Paul, in Athens, addressed the lies and idols he saw. Culture tries to dominate and distracts. Millions are wrecked and need the Gospel. Living God talks to us and hears us. With the Word, we learn of Him and His mind. (Acts 17:17-32; Psalm 1)

Speaker(s): Thomas Schaller
Sermon 12525
11:00 AM on 6/11/2023

P. Schaller –

Beautiful song. That was awesome. Thank you. Beautiful. Hey, I’m going to share a message, and we’ll have a
good time here this morning. I’d like you to kind of do a warmup. Would you stand up with me.
There’s Allen and Wolfie. North Carolina or where? Alabama. Came up for Convention, right?
Good to have you. Very good. So, the warmup is just rejoicing with your brother or sister. Go
ahead. Brother or sister. Alright. You may be seated. Alright. Thank you. Alright. You may be
seated.

I’d like you to turn to Acts 17. Acts 17. I want to lead you in – we’ll pray the Lord will do this.
(Prayer). I am serious about that. I think sometimes we don’t think a lot about it. Maybe we are
not active. Maybe we are consumed with our lives in our world where we live in our
neighborhood, in our job, and in our families. We have a lot to pay attention to in order to have a
family, to have a community of friends. Having a church where we are learning and growing.
One of the things in the next few weeks, and actually through the whole summer that you will be
hearing and watching and thinking about amongst other things is our mission. Christ said go into
all the world and preach the gospel. Some of us have had the privilege of doing that and we
have seen with our eyes salvations. We have actually seen demons cast out of people. We
have actually seen miracles happen in other places, in Europe. In India. We have seen people
moved by God and his grace to embrace the gospel.

I want to read one paragraph from Ralph Winter. The back jacket of the book that he had,
“Perspectives on the World Christian Movement.” He said, “…the import of this subject has
crucial dimensions of a highly crucial task. This is not a book about a species of penguins that is
in danger of becoming extinct. Rather, with arresting strategy, it wrestles with the open sores
and fearful spiritual darkness which ravage and wreck the lives of hundreds of millions of real
people. Creatures that are the highest of all creation. Creatures for whom God’s own Son
endured the cross, despising the shame and is set down on the the right hand of God…The Son
who said “As my Father sent me, so send I you.”

No, you can no longer hide your eyes if you probe these pages. They will show the
permanence, the complexity, the scope and yet the obligation deriving from the feasibility of the
emergency task to which all who acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord are called.” In a word, we
have something the world doesn’t have. We have the gospel. We have the power of God behind
us in what we do. And I realize that only some of us go. Some of us in this room or in our Bible
college or in every church in the nation. Some, they do go. But they need to be prepared to go,
and they need to be sent from a local assembly. What that local assembly believes and thinks
about the mission has a lot to do with their motivation. We will go if my church is really believing
this, if the Bible is speaking to me about it, that I would actually give my life to Christ.

Be prepared and trained and to be sent somewhere in the world to share the message.
So, this is so high and so amazing and so beyond us, but it is real. And it is what we are called
to be part of. And 50 years ago when we started to do this around the world just about 47 years
ago, we didn’t see really what would happen as we can see today. How it really multiplies, and
people actually are born again. They have the same Spirit, the same heart, the same mind, the
same capacity. Various capacities. There are differences of course between people. But at the
same time, we can say with the Apostle Paul I am not ashamed of the gospel. It is the power of
God unto salvation. It really is. It works.

This little sentence, this paragraph and in it is this sentence, “we are recognizing the spiritual
darkness which ravage and wreck the lives of hundreds of millions of people” made in the image
of God. So, I’d like you to turn with me and read from Acts 17. I have two parts here. I want to
draw a sketch for you if I can. I don’t think I have this working right. This one. We’ll look at the
sketch in a minute. You want to look at Acts 17:16 with me. We’re going to go from a block like
this and we’ll call it our culture. Our culture. The United States of America. Our culture. What is
important to us, how we live every day, our values, habits. What’s normal. What’s unacceptable.
It’s our culture is 2023. A hundred years ago, 1923, it was different.

But we could laugh at what they thought 100 years ago, and also 100 years from now if we are here in 2123, they may be laughing at us. Every culture has its weaknesses, its problems, its lies, and its truths in it. Every
culture has parts that are neutral. Some are good parts and some are bad. Everyone of them.
But as we read in this story, this is Paul in Athens. I’ll put in here this word, today is the capital of
Greece, Athens. His spirit was stirred in him in vs. 16. He saw a lie. He saw a lie in the culture.
Let’s put here. Have we ever had any lies in our culture. Have their been things that are unfair or
unjust? Are there – I remember lobotomies used to be performed in the 1950’s. They used to
put in the people that were mentally unstable and different problems, and the prognosis was to
give a lobotomy. So, they did. They scrambled the brain in the frontal lobe and the person
became a zombie. So, they forsook that. And you don’t really hear much about it.

