Acts 17:16-34, One Way To Start A New Work Of God
1. Start Working At The Provoking Of The Spirit (v16-17)
2. Let God Open Doors To Do The Work (v18-21)
3. Work To Connect With The People (v22-28)
4. Work Toward Delivering The Gospel (v29-31)
5. Expect Normal Results From God’s Work (v32-34)
Acts 17:16-34, One Way To Start A New Work Of God
Acts 17:16-34, One Way To Start A New Work Of God
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As we look at Acts Chapter 17 tonight, I've titled the Message one way to start a new work of God. One way to start a new work of God, first of all, making the understanding hopefully clear that that's not the only way to start a new work of God. But here I think Saul sets for us a really good example to meditate on and consider of one way that God may choose to. Do something new in our lives and doing a new work of God and for God. I think many times, of course we are praying for a new work of God. We're praying for a new work of God and our families and our workplaces and our community and our church and our nation and the world where we're praying for God to do a new work. And of course, the way that God works is he. Has chosen to use people you and I to be the instruments of that work. He could do it himself. He could, you know, just speak through the heavens, break through the clouds. He could send angels. But but God has chosen to do his work. People who believe in him and are empowered by his Holy Spirit to represent him and bring forth his message and his demonstration of love and concern to bring forth the word of God and the gospel. A new work of God is something that God is always seeking to do. And so for us to be part of that is a great opportunity. It's a great chance for us to participate in something that will last for eternity and sometimes we have a little bit of a struggle on how to find out what is the will of God and and what are, you know, my giftings and how do I fit into the. Plan of God and the work of God and and so walking through this example here I think. Paul gives us a a good model to meditate through and to pray through to help us understand how well perhaps the Lord would want to lead us in a similar pattern. Now this is an interesting passage here in Acts Chapter 17. It's one that's often discussed amongst. Bible teachers, Bible scholars. Because there is this message that Paul delivers here in Acts Chapter 17, which some hold up as like the ideal, the best message that's ever been taught kind of status and then some look at it and say, yeah, maybe so. But at the same time, it didn't turn out. Very well. And so they would look at Acts Chapter 18 that you see Paul goes into Corinth from Athens. After Athens, he goes to another. The city and when he writes to the Corinthians later, he talks about the method and his approach in Corinth. He talks about, you know, just holding on to the the Crucifixion and not trying to use wisdom or persuasive words, but just, you know, simply preaching the gospel message. And so there are many who look at that and and. Mickey comparison draw conclusion that Paul didn't do such a good job. He tried his own methods in Acts Chapter 17 and then as he moved on from there he learned lessons from that and took a better approach in Acts Chapter 18 and there there are those who you know follow that and and hold on to that. But as we look at this tonight, I want to disagree with that a little bit. I always get a little bit troubled over criticism of people in the Scriptures, criticism of people that God doesn't criticize and and yes, absolutely there is the opportunity for anyone, even the apostle Paul. To you know, do something and realize, oh, this isn't quite the best way and be led by the Lord and in a different way. But also I would just point. Out as we get started here that the Lord often does lead us in different ways depending on the situation and circumstances. Because the Lord knows. What it is that's needed in the situation or the condition that we are in and so that's why title it again one way to start a new work of God. I look at this passage and I don't accuse the apostle Paul of, you know, being in his flesh or trying to use his intellect to preach the gospel. I think as I look at this, that the apostle Paul. Was responding to what the Lord was moving him in him at the time, and then as he went on into Corinth in Acts Chapter 18, that he continued that and he moved as the Spirit was leading him and guiding him in that. Pastor Warren Risby sums up my whole long, drawn out explanation like this. Those who say that Paul modified his evangelistic tactics in Athens, hoping to appeal to the intellectuals have missed the point. He preached the gospel as boldly in Athens as he did in Berea, before Athens, and as he would do in Corinth. After Athens so. Pastor Warren Wisby says he didn't change his message. We have, you know, the record of this teaching. But but we shouldn't draw from that that he was now suddenly trying a whole new approach. Remember, this is his second missionary journey. It's, you know, good deal into his second missionary journey. He's had a lot of experience and exposure. It's not his first time. At that, and he's just, you know, learning how to preach the gospel, but instead I would favor to look at this and understand Paul here is being moved. By the Lord and by the spirit to minister to the people who are in front of him, and so we'll see that as we work our way through. But one way to start a new work of God, and so I would encourage you as we walk through these points to consider what work of God do you want to see happen in your life, what? What work of God are. You hoping to? Be part of. Is there a work of God that you would be praying for again in maybe a different context, a certain context? Are you wanting to be part of the work of God at church or specific focus or ministry or within your family? Are you praying for a work of? Odd in the midst of your family or in. The midst of. Your workplace. What kind of work of God are you seeking to be part of? And then in that, consider the example here of the apostle Paul and see if perhaps the Lord would lead you and prompt you in that to begin to take some steps forward following the model that. These sets for us. So let's start out in verse 16 and 17 for point number one. One way to start a new work for God is to start working at the provoking of the. Spirit start working at the provoking of the spirit, verse 16 and 17 