As a younger person, what non-biblical story most influenced how you look at the world? This could be a book, movie, music, etc.
What was its influence on you? Positive, negative, benign? Has it stuck with you until today?
On Sunday, Pastor Brennan described the conversation that the Apostle Paul had with the greek philosophers while he was in Athens. If you need a refresher, here are some wikipedia links, just for fun…
The focus of this study however is the substance of Paul’s speech in the Areopagus, or the high city, of Athens. This was the place where ideas and philosophies were discussed, and where Paul was brought to present his ‘new’ teaching. So keep your Bible opened to Acts 17:22-34
V22-23: What do these verses tell you about the way Paul approached new communities with an eye for ministry? Think about how he actually ended up with an invitation to speak in this prestigious group. What were his practices?
What application do your observations have for how you personally, and we as a church, approach our surrounding communities? Think practical, not just theoretical.
For example: Purely theoretical would be saying something like, “We should know what is important in our community.”
Practical would be something like this;
2 weeks ago Rhonda and I were out for a walk to pick up some groceries. While we sat in Starbucks we noticed a bunch of protestors with marijuana leaves on...everything. Why were they there? We went and spent some time talking with them, built connections, and came away with a deeper understanding of what is of the most importance to this unique (albeit misguided) subculture.
V24-27: Discuss the sovereignty of God. Why is this the theological point Paul begins with in his appeal to the greeks? What do these verses say about the place of God, his authority, his purposes, and our place in his plans? Given what we know of the Stoics and the Epicureans, why does Paul not discuss free will here?
V28: “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’”
Here Paul quotes from the poets of the greeks themselves to prove his point. They were obviously interested in the answers to these questions, but without a solid view of what lies beyond the grave, their understanding was wide speculation at best. What does it mean to you, that YOU live, move, and have your being in Him?
V29-30: Paul moves from establishing who God is to what God requires, and the consequences for not meeting those requirements. Have you ever considered this aspect of the resurrection in your conversations with those who are not Christians? That the resurrection of Jesus, while it is hope for those who believe, it is judgement for those who reject him. How is it possible to discuss sin and judgement, lovingly, with those whom you are witnessing to? As Christians, we are quick to show love to others through service, but it is often difficult for us to understand how to show love to others through honestly about sin and its ultimate effect.
V32-34: The crowd was split 3 ways. Some rejected, some were interested, and some followed. Consider this result in light of what Jesus says in Luke 8:4-8
When you open your mouth and your life as a witness for Christ, what are you expecting as a result? It may feel discouraging, if it depends on you. But Paul says that it actually depends on God. As an encouragement, read what Paul writes in Romans 8:28-31
So it falls on us to be faithful witnesses, because the Holy Spirit has already gone ahead of us to prepare hearts and minds to receive the good news of Jesus. We don’t have to be perfect in ourselves, Jesus is the one who completes the requirements of God on our behalf.
This week we gather for an evening of corporate prayer and fasting. As a result, we have no questions to accompany the sermon.
However, if you listen through and would like to post some of your own questions to the comments section we'll be sure to engage!
Opener: What, in your home, acts as a memento? Why is it special to you? What is the memory it points to and how do it represent that?
What is prayer, what are the Psalms, what do these have to do with my spiritual life, and how can I possibly “pray the Psalms?” These are the questions we wrestle through in this week’s sermon.
I’ll let you listen to through it to get your bearings, but as a thought provoking guide to use in walking forward into deeper contemplation of the Psalms, I offer the words of pastor and theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In his little book, Psalms, the Prayerbook of the Bible, Bonhoeffer points our attention resolutely toward Jesus Christ, the true author and truest subject of the Psalms. He writes;
“If we want to read and to pray the prayers of the Bible, and especially the Psalms, we must not, therefore, first ask what they have to do with us, but what they have to do with Jesus Christ. We must ask how we can understand the Psalms as God’s Word, and only then can we pray them with Jesus Christ. Thus it does not matter whether the Psalms express exactly what we feel in our heart at the moment we pray. Perhaps it is precisely the case that we must pray against our own heart in order to pray rightly. It is not just that for which we ourselves want to pray that is important, but that for which God wants us to pray… It is important for us that even David prayed not only out of the personal raptures of his heart, but from the Christ dwelling in him. To be sure, the one who prays these psalms, David, remains himself; but Christ dwells in him and with him.”
In next weeks post, we will begin to look at some of the specific ways the various subject matter of the Psalms can be clearly seen in light of Jesus. Until then, happy Easter… HE IS RISEN!
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