evangelism

The Unknown God

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.’

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.”

Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” So Paul went out from their midst. But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them. Acts 17:22-34.

The God who made us, the world, everything in it, and all the stars and planets around it, is the unknown God to those who do not know Him. We who do know Him are the authorities on this subject. The science obsessed person who says that God cannot be proven is merely taking the long way to say they don’t really know.

To say that the God who created the universe is incapable of raising the dead, or that He has no right to judge us, requires only a total ignorance of God. God cannot be measured, weighed, or judged by His creation. But we can limit our own knowledge of Him and the blessings He confers on those who believe. “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” (Hebrews 11:3).” And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6).

Do not be intimidated by those who don’t know God. They’re emptiness is no threat to you. Your fullness will be a blessing to them if you will let it out, and if they will receive it.

Divine Appointments

And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us. Acts 16:6-15.

Paul was pressing on, wanting to go to Asia to preach the Gospel. But the Holy Spirit stopped him and said, “I’ve got some people I want you to meet.” So it’s off to Macedonia, where Paul will start some new ministry and birth a new church and have adventures.

If you are determined to spread the Gospel, it is more likely that God will speak to you. Even if it’s to say, “No, over here!” Paul was willing to step out to advance the kingdom of God. He was following the general order to make disciples of all nations, and teach them to obey whatever Jesus commanded. And when more specific instructions came, he followed them.

If we will commit ourselves to the general order, God will deploy us to the place we are most needed. It may be in a support capacity, where to contribute time or money. You may provide your home as a meeting place. Or you may be on the front lines, persuading people to believe. Either way, we are called to represent God’s kingdom on the earth.

Follow That Car!

Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this:

“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter
and like a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he opens not his mouth.
In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken away from the earth.”

And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea. Acts 8:26-40.

Not only can we go places to preach the Gospel; we can send it. The Holy Spirit desires to reach Ethiopia with the word of God. Here is an opportunity to send a high official from that country home with salvation, and even with a bit of training on how to reach others!

Never be discouraged that the person you’re sharing Christ with is just a traveler that won’t be coming to your church. You may be sending a missionary instead! Pray with him. Get his contact information. Then stay in touch! Unless, of course, an angel suddenly transports you to another town.

Super Spreaders

And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” Acts 5:27-32.

Peter, John, and the other disciples were filling Jerusalem with the message that the man that had just been crucified was not only raised from the dead, but was actually the Messiah. This upset the religious rulers greatly. They thought that killing Jesus would end His popularity. Instead, He was reported as risen again and had further ascended into Heaven. And now He was being multiplied as miracles continued and the forgiveness of sins was preached in His name. Quick! Make this illegal!

During the covid-19 outbreak, the church got to decide if a little civil disobedience was in order when some state and local governments decided to tell us we could not come together to worship in our sanctuaries. Most congregations agreed to go along and moved their services online. A few bucked the order and made the news. Fewer still decided to go full super spreader and take the Gospel outside. This level of obedience to God is a pretty novel idea, and I hope it catches on.

If you are more afraid of the virus or the government than you are of God, you need to reconsider. We have been under orders to spread the Gospel contagion for about 2,000 years, and if it takes being locked out of your building to get you to do it, so be it. If we had done that, the authorities would have begged us to go back inside.

God’s Pick-Up Lines

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” John 4:7-26.

Jesus doesn’t want to be her number six. Jesus is number one. He is the Son of God, the Messiah, not just “a prophet.” He is not a narrow minded religious zealot who looks down on a Samaritan woman with a bad reputation, saying, “Back in my home town, we would have stoned you by now.”

Jesus came to seek and save the lost. He is her savior. This is the Jesus we, as believers, are supposed to represent. We are to woo the sinner and win her to our God.