Step into the Cultural Mix of Ideas

In Our Current Culture How Can We Share The Message Of Jesus?

Ross Sawyers
Jul 2, 2023    57m
With so many ideas in the culture that are contrary to Christianity, how do we find common ground and share the message of Jesus? This message gives practical advice on bridging the gap between the culture and truth of the Scriptures. Video recorded at Grapevine, Texas.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

Ross Sawyers: [00:00:04] This past week, our students, 6th grade through 12th grade, went to Student Life camp in Estes Park, Colorado. And on Tuesday afternoon, Lisa and I, we've grown soft, we can't handle the 17-hour bus ride, so we flew out to be with them for the rest of the week, and it's just an incredible time with our students. One of my favorite things was when we first arrived at the camp, we ran into one of the lady adults that was there for the week, and she had never been to one of our camps. They're newer to the church and she said, I just love how intentional Jermaine and Courtney are. Those are our two youth pastors, Jermaine, and Courtney, and pointing to the leaders and how intentional the leaders are in pouring into the students. There were 40 or so adults that were on the trip with 160 kids. And we were talking and sometimes Jermaine and Courtney get asked, why do you need so many adults to go? Some of you might be thinking that's not enough camp, and some of you might think that's too many. But our adults are not asked to just go and be like, make sure nothing gets broken because that's going to happen. There's a Proverb, by the way, that's great for student ministry. It's Proverbs 14:4 "Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean." You don't want a clean manger, you want the oxen, it's good when things get broken by our teenagers, just remember that. That's the first thing that was said, and I just love that. It requires a lot of time to be able to sit with students, walk with them about what it means to know Jesus, help them understand what baptism means, and help them through the crises and different challenges they're facing in their homes and their schools. And I'm just so grateful that we have such a powerful group of adults that are investing in our students.

Ross Sawyers: [00:02:01] The camp pastor, you may wonder what happens at a at a youth camp. The camp pastor, I just don't know how it could have been any more solid and substantive in the teaching night after night. Our students were given incredibly substantive things from the word of God, and the worship was absolutely phenomenal. And then it was a beautiful setting in Estes Park, I just don't know how it gets much better than stepping out of your door and then 15ft from you is an elk that knows it's not going to get shot because its horns are just about as massive. I sent a picture to a friend of mine of the elk, and he said, did you have a rifle? Are you going to shoot it? And I said I don't think that's going to go well on the campsite, the elk knew he was safe also, I'm certain. It was just a phenomenal, phenomenal week.

Ross Sawyers: [00:02:53] When Lisa and I flew out, we were always praying for opportunities that God would have us to serve people, to share the gospel if the opportunity was there, and in our row, a man named Dan sat next to us. And for the next 2.5 hours, we were able just to talk about the message of Christ in that 2.5 hours. And sometimes I tell these stories, and it sounds like every time I get on a plane or go somewhere, I get this opportunity. I just tell you the good stories. Like, actually, when I came back, the lady would have nothing of it, so there was nothing on the way back, but on the way there was. And it's such a gift to be able to be with my wife when we are sharing the gospel together, there's a richness that comes from two different ways people think and how they're hearing a conversation unfold. And we're talking to Dan, he's 66 years old, he is a powerlifting coach, and he was coming to the national meet outside of Denver with three of his lifters. He's very well read, very curious about different things culturally and what's going on in our culture. His first marriage was when he was 52 years old, he's been married 14 years now and he's written two books and loves a story. And as we were listening to him and his story, I finally got to a place where I was able to ask. I said, Hey, since you love stories, would you mind if I shared with you God's story? Because a few years ago he'd gotten curious about God, so he talked about that curiosity, he talked about his story. We've spent months talking about how to communicate God's story in a brief way, and so minus the visual, I verbally was able to walk with him through God's story. Now, I wish I could tell you that on that plane we bowed our heads, and he received Jesus, and he was so overwhelmed by the story. However, what I was able to do was get the clear message of Jesus to him, and now he has that, he can actually, as he's curious about God, he actually knows what's on the table and who Jesus is and what Jesus did.

Ross Sawyers: [00:05:11] And this is exactly what happens in Acts Chapter 17. If you'll turn in your Bibles to Acts 17 verses 16 through 34, and that's where we'll hang out for the next few minutes. We want to come from the Scriptures to what God has for us on this day. And the big idea that I have for us as you think about this is how do we step into the cultural mix of ideas? So when we look at all of this scripture and how this unfolds, what I want to encourage us to do is the thing that God has encouraged us to do and be a part of, and that's to step into the cultural mix of ideas, this will make more sense as I unfold.