But there have been times when in the world of science, in the world of politics, economics,
philosophy and so on, in religion also, they have ideas that have proven to be wrong or just
straight up evil. There have been things that we embraced and believed that were wrong. So, in
Athens they are worshipping idols. Paul has the Spirit of God. This is our second part of the
message. I’ll draw a diagram like this. It’s just you and your personal life. You’re in a culture.
First part is here. #1. Culture. #2. You. Okay. In the culture, they’re worshipping idols. But Paul,
but Paul was stirred in his heart, in his spirit. He saw something. He saw it. He understood it.
They need the gospel. They need the message. We should have that in our lives, and we’ll talk
about it a little bit later in the message. But we are living in a world where you know we
understand that things are sad sometimes. Sometimes, very sad.

I’m reading a book about the Comanche Indians in the Great Plains of the United States, and
what happened to them. And also, how barbaric they were. How merciless they were. How they
lived, how they thought, and how they fought, and what they did. I find it interesting, because to
study cultures helps us understand millions of peoples lives that are wrecked and ruined when
they are just left to themselves in a culture wherever it is including ours for sure. Everyone of
them. Everyone of us, everyone, every culture in the world has its serious problems, cause it’s
made up of people and people are liars. And people are blind and we are blind or arrogant or
self-righteous. And religious cultures absolutely it is so. Religion is definitely a problem for the
human race. Religious ideas can be very oppressive and binding to people.

But what has happened to you is you found Christ. Christ has come into your heart and given
you a new heart and a new spirit. And you realize that there’s something here in this world that I
need to declare. There’s something I must say. There is something moving in my heart, because
I have found Christ, the answer for my life. The liberty that comes in Christ.

There’s two words here that we could say this personal life part here is liberty and intimacy. Two
important words. When Jesus comes into your life, in reality you find liberty. And it’s a paradox
because people think if you believe in God, you follow God, you read the Bible, you follow God
and what God says in the Bible, it’s restricting you. It’s binding you. It’s limiting your creativity.
It’s binding you in a religious system. If you obey God, follow God, you will be restricted and
limited. That’s what they say.

But what did Jesus say? You shall know the truth. The truth will set you free, and you will be free
indeed. That’s another way of saying your freedom will be of a different order. It’s not you can do
whatever you want. It will be a different kind of freedom. It will be holiness. God is free. God is
holy, and God is free. He’s the freest entity in the whole universe and beyond. He is not bound
by sin. He’s not bound by death. He’s not bound by fear. He has no fear. He has no darkness. In
him is light and no darkness at all. In him is holiness and no death. There’s no disobedience in
God. There’s only light and reality. And when you have Christ, you have freedom and intimacy.
Intimacy comes from words. Let me make a sketch here. Follow this with me. Intimacy comes
from – intimacy is spirit, heart. Two words. I give you a new heart a new spirit. I’m telling you
how to live. Let me pause here for a minute.

We have a brother here, Kevin Smelser. I love you Kevin. You’re an awesome guy. The guy has
gone through a trial recently. A fire in his shop and his home. A fire. Thank God nobody got hurt,
and some of it is salvaged. What trials have you been through in your life? Maybe a broken
heart, a broken relationship. Maybe you lost a job. Maybe something tragic has happened.
Maybe some disappointment of some kind. We are in a world, and there’s a lot of trouble in the
world. But guess what? You have a God, a living God, who is intimate, personal, cares about
you and he talks to you. This intimacy is really based on talking. I do not mean that you hear the
words fall on your eardrum, so you hear a sound like that.

I mean words that are from the Bible. Words of the Spirit. Jesus said my words they are Spirit
and they are life. And they will talk to you. You keep hearing the Word of God. You do. It’s kind
of like receiving words, and the Holy Spirit brings them back to your mind even after 40 years.
Clearly, it can happen. Clearly, I got a Bible verse. I know what that is. I know, I consider this to
be meditation. I consider this to be our relationship. We consider it to be fellowship. We consider
it to be prayer. It’s like Psalm 1. If you meditate on the Word day and night, and that’s an
amazing text in Psalm 1. I don’t want to go too fast, cause I know you are listening. I need the
Lord to help me with this. Intimacy.

