It’s late, and I’ve just finished putting the final touches on the fourth and last sermon in my Easter, 2010 series. At Mayer, we’ve covered the following:
What Were We Created For? (Gen 1:26-31)
What Went Wrong? (Isaiah 59:1-8)
What Is The Solution? (Mark 15:33-37, John 19:28-30, Matthew 27:50-54; Luke 23:39-43)
What Is Our Hope? (Romans 8:18-30)
In all, I’d say that I have felt more comfortable with this series of sermons than any other. It’s always exciting when you take a long, macroscopic look at the whole narrative of Scripture. It’s amazing how cohesive it all is.
As stated in the first post of this series, the apostles employed a wide variety of approaches as they proclaimed the gospel, and these approaches were both deeply personal and deeply informed. In this post, I want to address Paul’s gospel message in Acts 17:16-34. In doing so, I’m going to recommend a practice that John Piper generally recommends against.
Before continuing further, I want to state my respect for John Piper and for his clear desire for God’s glory to spread across the world. Desiring God transformed the way I approach the Father, andDon’t Waste Your Life is one of the forces God used in pushing us towards service abroad. At the same time, I disagree with Pastor Piper on his choice to avoid contemporary art forms (particularly film and television) in proclaiming God’s good news. For instance, in a recent posting, John Piper wrote:
I think relevance in preaching hangs very little on watching movies, and I think that much exposure to sensuality, banality, and God-absent entertainment does more to deaden our capacities for joy in Jesus than it does to make us spiritually powerful in the lives of the living dead. (“Why I Don’t Have a Television and Rarely Go to Movies”)
I want to say that I completely agree with him on the first point–relevance in preaching indeed hangs very little on watching movies. In fact, it hangs much more on studying movies. Unfortunately, Piper presents a popular false dilemma and a more popular straw man. I hope to show that Paul’s evangelism in Acts 17:16-34 proves these to be incorrect.
For Bible Study up at Mayer Community Church, we’re discussing Mark Dever’s helpful book, What Is A Healthy Church? The chapters for this evening are focused on the gospel and conversion. While re-reading his chapters, and considering ways to encourage evangelism by the members at MCC, I began to review the wide variety of evangelistic approaches used by the apostles. The apostles felt an incredible amount of freedom in sharing the content of their faith. They viewed almost every type of discussion or activity as a means of proclaiming Christ. Their evangelistic approach was deeply personal and highly informed.
At the same time, I began to consider the relatively anemic form of evangelism that I have encountered at many churches. Abut two weeks ago, a pastor gave me a tract and said to me, “This tract is great, because you don’t even have to talk to them about the gospel. A lot of times, if I’m in a hurry, I just give them one of these and leave it at that.” (Emphasis mine.) This is not the apostle’s approach!
In light of that contrast, I thought it would be helpful if I kicked off a semi-regular series on the ways in which Paul and the other apostles shared the gospel. The hope is that looking at these methods (or the lack of method!) might encourage us to share the gospel more freely. Today, I want to focus on Paul’s very simple and very personal approach in Acts 26:1-23.
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If you haven’t joined the dark side (by purchasing an Apple product), then you can find a mobile version of the ESV here. In either case, the world has been transformed by the free availability of the Bible, and it’s nice that Crossway Publishers further that by making this excellent translation available at no charge.
In my devotional reading this morning, I was going over the stories of Isaac’s life, from Genesis 24-26. This period covers what happened to this patriarch between the death of Sarah and the marriages of Esau.
Now, going into my devotional reading, I was less than expectant. I have read Genesis dozens and dozens of times, and it was the first book I preached through as a pastor. In every case, Isaac has been the lull in the action, the dip in the road, the “why is this here?” for me. And I say that self-critically. But why is Isaac here?