Ross Sawyers: [00:05:52] A few weeks ago when one of the guys was preaching when I was on sabbatical, he made the comment, it was a great comment, that sometimes when we're reading the scriptures, we're looking at Paul, who's this leading missionary, takes the gospel to all these places that had never heard it before, he's like the ultimate road warrior with the message of Jesus. We look at that and say, I could never be that. And I listened to that when I was listening to him preach the other day, and I think he answered it the same way. So I'm probably just repeating, but I was thinking about it afresh and thought, yeah, and Paul also said, imitate me. As I imitate Jesus, imitate me. Paul did not have anything more than you and I have. He had surrendered to the message of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit of God was in Him, he followed the lead of the Spirit, and he took the message of Jesus to where the Spirit led him to take it. Every one of us is capable of that. We imitate Paul as he imitates Jesus.

Ross Sawyers: [00:07:01] So when we think about stepping into the cultural mix of ideas, the first thing in verses 16 through 21 that I would say about that is that we need to understand the ideas that are out there in our culture. We need to do the hard work, the study, and the labor to know what those ideas are. I would encourage you today, I feel like for me personally, that I woke up at the end of Covid and all of a sudden there was this massive generation gap for me. I've never felt that way, and I've worked with students my whole life. I've stayed in tune with them and in touch with them, and I've never thought there's a gap. And that's the only way I know how to say it, it's like awakened and all of a sudden, the language is different, the shaping is different. Now, this has been going on for a long time, it's just like it boom, hit. And I would just say today that if we need to act like the ones who are going on a global mission and are going to be with our workers all across the world, if we don't look at our culture like a missionary going into another country, we're going to totally miss out on the opportunity to bring the gospel to them because we're speaking two different languages. And to understand the language of the younger, we have to get in there and try and understand what the ideas are that have been shaping them so that we can, in turn, talk about Jesus with them. And so we want to understand the ideas.

Ross Sawyers: [00:08:36] In verse 16 we begin, "Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols." Paul had been in Thessalonica, we're in Greece right now. Paul had been in Thessalonica, which is in Greece, and he was run out of town. Then he was in Berea, he was run out of town. He's now in Athens, he's by himself and he's awaiting Silas and Timothy, his friends that were on those journeys with him. Now, there are times that God has us when we are by ourselves to speak the message of Jesus when we're on our own with one person or more persons. There is a comfort and a strength when there's more than one. When Silas and Timothy are with Paul, there's a strength in it, and I think that is why Jesus sent his disciples out in pairs. And when I'm with Lisa in the last several weeks, God's given us multiple opportunities together, and I've loved being with her as we share the gospel, she's just bringing something different to the table in the conversation, or when I'm with someone else. And Paul is awaiting them.

Ross Sawyers: [00:09:49] Several years ago, I met two Mormon missionaries at Chick-fil-A and we started a dialog, and I said, hey, what if we get together and let's talk some more about this? We're different in the way we see things and believe things, and they did not disagree with me on that. We agreed to meet, and they gave me a number, and I called them and set up the time, and I decided this would be a great opportunity for me to be a role model for my teenage son and one of his friends. So I brought them along with me to visit with these Mormon missionaries, and I wanted to model for them how to have a conversation about Jesus. It could have been one of my worst ideas ever, I think I scarred them for life. As the Mormon missionaries showed up, we were at our old building prior to this one, and it was all glass in the front. And the missionaries are coming by, there's one, two, three, four of them. And I thought, oh wow, this is four-on-one because the boys weren't going to participate, I was just modeling for them. Four-on-one, I got smoked in that conversation and I realized what was happening. While one was talking, the other three were reloading. And no matter what I would say, they're flipping through their stuff and they're thinking through the way they've been taught to defend their faith, and I'm just losing out, I can't get my footing. And then I did what all good people do when we can't figure out what to say, I got mad about it and it was obvious that I was mad about it, and it was terrible. The whole deal was bad, it was bad modeling, it wasn't good for the Mormons, it wasn't good for me, we were all worse for doing that. I know why Paul was waiting for Silas and Timothy.

