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Tag Archives: Acts 17

Some Thoughts on FRIENDSHIP — From an INTROVERT! ENEMIES of God!? (Part 1)

What must it mean to be called a “friend of God”? If our view of God is low, then that expression means very little. But if we think of God as the Almighty Creator of the heavens and the earth, the One who sent His own Son to die for our sins, the One who grants us the very next breath of air in our lungs, then becoming His friend has to be the greatest gift one could ever have!

Atheism, of course, tells us that God isn’t real and any “relationship” with Him is pure self-deception. Militant atheists sometimes express their disapproval with posters like this one:

“But,” some might say, “doesn’t God love everybody? Aren’t all people friends of God? Don’t we come into the world as friends of God?”

Great questions! Here’s what the Bible teaches: Before conversion, we were not friends, but enemies of God! Romans 5:10 says, “For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”

There is no spiritual neutrality, no religious Switzerland. We come into this world as wrath-deserving sinners who begin to practice our rebellion as soon as possible! Yes, we are children of God in the sense of CREATION. But creation does not equal REDEMPTION! The Apostle Paul calls his listeners on Mars Hill “the offspring of God,” but then calls them to repent and believe in Jesus! (Acts 17).

(to be continued)

 

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2019 in enemies

 

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Back to the Basics! Introductory Matters #6 Philosophy!

We have been thinking through a few issues of an introductory nature that need to be discussed before we get into the specific subject areas of God, the Bible, Christ, the Holy Spirit, etc. [For those of you who like technical words, this area of study is called PROLEGOMENA, literally, “things you discuss first.”]

There are many of these preliminary matters to be considered. This morning we want to consider the issue of philosophy. “Philosophy” is the love of wisdom. How does philosophy relate to theology (the study of God and the things of God)?

The Apostle Paul says in Colossians 2:8- “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” Philosophy can quite easily become theology’s enemy, especially if it elevates the thinking of fallen man above the infallible Word of God.

But notice that Paul warns against “hollow and deceptive” philosophy, not philosophy in general. If one’s philosophy is how one views life, everyone has one, and needs to have the best one possible!

Paul knew philosophy, especially Stoic and Epicurean philosophy (as we see in Acts 17). We need to know various philosophies today IF we want to relate to where people are in their thinking.

We are not to put down good philosophy, but test it by the word of God. I love the quote from John Gardner, Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare under President Lyndon Baines Johnson: “The society which scorns excellence in plumbing because plumbing is a humble activity, and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity, will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy. Neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.”

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2018 in philosophy

 

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STUCK! Ten Areas That Will Bury You as a Believer and How to Dig Your Way Out! (Area #8- SERMONS!) (con’t)

Is preaching passé?  Some would say that SERMONS are no longer needed by the saints.

Bible studies, discussion groups, casual conversations are all well and good — but we need the authoritative proclamation of God’s Word!  The saints should be committed to good SERMONS, but sometimes we get STUCK!

We get STUCK with poor preaching, with inadequate study, with irrelevant sermonizing.  [I’ve put together some suggestions for improving one’s preaching in my small booklet “Ten Specific Steps You Can Take To Make Your Sermons and Preaching Better!”  Just send me your email address and I will send you that pdf.]

Let’s think a bit more about our text from Acts 17:

10 As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. 12 As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.

Paul and Silas preached in the synagogue!  They preached Jesus and gave evidence that He, indeed, was the promised Messiah.  We often confine our preaching to our churches, to our turf.  How about proclaiming the good news about Jesus in other forums?

There is one other point that this text is making that we dare not miss.  We don’t get even a hint that Paul objects to the Bereans’ examining the Scriptures to see if what he said was true!  He was not afraid of his message being biblically evaluated.  And we should not fear that either.  It is a noble act for others to compare what we say (even in the context of a sermon delivered from a podium at the front of the church) with the rest of the Word of God.  And that will keep us preachers from getting STUCK in our own opinions!

 

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2017 in christian growth

 

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STUCK! Ten Areas That Will Bury You as a Believer and How to Dig Your Way Out! (Area #8- SERMONS!)

The American humorist Will Rogers (I think) once said, “I refuse to accept my religion from anyone who earns his living only by the sweat of his jaw!”

