Times & Directions Give

"behold, I'm with you always, to the end of the age."

navigate Xclose

The Diagnosis and the Cure


     Much like the city of Athens in the early part of the first century, we live in a culture that is saturated with idols.  Not idols to strange deities made of wood, stone, or metal; rather our idolatry is often much less overt, and yet as much rooted in pagan philosophy as that of the Greeks.  Like the Epicureans, many in our hedonistic culture long for the satisfaction and comfort of excess.  This way of thinking leads to a lifetime of chasing after fulfillment in worldly things that will inevitably fail to deliver what we ultimately desire.  On the other hand, like the Stoics, many see themselves as virtuous in light of the perceived shortcomings of those around them.  The problem here, as we can likely observe, is that this system of self-assessment will always lead to pride and self-righteousness.  The question then becomes, not whether you practice idolatry, but rather which idol(s) you worship.  Is it the Epicurean idols of pleasure: money, sex, power, possessions, etc.?  Or is it the Stoic idol of self?

     The Apostle Paul challenged both with the message of the Gospel.  The Gospel provides an end to our ceaseless pursuit of joy in temporal things by providing us with an eternal perspective.  Jesus says, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst"(John 6:35).  Notice he doesn't say, "for awhile" or "until next time," rather he uses the definitive word, "never."  In the same way, the Gospel destroys pride and self-righteousness.  Again, it is Jesus who taught in a parable saying, "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’  But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other.  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted"(Luke 18:10-14).

     The greatest need for idolatrous man is the Gospel.  However, far too often, the true Gospel that they need is replaced with some other false gospel.  In churches, on the street corner, and in "Christian" books, false gospels like easy-believism, the prosperity gospel, the self-help gospel, and other distortions of the Christian faith are being proclaimed and heralded.  Instead of helping, these erroneous and, dare I say, heretical, "re-imaginings" of the true teaching of scripture and our Lord Jesus Christ are selling their followers on a hope that doesn't deliver.

     Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church in Texas, in describing his motivation for writing his book, "The Explicit Gospel" several years ago said that as a pastor of a large and growing church, he was regularly encountering and baptizing people who had spent years in churches and "Christian" communities where they had never actually heard the Gospel.  How can this be???  Well, one big reason is the proliferation of bad teachers/teaching, bad doctrine, and bad theology.  But another huge issue within the church is the reluctance of Christians to share their faith with others.  I believe the two issues are actually closely related in several ways.

     First, due to all of the garbage that is being promoted as "Christian," when in fact it is anything but; true and genuine Christianity has now been both defamed and derided by many in our society who are outside of the church.  At the same time, those inside of the church have grown leery of professing their faith to others for fear that they themselves will be viewed poorly.  Furthermore, this way of thinking--that the Christian life is meant to be easy and free of challenges--is itself rooted in the bad teaching and theology we already referenced.  This is the vicious cycle that continues stifle evangelism and produce bad fruit for the kingdom.

     What our world desperately needs is a faithful Christian witness that is both boldly professed and practiced by men and women who have been transformed by the power of the Gospel.  To think and act like a follower of Jesus Christ is a radical departure from the norm.  James 4:4 says it plainly, "Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God."  The Gospel opposes worldliness in every way.  This is what has always made Jesus' teaching so challenging, revolutionary, and even scandalous to its hearers.

     When challenged by the philosophy of his day in Athens, the center of Greek society and culture, the Apostle Paul responded with the Gospel.  He would later write to the church at Corinth:

"For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  For it is written, 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.'  Where is the one who is wise?  Where is the scribe?  Where is the debater of this age?  Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.  For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men."

     Paul rightly understood that what people needed wasn't "5 ways to a better you."  It wasn't more meaningless "decisions" for a watered-down Jesus.  It wasn't even more of HIM...it was more of Jesus.  The best thing I can do, the best thing you can do, the best thing anyone can do for someone is to introduce them to Jesus.  The true, unfiltered, unaltered Jesus of the Bible...the power and wisdom of God.

In Grace,
Chris Morris

If you missed this week's sermon (or just want to listen again), follow the link below to listen. Or subscribe to our podcast in iTunes.

Part 39 - Sharing What You Believe

Questions discussed in this sermon:

1.  What prevents you from sharing what you believe?
2.  How did Paul prepare to share his faith in Athens?
3.  What all can we learn from Paul when it comes to sharing what you believe? 

Latest Tweet