Ross Sawyers: [00:11:41] But I also know we can be equipped in a way, and hopefully, the day has passed where that would happen to me. I started praying to God, I said, will you please give me the stomach lining to not get upset when I'm in a conversation with somebody else? All that says is I'm ill-prepared, will you help me be prepared in a way and with the confidence of the Spirit? And that's what Paul starts to show us as he moves through this. Can we do it by ourselves? Absolutely. Is it nice when there are multiple ones of us so we have someone we can lean on and help us think through the best way to communicate it? So here he is, he's in Athens, Greece, it's the cultural and intellectual center of the day. It's probably on a little bit of decline at this point, but still a hefty city. And Paul is looking around and "His spirit was being provoked." That word, provoked, means deeply disturbed. So he was deeply disturbed by this observation of the city he was in that was full of idols. It's the same word that's used of God when he talks about idolatry, the word idle simply means this, that we've placed something above God. And any time something is placed above God, that's what it means to profane the name of God. It's not just cussing with God's name in it, that's profaning His name, it's placing anything above God's name that profanes his name. And he finds himself here, and he is provoked within, God's glory is being robbed. It was said by a Roman satirist that there were more gods in Athens than there were men, he was just surrounded by idolatry, and Paul's spirit was provoked.

Ross Sawyers: [00:13:43] We're surrounded by idolatry as well. When was the last time that your spirit was provoked, deeply disturbed by all the anti-god things that were in the midst of? And not deeply disturbed because you are losing something personally in the way things used to be. Not a personal disturbing, but you're disturbed because God's name is being robbed of his glory. That's what disturbed Paul, he understood this is a spiritual battle, it's not between me and another person, it's a spiritual battle. But he so treasured God's name, it disturbed him about what he was seeing.

Ross Sawyers: [00:14:49] "So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present. He was reasoning with them in the synagogue. We've seen in Acts that that's Paul's custom, his habit, he first goes to the synagogue where they understood what we would call the Old Testament scriptures, and he would show them how that was fulfilled in Jesus. So he did his custom, and then he goes into the marketplace every day with those who happened to be present. So from the scriptures in the synagogue, and now into the marketplace, how often did Paul go into the marketplace? And he was a tentmaker, by the way, so he worked. But how often did Paul go into the marketplace to speak about Jesus? Every day, this is every day for him. It wasn't just showing up at the synagogue on the Sabbath and talking about Jesus, it was every day in the marketplace. So what is our marketplace today? So we would come, and we'd think about today, the synagogue equivalent right now would be our church. We're gathering up, we're talking about Jesus when we gather up in here. There are people here who are curious and don't know him, there are people here who are stagnant, and indifferent. There are people here who have hidden sin, and the last thing you're ever going to do is serve or talk about Jesus because the sin is so shameful. There are people here who are mature and growing in their faith, it's wide range. And then there's the marketplace, so we come from the scriptures here and we go to the marketplace. What's the marketplace? It's your neighborhood, it's your school, it's your work, it's the bleachers where you sit and are watching the games of your kids, that is your marketplace.

Ross Sawyers: [00:16:46] When we were in Israel a couple of months ago, one of the things that God impressed on me deeply; it might not mean the same to you, but it did to me, we were talking about Jesus, and follow me and I'll make you fishers of men. And because I live where I live, and you live where you live, maybe you think as I do, and I tend to think about fishing as rod and reel, and then you kind of bring it in and you're catching one fish at a time. That's not how they fished, when we're reading in the New Testament, they fished with nets and when they were fishing, they were expecting to bring in a load of fish. They weren't thinking, bring in one fish, they were thinking a load. When Jesus gave them that picture in their minds, they would picture bringing in a bunch of fish. And I think that would be really cool if we adjusted our prayers and it wasn't just about one person here or one person there, but what if we thought about a net full of people? And I thought about my whole neighborhood and what would happen if God would bring salvation and rescue my whole neighborhood. That's a net full. What if I thought about my English class, not just my one friend, but my whole class? What would happen if God did something here? What if I thought about not just the guy, I'm assuming you're even thinking about it, by the way, but let's just say you're in your cubicle and you're concerned and burdened for the person next to you. What about the whole floor of cubicles and what would happen? That's a net full of people coming to Jesus, and just put it whatever your scenario is, it's a whole sideline of parents that become followers of Jesus. What would that look like? Not just the one that I've been working on for the last eight years, but what about the whole of them? And that's what Paul was doing, he was always casting a really large net and throwing it out there with the hope that people every day would know Jesus. Imitate Paul as he imitates Jesus.

Ross Sawyers: [00:18:41] Well, who is he hanging out with as he was looking around the marketplace at this point, verse 18, "And also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him." Epicureans have a materialist philosophy. So when you read Epicurean, you're reading about people who don't believe there's anything beyond this life, they're materialists, and you just get what you can get now. The Stoics, they were pantheists, they did not believe that God was separate from his creation, they believed that it was all one. Do these sound familiar? Same today, we're just not using the names Epicurean and Stoic. One of the dangers today is that we are an affluent group of people in this area, one of the dangers to us today it's possible we're materialists with a small veneer of God on top of it, not really Christians who've been blessed with a lot to advance the kingdom of what God's doing. It's possible that we're pantheists today, and it's just slid in there, that's a cultural driver, that it's all one, we're one with God. The Stoics also were very fond of reason and lived by that.

