Sermons

Summary: Paul's sermon before the men of Athens began with a topic familiar to all of them and that was the common bond of religious belief and practice in their respective cultures. Jesus demonstrated it throughout the Gospels and is a biblical pattern for effective evangelism.

This month (June) will have marked forty years (1981) since I traveled to India on vacation, away from the business of the McDermott Fabrication Yard in Dubai where I worked as an oil rig sandblaster and painter. I had moved there in early 1980 to live with my dad and to do some maturing of character away from people my age. I learned the value of hard work, how to read blueprints, do calculations and cost estimates of projects, supervise and train new workers, handle corporate management, and learn the customs and culture of the country as well as how to steer clear of legal difficulties and handle the fact that I was a Christian living in a Muslim nation and to respect their beliefs. I learned enough Arabic phrases to get by, and appreciated the food and the hospitality of the nationals. I made it a point to be with the workers in the yard and be friendly with them. I worked with people from Jordan, Iran (those who had fled after the fall of the Shah), Iraq (before Saddam), Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, the UK, and other nations except Israel (long before the Abraham accords of 2019-2020).

My stepmom (Mom no. 2) is from India, and specifically the city of Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, and was born in the last years of British rule. She had decided to go back to Mumbai, New Delhi, and other cities to buy varied artwork and handcrafted goods to take back to the U.S. to open a store specializing in Eastern imports. She had left Dubai a few days before I left to go to New Delhi. I got horrendously sick for a couple of days while there, but got the opportunity to see the Taj Mahal, Gandhi's home, open air markets, and the abject poverty and numerous statues and altars dedicated to the multitudes of Hindu gods and goddesses. I saw an altar to the death god Kahli (Remember "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom"?), gurus, "holy men", and met people who were Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, Zoroastrians, and even fellowshipped with a few brethren in the LORD. I had learned some Hindi and Urdu and how to greet and converse with those of different faiths and customs. When I told them that I was a Christian, the fact that I had taken the time and effort to learn their particular customs, language all helped tremendously when I got the opportunity to tell them about Jesus and the Bible.

I say all of this to remind my fellow Americans (and those around the world reading this message) that we have nationalities and groups who have differing customs, beliefs, practices, traditions, and languages living here now, and those of us who follow the Lord Jesus must realize that in order to get the Gospel to these dear souls, we are going to have to get somewhat familiar with the things they do and say even if it seems unusual or takes us out of our "comfort zones". This kind of situation is nothing new. Look at Acts 17:22-23 where Paul is about to address the men of Athens concerning Jesus and salvation. Paul, being not just a Jew, but also a former Pharisee, was before a group of people that not too long ago would have avoided and condemned for their idolatry, perverse behaviors, and that they were not of his nationality (racism, anybody?). We know by reading the Bible that after centuries of occupation by the Persians, Greeks, and at that time the Romans, many of the Jews wanted nothing more to do with Gentile rulers and pagan customs. They wanted them out of Israel and for the nation to be free under the benevolent rule of a new Davidic king/Messiah.

I can understand the apostle's shock and awe when the Lord Jesus told them that they would be witnesses to Him in Jerusalem, but also in Samaria and the world (Acts 1:8-11). What? You mean to tell us that we have to mingle among the heathen, godless Gentiles and share the Gospel with them? Jesus answered "Yes", and made this possible through the arrival and indwelling of the Holy Spirit among the brethren at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4), enabling Peter and the others to preach the Gospel to the Jews in the city who had come from different parts of the Roman Empire (Acts 2:38). All right, fair enough. They needed for the lost sheep of Israel to hear about their Messiah. When we come to Acts 10 and the conversion of the Roman centurion Cornelius, this blew Peter's mind along with the rest of the apostles. The mercy and saving grace of Christ was available to the Gentiles! What? Again, YES ! They must have forgotten the tale of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) and the time where the Lord Jesus had talked with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:6-26), healed the Roman centurion's servant (Matthew 8:5-13; Luke 7:1-10), and to remember that dark and horrible day where the LORD was dying on the cross for our sins. While the Pharisees and crowds, His own people, mocked and scorned Him, it was a centurion, a Gentile "pagan" who declared that Jesus was not only a righteous man, but the Son of God (Mark 15:39; Luke 23:47).

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