1) Every day will be a new devotional. I have enough devotionals for every day for three years
2) Also as I can, I'll be posting on my new political blog (see bottom of page).
Some other housecleaning:
A) If you'd like to just get new postings sent to your email, just submit your address in the box on the left just below. There's just one possible downside, though. Occasionally I'll add a music video at the end that's relevant to the devotional, and you won't get them in the email sent to you. If I add a video though, I'll make sure to mention in the posting, so you'll know to come to the site to see it if you'd like.
B) I actually finished writing new blog posting for the TAWG at the end of 2016. So what I'm doing now is at the beginning of every month, I'll move the earliest month from 3 years ago ahead so that a "new" posting appears every day. That's why you won't find any postings for January 2014, for example.
C) When I started this Blog, I was using the 1984 edition of the NIV, and that’s what I linked to on the Biblegateway site. However, in 2011 Zondervan updated its edition and thus reworded a lot of the NIV translation. Therefore, all the links which went to the 1984 edition now redirect to the 2011 edition, which often has slightly different wording. Thus, part of my editing process has been to update my Scripture quotes in my postings. But I might have missed some, in which case you might see my quote in the posting as a little different from what comes up when you click on my citation link, since that redirects to the 2011 edition on the Biblegateway site. It's a good thing that we realize that the work of translation never ends, but it can be a kind of a pain on a site like this. If you see any difference in verbiage between my quote and what shows up as a link on the Biblegateway site, or if you hover over a link and it has "NIV1984" at the end of it, please notify me and I'll correct it.
D) I can't believe I have to say this, but here goes. At the end of every posting is a suggested short prayer that has to do with what we discussed. This is actually what I've prayed when I finished writing it. In no way am I asking you to pray the exact verbiage of my suggested prayer. It's just a springboard for your own prayer, nothing more. Quite frankly, I've never been a fan of praying rote prayers written by someone else. As with everything else I do here, to the degree it helps, great; to the degree it doesn't, chunk it.
As always, thank you so much for reading, even if it's to read one post. God bless.
Hopefully you know by now that I try very hard to be fair with views of Evangelicals who disagree with me. There are some biblical teachers whom I highly respect who part ways with me on this. My main theology professor in college, the one whom we teasingly referred to as “the fourth member of the Trinity” doesn’t agree with my assessment of this passage. Let me present their arguments, and then I’ll submit why I think they’re wrong.
Basically they view Paul’s speech in Athens as mostly a failure. They don’t see a lot of value in knowing about and quoting extra-biblical sources in trying to reach Post-moderns, and they don’t see Paul’s speech as a reason to do so. They have two main lines of argument, and I think they need to be heard:
• They point out that apparently Paul’s speech didn’t produce a huge amount of immediate converts. Today’s passage in Acts tells us that “some” outright rejected his message because of his proclamation of the Resurrection, which would completely contradict their philosophy. “Others” basically put off making a decision, telling him they wanted to hear more evidence or more arguments before they got off the fence. According to anti-Athens teachers, Luke is telling us that only “some” actually made a decision to listen to Paul and became followers of Christ.
• They also like to point to the Corinthian passage. Paul went to Corinth right after Athens, and in 1 Corinthians he describes what he did there. In these verses Paul supposedly “learned his lesson” and refused to use any more high-minded arguments and decided to just “stick to talking about Jesus.” The lesson he apparently learned was “Don’t talk about pagan philosophers or poets or statues to the Unknown God. Just tell them that they’re sinners with a rendezvous with Judgment Day, that Jesus died for their sins and rose again, and tell them that they need to place their faith in him.”
As you might have guessed, I respectfully but thoroughly disagree with their assessment. First off, there’s no indication that his response was really that bad. To say that the fact that “some” of them believed is somehow a bad thing I think really overstates their case. With one speech he broke through the barriers some had erected and led them to faith in Christ, which was certainly a better place than they were before. No, Paul didn’t see a stampede of converts from his one sermon. They weren’t ready to receive it yet. At worst Paul was planting a seed. Do people actually think they would have responded better to the Four Spiritual Laws? Do they actually think that if he'd started citing the Torah and the Prophets he would've had a better response? Really?
