Too real to fake it
Synopsis of Sermon 01/10/2010
Delivered by Bishop Walker III
Acts 17:16-23: 16Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry. 17Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him. 18Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection. 19And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is? 20For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean. 21(For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.) 22Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. 23For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.
Whenever you have an authentic conversional experience with Jesus Christ, it is difficult to play church. When you have a real encounter with Jesus Christ, your desire to be real in every area of your life intensifies. This is what happens with Paul. If you will remember, his name was Saul and he had a Damascus Rd experience. Saul was a chief persecutor of early Christians. It was Saul that was present during the stoning of Stephen. Saul was a terror to the early church and the early saints. While he was on his way to persecute more Christians around Acts 9, the bible teaches us that he would have an encounter on Damascus Rd. with God. A light would shine upon him and a question would be raised, “Saul why are you persecuting me?” Paul asked who was he persecuting and the voice came back that he was persecuting Jesus Christ. If you persecute God’s service or his program then you are persecuting him. The bible declares that Saul was blinded by this light, but a few days later his sight would be restored. After his sight is restored, his name would be changed to Paul and he would see reality completely differently.
Here is s a man that totally denied Christ now openly confessing him. This was a man who represented the religious establishment of that day and now his life would become an open paradox. A man who once represented the persecution of church would now be persecuted by the church. Here at Mars Hill found in your text, after Paul’s conversion experience, Paul is prolific in sharing Christ and the resurrection that converted his life. In verse 17 he meets with these philosophers whose religious experience literally included detailed protocol and ritualistic redundancy, but it was void of relationship. Paul would literally challenge the authenticity of their experience by reminding them that showing up and going through the emotions of religiosity was not enough. Those of us that know God know that we must have true authentic experiences with God. It has to be more than just showing up putting on the religious rituals. It has to be about more than just coming to church and turning it into a social club. People have gotten to a place that they desire an encounter with God. There is somebody reading this that wants this to be real. In this day and time, God is looking for people that desire true intimacy with him. While going through this message, examine where you are in your relationship with God and ask yourself are your riding piggy back on what your Mom and Dad had as far as a relationship with God or have you had an encounter with God for yourself? After all we have been through, there ought to be a thirst and a hunger for righteousness like you never had before! We need a real encounter! We are too real to fake it. We can’t be around fake people and we desire our worship to be real.
I. Want relationship over religion
1. Paul is stirred up, because the city he has encountered has gone into idol worship. Paul has been converted and Mars Hill was a place where great philosophers gathered to discuss great religious topics, yet they were simply going through the motions of worshipping God. This fueled Paul to publically challenge them. There he found to types of people gathered.
a. The Epicureans: They denied the providence of God. They believe the world to be the effect of mere chance; asserting sensual pleasure to be man’s chief good, and that the soul and body died together. –In other words they believe be merry, be happy, and go on and live, because when it is over, it’s over. They believed there was no after life.
b. The Stoicks: They held that matter was eternal; that all things were governed by irresistible fate; that virtue was its own sufficient reward and that a vice was its own sufficient punishment. They felt that there was no God above us to judge us on our vices or reward us on our righteousness.- They felt you need to live life now because this life would never end. Can you imagine these two schools of thought giving over to serving idol gods?
2. Paul would meet them as Mars Hill? What is Mars Hill? It is also referred to as Areopagus . This place was literally dedicated to the heathen god of war. It was Areopagus or Mars Hills where the Athenians would have their Supreme Court. Paul was not on trial but he showed up in that place and he confronts the Stoicks and the Epicureans and he literally tells them that are just going through the motions of worship. He tells them they are showing up but he saw them as being being pretentious. Like them, there are a lot of people that show up, but they are just pretending. Like the Epicureans and the Stoicks, some people have become professional church goers, but we have got to have more. On the outside they look like they have it going on, but they don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ. You have to have a real relationship with God.
3. Pretentious people:
a. Want to be seen to show out. They can’t function without standing out. Jesus warned against this type of hypocrisy in Matthew 6:1:1Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.-The hypocrites give alms to be seen by man. They pray long prayers to be seen of man. God says pray in secret closet and you will be rewarded openly
b. Service without a spot. Pretentious people have to be on program. They can’t serve in the background. There is somebody reading this right now that says you don’t have to call their name in order for them to work for the Lord. They don’t have to have recognition. They simply do what they do for the Lord so they can hear him say “servant well done”. Psalm 100:2:2Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
c. Act saved but are active sinners. Paul says that their pretentiousness has made them powerless. God came to empower us so that we wouldn’t be defeated. How can you hold position in this house (the church) and yet the devil runs rapid in your own house. Your relationship with God is transferable. Your religion is not. Religion is locational. In relationship, you have power.
4. Paul shows up at Areopagus or Mars Hills and confronts these Epicureans and the Stoicks as they are viewing these idol gods as reality. Paul decides to give them a word that is revelatory and relevant.
