Summary: The message remains the same in spite of the changes in our society. (3 of 3)
AN OLD STORY FOR A NEW WORLD
© Mark Beaird
Text: Acts 17:24-33
In the early days of the Tennessee Valley project a dilapidated homestead was going to be torn down. They were damming the river and the valley would be flooded out. A new split-level ranch was built for the Appalachian family on the hillside to relocate to.
The day of the flooding arrived and the bulldozers were there to tear down the old house. The family refused to move out of the old homestead. Finally out of desperation, a social worker was called in to find out what the problem was. “We ain’t goin’ anywhere” was the reply. The social worker pleaded with them to tell her what the problem was and why they would not move into their beautiful new home.
“See that fire over there?” the man asked, pointing to a blazing fire in the primitive hearth of the log cabin. “My grandpa built that fire over a hundred years ago,” the man explained. “He never let it go out, for he had no matches and it was a long way to the neighbor’s. Then my pa tended the fire, and since he died, I’ve tended it. None of us ever let it die, and I ain’t a-goin’ to move away and let grandpa’s fire go out!”
The social worker got an idea. She arranged for a large apple butter kettle to be delivered to the home. The hot coals would be scooped up and transported to the new home, kindling would be added and the grandfather’s fire would never go out.
The Appalachian family accepted and moved up to the split-level ranch on the hillside after they knew that they would have the fire of their ancestors. (Cooper 1)
It is odd how we continue to stand at the crossroads of change trying to hold onto the familiar and assuring ideas of the past, all the while finding ourselves pushed forward into a new world that challenges everything we hold dear. I suppose there are some ideas that we need to let go of, but our faith in Jesus Christ is not one of them.
In this passage it is not Paul who is being pushed but rather it is he who is doing the pushing. But in this case he was not preaching a new doctrine but rather at the complete fulfillment of an old story. To bring his message home he literally starts at the beginning—of humanity.
I. THE TRUE GOD WAS NOT GIVEN LIFE BY MAN, BUT RATHER GAVE LIFE TO MAN (v. 24-25).
A. God is not an impersonal being.
For the philosophers of Athens, as with many today, God was more of an idea than a personal being. For the Christian, God is more of a person than an idea.
B. Paul preached accountability to a living God.
Paul was not interested in trying to intrigue them with knowledge. He gets right to the point and tells them that if God created us then we are accountable to Him. If He is the source of all life then there can be no divided devotion—which is a trademark of postmodern thinking.
II. THE TRUE GOD IS THE ETERNAL ARCHITECH AND FATHER OF ALL THINGS (v. 26-27a).
A. There is a “community” to God’s creation (v. 26).
“From one man he made every nation of men…” We began as God’s new family. He ordained how we should live. His desire was for us to know Him and to serve Him. We were to be His people and He was to be our God. That remains His goal for humanity.
B. It is God’s desire that humanity as a whole would find Him.
Most postmodern seekers, particularly young people, believe in an impersonal God and human superficiality. Although many modernist thinkers who have not become atheists or deists don’t follow a personal God, they still believe in one who exists, but simply cannot be proven. Alcoholics Anonymous capitalized on this years ago in naming Him a “higher power”—less exclusive than “God,” but just as personal.
Postmodern people tend to believe more in the Eastern concept of God as an impersonal life force in all people and things. Right? Sound familiar? Part of the resurgent success of Star Wars is a generation of young people who easily accept and long to experience the Eastern concept of The Force in these movies.
This impersonal God concept has also led many Postmoderns to give up the modern thinking of people evolving to a better or higher state. The cynicism of Postmodernism has led many to believe that humans are actually no more inherently valuable than, say, animals or trees.
Perhaps you can see already the immense challenge for the church here…and why quoting Bible verses as authoritative proof texts to a postmodern young person means nothing and that modern, deductive, or logical arguments against things like abortion or mercy-killing fall on deaf ears. (Zafren 5)