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.