How Hard is it to Communicate the Good News Effectively? Acts 17:16-34

Acts 17:16-34Amplified Bible

Paul at Athens

16 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was greatly angered when he saw that the city was full of idols. 17 So he had discussions in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place day after day with any who happened to be there. 18 And some of the [a] Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to engage in conversation with him. And some said, “What could this idle babbler [with his eclectic, scrap-heap learning] have in mind to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities”—because he was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. 19 They took him and brought him to the [b]Areopagus (Hill of Ares, the Greek god of war), saying, “May we know what this [strange] new teaching is which you are proclaiming? 20 For you are bringing some startling and strange things to our ears; so we want to know what they mean.” 21 (Now all the Athenians and the foreigners visiting there used to spend their [leisure] time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.)

Sermon on Mars Hill

22 So Paul, standing in the center of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I observe [with every turn I make throughout the city] that you are very religious and devout in all respects. 23 Now as I was going along and carefully looking at your objects of worship, I came to an altar with this inscription: ‘TO AN [c]UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you already worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who created the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; 25 nor is He [d]served by human hands, as though He needed anything, because it is He who gives to all [people] life and breath and all things. 26 And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their lands and territories. 27 This was so that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grasp for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. 28 For in Him we live and move and exist [that is, in Him we actually have our being], as even some of [e]your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ 29 So then, being God’s children, we should not think that the Divine Nature (deity) is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination or skill of man. 30  Therefore God overlooked and disregarded the former ages of ignorance; but now He commands all people everywhere to repent [that is, to change their old way of thinking, to regret their past sins, and to seek God’s purpose for their lives], 31 because He has set a day when He will judge the inhabited world in righteousness by a Man whom He has appointed and destined for that task, and He has provided credible proof to everyone by raising Him from the dead.”

32 Now when they heard [the term] resurrection from the dead, [f]some mocked and sneered; but others said, “We will hear from you again about this matter.” 33 So Paul left them. 34 But some men joined him and believed; among them were Dionysius, [a judge] of the Council of Areopagus, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

One Sunday as they drove home from church, a little boy turned to his father and said, “Daddy, there’s something weird about the preacher’s message this morning that I don’t understand.”

The father said, “Oh? What is it?”

The little boy replied, “Well, he said that God is bigger than we are. He said God is so big that He could hold the world in His hand. Is that true?”

The father replied, “Yes, that’s true, son.”

“But daddy, he also said that God comes to live inside of us when we believe in Jesus as our Savior.

Is that true, too?”

Again, the father assured the little boy that what the pastor had said was true.

With a puzzled look on his round face the little boy then asked, “If that is true, if God is way, way bigger than us and He lives in us, wouldn’t He show through?”

I love that little story; it’s cute, and it makes me smile. However to effectively communicate the good news it does take more than a smiling silent witness.

Don’t get me wrong there are times that it is appropriate.

But a silent witness, smiling or otherwise, in and of its self will never bring in the harvest called for by God – it will never get a conversion or commitment.

Sometimes it seems difficult to communicate the love of Christ to others. It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer weight of Biblical data and too become tongue-tied when trying to correctly share how one can know Savior Christ. 

So what does it take to clearly and effectively communicate the good news of the gospel?

To find the answer to this question let’s turn to the manual.

The answer book!

God’s Word for God’s Children!

Come with me again to the Book of Acts of the Apostles, the 17th chapter.

This is the story of the Apostle Paul in Athens.

The Apostle Paul was arguably one of the most effective first century communicators of the good news of the gospel.

Paul was an effective communicator of the good news of the gospel because;

1. He had a powerful passion for the message itself – it drove him forward.

Acts 17:16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols.

Please try to understand ‘passion’ – I am not talking about an emotion.

The greatest problem of emotions is that change, wax and wane too easily.

I am talking about the definition that Webster gives that says:

– An intense, driving or overmastering conviction.

Do you see what fuels passion according to this definition? —— Passion is fueled by a deep and unwavering conviction to “I must get something done.”

His passion was fueled by the conviction that every man, women, boy or girl faces heaven or hell – and Jesus Christ was the only path to one’s salvation.

That there is no in between.

No one will receive a sentence of 2 to 20 years.

It is a forever and ever and ever and ever sentence of eternal never ending separation from God – in torment and burning in hell. (Luke 16:19-31)

Why was he distressed?

Because of his deep conviction and understanding these people were doomed to an eternity in hell unless the strong power of idolatry was broken in their lives.

A. Notice what Paul saw – He literally saw the idolatry everywhere he looked.

1. As Paul moved about Athens he was not impressed by the great glitz and the grandeur of the Greeks, he wasn’t taken or overwhelmed by the Acropolis or the Parthenon – buildings considered even today to be true wonders of the world.

2. As Jesus’ own soul zealously saw the Israelites (Matthew 23:37) (Luke 13:34), Paul’s passion for Christ, Paul’s zealousness saw the lost ness of the Athenians!

