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December 19, 2018, 8:29 AM

Strange Ideas

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

“You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears” (Acts 17:20).

Athens was a hard place to preach, the very center of culture in the first century. “Knowledge puffs up” (1 Cor. 8:1), and these philosophers were tempted to dismiss Paul as a “babbler” (Acts 17:18). Since they were intrigued by “the latest ideas” (v. 21), however, they decided to give Paul a hearing. And they heard something their proud wisdom could never have devised, something so different that they said, “You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears.” Let’s take a closer look at these strange ideas in today’s passage, Acts 17:16-34.

1. To those who make gods, it is a strange idea that God has made us. To Paul’s distress, “the city was full of idols” (v. 16). The people were “very religious,” and one empty pedestal bore the inscription, “To an Unknown God” (vv. 22-23). The God they didn’t know was the God whom Paul preached, and the first relationship in which that one true God stands to mankind is Maker. Paul proclaimed the Creator. God “made the world and everything in it” (v. 24). This almighty Creator cannot be confined to temples or served by hands. Yet He wants us to “seek him . . . and find him” (v. 27), to live in fellowship with Him. Idolatry is not restricted to ancient times or distant peoples. Right here in America the popular gods are made in Silicon Valley or produced in Hollywood. We need to hear anew this “strange idea” – that God made us, and made us for Himself.

2. To those who take sin lightly, it is a strange idea that God takes sin seriously. “In the past,” Paul declares, “God overlooked” the “ignorance” of idolatry – not in the sense of approving or excusing it, but in the sense of delaying His judgment upon it; “But now he commands all people everywhere to repent” (v. 30). “All people everywhere” includes this generation! It’s time to put away false gods and turn to the Almighty. It’s time to repent, and repentance means to quit sinning and instead follow Christ. A day of judgment has already been “set,” and the Judge has been “appointed” (v. 31). At that time, we will all “receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). All of this sounds as strange to modern America as it did to ancient Athens. But we’d better believe it! We can either repent or perish (Luke 13:5).

3. To those who view death as final, it is a strange idea that God raises the dead. Paul proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus as “proof’ of God’s intention to “judge the world with justice.” “When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered” (vv. 31-32). Yet, sneering doesn’t change the fact. As strange as it may seem, we will all be raised from the dead. Beyond the resurrection lies two options: eternal life or eternal condemnation (John 5:28-29). Praise God, not all “sneered.” A few “believed,” and the risen Jesus became their Savior from sin. Others procrastinated, saying, “We want to hear you again on this subject” (v. 32). To them, true or not, it just wasn’t important enough to nail down a decision. Other interests beckoned. And, likewise, you today will do one of three things: You will say, “No,” like those who sneered. Or, “Yes,” like those who believed. Or, “Later,” like those who procrastinated. Only “Yes” brings salvation!

Does it seem strange that you’re not an accident, but the creation of God? Does it seem strange that God hates sin and calls you to repentance? Does it seem strange that God will raise you from the dead and bring you into judgment? Strange or not, it’s all true. Therefore, it’s time you know the true God through Jesus.

Let’s pray: O God, we humbly and heartily thank you for redeeming us by the death of your blessed Son and for the assistance of your Holy Spirit. May we truly repent of all sin and find new life in Christ today. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

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