Summary: Despite multiple attacks against Christianity today, mature Christians will not be deterred by those who hate us as we go about our God-given task of spreading Good News of God's love.
ANY CULTURE, ANY PLACE ON EARTH, ANY ERA - GOD IS AND CAN BE KNOWN!
The man’s name I cannot tell you but his story I cannot forget. He burst into the Waffle House with unbridled enthusiasm praising God and telling anyone who would listen how thankful he was to be alive. I invited him to sit next to me and to share his reason for being so happy.
He had spent two months in the Grady Hospital Burn Unit with third degree burns over most of his body after he had survived an explosion while cooking on a gas stove in his mobile home. The blast was so great that the door to the outside had been blown off with a huge hole in the wall, and it was through that hole that he wound up in the yard, on fire.
“Why God spared me I don’t know but one thing I do know is that I will be praising God for the rest of my life and serving him in any way that I can. Have you ever been set on fire? Well, let me tell you, that’ll humble you like nothing else. I’m 63 years old, ain’t ever amounted to much, but I get up every morning and thank God I’m alive and tell God I’m ready to do whatever He wants me to do.”
You of course know who in the Bible that man’s story recalls. After being thrown out of Thessalonica and escaping hell fire for preaching the good news about Jesus, the apostle Paul spent a few days in the city of Athens, Greece.
The sin of idolatry in Athens bothered Paul so he began to talk about his life-changing encounter with Jesus . . . his brush with death and how God helped him escape the fiery ordeal that he had faced . . . the negative effects that idolatry was having on the people in Athens and how it was leaving them with no hope. And, as is often the case – surprise, surprise - some folks did not like what Paul was saying and began to dispute him – Acts 17:16-21 . . .
Have you noticed how it is that when someone starts talking “Jesus” in the public arena, there are always those who wish he’d hush up and quit talking like that? Would the mere mention of Jesus makes some folks feel rather uncomfortable? Why do you suppose that is?
Do you think maybe “religious” talk gets too close to one’s conscience and gives rise to feelings of guilt which, up to this point, have been dealt with in ways that dull the senses or alter one’s state of mind and thereby makes one prone to depend upon an idol of some kind to give them approval?
Paul was endeavoring to persuade these high-minded self-sufficient fake religious folks to understand that there is One God and that getting close to and being on good terms with Him would require of them devotion far greater than lip service and religious associations of the permissive kind – living in denial by telling oneself that sinful behavior has the approval of a false god of one’s own making.
So, they called a meeting and invited Paul to address their issues of concern about what he was going around telling highly-educated men of the leading cultural center of the then-known world – Acts 17:22-23 . . .
There is no shortage of religious people today, many who use “religion” for their own self-aggrandizement or selfish purposes - for example, to gain wealth or fame, and the power that goes along with it.
But what they fail to realize is that religion will not save them from wrath to come, either by their own making in the here and now or at the time of their date with destiny - the eventual judgment that awaits everyone.
If the Lord God remains unknown to any one of us, what that means is that the person to whom He is not known as Lord and Savior will have missed what he or she was created for – everlasting fellowship with God our Maker, Father, and Redeemer.
You see of course what Paul was trying to get them to see, and that is, that Christianity is not about religion, it is about a relationship with God through Jesus Christ God’s Son and the Savior of all who believe and receive. That relationship begins by accepting the truth about God . . . – Acts 17:24-31 . . .
We began this series by asking, “How in the world is it possible to spread the good news against such odds?” The odds of which we spoke had to do with hostile opposition to the preaching of “salvation in no other name” than that of Jesus the Christ, Son of the Living God.