says. Now, while Paul waited for them in Athens, his spirit was provoked within him. When he saw that the city was given over to idols. Therefore, he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshippers and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there. Here is Paul finds himself in Athens looking at the verses before we understand that Paul kind of got here rushed it was an escape out of the persecution that was coming to him that the believers around Paul rushed him out in verse 14 and 15. You can see the the brethren sending the the the apostle Paul away, and Silas and Timothy were with him, but they stayed behind while Paul was sent ahead to escape the the Zealots that were coming in trying to attack. And so they brought him to Athens. It was a rush thing. It was like we got to get him out of town. And so he gets there to Athens, the people are dropping him off and he says OK, now send Titus Titus and and Silas. And Timothy, back over to me. And so so you get this picture, you know he's rushed over there. He's dropped off. OK, now hurry up and send Timothy and Silas back. And and as you kind of get the context of this in verse 16 now while. Paul waited for them at Athens. That the plan of the apostle Paul at that. Point seems to be. He was waiting for them. He wasn't going to go forward on the journey and, you know, proceed to another city. He wasn't going to start something new. He was waiting. The implication here that the scenario that's being painted for us is that Paul was basically going to be at a standstill until Timothy and Silas caught up with him. But as he was hanging out there in Athens, spending time around the city. He could not. Sit still because it tells us in verse 16 that his spirit was provoked within him. He was looking around. He was waiting. I don't know how long it took for Timothy and Silas to catch up. But there's a day or two passing, maybe a week passing. He's looking around and and and he's seeing all of these idols. It says the city was given over to idols. It's not that there was, you know, just one or two idols or even a lot of idols. But there was just an. All out turning over of themselves to. And that that came about because. Many years earlier, I think 5 or 600 years earlier there was a very bad plague that hit Athens and the people at the time decided what they would do is they would let a flock of sheep. Roam the city and wherever the sheep would lay down, they would decide that was the place to offer a sacrifice. They would build an altar there where that sheep laid down, and then they would worship. At those altars as a way to try to deal with the plague that they were experiencing at that time so completely, you know, separate from the scriptures separate from Judaism, this was just whatever God, whatever temple happened to be closest to that place where the sheep lay down, they built an altar. To that God. And then when there was the occasion that the sheep laid down, but there was no temple or no place of worship nearby, then they built an altar and they labeled it to the unknown God. And we'll see that later on in this passage as well. But so it's completely given over because you could imagine that, you know the sheep are out and about. And then overtime, they all lay down. And so now there's new altars being built all over the place. And and it just continued on until Paul's Day where they were worshipping all of these false gods and and as he's looking around, he's seeing every corner he goes to. There's a Starbucks, I mean an altar and and he's he's going, you know, from place to place to place. It's just idolatry, idolatry, idolatry. And he's looking at all of these people. Who are engaged in this work in this worship and lost and completely unaware of, you know, the reality of heaven and hell and the true and living God. And so as he is there, it tells us that his spirit was provoked within him. When he saw this. He was deeply troubled. He was provoked that that would provoke. It can mean, you know, like you provoke someone to anger. What is? What is that picture right? It's like the poking, poking, poking, prodding, prodding, prodding until finally someone is stirred up, and now they're angry. And now the wrath has been let loose, right? You can imagine the apostle Paul. In his spirit, seeing another idol, seeing another person bowing down to this false God, and it it pokes him, it bugs him. It it begins to prod at him. The word provoke can also be used in the idea of to be stimulated it it's the same kind of thing. It's just some of them sometimes, you know, we have different connotations in our head. Provoke has kind of a negative connotation in our head, but but it doesn't have to be a negative thing like he was, you know, blowing up in anger. But but just. That, oh man, I can't. I can't stand to let this continue. And so again, the picture is he got there rushed. It was like, oh, OK, got it. OK. Tell Timothy and Silas to get here quick and. And he's just gonna, like, catch his breath. But then he starts looking around. He goes. Ohh, man, that there's people there dying. There's people there who are worshipping idols, idols. And ohh man. Over there too, and over there too. Over there too, and and and. Paul is being stirred up here. To do something. And so he begins. Without Timothy and Silas again, where he initially intended to wait. It says in verse 17 therefore. He reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews. Therefore, because of this provoking that. Was going on. It was a provoking in his spirit. Of course, in the point here I make it the provoking of the spirit, because I would suggest to you that it was not just some internal private struggle that Paul had completely separate from his relationship with the Lord, but but that his spirit was troubled because the Holy Spirit was troubled as well and and. And showing him revealing to him these things that were happening. And so it was a a joint effort there as the Holy Spirit is stirring up his spirit. No, Paul, you meant to rest. You were gonna wait for Timothy and Silas. But he's recognizing now there is a stirring up that is happening and I I think this is something important to consider that the provoking of the spirit. You know, sometimes we start working at the provoking of people. And there's an external we feel guilty if we don't. We feel obligated. We feel this pressure to do something. But but we need to be very careful to evaluate where that pressure