3. What do we see as we walk or drive through our neighborhoods, walk through the shopping Malls, move about our own workplaces and visit the “sights of our cities?

B. If we are going to be effective communicators we must look and pray to God our Father whose first passion sent His Son to us – for that same #1 Passion!

2ndly Paul was an effective communicator of the good news of the gospel because:

2. He engages people on common ground.

Acts 17:22-23

22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious.

23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.

A. He uses the familiar to explain the unfamiliar or unknown.

1. Talks about them being very “religious” – trying not to offend ‘lesser god’s.’

2. Talks about one specific idol they have – all the god’s of the Greek Pantheon

3. Tells them he knows his God is their “Unknown God!” – known to Everyone!

B. Jesus used the same approach (common ground or interest) with the woman at the well in John chapter 4.

John 4:7-11 Amplified

The Samaritan Woman

Then a woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink”— For His disciples had gone off into the city to buy food— The Samaritan woman asked Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me, a [a] Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (For Jews have nothing to do with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew [about] God’s gift [of eternal life], and who it is who says, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him [instead], and He would have given you living water (eternal life).” 11 She said to Him, “Sir, [b]You have nothing to draw with [no bucket and rope] and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water?

One of those barriers to effectively communicating the Good News of the Gospel is the belief that there is no common ground between them and the “stranger.”

No Common Ground – therefore No Conversation – therefore no “Known God.”

A quick shrug of the shoulders – no common ground – no conversation ensues and that “Unknown God” remains that “Unknown God,” lost to our “wisdom.”

Lost to our “wisdom” because in ‘our wisdom’ we feel we have nothing to say or somehow believe that our words have no value to the Kingdom (Exodus 4:1-5).

Lost to our “wisdom” because in “our wisdom” we are tired of words because too many of the “right words on deaf ears” already been spoken and ignored.

Lost to our “wisdom” because in “our wisdom” we find it too easy to be mad and get too easily offended – let emotions govern how we see our neighbors.

Lost to our “wisdom” because in “our wisdom” we raise the authority and the power of our words above and beyond the power behind the Word of our God. (Proverbs 1:1-7, 20-33, Proverbs 3:5-8, Proverbs 8:11-20, Proverbs 16:1-9, Proverbs 29:18, Isaiah 1:18-20, Isaiah 2:1-4, Isaiah 55:10-13, Hebrews 4:12)

Lost to our “wisdom” because in “our wisdom” we have somehow become too easily contented with being a “Divided” Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:10-17).

Lost to our “wisdom” because in “our wisdom” we think our words are wasted, useless, because God is going to do what God is going to do anyway. (Jonah 4:2)

So many excuses – too many wrong headed reasons, rationales to keep silent.

Too many opportunities to believe we have nothing to contribute nor want to contribute because we are too mad at everything and prefer to wash our hands of any responsibility or accountability to help our neighbors. (Matthew 27:24)

So many excuses – so many reasons and rationales – offered up to the God we allegedly believe and confess “we know” to let ‘the kingdom be the kingdom.’

For which Jesus gives an answer ….

John 13:34-35 (Amplified)

34 I am giving you a new commandment, that you [a]love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you too are to love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love and unselfish concern for one another.”

John 14:11-14 (Amplified)

11 Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe [Me] because of the [very] works themselves [which you have witnessed]. 12 I assure you and most solemnly say to you, anyone who believes in Me [as Savior] will also do the things that I do; and he will do even greater things than these [in extent and outreach], because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in My name [[a]as My representative], this I will do, so that the Father may be glorified  and celebrated in the Son. 14 If you ask Me anything in My name [as My representative], I will do it.

John 15:9-11 (Amplified)

I have loved you just as the Father has loved Me; remain in My love [and do not doubt My love for you]. 10 If you keep My commandments and obey My teaching, you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and remain in His love. 11 I have told you these things so that My joy and delight may be in you, and that your joy may be made full and complete and overflowing.

John 15:12-16 (Amplified)

Disciples’ Relation to Each Other

12 “This is My commandment, that you [a]love and unselfishly seek the best for one another, just as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love [nor stronger commitment] than to lay down his own life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you keep on doing what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you  My] friends, because I have revealed to you everything that I have heard from My Father. 16 You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you and I have appointed and placed and purposefully planted you, so that you would go and bear fruit and keep on bearing, and that your fruit will remain and be lasting, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name [as My representative] He may give to you.

C. I am thoroughly, passionately convinced that the Holy Spirit gives us these same scriptural invitations, GOD openings and opportunities every single day.

We just aren’t deliberately, intentionally, passionately looking for them and recognizing them with the same deliberation, intent, passion as Paul did.

Reminds me to the story … of a guy who “prayed” this prayer every morning:

“Lord, if you really and truly and passionately want me to Your witness to someone, somewhere today, please give me a sign to show me who it is.”

One day he found himself on a bus when a big, burly man sat next to him.

