INTRODUCTION TO THE BELIEVE SERIES.
Some of my distress as a minister is the amount of stuff that we just accept as truth without really investigating it. Many of us have a good grounding in terms of what we believe, but there is a definite need for all of us to fine tune this a bit more. I am excited to share with you the BELIEVE series which will answer the deeper question –
THINK – What do I believe? –
ACT- What should I do ?
BE- Who am I becoming?
This will also be shared in home groups with a video presentation by Randy Frazee who is the producer of the series. Many of you are more familiar with Max Lucado, however, Randy is the senior Pastor of Oak Hills church in San Antonio Texas where they serve together.
This will be a transformative journey through the bible exploring thirty essential beliefs, practises and virtues that every Christian needs to know and live. I am excited to be your host and facilitator over this time starting next Sunday with our first topic – God and creation.
1. Paul’s experience with belief.
Arriving in Athens, Paul becomes distressed over the many idols adorning the city.
He decides not to wait for the arrival of his colleagues, Silas and Timothy (17:15) in order to share God’s good news with the Athenians. As has been his custom, Paul first visits the synagogues where he dialogues and debates with Jewish men and women (13:5, 14; 14:1) as well as those devout persons (hoi sebomenoi) in attendance (cf. 13:43; 16:14; 18:7). However, he does not limit himself to the synagogues; he also speaks to the people gathered in agora or marketplace (verse 17).
As we journey through this series there will be opportunity for you to dialogue with each other, but also to engage with others outside of the church.
The Athenians and foreigners who frequented the market place were accustomed to hearing and engaging with new philosophical and religious ideas (verse 21). Epicurean and Stoic philosophers debated with Paul. Some concluded that Paul was a “Babbler” (spermologos, verse 18). That is, his message sounded piecemeal, like Paul had distributed crumbs of knowledge to them without the coherence and sophistication of the philosophers.
Others interpreted Paul’s words as promoting foreign divinities/religion because he spoke about the resurrection of Jesus. Neither party seemed to understand, but so that Paul should account for the perplexing intellectual and religious seeds he had scattered, he was escorted (epilambanomai) to the Areopagus (verse 19). It seems that Paul is being forced to officially explain himself before the city council.
2. AFFIRMATION IS ALWAYS A GOOD STARTING POINT
Paul begins his speech by affirming the Athenians’ religiosity and by establishing some common ground between them. Despite his distress over the many idols in the city, Paul wisely refrains from demonizing their manner of religious expression. In the process of familiarizing himself with the religiosity of the Athenians, their idols and related trappings, Paul stumbled upon an altar inscribed with the words “To an unknown god” (verse 23).
Paul astutely makes a hermeneutical and theological connection between the “unknown god” of the inscription and the God whom he proclaims created the world and everything in it (verses 23b-24). Paul’s example shows us that seeking and appealing to the commonalties we share with those whom we wish to share God’s good news, rather than constructing and highlighting our differences is always affective. What do we have in common as opposed to what keeps us apart. Walter and our link with St Stithians and Kearsney and then Paul Verryn.
3. THE UNKNOWN GOD
Conveniently, the Athenians had erected an altar for this “unknown god” but created no image. This absence of an image works well for Paul’s description of God as one who does not live in human-made shrines. Nor is God served or ministered to by humans as if God has a need or void that humans can fill. To say that God is “served by human hands” implies that God needs something from humans. Conversely, God gives everything (ta panta) to humans, including life (zoe) and breath (pnoe) (verse 25)
God does not need our service or worship. Worship and service are for the benefit of human beings. Therefore, we cannot bribe God with our service or our worship. But our service and worship should honor the God who created all human beings equally, without regard to gender, race, ethnicity, class, or orientation. We should treat one another with mutual dignity, justice, and parity in our service and worship.
4. OUR SHARED EXPERIENCE
The second point of common ground is the shared ancestry among human beings: From one God made every nation of people to dwell on the face of the earth and he set the boundaries for their dwelling places (verse 26). Therefore, all nations should seek God, feel after, and find God. The preacher might note that God honours both our intellectual and emotive searching for God. God is not far from each one that God has created.God is equally available to and can be found by all whom God has created; that God shows no favoritism and is not more accessible to any one nation.
5. THE CULTURAL BACKGROUND
The third way that Paul identifies with the Athenians intellectually and theologically and meets them where they are is by invoking the Greek poets. Paul, as an educated Hellenistic Jewish man and a Roman citizen (16:38; 22:3, 25; Galatians 5:13-16), is familiar with the Greek poets and with famous
cultural expressions, two of which he quotes in his speech: “In him (the ‘unknown god’ who is also the God who created and sustains all) we live and move and have our being.”