II. Word that is revelatory and relevant
1. You need a word that is revelatory and relevant. Paul noticed that they were engaging in worship to an unknown god. Acts 17:22-23 22Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. 23For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.-Here we have an inscription and Paul says he sees something. Paul says he sees them making worship to an inscription, but he says he sees that they really don’t know what this means. Here is an historical parallel. We must understand that is Athens Greece. Greece had great philosophers and great poets of old under their history. In the year 399BC, the great philosopher and poet Socrates tried among this Supreme Court. They gave him the death sentence, because he had begun to have a spiritual experience. It began to show up in his literature. Two charges were levied against him. On one hand he denied the gods of the city. He was producing a new deity. They turned against Socrates because he began to realize that there was a real God somewhere. These philosophers were worshipping, but they were worshiping an unknown god. The altar with the inscription of an unknown god was dedicated to the Socrates experience. When Paul had walked up, there were these philosophers that were worshipping an unknown god. There are people in your family that have had authentic experiences with God for themselves. There are others that have tried to ride on the wave of their knowledge of God instead of having our own experience with God. This makes God known to them, but unknown to us. We can’t have a piggy back relationship with God. We have to know God for ourselves. Paul says to the philosophers this has nothing to do with what they knew about God. It was based on Socrates’ experience with God. There is a reference to this in Acts 17:28. It says 28For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.- This scripture says he was not the only one that had this particular experience. There were others that had it as well. Paul says he came to declare God unto them. Acts 17:23: 23For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.- This scripture says he came to them to tell them the real deal so they would know him for themselves. When you are converted you can’t tolerate fake stuff. Paul shares the simplicity of the gospel to them in hopes he could show them they were wrong. When Jesus shared the gospel, it is the simplest way he could. This is why Paul shared with them in the simplest way possible. Real people don’t come to church to be confused. People come to get a practical word and to come to understand what they don’t’ understand. You need a word that you can understand and you need somebody that can break it down and show you how to apply it in your everyday life.
2. The word of God:
a. It corrects, it convicts, it cleanses, it equips, and it confirms to us what the Lord has said. The days of coming to church and not understanding the word is over. Why sit in church just to pacify family members and die on the vine? Some people are mad at you right now because you left the family church to get a word. Getting a word is not a word of entertainment. We have gotten so caught up in entertainment, but we are at the shift now. People need a word that will strengthen their faith. The word we receive should always be prophetic and propel us into our future. Any word that does not do this is just an intellectual property. We are not trying to stay in our right now. We are trying to get to our not yet. We are going to our not yet. Once the word is revealed, it shows us where we should be in our life. We don’t need a word that just tells us what is wrong. We need to know how to fix what is wrong. There is power in God’s word.
3. Paul says God made you and all things of the world. Acts 17:24:24God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;
4. What a word will do is:
a. Stretch your Theology (the way we understand God). The word of God will stretch our theology. Any word that doesn’t stretch your understanding of God is not a real in your life.
b. Stretch your Ecclesiology (the way we understand church). Any word we receive will do this. Acts 17:24b says that the philosophers believed they could only experience God in a temple or behind bring a mortar. We must know that our worship is not tied to an address, because where ever we are, the church is.
c. Stretch our Ideology (the way we look at things). Religion thinks it does God a favor when we raise our hands in worship. Acts 17:25: 25Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; – God doesn’t need you to raise your hands in worship. We need to raise our hands for our sake. God doesn’t need us to give him money. We need to give him money for our own sake. When we tithe and when we show up it doesn’t impress God. This is just our reasonable service. You don’t get a bonus for this.
d. Stretches Sociology (the way we interact with others). Acts 17:26 (NLT):26 From one man[a] he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries.-In this culture (the lesson), everybody was separated based on class and culture. Paul says that he has come to tear down those walls of tradition. No matter your ethnic background or your social class, we are all in one class as far as God is concerned. When we destroy this wall of segregation based on social status, background, and etc…, the church looks like God intended it to look.
III. Desire real worship
1. There are many of us that need to see this. Acts 17:27: 27That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: – The Epicureans were people that thought sensuality was the way of life. They were feely, touchy type of people. Paul tried to tell them that if they wanted what he has, happy are those that feel after him. In other words, when it comes to worship many people are satisfied with getting a feeling instead of getting filled. Everything that feels good might not fill you. Fill after him (God) and you will quit running after sensual pleasures, because he will complete you.
2. Paul says if they wanted what he had, they had to know how to get to God. This culture viewed God from two perspectives.
a. God was Transcendent and immanent-They reverenced God as one above us that governed our affairs, but at any moment he could come down into the affairs of our life. He can walk with us in the valley of the shadows of death. Anybody ever seen God get in your mess with you? Understand the presence of God, and then you can’t get caught up in preprogrammed coaxing of worship. In married couples, love should be a noun and verb. You make love and then you become love. If you are making love and are not being love, then it makes making love rough. If you are not being love, then when you make love it is out of obligation, and that makes making love hard. It is the same way in worship. Worship is a noun and a verb. You come to church and we know how to make worship, but nobody knows how to be it. When you in love and you are part of worship and it makes worship much easier.
b. Can’t hinder this. Don’t stop people that want to have an experience with God. Worship humbles us and gets us in our place with God. Worship makes us honor God. This thing is personal. Some think that we were just going through this just to play. We might worship God at anytime during worship because what we have is real. In him we live move and I have our being. As your own poets have said, everything we are is because of him. Paul tries to tell them that their idol gods are futile. Paul tries to tell them that what they needed was and encounter with God. Your relationship is not tied to idol gods and what someone else has. You have your own set of experiences with God. Ex- A few years ago the Indianapolis Colts were undefeated. One to the games that everyone thought they were going to lose is the Pittsburg Steelers. Everybody bet on the Steelers. Pittsburg was on the road into town. Everyone was shouting making noise as they came in. The Colts end up winning the game and after the game, they interviewed Ben Rothenberger. They said they noticed he had difficulty during the game. Ben told the reporters that the Colts pump in fake noise into their stadiums. Ben said it made it hard for them to audible because they could not hear the signals. Ben in other words said they lost because of the fake noise. After interviewing Ben Rothenberger, they interviewed Tony Dungy. They asked if it was true that they piped in noise in the stadium. Tony Dungy told the reporters, we are undefeated and don’t have to fake noise. He said they make noise. God is undefeated, never lost a case, has always brought us out and therefore, we don’t have to fake noise. We make noise. Not prefabricated and nor preprogrammed noise. We make some real justified noise!