Ross Sawyers: [00:20:24] Underneath both the Epicureans and Stoics is the idea of self-reliance, it's just expressed in different ways. And that I believe, probably in any culture, any era, is the primary issue, right? It's either God is the center, or I am, and I express my self-reliance in a number of ways, this is who he's having the conversation with. Well, "Some were saying, “What would this idle babbler wish to say?” Now, yours might say seed picker in your translation. And what they were these philosophers were saying to him is you're just bringing a bunch of ideas to the table, and you don't know what you're talking about when you're talking about Jesus, you're like a seed picker. So it's the idea of a bird that's near a barn and there's a bunch of seed outside the barn and the bird is just coming and pecking at a seed here and getting a seed here and getting a seed here. And when it says, idle babbler, they're just telling Paul, hey, look, you're no different than the bird by the barn, and you've just grabbed an idea here, an idea here, and an idea there.

Ross Sawyers: [00:21:31] That's what goes on in social media today, by the way, you just grab a thought here, grab a phrase here, grab a thought here, and then all of a sudden someone's an expert on it until you ask them more deeply and they know about one sentence underneath that one thing that they just picked a seed on, a bunch of idle babblers running around. But in this case, they're accusing Paul of being that idle babbler. And then others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities,”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection." Paul already jumped into the mix of ideas, and he was able to get Jesus into the conversation. I heard someone say a long time ago, that if we don't bring Jesus into the conversation in the first five minutes, we probably won't. Now, I'm not saying put it on a clock, five minutes, missed it. But if it's not somewhere up front, often, it'll never make it. Paul got the conversation in there about Jesus and the resurrection, which means he would have talked about the crucifixion, that Jesus had died on a cross, and it's through what Jesus did in taking on our sin and the wrath of God, that when we believe that, that we actually experience forgiveness and freedom. God raised him from the dead and conquered that sin and death, he got it out there. Some people heard that and so they said, hey, you're saying something strange.

Ross Sawyers: [00:23:04] Fast forward 2000 plus years. It sounds strange today when we talk about Jesus, the crucifixion, and the resurrection. It is strange to people's ears when we talk about it, they'll look at us if you have conversations about them, you know what I'm talking about, they'll just look at you funny. You just know this is not the normal conversation, and they think it's strange what I'm saying. And I know it because I know so much of the lingo we use from the Scripture is not what's going on in the day-to-day world so it sounds really strange. So we're in the same spot Paul is in, but it didn't keep him from talking about Jesus and the resurrection. He was able to get into the mix of ideas, "And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is which you are proclaiming?" I confess to you, I would love it if people would just come to me and say, Hey, we want to know what this teaching is. Would you please just tell us what it is? And he says, “For you are bringing some strange things to our ears; so we want to know what these things mean." They weren't shutting down the bantering of ideas, they wanted to hear the ideas. It was a place of ideas where they could be spoken of, whether they were agreed with or not.

Ross Sawyers: [00:24:33] Now, ("All the Athenians, in verse 21, and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.") Now, they were interested because they just liked hearing new things, but there's this big bantering of ideas that goes on. And Paul was able to engage them because he understood their ideas. And if we're going to get into the cultural mix, we've have to figure out how to understand what the ideas are that are out there so that we can interact with them about Jesus.

Ross Sawyers: [00:25:14] What are some of those ideas that are out there? My truth, your truth? That's your truth, this is my truth, it's a prevailing idea in our culture today. Not that there's one truth which is Jesus Christ, the way, the life, and the truth, but there's your truth and you decide what the truth is. You're the final arbiter of what truth is. Be yourself. Follow your heart. Be the best version of yourself. Be happy. Those are all prevailing ideas. Sex is your primary identity, your identity is not something that is given to you from something outside of yourself, but whatever your sexual identity is, that is the core of who you are. That's an idea that's out there, that's not an idea from scripture. We need to understand those ideas. Disney commercials love telling us, to write your own story, just imagine and write your own story. That's not a God-centered idea, we're not trying to write our own story, we want to yield to and surrender and get inside of God's story. It's his story to write, not your story or my story to write. But you see all those things, they sound really good. You watch the Disney commercial, and I think, why would I not get on a plane right now and get there to go ride my own story? And then all of a sudden that's how we hear everybody talking about fueling their own imagination to write their own story rather than looking to God and saying, what's the story you're writing? And I don't want to be inside the story you're writing, that's where the most satisfaction and pleasure will come. I have to understand these ideas. I need to know what people are thinking so I can interact.

