Friday, April 15, 2016, 3:44 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “Wait!” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 17:16-34 (ESV).
Summary (Acts 17:1-15)
Sometimes our enemies can be so great that they are not content with merely removing us from their sight, but they will hotly pursue us in order to ensure, they would hope, that we will be hated and persecuted wherever we might go. So was the case with Paul. The Jews in Thessalonica were jealous of Paul so they formed a mob and started a riot in the city, falsely accusing Paul and his fellow workers of being troublemakers and of insurrection. So, the brothers sent Paul and Silas to Berea.
The Bereans received the message of the gospel with great eagerness, and many Jews and Greeks believed in Jesus Christ. Yet, when the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the Good News in Berea, they went there, too, in order to stir up the crowds against Paul. So, the brothers sent Paul to Athens. Silas and Timothy were then to join Paul as soon as possible.
Yet, in all of this, God is absolutely sovereign. He is in control over every aspect of our lives. He is always watching over us, and he has a plan and a purpose for it all. So, we should rest in him. What might seem like a bad situation to us, God may turn around as a blessing. What also may seem like a delay to us is actually God exercising his sovereign purposes over our lives. I don’t know if Paul had planned to go to Athens or not, but because of what happened in Thessalonica and then in Berea, Athens is where he ended up. But, it was not by mistake. God had a divine appointment for him there.
Full of Idols (vv. 16-21)
Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.
What is an idol? It is “an object of extreme devotion; a false god” (M-W). It is an object of worship. It is “any person or thing regarded with blind admiration, adoration, or devotion” (dictionary.com). An idol can be anything that we love, admire and give our heart, mind, and passion to above or in place of the One True God. It can be our careers, hobbies, social networks, computers, smart phones, technology, reputations, houses, possessions, TVs, entertainment, sports, religious practices, church work, recreational vehicles, and/or pride, etc. It can also be our time or the control over our own lives, with an unwillingness to yield to God’s control and to trust our lives and our time with his sovereign will for our lives. An idol can also be our own intellect and reasoning, with a thirst for head knowledge only. Yet, it is not what we know that has any value, but it is what we do with what we know.
God’s Sovereignty (vv. 22-28)
So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for
“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;
as even some of your own poets have said,
“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’
What does it mean to be “religious”? It means “believing in a god or a group of gods and following the rules of a religion” (M-W). We can be religious, thus, and truly not know God, and not have any kind of relationship with him whatsoever. We can even claim to be Christians, i.e. to be followers of Christ, and we can attend Sunday church services, Bible studies, or small group fellowships, sing in the praise team (or choir), serve in the nursery, teach a Bible class, serve as a deacon or deaconess, and/or be involved in community outreach and still not know Jesus Christ, and thus not truly be one of his followers.
Paul used the fact that the people of Athens were both idolatrous and religious to introduce to them the One True God. Sometimes those who claim to know Jesus, and who claim to be his followers, also need to be introduced to the One True God, because their concept of Christianity, salvation and Jesus Christ are false, because they were taught wrongly, or because they created their own Jesus in their own minds to suit their own lifestyles.
How many times have you walked into a building called a “church,” and you were told that you were now entering the house of God, or else you walked into a room within that building called a “sanctuary,” and you were told you were now entering God’s presence? False! God does not live in buildings built by human hands. We who have trusted in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives are the church. The presence of God lives within each and every one of us in the person of the Holy Spirit. We are God’s temple. We are his sanctuary. And, we can meet together any place on any day of the week at any time of day.
God also does not need our religious practices. He does not need our sacrifices, i.e. the things we are willing to give up for him of our own accord. He does not need us to help him out as though he can’t handle the situations of our lives, either. What he desires of us is our obedience and surrender to him and to his will and purposes for our lives.
Yet, that does not mean we are not necessary. We are! God created each and every one of us for a very specific purpose. All the days ordained for us were written in his book before one of them came into being (See: Ps. 139). Before he even created the world he chose us, his followers, to be holy and blameless in his sight (Eph. 1:4). In fact, “the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable” (1 Co. 12:22). That means we are absolutely necessary, not because God can’t do things without our help, but because of his great love for us he purposed that we should be used of him for his glory in the advancement of his kingdom. He has an assigned task and purpose for each one of us to fulfill. Amen!
He Commands Repentance (vv. 29-31)
Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
Sometimes people who say they know God, and claim they are followers of Jesus, think God is altogether like them, not that they would say this, but this is what their actions reveal. They bring God down to their level, and they do not walk in the fear of the Lord, i.e. they do not revere, honor and respect God for who he is, but they reduce him to a doting grandfather in the sky there to serve our every whim and to do what we want, our way. They make salvation all about us, as though God is just here to serve us and to please us, but that he makes no demands on our lives whatsoever. Oh, how utterly wrong!
God commands that all people everywhere repent. Now, the word repent literally means to have a change of mind, but in nearly everywhere that this word is used in scripture it is used in the context of forsaking our former way of living to sin and self; of forsaking our idols, and of turning to God/Jesus to follow him now in obedience to his instructions for our lives. When Jesus called Paul to be a minister of the gospel he told him that he was to open blinded eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God so that they could receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Jesus Christ (See: Ac. 26:16-18). This is the essence of the gospel of salvation.
When we tell people the truth of the gospel, that God requires them to repent of their sin, and to forsake their idols, and to turn to him, and to walk in the light of his ways, by the Spirit, we may face resistance as did Paul, but we must speak boldly the truth of the gospel, and trust our Lord with the results. Yet, in all these things God has a plan and a purpose. When we go through trials in one place, it may be that God is planning to send us someplace else where he can use us for his glory, and for us to share his gospel of salvation with even more people. So, in all these things we must trust him. He is faithful in all that he does. And, his purposes will be accomplished through it all. So, rest in him.
Wait! / An Original Work / February 8, 2014
Wait for your Lord. Be of courage.
Be strong, and take heart today.
God is always watching o’er you.
Trust Him with your life always.
Sing of your Lord. Praise His blessings.
Believe in His sovereignty.
He delivered you from your sin;
Gave you life eternally.
Rest in your Lord. Know His promise.
Beneath His wings rest secure.
Your God has a plan and purpose.
Let your faith in Him endure.
Trust in your Lord. He’ll not leave you,
Because He is faithfulness.
He will lead and guide; protect you.
In His love you can find rest.