Summary: Ism’s - beliefs - talking to people that believ differently

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As I thought about today’s lesson all kinds of words came to mind.

( intellectualism, activism, materialism, communism, feminism, hedonism, modernism, terrorism ) I was surprised to learn that there are 887 words that end with ISM in the english dictionary.

Definitions of ism

n. - A belief (or system of beliefs) accepted as authoritative by some group or school OR n. - A doctrine or theory.

Our culture is filled with people that fall into all kinds of Belief systems…and may directly conflict with the Christian belief system. The question is how do we communicate with people that believe differently than we do?

How would you describe God to people in our culture?

It’s been said that GOD is like Coke...He’s the real thing.

GOD is like General Electric...He brings things to life.

GOD is like Bayer Aspirin...He works wonders.

GOD is like Hallmark Cards...He cares enough to send the very best.

GOD is like Tide...He gets the stains out that others leave behind.

GOD is like Dial Soap...Aren’t you glad you know him? Don’t you wish everyone did?

GOD is like Sears...He has everything.

Finally, GOD is like Scotch Tape... You can’t see him, but you know he’s there.

All those examples call on advertising themes of the past. Maybe they are more than just a quick laugh for us. For some people those statements might actually help them to connect to a better understanding of God.

At first that seems sort of sad to me. But, as I consider it more carefully it is more like finding a better way of communicating with someone that speaks a different language. Or that have different views and backgrounds.

When we are willing to find a way of sharing our understanding about God and salvation with anyone that we interact with it is a special form of evangelism.

Now don’t get all knotted up inside because I used the E word.

You need to understand that as a Christian you are expected to live a life that shares your faith.

I am not saying that any of us in necessarily called to be as bold as the Apostle Paul. However, you are not exempt from sharing your faith, especially if the opportunity presents itself.

This morning we are picking up with the last several verses of Chapter 17 of Acts where Paul has a special opportunity to share his faith.

We are looking at the middle of what is called Paul’s second missionary journey. Last week we talked about the culture of the city of Athens when Paul was there. Historians note that there were over 30,000 “gods” worshiped in the city at the time. There were the celebrated 12 main deities and untold number of lesser deities.

We have from last weeks description that Paul was a bit upset with what he saw. That discomfort would have come from his Jewish background and was reinforced with his more recent understanding of God as a convert to what we call Christianity.

Paul is technically on the run and has traveled some 200 miles by sea or 250 or so by land to get to Athens. He is alone in the city until his companions arrive and he has spent some time in the synagogue but, Luke does not record what happens there. However, it appears that he does not get thrown out from the synagogue nor does he seem to have any converts there either.

Today’s scripture picks up after Paul has some interaction with Epicurean and stoic philosophers. He is invited to the Areopagus to speak. The Areopagus is the meeting place of the Athens leadership.

Paul begins to speak,

Paul then stood up in 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, 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.

This message is the only full sermon of Paul’s recorded in scripture given to gentiles. This event is special because he had been invited to speak to the prominent gathering of Gentiles in the city. He has the ear of the leadership of the city.

That is not something that happens to Paul every day. In the synagogue he has the opportunity to speak because it is normal for people to be asked to speak in worship. To read scripture and explain what has been read.

In the past when he teaches that Jesus was the messiah he is rejected he goes out and teaches in the public places, the market or where people get their water, anyplace that people gather.

On the event in today’s scripture he is speaking not in the market to the common folks, he is speaking to the intellectuals in this college town. He is talking to people in this town that according to last weeks scripture listen to all the newest ideas. These people are open minded and will accept concepts, ideas and even gods from different cultures.

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Paul Humphrey

commented on Mar 19, 2007

Good sermon Thomas. Paul met them where they were and brought them to where he was using their own starting point. That will preach!!! May God continue to bless your ministry.

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