Jesus-followers sometimes get STUCK in the area of SERMONS!  How?  Well, we believe that one of the primary ways that God communicates His truth to His people is through preaching.  And sometimes that preaching is poor, or unorganized, or just ho-hum.

What is the believer’s responsibility when it comes to this area of SERMONS?  How can we get UN-STUCK in this major aspect of life among other Christians?

We want to think about a text from Acts 17 for our next two posts:

10 As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. 12 As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.

There are a number of steps that a preacher can take to improve his preaching (drop me an email and ask for my short booklet “Ten Specific Steps You Can Take To Make Your Sermons and Preaching Better!”).  But we want to focus on the listener.  How can those of us who listen to sermons improve?  Here are some specific suggestions that might help:

1. Come to church prepared to hear from God!  The preacher may not be your favorite, but pray that the Lord will speak through him.
2.  Take notes on what you hear!  Don’t be afraid to ask him about his message.  The very fact that you are jotting things down will encourage him to work harder in preparing his messages!
3.  Prepare your heart to “receive the message with great eagerness”!  God’s Word is true — and we can be changed and encouraged IF our hearts are right and ready.
4.  Examine the Scriptures daily to see if what you are hearing is true to the rest of the Word of God!  I’ve sometimes fantasized about pastoring a small church and saying to the congregation:  “You all need to become Berean believers who examine what I teach with the rest of the Bible.  So once every month I’m going to preach a sermon that has some heresy in it.  I won’t tell you which one.  You’ll have to figure that out for yourselves!”  I could never do that, but you get the point.  (to be continued)

 

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2017 in christian growth

 

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Anti-Intellectualism Isn’t Spirituality! (Message #3)

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Loving the Lord with Our Minds — The Apostle Paul in Acts 17 (Part 10)

This is our last post on the Apostle Paul’s use of his mind on Mars Hill found in Acts 17.  As I prepare to speak on the theme “Anti-Intellectualism Isn’t Spirituality,” studying Acts 17 has been an encouragement to me in several ways.  If one pours over verses 16-34, we see that Paul saw all the idols in Athens and was deeply concerned that these intelligent people were idolaters.  He proclaims the “unknown god” to them and is then given the opportunity to formally present his “strange ideas” before their formal court of opinion.

screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-5-57-12-amscreen-shot-2017-01-21-at-6-02-35-amHe uses their own literature to advance his gospel presentation, quoting lines from pagan poetry with which those Athenians would have been familiar.  Would you ever say to someone who hasn’t believed in Jesus, “We are God’s offspring!”?  But Paul does not mean that, therefore, one doesn’t need to believe in Jesus. He is referring to creation — and never confuse creation with redemption!

In fact, he goes on to say, “Therefore since we are God’s offspring . . .”

(1) we should not worship idols (v. 29).

(2)  we should turn to the true God — and repent! (v. 30).

Using secular or contemporary or non-Christian literature might be a bit risky, but it accomplishes several goals.  The first is that your audience knows that you strive to be a well-read person who cares about what they think and has looked into what they read.  Second, using such material establishes a bridge, a contact point, between their worldview and yours.  You can then attempt to bring them from the known to the unknown.

Paul’s emphasis on Jesus’ resurrection produces an immediate screen-shot-2017-01-21-at-6-28-59-amresult:  Some sneer at him.  Others say that they want to hear him again on the subject.  Some of his hearers became followers of Paul and believed!  And Paul names two of them, one of whom is a member of the Areopagus!

We do not judge a person’s method by its results (a pragmatic approach).  Nowhere in Scripture is Paul’s process in Acts 17 criticized (please note Norman Geisler’s refutation of the view that in I Cor. 2:2 Paul repented of his approach here — see his article “An Apology for Apologetics” found here).

screen-shot-2017-01-21-at-6-31-44-amSeveral questions occur to me as we conclude this brief study.  Perhaps you will find these challenging as well.
1. Am I open to learn various philosophies so that God can use me to speak to the intellectual unbelievers of my day?
2. Am I willing to read stuff that isn’t “Christian” so that I can connect with those who aren’t yet followers of Jesus?
3. Am I in it for the long haul? That is, am I willing to spend significant time presenting and debating the case for Jesus?
4. Can I name at least one unbelieving intellectual friend for whom I can daily pray?

