A Biblical Contemporary Ministry, Part 1 (Acts 17:16-34)

One struggle of every generation of God’s people is to reach the people around them with the truth about God’s love. Throughout time, accepting that love has meant living in ways contradictory to the present worldly generation. Thus, resistance mounts and discouragement abounds. Thankfully, God has preserved the words and actions aimed at sinful generations as an example for times to come.

In the 21st century, we need to follow these examples as we continue to reach our contemporaries with the life-changing truth about Jesus Christ. Paul serves as one such powerful example when he speaks the truth at the Athenian Areopagus before the “brightest” philosophers of that time (Acts 17:16-34). As we notice this passage for the next several weeks, we need to keep the ending in our minds.

Acts 17:34 says, “But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.”

Paul’s sermon was successful! He caused some to believe! The text says that many scoffed at the resurrection, but some believed! What Paul did, we must do, for his actions brought fruit for the Lord.

First, Paul had a distressed heart. Notice how this account begins, “Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols(Acts 17:16; emphasis added). Paul’s spirit was touched as he witnessed the sinful practices of the Athenians. Paul did not go around robotically preaching and condemning people. His message resulted from a sorrowful and outraged disposition over the idolatry that surrounded him.

Many of God’s messengers were touched by their audiences’ spiritual plight. When David wrote the 119th Psalm about God’s word, he included his grief over man’s wickedness:

“Hot indignation seizes me because of the wicked, who forsake your law” (119:53).

“My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law” (119:136).

“I look at the faithless with disgust, because they do not keep your commands” (119:158).

Jeremiah—known as the “Weeping Prophet”—was continually troubled over his people’s sinfulness:

“But if you will not listen, my soul will weep in secret for your pride; my eyes will weep bitterly and run down
with tears, because the
Lord’s flock has been taken captive” (Jer. 13:17).

“Let my eyes run down with tears night and day, and let them not cease, for the virgin daughter of my
people is shattered with a great wound, with a very grievous blow”
(Jer. 14:17).

Jesus wept over the shameful condition of Jerusalem:

“And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace!’” (Lk. 19:41-42).

Paul emotionally warned of false teachers:

“For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on
earthly things”
(Phil. 3:18).

If we are to reach the generation around us, we—like David, Jeremiah, Jesus, and Paul—must be touched by its sinful state. Not only must our mind understand the sin around us, but our emotions must be pricked over sin’s consequences.

If we callously preach down at the lost around us, there will be few brought to the Lord. If we begin with a spirit that is troubled over the spiritual state of the lost, and then proclaim the uncompromised truth, souls can (and will) be won for Christ. May we sincerely and prayerfully consider the unfortunate immorality of our current generation.

Have a great week…for Him!

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