Monday, September 10, 2007

Acts 17:16-34

Yesterday we had the privilege of hearing Randy Harris speak. Randy spoke at the Men’s Retreat and then came to Providence Road on Sunday to share with the rest of the congregation.

In recent weeks the focus of Jeff Walling’s sermons have been on the topic of evangelism and Randy continued on this topic by speaking on Acts 17:16-34. Randy’s points included the following regarding Paul and his stop in Athens.

We need to BE THERE. While Paul was waiting in Athens, he did not just sit around at a friend’s house waiting. He went out into the streets, to the market places and looked for pagans. He did not stay where it was safe, hiding in his Christian bubble. Instead he went out and faced the world head on.

We need to BE RELEVANT. While Paul was in the city, he noticed that there were many idols and that there was even one that was for an “unknown god.” Paul used his knowledge of current philosophies and talked to the people who were there about how he knew this unknown god. An interesting comment that Randy made was that Paul did not use scripture at all in his discussion. He did not door knock or go out bible-banging. He was relevant in his knowledge of the culture and meeting the people where they were at.

We need to BE REAL. When we consider the Christmas story or nativity scenes, we generally think about a cute, cuddly baby wrapped up and sitting in a clean manger. Mary is radiant and beautiful. The wise men and shepherds and animals are all watching and the angels are singing. In truth Jesus was born in scandal (an angel visited Joseph to say that the baby was God’s but no one else had an angel to tell them that Mary hadn’t been promiscuous). He was born in the midst of poverty – in a stable. He was born in the midst of violence – King Herod had all babies under the age of 2 killed when he heard that a king had been born. Randy spoke about how we forget how real Jesus was – that everything wasn’t perfect for him when he came into this world, just like it is not perfect for many of us.

We need to BE FAITHFUL. At the end of the chapter, Paul talks about the resurrection of the body. At this point he starts to lose some of his audience. He is laughed at and people begin to leave. But a key point is that a few followed him and he may have planted seeds for others as well.

For the invitation, Randy made a statement that all of us needed to be reminded of. He reminded us all that this was a safe place and whether you are an old member or a visitor, this is a place that you should know is safe – safe to come and lay your burdens at the cross; a place where we are all sinners and we will not ridicule you. At a discussion last night, we discussed how there is a need for that reminder that the church should be a safe place and not a place for gossip or a place where we look down on others.

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