is coming from. If it's coming from the outside or if it's coming from the inside, and when the Lord is wanting to do something through us. Most of the time I would suggest he is doing that work internally, provoking our spirit by. The Holy Spirit. To drive us, but it's internally and so there's a difference between the provoking and the pressure. External and and Paul often would mention that that internal pressure that he felt. And Acts Chapter 18, which we'll get to tomorrow, verse 5. Timothy and Silas finally catch up with Paul. And you'll notice it says there in verse 5. Paul was compelled by the spirit and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ. Right here in. The very next chapter we see a similar. Situation there. There was this. Compelling that Paul felt. There was this internal provoking internal stirring up internal pressure. And as he recognizes the the the work of the Lord in stirring him up there in Athens, he is compelled. To begin to do the work, and 2nd Corinthians Chapter 5, verse 14, Paul says the love of Christ compels us. There's a love that we've received from Christ. There's a love that Christ has for the world. There's a love that Christ has given us for the world. So love, love, love all three accounts and and it compels us. There is a a pressure. There's a force of movement internal. That leads us to do the work that needs to be done to step out. Therefore, he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and also with the Gentile worshippers. His normal practice as he went to a new city was. To go to the synagogue. And so he would go there, probably on the Sabbath and. Address the congregation and begin to talk with them. He's reasoning the idea here of reasoning is that there is a dialogue that is going on. He's not so much preaching Street corner, you know, loudspeaker, that kind of thing. He's reasoning, he's. Working back and forth, he's dialoguing with the Jews who happen to be in. Athens as well as Gentile worshippers and so in that case he's talking about Gentiles who are familiar with Judaism. They're participating in the synagogue, so primarily talking to Jews, those who are involved in Judaism, but then also in verse 17, it tells us that in the marketplace daily with those who happened. To be there. So there were at certain times and days he was in the synagogue with the Jews and whatever gentiles happened to be there. But then he was also in. The marketplace daily. With whoever happened to be there. And so now in the marketplace, he's not in a Judaism context. He's in a completely different context. He's dealing with Romans, Greek culture, those who knew nothing really about Judaism other than, you know, they know it exists. But they don't. Really understand the teachings. They're not part of the teachings. They don't know the scriptures. They don't study the scriptures, they they worship. Completely different, false and foreign gods, but there he is in the marketplace daily and notice what it says with those who happened to be there. That would happen. It speaks of the idea of chance. It's just by chance. This person happened to be in the marketplace at the same time as the apostle Paul, and so he began to reason with that person who is there walking by. I I think the picture here that is painted for us is. Just such a simple. Natural approach. To a new work. Of God. It's not that Paul went in here to Athens and he had some master plan. Alright, So what I need to do. I know I've already studied there social, you know, settings and stuff and I need to to reach those seven people. And when I get those seven people, then I'll have access to all the other people that will get me into this organization. And then I'll be able to be, you know, at that meeting over there. And then I'll have opportunity to talk to this other group over here. And you know, like this master plan of strategy of here's how I'm going to conquer the city of Athens with the gospel, the picture being painted here in verse 17 is. This OK, there's a service happening at the synagogue. I'm going to go talk to whoever I can talk to and just see, you know what happens there and and then. OK. Well, there's no synagogue service right now. I'll just go to the marketplace and just whoever happens to be there, I'll just try to strike up a conversation and start talking to them about the things of the Lord it. It really paints this picture of a very natural, organic way to just very simply start testing the waters. Look, I I feel this stirring within. I'm provoked as I look at the situation that's at hand. And so he just starts with one-on-one relationships. Again, no grand scheme. Let's spend six months planning a big event to get everybody all in one place. Like, let me just start talking to people. Let me just start connecting with people. Let me just start seeing. What might take place? And so he starts working very simply, very naturally. It's organic. The way that it develops, and I think this is really good to consider and very important now. Please understand, of course I'm not against strategy. The Lord's not against strategy, and sometimes the Lord wants us to spend a long time preparing and planning and strategizing and. And, you know, by the leading. Of his spirit. But a lot of times, the way the Lord works is just such a very simple and natural just start at Ground Zero. And see what grows. See what develops. For one thing, it's a good testing of the waters. Does God want to do something new? A new work here in my family and my workplace does. Does God want to do something new? Should I, you know, start serving in children's ministry? Let let. Me try it. I don't have to commit my life to it. Let let me just go and see if I can help out. Let me go see if I can be of assistance. And participate at it, that just responding to the provoking, that that internal stirring up that's happening and and just test the waters. Just start to try things out and see what the Lord might develop. Paul was compelled, and so he began to work, started simply, just began at the provoking of the spirit to have some conversations with people wherever he could. I think this is very similar to Jesus. Throughout his ministry. There's a few times where the the scriptures point out that Jesus was moved. With compassion and Mark chapter one. He was moved with compassion. Towards the leopard. And so he cleansed him. In Mark Chapter 6, Jesus was moved with compassion when the great multitude followed