Alright, so, let’s go to Acts 17 and see this text here. Read it. vs. 17. So, let’s go back to this is
our number one point. The culture in Athens. He talked to the philosophers. He’s there at Mars
Hill. They are all listening, and they are wanted to hear something new it says. They were
gathered together there to listen to something new. vs. 18. They had no respect for him. This is
a missionary story. Now, missionaries are coming here to Baltimore to be with us the next
couple of weeks. I just encourage you to meet them. I encourage you to attend our times
together. Check your schedule. Make your calendar for the next couple of weeks deliberately, so
you can be part of listening to what these babblers are saying! What these people are saying
that they have been out in the foreign countries, and they could say that it is real. It does work. I
have seen. It is something.

Now, watch what happens here. vs. 19-20. Do you know what one of them was? The pagan
world, they had no belief in any dead man coming to life. That’s ridiculous. No way. There was
no historical reference for any such thing. A dead man to come alive. And for Paul to say it,
because #1, the Greeks didn’t believe the material body had any value. That’s why they
cremated the body. And the Romans did, and the Egyptians mummified. The Romans burned
the body. The Greeks burned the body. The pagans burned the body, but the Jews buried the
body, because the Jews had it in their mind correctly that our body has value. That our body will
be raised. I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever, Psalm 23, David said. The resurrection of the
just and the resurrection of the unjust. So, now the Greeks are listening to Paul, and they said
this is strange.

vs. 21. And of course, this is a human race thing. We want to hear what the latest is. vs. 22. We
could say you are very religious. You say you are trying to figure it out. There is something about
life that you can’t get your hands on. Something you can’t figure out. Yeah, of course. Every
culture is like that. Here it is. Here’s the culture, and Comanche Indians, tribal people, pagan
people, religious people, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, every culture. There’s
something in there in it where we say we don’t know what that is. What is it? Why? Where are
we going? Why did this happen to me? Why did my business catch on fire? Why did the bank
deny me a loan? Why in my career I am not succeeding? Why is my wife not loving me
anymore? What happened? What’s going on in life? Are lives are being wrecked. Millions of
people they don’t know. Paul called this the Unknown God. Unknown God. He is the one that I
declare to you.

Look at vs. 23. Now, historically, it raises the question, what is this all about. Well, there was a
plague in Athens. And the wise men didn’t know what to do. They were sacrificing to the gods,
but they also said maybe there is something, there is an Unknown God we don’t know of; and
maybe he, if we could appease him. So, they released a flock of sheep on the hill there at Mars
Hill. And the sheep were eating and grazing. Everywhere the sheep would lie down, they would offer that sheep up to what they called the Unknown God. So, they would slaughter the sheep
there to the Unknown God and the plague stayed. The plague stopped. It was over.
So, they had on that mountain there, they have these plaques. I believe there is more than one
where they slew the sheep and they would put there “to the Unknown God.”

That was a cultural bridge that Paul could use in his preaching and say, hey. You guys believe that there is an
Unknown God. Let me tell you what his name is. Let me tell you what you’re looking for. Let me
tell you the answer to all your problems. The answer for life. The existential reality that
addresses your existential need. Why am I here? Christ is the reason you are here. Where am I
going? You are going to Christ? Where did you come from? You came from God, made in the
image of God. Our secular world doesn’t say those things. They have the worst message in the
world. Let me tell it to you. Where did you come from? You’re an accident. Protoplasm. Long
periods. Millions and millions of years. Eventually evolution. You’re here by accident. There’s no
meaning to it. There’s no meaning.

Let’s say a hundred billion years from now, our sun is burned out. The solar system is no more.
The planet Earth is gone. It’s dust. All the books, all the graves, all the computers, all the
internet, all of it is all meaningless. It means nothing. It’s over and gone, and nobody remembers
your name. Nobody knows you. There’s no cemetary. There’s nothing. There’s no meaning in
life. No, thank you very much. Somehow, I don’t really believe you. Is there anybody telling me
anything else? Is there something unknown? Like you guys are so arrogant when you are
saying there is no God when 96% of the world says there is a God.

Ninety-six percent of the human race says there is God. They believe in God. You guys are shoving this down my throat. Everywhere. Every universities professor, every university, every school, every biology textbook,
everywhere you go, every philosophy. That’s your message. Well, thank you. But I mean, a
hundred years a go we laughed at our country. Let me tell you right now I can laugh at our
culture in different ways. Not as a judge. I don’t know that. I’m not saying it like that. But I am
sad. I am sad that people die without God. I am sad that people die with sorrow. I am sad that
people live a life of gambling and drinking and running around and saying there is no God. They
suffer. They say they have freedom, but it’s not freedom to be in bondage to sin. Let’s go sin all
you want to and tell me how you’re doing. Tell me how it is.