And the verse “for we too are his offspring” is from Aratus a third-century BCE/BC poet. These two quotes reiterate what Paul has stated about God; the Greek poets had already testified about the relationship between God and all that God created and sustains. In his sermon, Paul weaves together the good news about God with the writings of the Greek poets, creating an instance of intertextuality. Two texts are joined together in a new context (Paul’s speech) to create a relevant text.
Create dialogue of this time in order to make the gospel relevant to people where they are situated. And sometimes this relevance-making involves broadening our intellectual reservoir so that we can draw parallels and find commonalities that we as humans share but that are not readily evident because of the differences we construct and the dualities we create (e.g., pagan/godly or heathen/Christian).
6. GOD IS OUTSIDE THE BOX!!
Paul concludes his speech by arguing that as God’s offspring the Athenians should adjust their view of the deity to match his status as creator-God (verse 29). God should not be confused with the things or persons he has created; God cannot be contained in human-made substances like silver, gold, or stone, regardless of how precious they might be. And God cannot be made into human-conceived images.
We with our limited imagination, create God in our own image; that a god who can be restricted to metaphors and controlled by our imagination is not God. We do this in many ways, one of which is to imagine a God who is like us and unlike those we consider other or different than ourselves.
Significantly, Paul does not mention the name of Jesus in his speech, although Paul mentioned Jesus and his resurrection while he was in the agora. In times past ignorance may have been an excuse for crafting God into the image of human beings and human-made things, but this is no longer a good defense (verse 30). In fact, God will judge the world with justice (en dikaiosune) through a man (Greek: aner, biological man), no less. But this is no ordinary man; this man God raised from the dead (verses 31; 2:22-24)
My prayer over this time is a that you will have a deepening awareness of who God really is in your lives and that the truth will set you free from some of the misconceptions that you might have had in the past.
OUTLINE OF THE BELIEVE SERIES
Believe Scope and Sequence for Adults Chapters 1-10 Scripture Selections
BELIEFS – What do I believe? OT NT LOVE GOD
1 – God Creation Jesus’ Baptism (Genesis 1:1, Psalm 19) (Luke 3) Key Idea: “I believe the God of the Bible is the only true GodFather, Son and Holy Spirit.” Key Verse: 2 Corinthians 13:14
2 – Personal God The Lord Is My Shepherd Why worry? (Psalm 23) (Matthew 6:25-34) Key Idea: “I believe God is involved in and cares about my daily life.” Key Verse: Psalm 121:1-2
3 – Salvation Adam & Eve The Cross & Resurrection (Genesis 2:8-9, 15-17; 3:1-24) (Matthew 26:1-4; 27:27-66; 28:1-10) Key Idea: “I believe a person comes into a right relationship with God by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ.” Key Verse: Ephesians 2:8-9
4 – Bible The Ten Commandments The Temptation of Jesus (Exodus 3:1-4:17) (Matthew 4:1-11) Key Idea: “I believe the Bible is the Word of God and has the right to command my belief and action.” Key Verse: 2 Timothy 3:16-17
5 – Identity in Christ Name Change (Abraham & Sarah) Zacchaeus (Genesis 17:1-7; 21:1-7) (Luke 19:1-9) Key Idea: “I believe I am significant because of my position as a child of God.” Key Verse: John 1:12 2 LOVE OTHERS
6 – Church The Founding of Israel The Founding of the Church (Genesis 12:1-9; 15:1-21) (Acts 1-2) Key Idea: “I believe the church is God’s primary way to accomplish his purposes on earth.” Key Verse: Ephesians 4:15
7 – Humanity Cain & Abel The Lost & Found Sheep (Genesis 4:1-16) (Matthew 18:10-14) Key Idea: “I believe all people are loved by God and need Jesus Christ as their Savior.” Key Verse: John 3:16
8 – Compassion Ruth & Boaz The Good Samaritan (Ruth 2:1-4:17) (Luke 10:25-37) Key Idea: “I believe God calls all Christians to show compassion to people in need.” Key Verse: Psalm 82:3-4
9 – Stewardship Hannah & Samuel The Widow’s Offering (1 Samuel 1:1-28; 2:18-21) (Mark 12:41-44) Key Idea: “I believe everything I am and everything I own belongs to God.” Key Verse: Psalm 24:1-2
