9/5 Message “God & Chic Ideas”

Welcome to worship with us at the church at 11 am Sunday morning, or here online.

6 September 2020 Sunday Message “God & Chic Ideas”

Call to Worship; Acts 17:15-21

15 Those who escorted Paul brought him to Athens and then left with instructions for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible.

16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. 18 A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. 19 Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we would like to know what they mean.” 21 (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)

Opening, Offering, Intercessory Prayer Concerns; Father in Heaven, we thank you for always being real and true. In a world full of hurt, imitation, and greed, you create, give, and save. Thank you! Please grow us into the servants that want to serve you through service to others.

Amen!

Message Reading: Acts 17:22-25

22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship – and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.

Message: “God & Chic Ideas”

Today I am excited to talk with you about an idea that is a continuation from last week’s discussion about things we care about. Last week we reviewed Jesus’ teaching from Luke 16 of a corrupt manager who was being fired by his master from overseeing vast wealth. We talked about how we were all like the corrupt manager, and that focusing in on his guilt was really just a distraction from realizing that we all are guilty.

It seems as if we all fall into the trap of pointing the finger at others as guilty, as if by doing so we can pass our own guilt off on another. All this really does in life, is compound our guilt and add to the angst of all of us.

When the first step of our resetting our brains, the way we purview the world is pretty basic. Stop looking for a scape goat for all of life’s problems. The real sin in life has already found a scapegoat, Jesus Christ. The only innocent man who ever lived has taken your sins upon himself. So, if we can move on from the playing “the Who’s to Blame game” (we all are), we are now free to look at the world through a different lens.

So how does all of this fit into today’s passage of Paul preaching the Good News to the Greeks on the Hill of Mars on the Areopagus? Paul, the guy we so often take as gospel itself without even realizing he at times, was a mess. He struggled and fought with others and you get the feeling much like Peter, he was trying to get self-control over his emotions throughout his life. I think that’s why I like him and why he has grown on me over the years. He shows us that life is not just an episode on TV where everything works out magically by show’s end. Paul’s life shows results through effort and growth.

Paul knows full well that he is as guilty as the corrupt manager from last week’s message in Luke 16: 1-9. (The manager who mismanaged his master’s wealth and was going to lose his job) We are talking of Paul, a guy who egged on the crowd to kill Stephen, and then wanted to hunt down Christians and bring them before trial in the Sanhedrin. Paul in his zealousness to follow the Law of God, lost sight of what was important to God. That would be, You and me!

With his guilt understood and blood on his hands, Paul could have given up and become a complete waste to himself, his fellow man, and most of all to God, by becoming just unused surplus and no use to God’s agenda. Or he could serve God. And by serving God and his fellow man, Paul could begin to fill the void he carried in his very being. A void that zealousness and hate never could never fill.

Our Apostle even reveals his missing the mark in life, and the inner battle that rages within him. We have his words from Paul’s letter to the young church in Rome, from Romans 7:14-15

 14We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.

In other words, I’m a mess. I am a sinner that has been sold as a slave into sin. And as spoken before in this very room, who sold Paul into sin? He did. Just like you and I every time we take the shortcut in life of self-gratification by replacing God with anything beginning with ourselves and our selfishness, greed, ego, fear, lack of empathy, and in my own case, just being a jerk of a human being. This can be an outward or an inner attitude problem on all of our parts.

By the way, Paul does not excuse his own sin by his comments, but employs who he is at the moment as a launching platform for who he would like to become. We have his own words of advice from Paul’s first letter to Timothy, explaining how God shows grace to the very worst of us. In 1 Timothy 1:15-16, Paul explains God’s providence;

15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.

       Everyone hearing my words can take them as their own and employ them in kind! Paul is showing that when we know who God is, and what we are not, even a person of great abilities struggling with their own ego, can discover their true humility. Here is Paul, a perfect example of someone whose life was all set before him like a perfect plan. (A perfectly man-inspired plan.) Paul was:

  1. Born into the tribe of Benjamin
  2. Named after Israel’s first king Saul
  3. Sent to Jerusalem from Tarsus to learn at the feet Gamaliel, Israel’s Rabbi
  4. Waiting to turn 40 to become a sitting member of the Sanhedrin (Israel’s Supreme Court, and Senate)
  5. The smartest person in any room he entered
  6. Armed with a zealousness for the Law of God

And yet, all of this interpreted greatness that Saul had inherited and worked towards, was only a façade. A bogus picture. In life, there is what I think God has planned, and what God has planned. If I am not in a relationship, and communication (that is asking and listening to what the Lord wants and not what I want), I get a skewed view of the world.