him. Because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So he began to teach them many things. That there's that internal moving. It's not that the congregation, the multitude, applied the pressure. Jesus felt that pressure from within. That's the provoking of the spirit. And I think we all need to really kind of refine our skills of. Of sensing and understanding, as I feel pressure, as I feel provoking as I feel stirred to do something. Is it my own personal thing that the word's not doing? Is it external to me that is some pressure being applied or is this? A compelling of the Holy Spirit is this. My heart being moved with compassion to be in line with the heart of God and and so I feel this sense that the need to start. Doing some work that God has set before me. Well, moving on to verses 18 through 21 gives us point #2 to consider this evening. Let God open doors to do the work. Let God open the doors, check out verses 18 through 21, it says. Then certain Epicurean and stoic philosophers encounter. To him, and some said, what does this babbler want to say? Others said he seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods because he preached to them. Jesus and the resurrection and they took him and brought him to the Areopagus. Saying May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak, for you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore, we want to know what these things mean. For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there, spent their time in nothing else. But to either tell or to hear some new thing. Here's Paul. Supposed to be waiting for Timothy and Silas. That was the original plan. But as he's looking around, he's stirred up. He can't. He senses the move of the Lord. He begins to talk to people. In the synagogue. Sometimes that's closed. He goes to the marketplace. He's just. Connecting with, reaching out to whoever he can. And in doing so. Some of the people of Athens begin. To take notice of him. Verse 18, then certain Epicurean and stoic philosophers encountered him again. There's this idea of by chance. This wasn't some master plan. This wasn't Paul figuring out, OK, if I stand at this corner, I know the Epicureans and the Stoic philosophers always walk through this corner, and so I'm going to stand here strategically. Now again, if the Lord tells you to stand in a certain place and be strategic and figure out, you know, those kinds of strategies, there's there's nothing wrong. With that but, but it's also important to note that you don't have to have a master plan you can trust God to have the master plan. And just by doing the simple thing just by taking. The basic steps. Doing what is natural and organic and in seeking to step forward in the work of God that he's put upon your heart. God can then set up those divine appointments, arrange those meetings, arrange those situations to open doors. Use to a larger work that he wants to do now. What would take place in Athens was it was a very well educated city and so they had the Areopagus. They would have this gathering of intellectuals and it tells us in verse 21. This was the the entertainment of the city. They were known for hanging out and talking about new things, new ideas, new concepts. They would just get excited about new philosophies, new religions, anything that was new, any new discussion they could have. They loved to do that. What a great opportunity right to speak to a crowd of people who love to hear something new. And Paul has something to say that they've never heard before. Great opportunity. But again, you don't see Paul strategizing to make this happen. He's not trying to get to Areopagus. He's just out in the marketplace. And by chance, of course, we know it's not by chance the Lord works this out, right. The certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered Paul. Notice what it says in verse 19 and they took him and brought him. To the Areopagus. They took him, they said. Paul, you got to come here. You got to come and speak here. You gotta we want to lead you in. We want to set up this appointment for you. We want to invite everybody to listen to what you have to say. It was something that God did not, Paul. It was a door that was opened. Again, not by some master strategy. I I'm sure that Paul could have come up with this strategy. He was intelligent enough. He understood Greek culture enough. He he understood what Athens like was going to be like. This isn't like. What's an area up against? Paul said. Right, like we might say that, right? But that wasn't Paul's position. He he was intelligent. He knew what he was getting into. He could have come up. With this strategy. Again, as he felt compelled by the Lord as he was provoked. In his spirit. In this case, what the Lord was leading him in was not come up with a great master plan, some great strategy, but just go start doing something simple and see what the Lord develops. Let's see if God will open some doors. It reminds me of Jonathan and his armor bearer, right? And Samuel where? He tell Jonathan wakes up one day after they're camped out and the philistines are against them for a long time, he says. You know, let's just go see it. It doesn't take a lot for the Lord to save. He could save with many or few. It's no big thing for him either way. Let's just test it and see if the Lord wants to do something. In a similar. Way I I think it's a. A good pattern for us to follow that, hey, let's just start. We don't have to. I know we want to have, you know, the the big thing, the big event. We want to have that, that awesome testimonies of, you know, so many peoples lives change and hearts turned and and so many big things happening we we love that that big end result but but even when there is a big end result it doesn't start. To the plan to have that big end result many times, you know the Lord is so good at using the simple using the the base, you know that's again Paul's. Argument in First Corinthians that God uses. The simple he uses the bsic. He uses those entry level things to do great things so that he gets the glory. And so Paul here gets this open door. This invitation in verse 19, they say, May we know what this new doctrine is of? Which you speak. I mean, how many would love that opportunity? There's there's people in your family. That you would love if they would ask a question like this. Hey, can you tell me about Jesus? Could you teach me about heaven? I'd love to hear and understand what