July 12, 2019
Where in the Word are you today?
Let’s take a look at Acts 17 where Paul provides one model for cultural engagement.
Cultural engagement begins with getting our bearings or more simply: look around. Paul roams around the streets of Athens and observes the temples constructed to various gods worshiped by people there. Acts 17:22 says he “looked carefully” at the “objects of worship” he found there which in verse 29 are described as “formed by the art and imagination” of people. He read their literature, knew it well enough to quote, and treated it respectfully enough to incorporate it into his own preaching and discourse. Paul wasn’t setting up straw men for easy argumentation, he was demolishing the intellectual and spiritual strongholds in people’s hearts and minds which had been built in opposition to the reality of the one true God.
Paul acknowledges that their philosophies contain some of God’s truth. In Acts 17:28 he notes “As even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring’”. We can learn from that. While every part of creation fell at the fall, not everything about every aspect of society is bad nor broken. There are remnants of both the originally good creation and there are also signs of redemption all around us. We need to point to those as often and readily as we point out the sin we so easily observe.
So, let us be observant today. Look around. What do you see that breaks the heart of God? Where are the idols of our day? AND where are the signs of life and forgiveness and goodness and grace that point to the reality of who God is and how God desires us to live?
The creators of the X-files are right, “The Truth is out there,” and you know not only His name but the way to the place He has gone!
You also know the truth about why Christ came. He had to come. Sin had to be resolved in order for righteousness to be restored. Evidence of sin is all around us all the time as we engage the culture. In Athens, Paul was saw clearly the sin,distortion and disorientation produced by idolatry. Acts 17:16 says “He was deeply distressed to see that the city was full of idols.” The idols of modern America, like the idols of ancient Athens, are many and varied. If you look, you’ll see them.
We make idols of work imagining that we can resolve the world’s problems or meet the world’s needs apart from God. We make idols of other people, particularly sports, entertainment, academic and political leaders, imagining our need for worship can be fulfilled by the American idols of our day. And we make idols of ourselves. In the selfie, social media driven world of likes and follows and Insta-stories, we imagine the world actually revolves around us. Nothing could be further from the truth and no other idol is more attractive than ourselves.
Let us then look in the mirror first and then let us become careful observers of the world around us. Let us point out, lift us and rightly name the truth where it shines and let us also be faithful and honest witnesses to the places where Christ’s unique power to redeem are grossly evident.
Acts 17:30-31 read, “having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having finished proof to all men by raising HIm from the dead.” That’s Jesus!
And yes, as we read in the following verses, some will sneer but as in Athens so in the cities of our day, others will turn with Spirit-led interest and ask us to tell them more about this One we know as Christ.
Matthew Hawkins joins Carmen to talk about:
Why everyone concerned about religious freedom needs to be concerned about a liberal pastor in New York City being surveilled by the government.