Ross Sawyers: [00:27:35] On sabbatical, listen, I went on a hike on one of the days in a place where we were, and there were six of us. It was the two of us, a neuroscientist and his wife, and a Stanford-trained attorney and her husband. And we had done this hike and where we were in the part of the country, I was hearing people constantly talk about luck and Mother Nature. This is all Mother Nature, and we're lucky that we get to be here. And I thought, okay, how do I engage in a conversation and move us from luck and Mother Nature, which I find it interesting, by the way, that all this random chance idea that we still call it Mother Nature, we have to put a name on it. Even though it's all random, whatever, there's nothing behind it, but it's Mother Nature. We're still trying to name it, people know there's something behind it whether they'll admit that or not admit that.

Ross Sawyers: [00:28:35] The Stanford-trained attorney, we're around a fire, and she's the only one that engages me in the conversation. And here's how I framed it, I said, is it okay if I ask an uncomfortable question? And she said yes. I said, okay, I said when we look at everything, we're in, we believe God created this. What do you believe? And she said, oh, I didn't see that coming, I thought we were going to talk politics. But she was game, I don't think she's ever been afraid of a conversation. And she said I would love it if I could push a magic button and believe in the afterlife, that would be so comforting to me, but I can't. And so I said, what do you believe? Random chance. I'm certain after my time with her, there is nothing in her life that she is left to random chance. Her kids are in the right suburb, in the right school, with the right plan. She's on track for everything, it is so well thought out and planned. And yet the biggest questions in life, somehow that's just random chance, and she's lucky that she grew up in a home with a successful attorney that afforded her the opportunity to do the same, lucky. And God gave me the opportunity to share my story with her, and I turned her towards Timothy Keller, and hopefully, she'll read the reason for God, I have no idea, but it was a great conversation. But we understand the ideas even just by asking people what they believe, and then once we understand the ideas, we can bridge to the truth.

Ross Sawyers: [00:30:41] Let me give you a couple of resources that help. Sometimes you wonder, okay, I don't really know how to do all this. The Culture Translator, I've spoken to this often, Jeremaine has this go out to his leaders and parents, you've had the opportunity, but these guys do a phenomenal job, it's just once a week, so it's not overwhelming. You subscribe to it, you get it on Fridays, and you'll see what the trends are for that week. And this week, for example, the national debate organization that leads middle and high schools across our country, they're allowing some judges now to say that some material in debates is unacceptable, and then they're also saying it's okay to attack the character of the other debater. In what the translator people made the comment on, debate in middle and high school was the place where we started to develop attorneys and civil leaders to know how to function in the public square, and now these are some of the values that are starting to come into the debate world. You see in Athens they could debate and banter the ideas. Less and less do we get the freedom to banter the ideas. The Culture Translator is helpful.

Ross Sawyers: [00:31:57] And then John Stonestreet wrote this book, A Practical Guide to Culture. John Stonestreet and Brett Kunkel, is an excellent read, helps to understand the culture, and the framework for what's going on. What are the lies? What are truths to counter the lies? How do we function in God's story? And then practically they talk about racial tension, entertainment, addiction, consumerism, gender identity, sexual orientation, pornography, and the hookup culture. And so if you're trying to figure out how to have dialogs with someone around those ideas, this is at least a resource that could be a help to you to bridge a gap. We've got gaps in the way we're communicating, and this will help bridge it to have real conversations.

Ross Sawyers: [00:32:43] And that's exactly what Paul did, so he, on one hand, he understood the ideas, and he also clearly understood the truth of scripture. Now he's building bridges to the truth. Let's look at verse 22, "So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects." What he's doing here is looking for common ground. He's noticed they have these idols, these temples, and they're religious people, he's affirming that, I notice that you're religious people. And I think that's important when we think about being out among people, how do we communicate Jesus? We look for common ground. And one of the ways, here are two examples of how we can do that today. One is unity, we live in a nation where people of all segments want unity. The problem is we're more divided and more fractured than ever. What people are trying to do to achieve unity will not work, but I can build a bridge with that, with someone who's not a follower of Jesus. Do you know what? I know that you value unity, and so do I. Could I share with you a different story of how unity can be found? In Ephesians chapter 2, unity is found at the cross of Jesus, it's the great equalizer. It's there when a person comes to know Jesus that we find a unity together as brothers and sisters in Christ and it's lasting and it crosses all segments of society, it's possible in Jesus. See what I'm doing, I'm taking unity and saying, okay, we can actually have unity, but I want to tell you a different story, let me share another one that might be easier to grab.

