Acts Series #33
Back to the Beginning:
When Church was Church
Responding to a World Without Christ
Well … your note sheet is not going to do you much good today. I laid out my outline early in the week and then as I began to finish it up later in the week it became more apparent to me that I wasn't going to cover that much territory today. So … I am ONLY covering Part ONE of the Three parts in your notes. Perhaps next week I will cover those other two points, but I felt that this first section needed MORE time given to it than I originally thought
So Paul had been thrown in Prison in Philippi, they had been chased out of town for Turning it upside down in Thessalonica, went to Berea but were followed by the antagonists from Thessalonica and so they took Paul down to Athens, guess they were going to let him get lost in the big city for a few days … So, let's pick up our story and read
I want us to see the heart and attitude of Paul today in responding to Athens a world without Christ
Athens was no longer a military power or an economic power but Greek culture and education still impacted the world it was the language that united the world
Hew did he respond ?
How should we respond ?
1. He Went
A. Greatly Distressed v16
1. Paul looked around and saw the city FILLED with idols … That doesn't just mean that they had a lot of idols in town, but the literal translation is that Athens was "wholly given to idols"
a. controlled by idols
b. saturated with idols
2. the word translated "greatly distressed" is paroxuno /par-ox-oo-no/ - to stimulate, to stir, urge, to exasperate, to burn with anger
3. The MORE he sat in that city waiting for his friends, the more he looked around, the more he moved around, the more he saw the hand of Satan, the MORE agitated he became. It was like a pebble in his shoe, a burr in his saddle, and it got to him.
4. I believe he was upset in anger and distressed in heart. But he wasn't angry with the sinner, he was angry with the work of Satan, angry with the victory that Evil was having in that city. He was angry at the ignorance of the story and wonder of God's grace available through Christ Jesus. Perhaps he was angry that people had not At LEAST been effect by the message of the Old Covenant as there were religious Jews and yet the city was still given to pagans and separate from God and his son.
5. but this wasn't just anger or distress, exasperation in a sense of a useless or sterile emotion, this word means to be incited or stimulated. If you have a pebble in your shoe or worse yet an irritant in your eye, you aren't going to just keep going on … you are going to DO something about it. This DISTRESS required action
Jesus was distressed for Jerusalem - Mt 23:27 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing"
Jesus was distressed because the people had no direction, correction, and protection - Mt 9:36 - when he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd
The compassionate distress of Jesus caused him to heal, to restore sight, to feed, to proclaim the kingdom of God and call people to repentance and rest
To be distressed fits the heart of God
2 Cor 1:3 calls him the Father of Compassion and God of all comfort"
Col 3:12 - clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience
Luke 19:41,42 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said "if you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace …"
6. <SQUIRREL story> - a freshly dead squirrel in the middle of the road and another squirrel playing obliviously on the side of the road
I'm afraid that we don't feel anymore …
I think Paul saw Athens and thought, "such intelligence, such deception, such devotion to falsehood …" and he was moved
Jeremiah 9:1 - "oh that my head were spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night for the slain of my people."
Paul said in 1 Cor 9:22 to the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some"
Paul went because he was distressed but notice that he went while he waited
B. While He Waited
Paul didn't plan a trip to Athens … he was TAKEN to Athens because things were getting ugly and dangerous in Thessalonica and Berea.
So should Paul just sit back, take a rest, lay low, and keep quiet until he could get back to his PLAN? NO …
1. there is work to do even while you are waiting
I've heard so many people say …
I'm going to serve as soon as I get into my ministry
As soon as I get out of school, I'm going to get involved in ministry
As soon as I get married then I'll get involved
As soon as things settle down with our family …
I'm waiting for this raise and then I'll be faithful in giving or I'll go on that mission trip
I'm waiting for that promotion and then I'll get involved in ministry
I'm waiting for my job to settle down and then I'll look for ways to share my faith
Don't WAIT … get busy …
While you wait, take what comes your way …
I've made it a Life long habit to take the opportunities that come
Lead someone to Christ in 1st grade
Preach at 13
Revival at 16
Serve on staff at 18
Serve college Dept.
Save as staff evangelist
Help plant a church
What are you doing while you wait ?
What are you doing while you wait for your job?
What are you doing while you wait for that raise?
What are you doing while you wait for retirement?
What are you doing while you wait for Heaven?
There are important things all around you while you wait
You know what … Sometimes the stuff WE are WAITING for doesn't happen, and if we are not careful we will look back down the road and see a long line of missed opportunities.
How did it come about that WHILE he waited, Paul got busy in Athens?
Well we almost miss it in most of our English Translations …
Verse 16 says he was "distressed to SEE that the city was full of idols"
Paul had gone through difficulty, attacks, rejection and now was in Athens and it would have been easy to drop his head and WAIT …
Don't Be discouraged by Rejection lift up your Eyes to the next Opportunity
But While he was waiting
2. He OBSERVED … the word "see" is the Greek word "theoreo" / theh-o-reh-o/ - o to be a spectator; to behold, to view attentively
Paul broke out of the waiting mode by lifting his eyes and attention and seeing what is going on in the world around you
Take notice of the state of things
Take notice of the spiritual state of people around you
Notice where God is at work
"oh God's not doing ANYTHING around me" … REALLY?
John 5:17 Jesus says "My Father is ALWAYS at work"
He goes on to say the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does."
The Father is at work and he WILL show you what he is doing if you will LIFT your head, open eyes and watch, you will see the Father at work and then JOIN him.