Your comments?

 

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2017 in Acts 17

 

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Loving the Lord with Our Minds — The Apostle Paul in Acts 17 (Part 9)

In Acts 17 we read of the Apostle Paul on Mars Hill, using his mind to love God — and to share the gospel!  I’m preparing for Emmaus Bible College’s “Christian MInistry screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-5-57-12-amSeminars” on February 6-7. One of my messages (the theme is “Anti-Intellectualism Isn’t Spirituality”)  will take a look at Acts 17:19-34 to see how the Apostle Paul used his mind to reach five different groups.

screen-shot-2017-01-20-at-5-05-43-amAlthough we’ve seen much already, today I want to focus on Paul’s use of pagan literature to advance the gospel.  In making his case that the unknown God, the true Creator of the universe, wants to be sought by human beings, Paul refers to God’s immanence (His closeness) when he says, “he is not far from any one of us” (v. 27).  And to bolster his point of God’s nearness, Paul quotes two pagan writers (note the [b] and [c] in the NIV of this text).  He quotes  Cretan philosopher Epimenides when he says, “For in him we live and move and have our being” and the Cilician Stoic philosopher Aratus when he says, “As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.'” (v. 28).

Don’t miss this critical point!  Somewhere C.S. Lewis said that one’s audience determines one’s language.  Here it seems that one’s audience determines one’s sources.  In other words, Paul uses non-Christian, non-biblical literature (with which some of his audience would have been familiar) to advance his gospel presentation.  Is it too much to say that if you only know your Bible, you know too little?  Paul knew pagan/Greek literature — and used it for his purposes.

Epimenides

Epimenides

He quotes the Cretan philosopher Epimenides,considered a semi-mythical 7th or 6th century BC Greek seer and philosopher-poet. While tending his father’s sheep, he is said to have fallen asleep for fifty-seven years in a Cretan cave sacred to Zeus, after which he reportedly awoke with the gift of prophecy.  Epimenides’ Cretica (Κρητικά) is quoted twice in the New Testament.  In the poem, Minos addresses Zeus thus: “They fashioned a tomb for you, holy and high one, Cretans, always liars, evil beasts, idle bellies. But you are not dead: you live and abide forever, For in you we live and move and have our being.”  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epimenides).

Aratus

Aratus

Paul also quotes the Cilician Stoic philosopher Aratus when he says, “As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.'”  A Greek didactic poet,  Aratus might have been from Tarsus!  His major extant work is his hexameter poem Phaenomena.  Although somewhat ignorant of Greek astronomy, Aratus’ poem was very popular in the Greek and Roman world, as is proved by the large number of commentaries and Latin translations, some of which survive.  The full stanza reads, “Let us begin with Zeus, whom we mortals never leave unspoken. For every street, every market-place is full of Zeus. Even the sea and the harbour are full of this deity. Everywhere everyone is indebted to Zeus. For we are indeed his offspring …” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aratus)

We will discuss this issue of being God’s “offspring” in our next post.  But please don’t miss our main point today:  We need to be aware of the influences which form the worldview of lost people — and use whatever is helpful in advancing the gospel!

Your thoughts?

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2017 in Acts 17

 

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Loving the Lord with Our Minds — The Apostle Paul in Acts 17 (Part 8)

We continue with our study of Acts 17, Paul on Mars Hill.  I’m looking forward to Emmaus Bible College’s “Christian MInistry screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-5-57-12-amSeminars” on February 6-7. My theme, “Anti-Intellectualism Isn’t Spirituality,”  will pursue several topics.  We will look at Acts 17:19-34 to see how the Apostle Paul used his mind to reach five different groups.

screen-shot-2017-01-19-at-6-19-05-amBeginning with a compliment, Paul proclaims the “unknown god” to the Athenians.  Let’s notice verses 24-28.  As Paul moves into PROCLAMATION, he speaks clearly of Christian doctrine!  Notice that he credits this “unknown god” with creation (He “made the world and everything in it” – v. 24) and providence (caring for His creation) (“he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else” – v. 25).  Paul makes it clear that this true God is independent of His creation (He “is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands . . . and . . . is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything” – vv. 24-25).