Ross Sawyers: [00:34:32] In gender dysphoria, someone believes that they are a female and they have a male biological body. If I have a conversation with that person, I've got a relationship. I mean, I'm just giving you a small piece, right? Relationally I am kind of in there, and I have the opportunity to have this dialog. What I would say to that person is, you are so right that our bodies are broken and that our minds are broken. Can I share, so is mine, we're both broken. Could I just give you an alternative story, a better story of how to fix the brokenness? And then I tell them God's story and there were sinful people, that's why we're broken. And that Jesus Christ on the cross fixes the brokenness, and it's free, it's a free gift of grace. See, I can take where someone is and I can bridge that and agree that we're broken even though we have different ideas of how to fix it. And there I can build and say, can we at least consider something else of how to fix it?

Ross Sawyers: [00:35:51] Well, Paul is great about finding common ground. And then he says, “I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you." So here he is, looking around at this city full of idols, and in the midst of that is this one that says to an unknown God. And there's something in them, there was something in Dan, our friend on the airplane who's the weightlifting coach. He said, there's just something in us that makes us want to worship. So I was in this really beautiful place, and I just wanted to worship. But he didn't know the right object to worship, but something in him wanted to worship. And there's this unknown God and they're worshiping this unknown God, so they're doing this in ignorance, and then Paul proceeds to tell them that they can know this unknown God.

Ross Sawyers: [00:36:42] Now, a few weeks ago I was listening to Lisa Childers on a podcast, and she made a comment that thought, this is the way I have to keep training my mind because I don't think like this, but I have to train my mind so that I know how I'm being heard. Now sometimes you'll tell me how I'm being heard and that's good. And then other times, I just need to understand by training my mind, this is how the culture at large is hearing it. This is what she said, "The culture as a whole does not believe you can know. Which means any time I say something with certainty, or that I know, I'm coming off as arrogant and judgmental." Do you think like that? And I'm not saying we don't share what we know, I'm just saying if we're going to bridge it so someone can hear, I need to understand the way they're hearing me is that I'm arrogant, that I would say I know. Now, if you've jumped ahead of that comment, you understand the irony of it, that by saying you can't know, you are saying something that you do know, logic is long gone. So just know we're talking about what we know, we want to be aware so we can have a humility which we should anyway, and a confidence in what we know. But recognize that could be how we're being heard, and we can diffuse it sometimes. With the Stanford lady, what I did with her to defuse something I said, now, most people in our culture think of us as Christians and they think we hate that we're bigots and judgmental. And then she had a comment about that, and she did not disagree with me. But I diffused it by saying, I know this is how I'm thought of, even though you don't even know me. So we can diffuse things like that by just acknowledging it, and then it opens an opportunity.

Ross Sawyers: [00:38:41] Verse 24, So he starts to describe at a big level God, “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands." He's looking around, he's in the midst of all these idols and temples and saying, hey, God is above this, he made the world and everything in it. He's Lord of it, he's over it, and he doesn't dwell here, "Nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things." God does not need you, he doesn't need me, he's the one that gives us everything, and it's a privilege for us to be able to serve and walk with him. But if we ever think we're doing God a favor, by the way we serve Him or something we do for him, he does not need us, which is the beauty of his grace that he would invite us into who he is and what he's doing.

Ross Sawyers: [00:39:39] Verse 26, "He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation." Look what he's doing, he found common ground, and now he's describing God at a big level, he's the creator. Now he's also the creator of the one man from whom all of humankind came, and all of humankind then is in a particular place at a particular time. God designed it for you and for me to live in this time in these boundaries. Sometimes we wonder, I wish I lived there, I wish I lived in another time frame, it was better back then. It probably wasn't, but we wish that we were back in that space. And this is where God wants you, in this cultural moment, he placed you and He placed me here in this moment. He's given all of us a certain number of days, I don't know how long those days are, but he's given us days, he's given us a place to inhabit, and he's given us a time to inhabit those days, and that is where we are.

