Summary: An evangelistic sermon discussing the responses people give to the gospel message.
(Open with Text)
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I like to keep up to date on the state of the church in America. I read quite a bit on the subject of American spirituality and how we as U.S. citizens view ourselves spiritually. But what I’m finding today is a bit disturbing.
Barry Kosmin and Seymour Lackman have written a book titled: One Nation Under God and it is a very comprehensive census of U.S. religions, and in that book they find that religious identity today is basically a thin mask worn by a majority in a secular society.
About 90% of Americans say that they are religious, but living out that religion is a different story. American Christians personalize religion with little regard for higher authority such as Scripture, or the church, and some of that might stem from the Reformation, but that fact is we like to say we are religious but we want no requirements placed upon us for morality, and no restraints placed upon us when it comes to personal pleasure. Our eyes may look up to heaven but our lives are closer to hell.
In another book titled: The Culture of Disbelief, Yale law professor Stephen Carter says that those who profess that their lives are ordered and inspired by faith are mocked at every turn. In other words Mr. Carter agrees with Paul’s words in 2nd Timothy 3:12, that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” So if you want to talk about Jesus Christ in public and your Christian convictions, you are labeled as irrational, right wing fundamentalists, and you are immediately considered wrong.
If Paul were to preach in America today, he might have thought back to Athens when he spoke with the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. These two philosophic schools dominated the city’s thought. The Epicureans asserted that happiness and pleasure were the principle aims of a person if they wished to live a tranquil life. They believed that there were gods, but that they didn’t care about the affairs of human life and behavior and that there was no final judgment, so they felt that life was to lived free. They held the philosophy of eat, drink and be merry. In other words they were pure hedonists. The Stoics were the complete opposite. They believed that the gods were involved in human affairs and that whatever happened to you, you were to go through life completely free of emotional involvement. In other words they were completely apathetic.
So in our text we see Paul speaking to these men, in the same court that had tried and condemned Socrates to death centuries before. But the thing I love about Paul is that he never pulls any punches. He starts out with his observation that the Athenians seemed very religious, but that their religion was founded in ignorance.
Now let me just say this; to be ignorant doesn’t mean that a person is dull witted, it simply means that they do not know something. They don’t have all the information. I am ignorant about a lot of things. If you were to ask me to expound on the depths of Trigonometry I would have to confess my ignorance; and I don’t think that I’m a stupid person, but I am ignorant when it comes to mathematics beyond a certain point. And that is what Paul was doing on Mars Hill. He was stating that the Athenian philosophers, although learned men, were ignorant of certain things, and so he expounded on the truth of God, and he brought them to a point where a decision had to be made. And as we read in our text we see the response he got. And it’s important to notice those responses because they are the same responses that we get today as people consider the truth of God; people will either laugh it off, put it off, or accept it and believe.
Look at verse 32 (read); some of the men mocked Paul. They laughed off what he was saying. They made fun of him. Again I remind you that the Bible says that anyone who desires to live Godly in Christ will suffer persecution. Now today I hear people tell me all the time about how they are being persecuted for Christ’s sake. And I’ll ask, “Oh? What kind of persecution are you facing?” And I often get something like this, “Well the other day I was driving to work and I had a flat tire, and then when I finally got to work my computer crashed, and when I got home the kids were acting up and really stressing me out, but I’ll just keep on suffering for Jesus.” Let me tell you; that is not persecution. That’s life. Persecution is when you are suffering as a direct result of your words and lifestyle. Getting fired from your job because you are a Christian is persecution, getting beat up at school because you are a Christian is persecution, getting mocked and ridiculed in public because you are a Christian is persecution. And people tell me, “Well Kenny we live in America, that sort of thing doesn’t happen here you know.” And my reply to that is, “Oh, well I guess the Bible is wrong then when it says YOU WILL SUFFER persecution if you live godly in Christ Jesus.”