Wow!  That’s a lot of Christian doctrine!  Paul goes on screen-shot-2017-01-19-at-6-29-18-amto talk about man’s creation (“all the nations” – v. 26) being intended by this God to “inhabit the whole earth” (v. 26).  Both man’s relationship to time (“marked out their appointed times”) and their geography (“the boundaries of their lands”) are covered in verse 26.

And this Creator-God is not content with simply making stuff.  He wants a personal relationship with human beings (“God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for him and find him” – v. 27).

Question:  Are we presenting the true God of the Bible as One who wishes for a personal relationship with each of His creatures made in His image?

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2017 in Acts 17

 

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Loving the Lord with Our Minds — The Apostle Paul in Acts 17 (Part 7)

On February 6-7 I will be the speaker at Emmaus Bible College’s “Christian MInistry screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-5-57-12-amSeminars.” My theme, “Anti-Intellectualism Isn’t Spirituality,”  will pursue several topics, among them is Paul’s use of his mind in Acts 17.  As we look at Acts 17:19-34 we see how the Apostle Paul reaches a diverse audience with the gospel. “Greatly distressed” to see the city “full of idols,” he uses reasoning to debate with those five groups.

screen-shot-2017-01-19-at-5-17-43-amHe begins with a compliment:  “I see that you are very religious” (v. 22).  Complimenting those-not-yet-followers-of-Jesus is a wise approach, don’t you think?

He tells them that he has taken the time to look carefully at their objects of worship (v. 23).  He read every inscription.  He became culturally-aware of his audience and what had captured their attention.

He then moves from the known to the unknown.  The Athenians covered all their bases (or so they thought) by even having an altar with the inscription “to an unknown god.”  Paul uses that anonymous object of worship as a contact point to transition to “that is what I am going to proclaim to you” (v. 23).

There is a  time for PROCLAMATION in the presentation of the gospel, isn’t there?  But sometimes we bring in PROCLAMATION too early.  What has preceded Paul’s proclaiming of this “unknown god”?  (1)  He has taken the time to become screen-shot-2017-01-19-at-6-06-00-amculturally-aware of their religious habits.  (2)  He has extended a compliment to them as he begins to speak about the true religion.  RESPECT and KINDNESS precede PROCLAMATION.

In our next post we will notice how Paul unpacks the truths about this “unknown god” who has made Himself known to those who will seek Him!  Paul inspires their curiosity in the next part of his speech.  Question:  How do we get people in our culture to become curious about the Christian God?

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2017 in Acts 17

 

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Loving the Lord with Our Minds — The Apostle Paul in Acts 17 (Part 6)

Emmaus Bible College’s “Christian MInistry screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-5-57-12-amSeminars” takes place on February 6-7 — and I get to be their speaker!  I’ve chosen the theme, “Anti-Intellectualism Isn’t Spirituality” and will pursue several topics.  Paul’s use of his mind in Acts 17 has always intrigued me.  Acts 17:19-34 gives specific steps in reaching a diverse audience with the gospel. We learn that Paul was “greatly distressed” to see the city “full of idols” and that he used reasoning to debate with those five groups.

screen-shot-2017-01-19-at-5-17-43-am We have defined Epicurean and Stoic philosophy and must face the fact that the old-time gospel will be thought of today as “advocating foreign gods” and “strange ideas.”  Some enjoyed a great luxury — spending their time “doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas” (v. 21).

As he begins his formal presentation to this court of opinion, astonishingly Paul begins with a compliment!  He says, “I see that in every way you are very religious.” (v. 22).

I wouldn’t have started that way at all!  I would have said, “I’ve seen your idols.  Ya’ll are a bunch of IDOLATERS!  Ya’ll are going to hell!”  That’s how I would have started my speech.

Why are we often so reluctant to speak positive words screen-shot-2017-01-19-at-5-30-36-amto the lost?  Do we think that we will be miscommunicating the gospel if we say something nice to them?  Phyllis Theroux put it this way: “One of the commodities in life that most people can’t get enough of is compliments. The ego is never so intact that one can’t find a hole in which to plug a little praise. But compliments, by their nature, are highly biodegradable and tend to dissolve hours or days after we first receive them — which is why we can always use another.”

Say something nice to someone who is not yet a follower of Jesus today!

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2017 in Acts 17

 

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