Summary: While some teach us to avoid the Halloween season, Paul’s visit to Mars Hill may have left us a clue as to sanctifying the secular for God.
Sanctifying the Secular
Acts 17:15-34 (ESV)
My emails filled up this week from my pastor’s newsletters about Halloween. I get the same emails about the Christmas tree and the Easter bunny. About half of them warned pastors about allowing their churches to do anything around the Halloween celebration. The other half suggest to pastors to use the secular celebration of All Hallows Eve or Fall Festival as a mission and evangelism opportunity.
We have been told that "Halloween is a night of darkness. It’s a night of evil. It’s a night the Devil claims as his own. It’s called "The Festival of the Dead,". Occultists honor this night. Satanists worship on this night. Christians hate this night, for it dishonors God and pays tribute to Satan."
On the other hand, have you ever considered Halloween to be one of the greatest nights for evangelism? Pastor K. R. Mele, the children’s pastor at State College Assembly of God in State College, Pennsylvania, believes this to be true. Mele points out, "What other night do we have people knocking on our doors looking to receive something special?"
Rather than hiding from the evil that surrounds Halloween, Mele believes that Christians should use this night to meet neighbors and show them a glimpse of God’s love and goodness.
Let’s be honest. Most Christians here would not be comfortable about going into a beer joint and witnessing to the clientele. Some of us, maybe many of us, couldn’t do that without violating our conscience. We were raised in a way as to never visit a bar, beer joint or saloon without guilt.
The scripture is clear that violating our consciences will weaken our ability to hear the Holy Spirit in our lives. Therefore, beer joint ministry may not be your calling.
For some, it may not be an issue of violating our conscience but protection of our reputation. We must be cautious, however, to never love our reputations more than we love the lost.
Most of us here would not be comfortable with going into a garden of pagan worship and idols and telling the curious there about the God they don’t know about; the only One who is real. Yet that is the same situation in which Paul found himself and he saw it as an opportunity.
Act 17:15-17 Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens, and after receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed. 16 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. (Pray).Athens was considered an enlightened city, tolerant city.
From a Christian view, it was a very wicked city. It had so many religions, it was ridiculous. Most believed in a pantheistic (or impersonal) deity, not a personal creator God. Many believed in polytheism, the belief in many gods; the source of Greek and Roman mythology.
Such wickedness touched Paul’s heart, not emotionally, but spiritually. He began with the low-hanging fruit (those having a concept of the one true God), but wasn’t satisfied until he stepped up his efforts.
From the synagogue to the marketplace. Our calling, from the Church to the neighborhood. From the services to the streets. From the worship to the work.
Next, we will meet the growing influences of the city.
Act 17:18 Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, "What does this babbler wish to say?" Others said, "He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities"--because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection.
Epicurians, one influential group, believed in the here and now, the pursuit of pleasure. "You have only one life to live, so you must go for all the gusto."
The Stoics believed that one should accept life with strength and never be emotional about anything that happened.
The same two philosophies still stand as the enemies of God today, in a sense. The pursuit of pleasure and the pursuit of pride have always stood between man and God. Either a lost soul will be sold out to pleasure or proud of his strength to stand against it. So many people do not even want a holy God or think they don’t need a holy God to be good.
But there are always people who will hear, if not for curiosity’s sake.
Act 17:19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, "May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean." 21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.