Lie down in sorrow. We see it all the time. Everybody. Whatever. Like go sin. Go to Las Vegas. Go to whatever. Go to the casino. Go to the women. Go to the men. Go to the drugs. Whatever you want. Go party all day long. Tell
me that you found heaven on earth. I’ll tell you that you found a form of bondage and pain and
guilt and depression and loneliness.

Here’s what Paul’s got. Watch what Paul’s got. He’s got this one. He’s got a personal life where
there is liberty and intimacy. How can he preach unless he has that. How can I tell the people in
an Islamic country that Christ is the answer if I don’t know that. How can I go minister to the
Hindus if I do not know that Christ has liberated me and is personal to me and talks to my heart.
How can I go to the local Starbucks cafe, and sit there and talk to somebody there in a friendly
way and say I’d love for you to come to my church one day. I’m having such a good time. They
go, what are you talking about? You go, listen. It’s amazing. Jesus is alive. And he loves you. He
does. He cares about you. He’s the real God. He’s the unknown God in every culture. He’s the
one you are looking for.

Okay. Let’s say a couple things about liberty and intimacy. Did we do Acts 17:23? Let me read it.
Then he describes who he is. By the way, this text could be a memory text if you want one. You
can use this. vs. 24-25. Remember that illustration. The painter paints the painting, but he’s not
the painting. He’s the painter. A man builds an automobile. He’s not the automobile. He his the
engineer. The engineer of the automobile. I built the automobile, but I am not the automobile. I
am the engineer. God built the house, but he is not the house. He is the builder of the house.
Heb. 3. The meaning of this is that God, our God is more than the things that you see. He
transcends it all, and he is the one that we declare unto you.

The unknown God. vs. 26. For time, I’m not going to read the whole text, but it’s a beautiful one there. It says, some mocked in vs. 32. Let’s put here three responses in the culture. Some people, they mock us. #2. They say I
will hear you again. Hear again. #3. They cleaved. Stuck like glue to Paul. They go, woe! I’m going with you. I’m going to follow you out of town. I’m going to stay with you. You told me
something amazing.

I remember when I got saved on the college campus, the guy that led me to the Lord I was
looking for him every day. Where is he? Where is he? I got to find him. I got to talk to him. Every
day I was looking for that guy. Every day. He stayed for a couple weeks and then he left. That
guy led me to Christ. That guy helped me. He said things that I never heard. He said a few little
things. I’m sure if I heard them now they would not – they would not amaze me as they did when
I first became a believer. But that happened in Athens here. And the guys name is written there.
His name is Dionysius in vs. 34. Okay. So, let’s finish our message by turning to Psalm 1. I’ll just
say a couple short things about this, and I want to encourage you.

Kevin Smeltzer, I want to encourage you in the Lord. Anyone else here in the room. All of us.
Myself as well, of course. I need this. What this means. Book of psalms. We got intimacy and
liberty. Liberty and intimacy. Psalms is a prayer book. The first psalm is about meditation.
Meditation. Wow. Important word. Meditation. Thoughts I find myself day dreaming sometimes.
How about you? My mind drifts everywhere. I also read a book about 12 things that your
smartphone does to you. Twelve things that your smart – how your phone effects your thinking.
And one of them is an addiction to distraction. Oh, yeah. I’m addicted to being distracted. Ever
notice how it’s harder to sit still without your phone? Huh? Leave your phone at home. Leave it
out.

I’m not telling you what to do with your phone, but I want to say meditation will probably become
more and more of a lost art or discipline for the Christian. We are driven to distraction easily.
And our phone doesn’t help us, the technology, the television and all these things that we do.
And running around a lot. But God. God can meet us all the time. He does meet us all the time
in our hearts, cause we are born again. And the spirit and the heart of the believer is so
precious. We have so much value, because out of your heart really proceeds your life. How you
see your problems. How you look at people. How you perceive the world around you. How you
look at your life has a lot to do with what you’re garnishing, feeding, cultivating inside in your
mind and in your heart; cause our God is a God of liberty and intimacy. And he speaks to you by
words. We have to hear him. We have to be quiet to hear him, and to be worshippers. Pay
attention. Listen. Meditate. Quiet yourself. Receive. Embrace.

