Summary: The world is rapidly changing. Among those changes are people’s views toward religion. While it used to be choice between Methodist, Baptist, Christian Church, etc., people now find themselves trying to decide between Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, etc.
ALL ROADS LEAD TO HEAVEN–RIGHT?
ILL> A stranger entered the church service in the middle of the sermon and seated himself in the back pew. After a while he began to fidget. Leaning over to a white-haired man at his side, evidently an old member of the congregation, he whispered:
"How long has he been preaching?"
"Thirty or forty years, I think," the old man answered.
"I’ll stay then," decided the stranger, "He must be nearly done."
I don’t plan to speak long this morning, but if God has a different plan I’ll follow His lead. This morning I want to focus in on our ever changing world–a world that is changing faster than ever before. Before I go on I thought it would be a good idea to check something (open fortune cookie and read it)
How many of you have eaten at a Chinese or Japanese restaurant or carry-out in the past year? If I would have asked that same question 15 years ago, how many of you would have raised your hand? Who would have thought when we moved here in 1990 that someday Mt. Gilead would have its own Chinese carry-out? Changes are taking place everywhere–even in our own little community
One of the things that has changed is the misconception that all roads lead to heaven. For years people have been saying, "It really doesn’t matter what you believe, after all, we’re all going to the same place!" Now 15 or 20 years ago what people meant was that it didn’t make any difference whether you claimed to be Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, or Church of Christ, it didn’t make any difference what you believed. However, that statement carries with it a whole new idea these days. Today when people say, "It really doesn’t make any difference what you believe..." they are saying that it doesn’t make a difference if you’re a Christian, a Muslim, a Buddhist, or whatever as long as you believe in something. The world is changing–has changed.
ILL> From “The Emerging Church,” by Dan Kimball
On a beautiful Fourth of July afternoon. We gathered at my in-laws’ house for a picnic. The American flag proudly waved in the breeze above picnic tables decked with red-checkered tablecloths. Even the paper plates, cups, and napkins bore American flags. We looked like a Norman Rockwell painting. As mealtime approached, my father-in-law led us in a wonderful prayer thanking God for our freedom. He then closed with a statement something like, "And thank you, Lord, for making us a Christian nation. Amen."
From my father-in-law’s perspective, this was a true statement. After all, America has been considered a Christian nation for most of his adult life, and most of his friends are Christian. But I’ve thought back on the closing of that prayer many times, and I no longer believe it reflects our nation today.
QUOTE> From “Lost in America,” by Tom Clegg and Warren Bird
"The unchurched population in the United States is so extensive that, if it were a nation, it would be the fifth most populated nation on the planet after China, the former Soviet Union, India, and Brazil. Thus, our unchurched population is the largest mission field in the English-speaking world and the fifth largest globally."
Even though the world in which we live is in rapid change, it’s really not all that different from the people that Paul talked with in Acts 17 in the city of Athens. For those of you that have studied Roman and Greek mythology you already know that the Athenians worshiped a variety of gods. Instead of being intimated by all of the false gods and idols around the city of Athens, Paul saw it as an opportunity to tell them about the one true God–Jehovah God. So as he reasoned with the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers and anyone else that would listen, he began to tell them about Jesus who had risen from the dead.
READ: Acts 17:22-34
I> A WAYWARD CITY
It is said that it was easier to find an idol in the city of Athens than it was a man. The streets were lined with idols and just about every kind of god that could be imagined was worshiped in that city. They had statues and pillars and altars built in honor of their gods and Paul noticed that they even had one altar that had been built to an "Unknown God" just in case they had left any out. The people of Athens were confused about which god or gods to worship, so they chose to worship them all.
Now, before you dismiss these people as uneducated people that didn’t know any better, you need to remember that Athens was the center of learning in its day–this was where the intelligentsia hung out. One of the greatest universities of the ancient world was located there. It was the center of philosophy, literature, science, and art. Many of the world’s greatest philosophers were from Athens: Sophocles, Euripides, Plato, Socrates. Athens was dedicated to the search for truth and wisdom. However, when it came to God they didn’t know what truth to embrace. They didn’t know which god or gods to worship, so they came to the belief that they were all somehow equal.