the Bible says. Would it be possible? Could you share some of those things with me? Like what? An invitation, right? An open door. An invitation. These are strange things to our ears, they say. In verse 20, we want to know what they mean. They've already heard a little bit. We we want to understand better, tell us more about Jesus. Tell us more about God. Tell us more about what is happening here. God, God just swings wide these doors. And they're they're so receptive to hear what Paul has to say. How different is this? Than what we are often used to experiencing. Where we want to share, we try to share door shut. Don't want to hear it, slam door, you know. Don't talk to me about that ever again. That completely different and we could be quite frustrated by that and we wish everybody around us had this attitude and asked us this question. But, but that's not. We don't have the power to make everybody. Want to ask this question. That's up to the Lord. We always have. To keep in mind that we are not the ones really doing the work. We're not starting the work and the Lord's trying to keep. You know, catch up. The Lord's doing the work. Long before we are ever on the scene. And he just aligns us and sets us up for the right time. And for Paul, for the City of Athens, this was just the right time. Where the people would be ready to bring him in and ask this question and invite. This explanation of the gospel from the apostle Paul. But again, going back to the title, this. Is one way. To start a new work of God, it doesn't always happen like this. There's not always this great reception to. The message that God has called us to. Preach, I think. A good contrast to meditate on is the prophet Jeremiah. The Lord told Jeremiah from the beginning. I'm sending you out to people who are not going to listen to you and you're going to keep teaching the message. You're to keep preaching to them. Even when they tell you to stop. Well, it says something similar to Ezekiel. Their foreheads are gonna be hard against you. They're gonna. They're not going to want to listen. They're gonna, you know, ignore you. They're gonna fight against you. They're gonna persecute you, but you gotta go deliver my message. So it's not that we only deliver a message when people are so inviting. Like please tell me about Jesus. Sometimes there is going to be the need where God will lead us. He will prompt us to speak on his behalf to people who. Don't want to hear it? So again, this isn't the only way to start. A new work of God. But at the. Same time I would suggest this is. Also a valid way. The word didn't tell me to fight against people who didn't want to hear. We might be able to say. He told me that. Simply do the work. And to wait for. Opportunities that he would open up. And that's OK. And we could want more. We could be frustrated that. More is not happening, but it's OK. To if Paul stayed in the marketplace and just. Ministered one-on-one to the people who were. There until Timothy and Silas caught up, that would be OK. The Lord opened the store. It was his timing, and so it was the perfect opportunity because the Lord set it up. But there would have been nothing wrong with a smaller scale ministry that Paul would continue on in as he had been doing. The previous few days. When Jesus sent out the disciples in. Mark Chapter 6. He gives them this instruction. Hey, when you go to a place, you enter the house. If they're if they. Welcome you, then. Stay there. But if they don't want to receive. You move along. And there's those times where. The Lord tells Jeremiah don't move along. You stay there, be in their face and tell them my word. And there's other times where the Lord says. They don't want to hear. From you just move along. Shake the dust off. Your feet. I'm moving. On you don't want to hear, that's. That's up to you, that's. Between you and the Lord and. He gives that instruction to. The disciples let God open doors to do the work. We need to be. Trusting God. The work is not so. Fragile that you know, we accidentally say one wrong word or we forget one thing or you know, like that, and then it's just all falls apart. And so if yeah, I would have had a open door to the Areopagus, you know, if I only, I had grew out my beard instead of cutting it short. You know like. The the work of God is not that far. God's able to open the doors and he works way beyond our capacity and our ability to understand well. Moving on to verses 22 through 28, we get point #3. One way to start a new work of God start working at the provoking of the spirit. Let God open doors to do the work. And then thirdly. Work to connect with the people. Really important lesson here. Verse 22 says. Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said men of Athens. I perceive that in all things you are very religious. For as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship. I even found. An altar with this inscription to the Unknown God. Therefore, the one whom you worship without knowing him, I proclaim to you God made the world and everything in it. Since he is the Lord of Heaven and Earth does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is he worshipped with men's hands, as though he needs anything, since he gives to all life, breath and all things verse 26. And he has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on the. Face of the. Earth and has determined their pre appointed times in the boundaries of their dwellings. So that they should seek. The Lord in the hope that they. Might grope for him and find him. Though he is not far from each. One of us. For in him we live and move and. Have our being. As also some of your own poets have said for we. Are also his offspring. Paul gets this opportunity. The door is open. They say. We want to hear the gospel. He starts in a different. Way than we might expect if we've not really dove into this passage before. He starts by talking about an unknown God. Why would you start talking about the unknown God when Paul knows God, right? Why would you begin talking about that? Talking about. Them being religious, when Paul knows their religion is false and all of their worship is false. Why is he? Starting this way here in verse 22 and 23 well. What I would suggest to you is that Paul is addressing. The people. In a way that they. Could receive it. He's connecting with the people. He's not just there to preach at them to deliver a message, regardless of, you know how well they know it or understand