When you hear a message like this, you say I got something out of that message. I want to work
on that a little bit. I got to take a note about it. I got some Bible verses to think about it. Revisit it.
Think it over again, and maybe talk about it. That’s why sometimes in our services I say talk to
your neighbor, so that the words would be fitted in your own mouth. Not in mine. But in yours. In
your mouth you will say these things that are coming from the Bible.

In your heart, you will embrace them. Because if our culture governs our lives, we are running a great risk of being
wrong. We are running a great risk of missing the whole point of life, because I do not believe
that the culture itself has the authority to govern my life. Jesus said I always hear what my
Father says in John 5:19. Paul said meditate day and night. I mean, Colossians 3:16 and here in Psalm 1
it’s talking about meditating, delighting in the Lord. I’m going to finish the sermon now, but I just
want you to notice Psalm 1:2.

You might say law? I don’t want law. No, you want to say, I want law. I want to think with God. I
want to know what he is saying. I want to know what he is thinking. But the word “law” has wider
meaning to it. It is psalms. It is testimony. It is biographies. It is events. It is history. I want to
learn the five books of Moses. I want to learn the history of the Jewish kings. The Israeli kings
and the Judean kings. I’d like to know what Jesus said. What were his parables, what were his
teachings, what were his 33 miracles that were recorded? Though there were many more that
he did in his ministry and his life, but 33 recorded ones. I’d like to know them. Meditate on them
day and night. And then hopefully, there’s a sound in the Word. An intimate touch. Relationship.
Love. What will happen.

It says you will be like a tree planted by rivers of water that brings forth its fruit in its season. His
leaf shall not wither. Whatsoever he does shall prosper. Whatever he does shall prosper. We
want to identify with Kevin who lost in the fire his stuff. But we want to also say with him in our
heart, with him, with our brother and sister in the heart. Listen. If we could be meditating on his
Word, we will be like a tree planted by water and whatever happens, we will have fruit in our
season. We will not wither. And whatever we do will prosper.

That’s what it says. I don’t know how to translate that in our life other than the way that it says it. We will prosper. What do you mean? Maybe in a spiritual way, I will prosper. I will have love. I will have joy. I don’t know.
Maybe I will learn to serve. I will love people and serve them and help them. I don’t know. How
will I prosper. Maybe just my attitude in life. The faith in God. God, move the moutain. Move the
mountain. Oh, God. In Jesus’ name. Move the mountain. Where’s that coming from?
I’ve been meditating, and God’s been speaking to my heart. I’ve been believing him. Let me –
I’m trying to finish, but you can see I’m having a hard time! I am though. I got to say two words.
And this will be a message sometimes.

Pessimism and optimism. I’ve seen it in my heart. I’ve seen it in my heart how I can get down. How I can get pessimistic. How I get down as a person. I can see how that happens. I can see it happening in my heart. I can see it happening in my life. I can come under pressure. I can hear bad news a lot. I can hear about people, their
struggles, their problems, and look at the news and look at our country and look at the world
and just say, woe! Man!

And then I go, no. No. No. No. I have an intimate relationship with God. God is telling me. God
is speaking to me. I got a message. I’ve got the gospel. No, I understand. He’s the God of all
grace. I got it. God answers prayer. No, wait a minute. The house burned down but wait a
minute. I got something God is saying in my heart. I’m believing there is something better. I’m
believing that I got a future. I’m believing that God can turn beauty for ashes. I believe there is a
resurrection. I believe there is something that God is doing that is beyond us, and I can find in
my heart. I can tell the people in Athens. Listen. You’ve got hundreds of years of history. But you
also got a very empty thing going on here. This place is filled with idolatry, and you don’t know
what’s going on. I got to declare to you the unknown God.

I got to also say that I think Christians also don’t know who God is. He is unknown to them. They
go through the motions, but do you have an intimate relationship with the living God. Could you
go to a foreign country and go there and say, I got a message and you need it. Can you go to a
problem place in the United States of America where there’s a need and say, oh, no, no, no.
God is the answer for us. And I know he is. Some will mock. Some will say I’ll hear you again.
And some will cleave to you. And they say I believe what you are saying. Okay. Amen. Thank
you for listening. God bless you. Yes, thank you, Jesus. Would you pray with me. (Prayer)

 

Please enjoy these sermon notes from the messages preached at Greater Grace Church in Baltimore. These notes are provided to aid in your study and understanding of the Word. Note that these notes do not represent complete, word-for-word transcriptions. Also, they may contain omissions as well as some errors in spelling and structure, etc., as we attempt to provide them as soon as possible. Our hope is that these notes serve as a way to help you search and connect with messages on related subjects and passages. Thank you for your interest in the ministry of Greater Grace.