Ross Sawyers: [00:40:38] He gives us purpose in verse 27, "That they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us." God is both transcendent and he's close, he can be found. He's placed us here so that we might be seekers of God. And then he makes an interesting move here in verse 28, common ground, and the big picture of who God is. He's narrowing it down, and now he draws from their cultural experiences. "For in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children." Their own poets say that we're God's children, which makes the idea of the idols futile because idols can't give birth, he draws from their poets. In the synagogue from the scriptures, and in the marketplace, I need to understand who the poets of the day are to be able to communicate in a way that someone can understand. Who are our poets today? Our musicians, movies, things we stream, social media influencers, sports figures, artists. I need to understand who the poets of the day are, so I can draw from that to bridge them to the truth of Jesus, they'll understand that. If I know from listening to somebody that they love Marvel movies, there are all kinds of things I can draw from Marvel movies to help them understand Jesus. If I know they're a sports person, I draw from that. With the wrestling coach, I drew from the things that he told me, and I just bridged those into the conversation. I took his poets to bring him the good news of Jesus.

Ross Sawyers: [00:42:54] Then he describes a little more in verse 29, “Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man.", and so he builds on that idea of being the children of God. Now Paul brings it down and he narrows it and makes it real for them, this is what you do with it. I'm not just bantering ideas with you, Jesus is not just another idea in the marketplace, I'm bringing you to a place to know what you do with Jesus. “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent." Everywhere, all across the world, he's declaring that all men should repent. The word repent means to change my mind. I know not to place anything above God, I'm going to be centered on God.

Ross Sawyers: [00:43:44] And then he says, why it matters, "Because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” Paul entered the discussion by talking about Jesus crucified and resurrected, he builds common ground, talks about the big picture of God as creator, narrows it down, uses their own culture to help them understand, and then brings them to a place of understanding. Look, to enter this, is repentance and then following after Jesus.

Ross Sawyers: [00:44:29] When we receive Jesus, there's freedom. On this 4th of July weekend, we celebrate our nation's freedom. Two weeks ago on June 19th, we celebrated a day when slaves in Texas learned they were free after the Civil War. It was unknown to them that they were free, and then it was known. Can you imagine the celebration on that day? This last week at camp, seven students trusted, and repented, and believed Jesus, they're free now at the cross. Thank you. Unknown to known, you can know, you can know God through Jesus Christ. And knowing Jesus is eternal life and freedom.

Ross Sawyers: [00:45:52] John Stonestreet and some others talk about this often in their writings, that ideas have consequences, and bad ideas have victims. And we know across our culture right now that some of the biggest victims in our culture of bad ideas from adults are our children and our teenagers. Things I said earlier, those just aren't ideas that are phrases or feelings or whatever, they're ideas that have consequences. What we do with Jesus has consequences. And when we speak of Jesus, we can expect varied responses.

Ross Sawyers: [00:46:13] "Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer." So when we talk about Jesus, some people will sneer. This morning I was at the gym and I know that's no surprise to anyone, I had a conversation with a man I hadn't seen there before. And we were sitting in there and I was thinking, okay, I don't really know where to move with this conversation, God, do you want me to invite him to church tonight? And so I kind of wrestled with that, I left and went out to the pool for a minute. He came out and sat down and I thought, okay, at the youth camp last week the camp pastor said, most people don't get invited to church. If they're invited, the majority will appreciate and maybe want to come. So I thought, I'm just going to invite him to church. So I got up and I went over to him, and I said, hey, I don't know what you think of the church or not, but I pastor one down the road and I would love to invite you to our church this morning. He was uncomfortable, he looked at me and he said no, and then uncomfortably, he walked away. I could see in his face that he'd probably been hurt somewhere by the church, and so my heart went out to him. But as a result of whatever that is, he sneered, no. We'll get that response more and more in our culture, and we need to figure out also how to address the hurts with people.