it. Or can pick up on it. He's working to establish a bit of a connection with the people and so so he commends them. They're in verse 22. I perceive you're you're very religious. A commending. Something they could? Understand and say Oh yes, yes, we are very religious. He's building a little bit of a bridge here. This is an interesting line. Might be a valid opening. Statement for you. For any cult member who knocks on your. I perceive you're very religious. It's not that he. Approves of their religion, right? But at the same time he's acknowledging he's getting them to think through. He's he's bringing them into the mindset of of OK, let's talk about religion and I understand you're very religious. Let me tell you how I understand that. I was passing. Through and I. Could see all of these different objects of. Your worship these idols. Now later on. Paul teaching about idolatry. Will relate it to the doctrines of demons. But he doesn't do that here. He doesn't stand in the aeropus and say, guys, all of those things that you worship, they're demons and you gotta stop it. You gotta stop it. Right? Right, right now. He doesn't do that. He says I could perceive that you're very religious and I see all of these objects that you worship. I even found one that that is to the unknown God. You know I want to. Talk to you about the. Unknown God and Paul uses something that they know, something that they're familiar with, something that they can understand. He's he's now built a bridge and now he's like, I can proclaim God from this place. They already acknowledge the existence of God. They acknowledge that they don't know everything about God, so there's this unknown God. Wow, what a great opportunity. That's the God I'll introduce to. Because they don't know God and so he's able to bring forth the true and living God using this as a starting point, something that they can relate to, something they can understand. I think Paul shows strategy here. Not strategy and you know, working out the meeting, but he probably had this same conversation many times in the. Marketplace, I would guess. That's how the door was open. And so he continues to follow this pattern that. Connecting with people. Is really so important because. It's when we build a bit of a relationship with them that. They might be open to hear what it is we have to say. You know that saying often goes. People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. And and this is Paul a little bit saying, hey, I've taken 30 seconds to get to know you a little bit. I know your city. I've been looking around. I've been becoming familiar with you guys. I I I understand a little bit about where you're coming from and I really admire, you know, your your diligence and your devotion. You're you're very religious. I can see that. And he uses that to. Launch into you. Real doctrine about the Lord in verse 24 and 25, God who made the world and everything in it since he is Lord of Heaven and does not dwell in temples made with hands, nor is he worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed anything, since he gives to all life, breath and all things. We're talking about a God that doesn't need our sacrifices. A God that doesn't need our worship. He doesn't need anything from us. He is the creator of the heavens and the Earth. He I mean he he goes well beyond their understanding of gods. But he starts with what they know and what. They do understand. And says here's some common ground that we can connect on. Let me talk to you about this unknown God. You know, there's a need for us to learn how to Minister to people. Where they're at. And I think it's. It's something that requires. A little bit of deliberate. Intention on our part many times because we can be so frustrated, especially the closer we are to the people in our lives. You know, we can be so frustrated. Why can't they hear this? Why can't they see this? How can they not know? You know what they're doing is so wrong and and their their stance on this is so wrong. And and so many times we come across it. It's just like, you know, the political wars of 2020 year. Now I'm going to be. 2024, right. It's like like just let's just all scream at each other about how stupid everybody is. I can't believe you're so ridiculous that you would believe that you would behave that way, that you would, you know, sin in. That way that you would hurt in that way. Like like I don't know how we behave that way and treat people one like that way and talk to each other that way and think. Man, I'm really going to. Do some good here like we're just lashing out. That's that's not how peoples's minds and hearts are changed. There are times where there needs to be. You know, that serious rebuke. But but we also have to earn the right to have that kind of conversation and to bring that kind of rebuke. Well, Paul goes on getting into some more doctrine in verse 26 and 27, he's saying look, God has designed you. He's made us all from one blood. We've all descended from Adam and Eve. And and we have. Been pleased here by the Lord and he's determined our times, our boundaries. He's set us up and designed us so that we would seek for the Lord and if we seek him, we will find him. If we. Seek him with all of. Our hearts. But then he goes on in verse 28 and he quotes from there. Pop culture. For in him we live and move and have our being. As also some of your own prophets have said for we all started his. Offspring he's not quoting from Scripture here he quotes from two of their poets. 2 of you know their. Popular sayings that they understood. I think Paul demonstrates for us here. It's OK to quote other sources. Again, he's he's building a connection. He's connecting with the people using what they're familiar with in order to help them. Learn the truth about God. A lot of people. Again, they point at this as an example of Paul. Yeah, he really blew. It so back. In Chapter 18, you know he gets back. To the gospel and that's why we. See, you know a different work. But I would suggest Paul's not blowing it here. He's he's just using the tools that he has there to try. To build connections with the people there, it's it's no different, right? Like if you go serve in children's ministry and try to stop, talk about epic, Epicurean and stoic philosophers, you're you're going to have a bad time connecting. But if you can use. Sponge Bob to connect with the kids and teach them. Something about the Lord, then by all. Means do it right like. That's not an endorsement of everything Sponge Bob. It's not an endorsement of everything these other poets have said that Paul is saying here. He's just saying, I know this point. You know this point and you know, this point is actually true about God. It's a good illustration to connect and help them understand. Work to connect. With the people that God is. Provoked to you to Minister. To you? Well, point #4 work toward delivering the gospel verses. 