Andrew Fountain - Evangelism: What it means to repent - Acts 17

1. Acts 17

  1. So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I see that you are very religious in all respects.
  2. For as I went around and observed closely your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: ‘To an unknown god.’ Therefore what you worship without knowing it, this I proclaim to you.
  • Show pictures of:
  • Paul wants to show them that their idea of God is totally wrong and mistaken. They believed in:
    • many gods (war, rain, fertility, love, feasting, prosperity etc.) all competing and often fighting each other
    • they needed our help (make them temples and statues to live in) and were not always very powerful
    • these gods could very easily get angry, so needed to be pacified by feeding them (sacrifice)
    • history repeats itself for ever and ever in an unending cycle of empires rising and falling
  • Paul answers them:
  1. The God who made the world and everything in it, who is Lord of heaven and earth...
    • first of all, there are not many gods, but one God
    • he created everything
    • and is Lord of everything, ruling supremely
  1. ...does not live in temples made by human hands,
  2. nor is he served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives life and breath and everything to everyone.
    • He doesn’t need us to help him out
    • Actually he is the source of even our breath (who here is breathing—that is God’s power in you right now!)
  3. From one man he made every nation of the human race to inhabit the entire earth, determining their set times and the fixed limits of the places where they would live,
  4. so that they would search for God and perhaps grope around for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.
    • Think back overy your life—every good thing that has happened to you is God wanting to show you his kindness so you will come to him
  5. For in him we live and move about and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’
  6. So since we are God’s offspring, we should not think the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image made by human skill and imagination.
    • If God created us, and we are his offspring, then how can he be made of gold, or silver or stone
    • we will stop and think about this for a bit and then come back to the last 2 verses

2. Myths about God Today

  • We have seen the mistaken ideas they had about God 2000 years ago
  • Paul says that we are God’s “offspring”, created by him
    • We are derived from him and therefore he is superior to us in every way
    • Suppose you wanted to give an award for the best human being alive today,
      • What characteristics would you look for?
    • Caring & merciful
    • Sense of justice, freeing people from oppression
    • Passionately loving
    • Capable of deep friendship
    • Appreciates beauty and creativity
    • Selflessly giving
    • Strong, intelligent and very wise
  • God is all of those things to an infinite degree, plus:
    • all powerful
    • all knowing
    • existing in all space and time
  • Actually he is staggeringly awesome
    • what does that word mean? (it would be awesome if you could take your garbage on the way out)

3. God’s demands on us

  • Now let’s carry on with the last two verses:
  1. Therefore, although God has overlooked such times of ignorance, he now commands all people everywhere to repent,
  2. because he has set a day on which he is going to judge the world in righteousness, by a man whom he designated, having provided proof to everyone by raising him from the dead.”
  • God created you for a purpose.
    • Every individual here has a destiny!
  • Now, imagine that .... here owned a pizza parlour (act this out)
    • Pizza Parlour
    • and she employed .... as a driver
      • purpose was to deliver pizza
      • but he spent all day chatting with his friends on his cellphone
    • so .... decides to encouage him by giving him a pay raise and extra free pizzas
      • but it makes no difference
    • in fact, when she comes around, he refuses even to talk to her
      • or even acknowledge that she exists
    • A week later he discovers he is about to be evicted from his apartment and is in a massive financial hole
      • .... pays off all his debts and gets him a beautiful new appartment
      • but he still refuses to do any work, or even talk to he boss
    • what do you think she will do in the end if she has any sense?
      • fire him!
  • God says there is going to be a day of judgement
    • he has created you to live for him
    • he will hold you accountable to that
    • It actually makes him very angry when you live your life independent from him
      • when you do things that don’t please him without a care
  • But the amazingly good news is that he is incredibly generous and giving
    • He wants to have close friendship with you, to care for you and to bring you into your destiny
    • He is prepared to wipe away every single thing you have ever done wrong, by taking the guilt on himself in the death of Jesus Christ
    • He wants to give you this gift freely
      • There could not be a more spectacular gift
  • So the big question is—how do you receive it?
    • the answer is, by a thing that God calls “repentance”

4. Repentance

  • This word simply means changing direction
    • (get pizza delivery man to walk and then change)
    • Now what does it mean for the pizza delivery guy to “repent”
      • the trouble is, he has lost his license and and his vehicle has been confiscated
    • That is the most amazing part of repenting—we actually don’t have the strength to do it
  • Imagine your life is a mess
    • you find yourself constantly taking substances you can’t resist
    • you are in a mess of wrong relationships
    • you are in the grip of habits like a raging temper, a foul mouth and pathalogical lying
    • how can you repent from that and start living for God?
  • This is the amazing thing
    • The pizza owner buys a new car for this wretched delivery guy, and magically gets him a new license
    • Jesus himself comes to live in us and changes our desires and renews us from within
  • So what is repentance if we can’t do it?
    • Well this is the most important thing you need to get this evening
    • As you start to turn, that is when his power kicks in
      • but you have to start
      • man with the withered hand
    • we use the word faith to describe this
  • Recently Clyde and I were discussing bungee jumping and parachuting
    • What if you say “I am not jumping out of this airoplane till the parachute is open!”
      • you need faith
  • If you do not have Jesus living in your heart this evening, you need to repent
    • You need to want to change, even though you don’t have the strength to
    • and you need to jump!

5. Conclusion

  • This is not some optional message of a better life—this is life and death
    • God himself is commanding you to repent
    • the stakes are very very high
    • There is no way you can by your own efforts make yourself acceptable to God
  • There are two routes:
    • living without God, or with the god you have invented
      • or even making your own efforts to do things you think please him, which are doomed to failure because you are doing them in your own strength
    • or accepting the gift he freely offers you
      1. he will forgive everything you have ever done wrong and ever will
      2. Jesus himself will put his Spirit in you to give you strength and joy in following him
      3. He will show you an extraordinary and intimate love, so that you actually have a relationship with this awesome supreme being
      4. He will bring you into an eternal destiny so that your life counts for something
  • The choice is this
    • you ignore God, or invent your own god, and face the consequences
    • or you say, right now I am going to
      • stop going my own way
      • and follow you God
      • and I am trusting you for the power to do it!
  • Pray...