, so he's effectively teaching a new religion that he was charged with atheism because he didn't buy into the polytheism of his day.
He's brought up on charges he he literally is brought to trial on the very hill where Paul now stands 500 years later, in the Senate or this counsel I should say claims that he is corrupting the youth of Athens and they sentence him to die by drinking poisonous hemlock, which he did. Now here we are 500 years later, at this text and Paul is referencing the nearby pedestals is referencing the nearby Temple dedicated to the unknown God and what is really doing is informing them.
I'm not I'm not telling you about a new God. I'm not introducing a foreign deity to you somebody new. I'm really just going to talk to you about the name and the nature of the God you've always wondered about your temples dedicated to him brilliant strategy of always disclaiming to provide this stunning answer to centuries of uncertainty now where do these pedestals and alters and temples originate to this unknown God. 600 years before Paul arrives in acts chapter 17. Athens had been deceived by terrible plague people were dying every day and they were terrified of what was happening. They were desperate for an answer from their gods, no answer came. And with that the nuclear famous poet from the island of Crete. His name was up amenities. He came up with the solution. He said I know what's going on.
There are some gods that are angry because they have been overlooked in the worship of of Athens, the citizens of been overlooking now. He didn't know which God's but whoever they were, or or whoever it was they were the causes behind the play and the Council thought that's brilliant.
That's it. And then the convenience of what we do about it and up amenities said I have a solution. He took a flock of sheep to the top of the hill where Paul is now standing on top of the Areopagus Mars Hill any any set those sheep loose and instructed the Athenians that whenever any sheep laid down. They were to be sacrificed in the name of the God's temple was nearest the sheep. It was believed that the sheep would be pulled by the God to the temple to reveal that he was the one effectively pouting because he was getting attention, but that's how I interpret.
So when the sheep were let loose. Many of them around and end date.
They just came off the Areopagus and when around and and and settled in grays then and lay down. Eventually the Tagamet. The problem is, some of them lay far from any nearby Temple and so that created new confusion and so went up amenities said to do was build an altar to the unknown God and sacrifice the sheep upon it. The Athenians would later build temples scattered numerous alters around Athens dedicated to this unknown God. And now, if you can imagine. Paul arrives on the scene and stands on the same hill and he says I know this God is and I want to introduce call of duty will begin the introduce his God at the same point right away. The same key point that anyone has to start out with the pre-Christian world like that or American. You begin with introducing God is the creator of all that is you began with Genesis chapter 1 verse one until Paul begins his declaration of who God is by telling these Athenians the next rather shocking declaration and that is this unknown God, whom I know created everything that is knowing God as creator is the next truth, the apostle Paul will reveal to the unbelievers. He was talking to that day will come to that in our next Bible lesson here on wisdom for the heart with Stephen Devi. Here's a note we received recently from Kevin here in North Carolina. I'm so thankful to add more godly truth to my journey as I listen to wisdom for the heart. I feel as if my pilgrimage is better equipped for having found your ministry. I work in the medical field and specifically with Kovic 19 God is used this time to draw me deeper into a walk with Jesus.
Podcasts listening to BBN along with wisdom for the heart keeps me in God's word daily. Last night after a 14 hour shift. I opened my first copy of your heart to heart magazine.
I picked it up thinking that sleep would arrive soon. That's pretty funny. Kevin well, I was delighted to read the article where you mentioned reaching Mandarin speakers in Flushing, Queens. I got to visit China in 2007 on an adventurous missions trip. It was worth my 19 year weight invested in prayer over China. I was raised in Flushing and God gave me a burden for the Chinese people after my conversion. In 1984.
Thank you for the wisdom international app to share with others.
God is using your Mandarin, Spanish and Portuguese resources and I'm glad to be equipped with another tool.
While Kevin, thanks so much for taking the time to share with us friends if you'd like to send us a note you can address your email to firstname.lastname@example.org you can also write to us at wisdom international PO Box 37297, Raleigh, NC 27627 and by the way, the magazine Kevin was referring to heart to heart is a resource we send to all of our wisdom partners.
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Our number is 86 648 Bible website is wisdom online.org as I mentioned a moment ago will be looking at what Paul said about God, the creator of the universe. In our next lesson.
Join us for that right here on wisdom for the heart