29 through 31. Therefore, since we have the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the divine nature is like gold or silver or stone. Something shaped by art and man's devising. Truly, these times of ignorance, God overlooked but now commands all men everywhere to repent because he has appointed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising him from the dead. Notice what Paul does here. He says look, idolatry is wrong. And it deserves judgement. But God's overlooked it up. To this point. That's not how he starts the message. But he works towards it. I think one mistake that sometimes we can make is we can focus so much on point #3 we got to build the connection and have a, you know, amicable relationship with people, a pleasant conversations and and we get so caught up in that that then we don't bridge to step forward. OK, but now we need to use that equity that we've built in that relationship and deliver the gospel and see, OK, Now I know I started out commending you for being religious and I see all these objects that you worship. But now that we've kind of walked this path a little bit together, I need to tell you. You can't be worshipping those. That deserves judgement and God commands everyone, everywhere to repent of idolatry. Paul here gives a very clear call to repentance and a very clear gospel presentation. As he leads up to the resurrection of Jesus. That he is the one that the means of salvation, the means of escape from the judgment of God that is deserved. So he uses those connections that he made, those illustrations that he's brought in and and OK, now we, you know, we have communion together a bit and now let me tell you. You need to repent and you need to change your ways. You need to turn from. Idolatry, those things. Those are not gods. We we learn from the nature of God and that we are God's children, that those are not gods. And God's appointed a day which he will judge the world that we're all gonna stand before him. And so so using the connection that he has built. He now delivers the serious. The very real call to repentance and the gospel message. It's a great example for us. That's what we're called to do. It doesn't have to be some big elaborate. Plan. Start simple. Test the waters, see what opens up. Have some conversations. Learn how to connect with people as God opens doors. And then be looking for an opportunity to. The gospel to those that you've connected with. We want a shortcut to the end. We want a shortcut to the big results. The big work many times. And and we skipped some steps that are really important for us. If we. Believe that. The Lord wants us. To win people for the Lord that's not conquering, but it's winning. The Opportunity's winning the friendship. And then winning with the gospel. As we allow him to lead us well, finally point #5. Expect normal results from God's work. Verse 32 to 34 when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said we will hear you again on this matter. So Paul departed from among them. However, some men joined him and believed among them Dionysus the Areopagitica, a woman named Damaris, and others with them. Here I would suggest we see. Perfectly normal results. From Paul's ministry there in Athens. Some people mocked. Never want to hear this again. This is ridiculous. This is silly. This is, you know, children's stories. Not interested. No, thank you. Some people said hmm. I mean, I don't believe it, but I'm well, I'm willing to hear you again. Like to hear more about it. Open for further conversations. And then in verse 34, some people believed that this is this is how the gospel works, right? Remember the four soils the gospel goes out, it goes out. There's there's different kinds of responses, and then even amongst those who believe, there's a variety of of how, you know they believe and whether or not it's going to last and bear fruit. This is normal. Again, a lot of the comparison that people make when they look at Act 17 and then look at Paul in Acts Chapter 18 and the first Corinthians message, it's like, well, there was such a better, you know response and earlier in Chapter 17 and such a greater response in Chapter 18 and and so this must. We well, again we we look at those external results and and if we're judging whether or not God was in it and that was God's will by those external results, we're often going to be off base and not understand what God's doing because we can't see the whole work that God's doing. It's going to be normal to have some people after this great effort has been made to build this relationship to make those connections and then finally deliver the gospel message. Some people are going to mock. And some people are going. To say you know I'm not ready to. Believe that right now. I'll talk to you more about it, but. Normally now I'm not ready and then there will be some who say I'm I'm. I believe that yes, I receive. What you have to say about the Lord? This is one way to start a. New work of God. To let the Lord. Provoke you to respond to that internal pressure that he stirs up. To let him open doors. For you to Minister and to do his work, to share his message. For you to work and build a connection to do some research ahead of time. You know, if you're gonna go on the mission field, learn the culture, don't try to bring your ideas, but go and listen for a while before you even say anything and and and learn what's going on. Learn where they're coming from, learn what they're thinking. Like I, I think, generationally, as we talk to you know, people outside of our own personal generation. Question there. There needs to be that. Let me just listen for a little bit. Let me let me understand. Let me look around at all the corners and and take in what's going on there and and learn to to understand where you're coming from and and what's going on so that I can start to talk to you in ways that you can understand. It's our responsibility to find that connection a lot of times. We just want to quote, you