I respect the ones who disagree with me. I really do. But for them to jump from Acts to Corinth to try to make the case that Paul was talking about how great he was received in Corinth vs. how he was received in Athens? Quite frankly, I think they’re making too great a leap for me. The very same book that they use for their argument, just a few chapters later, tells us that Paul “became” a Jew to win over Jews, and “became” like a Gentile to win over Gentiles. This is a verse that I’ve (figuratively) stamped on my forehead: “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” This was (to coin a phrase) his realistic ideal: To save some, since realistically we're never going to save all or even most. My friends, I submit that this is exactly what he was doing in Athens.
Do I think that every outreach effort needs to slavishly model after the speech in Athens? Of course not. Every situation is different. But as I’ve tried to make clear over the last few days, I think it’s extremely relevant in a Post-Christian, Post-Biblically literate, Post-Modern context. And if we’re going to reach this generation, we need to see what we can glean from it.
Lord Jesus, the message about your Truth never changes. Please give us Paul’s passion, to be all things to all people so that by all possible means we might save some. Our preferences, our way of doing things don’t matter. What matters is glorifying you by reaching the lost with the Good News. What part do I have in that?
I have a lot of respect and love for the “seeker sensitive” or “seeker driven” movement. There’s a lot to like about it, at least from where I’m standing. I was a member of a church with leanings in this direction for about ten years, and I saw how much the Lord used it in peoples' lives. That church made a sincere effort to make sure that if someone was offended by our church, they were offended for the right reasons. The preaching style, the musical style, the dress code—these are not good reasons for an outsider to turn away from a church. If he turns away because he’s offended by what the Bible actually teaches, then that’s between him and God.
I’ve actually had some teachers I respect tell me that the sermon in Athens is not something we need to emulate. Somehow Paul got off the subject of Christ alone as the center of the Good News, and he might have even “watered down” the truth in order to get a wider audience. We’ll get into their arguments tomorrow, but I’d like to address the proposition today.
I understand the arguments of those opposed to being seeker sensitive, I really do. There’s a real danger that while trying to be “all things to all people” we’ll forget that our message is inherently offensive. If I present the Good News, and the person isn’t offended, I need to make sure I presented it correctly. The Cross of Christ is offensive to sinful, prideful men who are in rebellion against God. It’s entirely possible to abolish its offensiveness, but that’s not a good thing.
So while we’re bending over backwards to present the Good News to people where they are, we have to remember to get to the Truth. That’s where we get to today. Paul started off the speech with a compliment, eagerly acknowleding that they were spiritual people and that their poets and philosophers had some of the truth. He started off with the Creator who’s revealed himself through creation and through the gropings of wise men who are trying to get to the truth.
What’s the purpose here? Why is Paul standing in front of them? Is it to arrive at a better mutual understanding, so that we can all bask in the glories of Greek religion and culture? No! He’s reaching out to them where they are (which a lot of traditional evangelists forget), but he’s reaching out to them with the purpose of bringing them to a saving knowledge of Jesus. That means you have to confront them with truth which will flatly contradict what they currently believe. If you don't do this, then you haven't presented the Good News of Jesus in its fullness.
What are Paul’s main points here?
• You must give up this goofy notion that the God who made us in his image can therefore be captured in an image of silver or gold. How can a man—made in God’s likeness—worship an idol made of silver or gold?
• In the past, God overlooked (to some degree) this ignorance. My friends, if all Paul cared about was keeping an audience, do you think he would have used the term “ignorance” when describing what they were doing right now?
• But now playtime is over. If God ever did overlook such practices, that time is past. He’s commanding all people everywhere to repent (another word we forget to use). Whatever else that word means, it says you have to quit doing things your way and start doing them God’s way.
• The time of Judgment (another word we need to regain) is at hand. You’ve been warned, and if you ignore the warning, then you can expect consequences. And God’s already appointed the Man he’s going to use to accomplish all this.
• And how do we know this Man is the One? Because he’s done something no other human in history has done: He’s raised himself from the dead.
That’s the balance we need to learn. There are two parts here, and everyone has their part which they have trouble with. We 1) need to reach out to people where they are, 2) in order to bring them over to where they need to be.
So which do you have trouble with?
Lord Jesus, I sometimes don’t speak your Truth when it’s obviously time to speak. Please give me boldness, give me wisdom, and give me love. I need to remember that to be silent when someone needs to hear is NOT love.