The bus was nearly empty but this hulking guy sat next to our praying friend.

The timid Christian anxiously waited for his stop so he could exit the bus.

But before he could get either very nervous about the man next to him, or as far away from him as he could as quick as he could exit the bus, the big guy burst into tears and began to weep uncontrollably, then cried out with a loud voice,

“Life is nothing to me anymore, just no purpose anywhere, I need to be saved. I am a lost sinner and I need the Lord. Won’t somebody tell me how to be saved?”

He turned to the Christian and pleaded, “Can you show me how to be saved?”

The believer immediately bowed his head, praying, “Lord, is this Your sign?”

Most of the time it just doesn’t happen like that.

But if we have a passion that is driven by a deep conviction we will be watching, looking for opportunities to “give an answer” in the message of the good news.

You see the point is this –

We don’t need another sign from God because we have a LIVING HOPE in Christ:

1 Peter 3:14-16 (Amplified)

14 But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness [though it is not certain that you will], you are still blessed [happy, to be admired and favored by God]. Do not be afraid of their intimidating threats, nor be troubled  or disturbed [by their opposition]. 15 But in your hearts set Christ apart [as holy—acknowledging Him, giving Him first place in your lives] as Lord. Always be ready to give a [logical] defense to anyone who asks you to account for the hope and confident assurance [elicited by faith] that is within you, yet [do it] with gentleness and respect. 16 And see to it that your conscience is entirely clear, so that every time you are slandered or falsely accused, those who attack or disparage your good behavior in Christ will be shamed [by their own words].

You see the point is –

We do not need another “sign” to know IF God and Christ wants us to witness:

He has already commanded us to go, be his witness. Matthew 28:16-20, Mark 16:15, Luke 24:25-31 then 32-35 then 36-49, feed one another John 21:15-19.

Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you, Ye shall be my witnessesyea, unto the uttermost part of the earth:  Acts 1:1-8 KJV.

Apostle Paul was an effective communicator of the good news because he had a deep, powerful passion, because he engaged the people on common ground and

3rdly because:

3. He kept it Simple!

Paul presented 3 simple points:

1- God is the Creator and owner of the universe …. Acts 17:24

2 – God wants everyone to know him … Acts 17:26-27

3 – Men must repent for judgment day is coming. Acts 17:30-31

You can’t get much simpler than that.

The point is that the enemy wants you and I to think and believe with our whole hearts the effective communication of the good news is complex and difficult.

The Adversary wants you and I to think and believe that you, I, need to be an expert in Greek and Hebrew, Biblical Scholarship to communicate the gospel.

The Truth is simple; the gospel is simple

· Every man is a sinner

· God loves every man, wants a relationship with all sinners

· He died to pay the penalty for every man sin …

· By repentance and faith we can be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:17-21)

The point is every born again believer can communicate the gospel.

Apostle Paul was an effective communicator of the good news because he had a deep, and powerful passion for all things Jesus Christ, he engaged the people on common ground (issues), and because he kept it simple and finally because …

4. He was realistic in his expectations

A. We must realize not everyone is going to respond nicely when we present Christ, but we must yet continue to respond to him or her in faith and love.

Acts 17:32 (Amplified)

32 Now when they heard [the term] resurrection from the dead, [a]some mocked and sneered; but others said, “We will hear from you again about this matter.”

But we must also realize that the gospel the good news will not return void.

Acts 17:33-34 (Amplified)

33 So Paul left them. 34 But some men joined him and believed; among them were Dionysius, [a judge] of the Council of Areopagus, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

And as discouraging and disheartening as this fact can definitely be ….

Believe that God gives us His Answer and His Assurance on this matter too:

Isaiah 55:10-13 (Amplified)

“For as the rain and snow come down from heaven,
And do not return there without watering the earth,
Making it bear and sprout,
And providing seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
So will My word be which goes out of My mouth;
It will not return to Me void (useless, without result),
Without accomplishing what I desire,
And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.
“For you will go out [from exile] with joy
And be led forth [by the Lord Himself] with peace;
The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you,
And all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
“Instead of the thorn bush the cypress tree will grow,
And instead of the nettle the myrtle tree will grow;
And it will be a memorial to the Lord,
For an everlasting sign [of His mercy] which will not be cut off.”

How eager are we for such an “Athenian Experience” as Apostle Paul was?

Are our hearts and souls as “greatly distressed and disturbed” as Paul’s?

What do we really think and believe to be the value of our “wisdom” to God?

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

God, from the beginning, you were the word. You sent your only son to save us all and he even allowed himself to be tortured and crucified to obey you. Bless me with the gift of passion and understanding and of unshaken faith in you. Let me know the meaning of your words of ministry and mission in the Bible, how to live accordingly. Open the door of my heart, and fill me with your light and understanding. Amen.

Author: Thomas E Meyer Jr

Formerly Homeless Sinner Now, Child of God, Saved by Grace.

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