know, the King James version and expect people to like catch up, you know, figure out what I'm trying to say because I know this by this version, this verse only in the King James version. And so we try to, you know, force other people to to to do the work of connecting. But no, no, it's our job. We we're the missionary. Let's let's do the work. Have conversations where to connect with people. Make sure that you. Don't, don't. Then get so entrenched. In that relationship, I. Can't risk sharing the gospel now? No, like that's why you made that connection. And yes, the result might be mockery rejection. It might break that relationship. But that's what you're there for. To build that bridge. For at the right time at the open door to deliver the gospel, expect those kinds of. You know, I think back through. My life a little bit. Just thinking about, you know, like. Things that the Lord has allowed me to participate in, you know, back in my time working for paychecks, I worked there for five years and and, you know, there's one thing I look back on. And I think, Lord, you might have had me there at that company for five years for that one guy, my boss. Cool guy and I we became great friends and we we would go out to lunch every day. You know, we we worked hard every day. We battled and survived horrendous workplace situations together and. When I became a pastor here, I went down to part time for a little bit and then I moved out entirely. And soon after that I saw something happen and there was a transformation in his life. And he's, you know, involved in ministry in his own church. And like just, I just look at that and I go, you know, I. Get all the credit for that. No, no, but. But I'm like, well, thank you that wow. Like it might have been those five years. Might have been just for him. I would often talk to David Byrne. And we would look back at the School of Ministry that we had here for a time that that, that I was like leading and teaching and it was maybe two, maybe three years. But I looked back at that time that season. I'm sure the Lord was doing a lot, but. Lord, it might have just been for that one. Guy, I spent two or three years. All that effort, all that work for David Byrne. That's just that was the what the. Lord had there was the impact that was made and and you know, I look at that. And I say. Hey, three years here, five years there. That's that's the work of the Lord. That's the kind of work that God's called me to. Maybe he's called others to, you know, really Big Bang, you know, go out there. But no, I I think the Lord has called me to, yeah, spend three to five years. Developing something. Building a relationship making a disciple there is. Difficult math that I'm not going to try to describe to you, but you can kind of look into if you want to compound. Interest, right when things are compounding things. Add up a lot. Faster and and just to finish off with this, I think this is something interesting to consider. So this here is a table and honestly I might have done the math wrong, but the logic works even if I did the math wrong and so you can look it up, look up compound interest and how that works, right. But but if I am one person and my objective is to add three people to the Lord a year. And and that's all that I'm focused on doing. I'm just adding three people to the Lord, following it through for 30 years. I've added 90 people to the what I've brought people in, you know, great. That's a a great ministry. But but if I. Take a different approach. One person teaching others to add one person every three years. So if I hang out with Rick for three years. And help him become who? God wants him to be. And in the process of doing that, I'm teaching Rick, Rick, you hang out with someone else now for the next three years and you teach them. And and now this is where it begins, the compounding idea. At the end of 30 years, if it's just me adding three people to the Lord every year. Well, 90 people, that's respectable. But but if it's me working with someone for three years and then the two of us working with two other people for the next three years and then now seven of us working with. Seven more people for the next three years and then it it grows and grows and grows and grows exponentially. And and you could see how in a generation like we can, we can make an impact, we can really have a, a, a real substantial opportunity and it doesn't have to be I I've seen lots of tables like this. You can look up like compounding discipleship and you'll see this kind. Of stuff, but. When I look at those things, I typically sees like, yeah, if if so, if you. Do this every six. Months, right? And I'm like, I don't know if that's really realistic in in a lot of cases, right. Like, yeah. Like, you could get really big numbers if you do this every six months. But but can you develop that kind of impact and that kind of relationship in six months, I don't know, so. I went around and did it my own way. For three years. We do the Bible in three years. Like, hey, if I can walk you through. The Bible in three years and then you help someone else walk through the Bible in three years, and now we all. Help each other walk through the one three years, then there. There is this work that God can do and it doesn't have to be, you know, some big flashy thing at the beginning. It's just this like simple, very basic. Let's get back to the fundamentals of loving God walking with him and looking for those opportunities to connect with people around us. So that we can deliver the gospel, that we can encourage believers, that we can build each other up and do the ministry that God has called us to. So that's one way to start a new work of God. And I pray that you'd consider it and see what work God might have for you. Lord, we pray that you would lead us by your spirit. Stir us up within Lord, that we would be provoked within, not pressured from the outside, not pressured by our own self guilt or things that are just. In our own imaginations, Lord. But I pray that you would give us clear discernment as you lead, and as you guide, we want to. Be part of your work. Lord, so Lord, would you empower us with your Holy Spirit and show us steps to take? Lord, we don't have to have big fancy things. We don't have to have master strategies. Where we. We just want to be part of what you're doing. And so, Lord, would you do that? Lead us, guide us. Empower us to make a difference for you. We pray this in Jesus name.