Paul on the road to Damascus (a road he voluntarily is taking to go and persecute more Christians), has a “Come To the Mountain” conversation with the Lord. From Acts 9, we have Paul’s conversion to God, and God’s plan.

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

Scholars believe that Paul physically will have problems with his vision for the rest of his life, but I believe his vision of faith has just begun!

Now Paul sees that in addition to belonging to God’s chosen people, as His chosen people, they will become a blessing to the world by sharing God’s good news of the Gospel. Paul explains to the church in Ephesus that God wants all of us in His family. In Ephesians 3:6-9, we have the answer to the mystery of life;

6 This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

7 I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 8 Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.

Once we begin to know who God is, what God wants, (for us to love Him completely, and to love others truly), we begin to understand what we are not. We are not in charge in the judgement department, and may now take the day off and enjoy God more fully. Paul on his second missionary journey that takes God’s word to Europe, and will change that Continent forever. Which brings us to today’s reading.

Paul takes God’s message right to the very source of all Western Philosophy. Greece. And in Athens, Paul will preach the Good News to any who will listen to the word of God. Much like today, the people with the means to do so spent much of their time speculating on anything in fashion of the moment. From our “Call to Worship” today, we have Acts 17 verse 21;

21 (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)

And so, Paul unloads his message of the Gospel to a dangerous crowd. Remember Socrates. When you are not in style, you are not welcomed to even breath Atenean air.

Here is Paul message from Acts 17:

22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship – and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.

Paul could have easily visited upon a Football, Basketball, Baseball, Soccer, Golf, Volleyball, or any ball event a year ago and preach the same opening. Add Stock car, Motocross, or Downhill Skiing, and you pretty much cover all of the national religions of the moment with Paul saying: I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship; …

So, what do we consider religious? In Paul’s day there were statues of all of the mythic God’s. Today we have all of the stuff that makes America, America, with Hotdogs, Popcorn, and all the tailgate trimmings included.

I’m pretty sure that my audience regardless of if it is in this Sanctuary, or out there on the Internet, the people I am talking to today are religious.  I guess the only question that remains is, who’s your God, gods, or stuff that you care most about?

And who is that unknown God Paul and the Athenians referred to? Perhaps the unknown God, is our God that so many of us pay lip service to, but fail to understand who God really is.

For Paul to understand better who God is, he had put away the things of his childhood as mentioned in his famous Love Chapter of 1 Corinthians 13:11 (When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.). And in his case that meant, putting away the Law that the Pharisees worshipped in place of God. Now Paul would praise, glorify, and magnify God’s Holy and precious name by living his faith in the Lord, through service to other people.

In others words the law didn’t bring Paul and God’s word to Europe, God did through Paul and others living in the Lord.

Paul, the most Jewish of people, perhaps the most arrogant of elites, became the Apostle to the Gentiles. Meaning, Paul would serve the people that he once looked down upon. People like you and me. Outside of the original covenant between God and the children of Israel. Showing that God has a sense of humor, and teaching all of us to be careful how we view other people in our lives.

Paul continues to instruct the Greeks in his lesson of the greatness of God, stating in Acts 17:26-30;

26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.

So, who do you worship? You can attend church and still be an idol worshipper. You can be a nice person and not know how to follow God, know God, serve the Lord. It is possible to worship the service of God on a Sunday and miss actually worshipping God. I knew a church that was more concerned with the church building instead of the actual Deity or His people it was built to serve. That Congregation no longer exists.

My hope and my prayer are that as a family in God, we will continue to serve God by serving the needs of God’s creation, the people in our lives. Not by giving people the things that hurt them, but the necessities that sustain and grow them (mentally, physically, and most importantly, spiritually). That we continue to pass by the Chic in life, the fads of today and the flavor of the week, for our God of eternity.                               Amen!

Benediction: Romans 15:13

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.                                 Amen!