While he was Waiting… Paul got busy and engaged the city of Athens, the seat of philosophy, the stronghold of polytheistic, and "believe what you want thought" …
That's what Paul was doing while HE waited … What are you doing?
While he was waiting to be King, David slew Goliath
While he was on his way to heal the Centurion's daughter, Jesus healed the woman with an issue of blood
While he was on his way somewhere else, Jesus stopped to go to Zacchaeus' house
While he was on his way across the sea, he stopped to calm the seas for the disciples
While he was on the way to the cross, he took his role in his house, he healed the sick, raised the dead, made blind men see, he preached repentance and salvation
What about us? While we wait … ?
While he waited … Paul …
Perhaps if you were to be honest you would say "Pastor, I just don't really have that kind of concern and passion for people."
Well, I would tell you that emotion and feelings follow actions. When I talk to couples that are struggling with their relationship and don't FEEL passion for each other, I tell them … START doing passionate loving things toward each other every day, and eventually you will feel it.
So, if the compassion, the distress, the agitation for Satan is NOT there, well focus on obedience to the command of Christ and feeling will follow action.
Jesus told ALL of us to "go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded."
Jesus has empowered us for this task and prophesied that we would be busy about it.
Acts 1:8 you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
Then after Jesus ascended the people stood there staring up and angels appeared and said "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus who has been taken from you into heaven will come back in the same way you have seen him go to heaven."
And we should hear the angels telling us the same thing each Sunday … When the service ends and the music plays … We should here the angels say "don't stand here … get busy … Jesus is alive, tell somebody, Jesus is coming, tell somebody …"
How did Paul GO, in Athens?
1. in the synagogue - hey the natural place to start is with people that are already leaning in the right direction
There are people you know that are willing to come to church with you, perhaps have attended for a long time, but they've never surrendered themselves to Christ as Lord. There are people who you know believe in God, perhaps believe that Jesus was a good teacher, start with them. Close the gap between being religious and being a disciple of Christ.
Paul went to those who followed Jehovah and explained to them that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah that they had longed for, he explained out of scriptures how Jesus was a fulfillment of the promise and their dreams.
But Church, we can't rely on what happens inside the walls of THIS building to fulfill the Great Commission for us. Jesus didn't say "stay and invite" … Jesus said "GO" … Jesus said "Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the end of the earth" … Let me rephrase it this way, he said we are to witness "At home, in your neighborhood, in the neighborhood you don't like and where you've never been." Or we could say "with your family, your peps, with your least favorite people, and with people you've never even THOUGHT about sharing."
So not JUST in the synagogue, Paul also WENT
2. to the market place
he took it to the mall, he took it to the popular gathering place, he took it to the place where ideas were exchanged, he took it to the everyday people, to the intellectuals, to the religious, to anyone who would listen.
WHY? Because Satan had a strangle hold of lies, and deception on this city and Paul was NOT going to let it go by
The more he saw it, the more it became an irritant … until he exploded in a positive, powerful expression of the gospel.
3. he encountered / disputed … they engaged people … now we can talk more about engaging people next week, but the important thing is we MUST be active, engaging, talking, living, question. That means we have to get out of our Christian Cocoons, that means we have to be prepared to give an answer. Hmmm … I think I've heard that before, I think that might even be Biblical …
1 Peter 1:13 prepare your minds for action …
1 Peter 3:14,15,18 … do not fear what they fear, do not be frightened. 15 but in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. BUT do this with GENTLENESS and RESPECT.
Not only does that tell us the WHAT … be prepared … and GIVE an answer … but it tells you the HOW and the attitude, with gentleness and respect.
Unfortunately we often fall into three categories as witnesses, either we are 1) reluctant or apathetic and do NOT share a witness 2) we are willing but feel unprepared and do not know what to say or what to share or unfortunately equally detrimental, we are prepared and willing but obnoxious, disrespectful, and harsh. Now I'm not saying that there is not a place for a strong challenge to receive Christ, to turn from sin, but when we can Do all of that without being rude, harsh, and disrespectful. Remember the phrase, LOVE the Sinner, and Sin. I think sometimes we've forgotten that and sometimes we hate the sin and are angry at the sinner.
We need not be surprised that people without Christ do NOT live like people with Christ and if we are angry with the sin, JESUS is the ONLY solution, the ONLY instrument of change that will bring lasting change
We need to fall into the a 4th group … those who are willing, prepared, gracious, and driven by compassion.
We need to take a stand against sin, but don't abandon the person without Christ, stand alongside them and present Christ
New Life, I'm NOT preaching or Teaching to YOU today I'm sharing my heart, the heart of God and reminding YOU and ME of our purpose for being here … We have a purpose and a COMMISSION from our Savior, Captain, and Christ, to GO, to be witnesses …
I will be the first to admit that we get frustrated and angry at some of the silliest stuff. We get angry because we don't get our service in time at a fast food place, we get upset because our neighbor doesn't cut their grass, we get distressed that our team might lose a player or coach.
We march against, vote against, preach against the evils of society while never stopping to be focus on Eternity
It's time we opened our eyes, got angry with evil, furious with Satan, and compassionately distressed about not just what it will do to our community but what happens in Eternity. Stop waiting for the next big thing and get out there and engage the world with the Good News that Jesus Christ saves, that Jesus Christ restores, that Jesus Christ loves, that Hell is real and Heaven is available, that the God who made us loves and wants a relationship with us.
Do we know?
Do we care?
Can we see?
Can we feel?
What are we going to do?