Ross Sawyers: [00:48:13] "But others said, “We shall hear you again concerning this.” People come back again and again, and it's so cool to watch God work in those who are curious. "Paul went out of their midst. 34But some men joined him and believed." So there would be those, both men and women, who will join in and believe. We'll get all of those responses when we're mixing it up every day in the marketplace in this cultural set of ideas that are out there, and it matters that we mix it up. When Lisa and I arrived in Denver, we went to the train, to the bus, to the rental car place. It said, if your name's not on the board, go inside, I waited in line and went inside. He said, are you a preferred customer? I said I don't do this that often, so probably not. He goes, Well, you go to the next building. Perfect. So I'd waited there, and I go to the next building. I really wanted to be at camp by 4:00, I had in mind what I wanted to do. So I was a little frustrated by the whole thing, and then just long line that I stood in. We finally get our car and then we're told to go outside and look in the row of cars facing the airport. Well, I had no idea where the airport was, we'd gone off-site, and there wasn't anything logical or obvious to me if this was where the airport was but go find that line of cars and pick one. So then we go find somebody else and say which line of cars is facing the airport, so I know I'm picking from the right pile of cars? And then we get in the car, and I told Lisa, I said, hey, just pop in Waze to the YMCA of the Rockies. And we did, and it said two hours, and I thought I thought it was an hour and a half, but traffic may be bad. We did the tolls, it got us down to an hour and 45 minutes. Okay, this is right, and so we headed off. We arrived at a town ten minutes outside of our destination and we went into a grocery store to get snacks for camp, just like kids. And we walked into the store, and I thought, I'm going to pop in the exact address that Andre had given me for where we're staying just so I can get in exactly the right spot. I put it in and it says two hours and six minutes. I thought, that's a really sinking feeling, we were already late, and now there's two hours and six minutes. I thought that must not be right, so I retyped it and it was correct. So I go to the guy at the grocery counter, and I said, hey, I said, we're headed to YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, and I thought I was ten minutes away. Am I? And he said, well if you're going to the YMCA of the Rockies at Frazier, you're ten minutes away. If you're going to Estes Park, you're two hours and six minutes away. So once I worked through the sinking feeling, I went to Lisa and said, hey, we need to get rolling, we're at the wrong spot now. We ended up going through the Rocky National Mountain Park and it was the most stunningly beautiful two-hour ride with elk and moose. I mean, we stopped the car and took pictures. I had to remind Lisa that, wait, we're here to go to camp, we're not here to look at all the beauty of what's happening. And then finally, we arrived at our correct destination because we had it in our GPS correctly. Knowing our destination matters, our destination matters. There are people who are headed to the wrong place right now, and there are people who think they're headed to the right destination like we did, who are headed to the wrong place. But once we get the destination entered correctly, just like we had a beautiful and good drive, it's the same, when we have the destination right, then it's a beautiful and good and truthful story of which we are writing. I hope that's your destination, if not, that you'd redirect and put in the right destination, and the only way to that destination is through Jesus Christ, crucified and risen.

Ross Sawyers: [00:52:42] Father, thank you for our time today, and a beautiful time of worship. I love seeing our global workers, and gosh, they're living out exactly what we just described here in Acts 17 in these coming weeks. And I pray, Father, that their hearts will be prepared that we anchored well in your word, led by your spirit and God, whether it's airplanes or whatever modes of transportation they find themselves in, or people there with God, that they'll just be wide open with Jesus and be able to do it in a way that can be heard, and so I just want to join that prayer this morning. For all of us, God, I pray today that if we're yours, will you give us a vision for nets full of people? And God, will you help us to understand the ideas going on out there so that we can bridge that like a good and great missionary would, and be able to bridge the message of Jesus in a way they can hear it and understand it? And Father, I pray you'll help us to do the hard work and study and labor and lean on you and ask mentors and teachers and read and study and look at YouTube videos and all the things out there that can help us. God, I pray that will be so well prepared, not with the ideas in the culture only, but, God, we would be so anchored in your Word that we know how to interact with them, and that we not be afraid to fail and to come back and then figure out where do we go from here? But thank you for the message in Acts 17 today. And God, give us the courage to walk in it, and get into the mix and not be bystanders or sit back and just complain or have our spirits provoked because we're losing something that we wanted for ourselves or something that we used to have. But instead, God, that our hearts would be provoked for the sake of your name and your glory, God. And when it's profaned that that would bother us deeply, and then we'd step in so that people could see who you are and the goodness and beauty and the truth of who you are. And I pray these things in Jesus' name. If we could, let's be quiet before the Lord for just a moment. I'd like to have this time so we can think about, just briefly before we get on the run, whether there is something specifically God is saying for us to step into. And so let's just be still for a moment. Amen.

Ross Sawyers: [00:55:57] Thank you all so much, I just love our church, I love you, and I'm grateful to walk this with you. And I believe we are a church that's stepping into the mix with the good news of Jesus, let's continue to be on the move with it. As you go in just a moment, one of the things we encourage in the ways we're able to advance the kingdom and do the things like the mission efforts that we talked about today is through the generosity of your giving, if that's something you're engaged in, we just want to say thank you for that. If you're not and you're a follower of Jesus, I would encourage you that the generosity of Christ towards us motivates our hearts to in turn be generous towards him, and I hope you'd get in the game with that generosity if you're not already. And then if you would like anyone to pray with you today, I know there are a lot of hurts and challenges things going on in people's lives and we have that opportunity for you if you'd like somebody to specifically pray over you. So as we dismiss, you're welcome to come this way, we'll have people here for you. All right, you're dismissed, enjoy the 80s today as we heat up during the week.

Recorded in Grapevine, Texas.
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121 Community Church
2701 Ira E Woods Ave.
Grapevine, Texas 76051