10 – Eternity Elijah Goes Up to Heaven John’s Vision (2 Kings 2:1-18) (Revelation 20:11-22:21) Key Idea: “I believe there is a heaven and a hell and that Jesus will return to judge all people and to establish his eternal kingdom.” Key Verse: John 14:1-2 3 Chapters 11-20 Scripture Selections
PRACTICES – What do I do? OT NT LOVE GOD
11 – Worship God Keeps Daniel Safe Paul & Silas in Prison (Daniel 6:1-27) (Acts 16:16-35) Key Idea: “I worship God for who he is and what he has done for me.” Key Verse: Psalm 95:1-2
12 – Prayer Gideon Seek & Knock/Lord’s Prayer (Judges 6-7) (Luke 11:1-13) Key Idea: “I pray to God to know him, to find direction for my life and to lay my requests before him.” Key Verse: Psalm 66:18-20
13 – Bible Study The Lord Commands Joshua Parable of the Four Soils (Joshua 1:1-11) (Matthew 13:1-23) Key Idea: “I study the Bible to know God and his truth and to find direction for my daily life.” Key Verse: Hebrews 4:12
14 – Single mindedness – Jehoshaphat Defeats the Enemy Jesus Walks on Water (2 Chronicles 20:1-30) (Matthew 14:22-36) Key Idea: “I focus on God and his priorities for my life.” Key Verse: Matthew 6:33
15 – Total Surrender Fiery Furnace Stephen (Daniel 3:8-28) (Acts 6:8-7:60) Key Idea: “I dedicate my life to God’s purposes.” Key Verse: Romans 12:1 4 LOVE OTHERS
16 – Biblical Rebuilding the Wall of Jerusalem Church Unity & Sharing Community (Nehemiah 2:11-3:32; 6:15) (Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-37) Key Idea: “I fellowship with Christians to accomplish God’s purposes in my life, in the life of others and in the world.” Key Verse: Acts 22:44-47
17 – Spiritual Gifts Daniel Interprets the King’s Dream The Body (Daniel 2:1-47) (1 Cor. 12:4-13:13) Key Idea: “I know my spiritual gifts and use them to fulfill God’s purposes.” Key Verse: Romans 12:4-6a
18 – Offering Finishing the Temple Jesus in His Father’s Temple My Time (Haggai 1:1-15) (Luke 2:41-52) Key Idea: “I invest my time in fulfilling God’s purposes.” Key Verse: Colossians 3:17
19 – Giving My Gifts to the Tabernacle Gifts to Help Jerusalem Resources (Exodus 35:4-29; 36:6) (2 Corinthians 8:1-9:15) Key Idea: “I give my resources to fulfill God’s purposes.” Key Verse: 2 Corinthians 8:7
20 – Sharing Jonah Philip & the Ethiopian My Faith (Jonah 3:1-4:11) (Acts 8:26-40) Key Idea: “I share my faith with others to fulfill God’s purposes.” Key Verse: Ephesians 6:19-20 5 Chapters 21-30 Scripture Selections
VIRTUES – Who am I becoming? OT NT LOVE GOD
21 – Love David & Jonathan Unmerciful Servant Parable (1 Sam. 18:1-4; 19:1-7; 20:1-42) (Matthew 18:21-35) Key Idea: “I am committed to loving God and loving others.” Key Verse: 1 John 4:10-12
22 – Joy The Feast of Tabernacles Vine & Branches (Nehemiah 8:13-17) John 15:1-11 Key Idea: “Despite my circumstances, I feel inner contentment and understand my purpose in life.” Key Verse: John 15:11
23 – Peace Solomon’s Kingdom at Peace Jesus Calms the Storm (1 Kings 3:1-5; 4:20-25) (Mark 4:35-41) Key Idea: “I am free from anxiety because I have found peace with God, peace with others and peace with myself.” Key Verse: Philippians 4:6-7
24 – Self-Control Joseph & Potiphar’s Wife The Prodigal Son (Genesis 39:1-23) (Luke 15:11-32) Key Idea: “I have the power through Christ to control myself.” Key Verse: Titus 2:11-13
25 – Hope Isaiah the Prophet Brings Hope Simeon (Isaiah 40:1-31) (Luke 2:22-35) Key Idea: “I can cope with the hardships of life because of the hope I have in Jesus Christ.” Key Verse: Hebrews 6:19-20a 6 LOVE OTHERS
26 – Patience David’s Patience with Saul Paul & John Mark (1 Samuel 24:1-22; 26:1-5) (Acts 15:36-41; 2 Tim. 4:11) Key Idea: “I am slow to anger and endure patiently under the unavoidable pressures of life.” Key Verse: Proverbs 14:29
27 – Kindness David & Mephibosheth Jesus at the Pharisee’s House Goodness (2 Samuel 9:1-13; 16:1-4; 19:24-30) (Luke 14:1-14) Key Idea: “I choose do be kind and good in my relationships with others.” Key Verse: 1 Thessalonians 5:17
28 – Faithfulness Joseph Mary (Genesis 37:1-36; 39:1-6a; (Luke 1:26-56, 2:1-21) 40:1-23; 41:14-46a; 42:1-6) Key Idea: “I have established a good name with God and others based on my loyalty to those relationships.” Key Verse: Proverbs 3:3-4
29 – Gentleness Nabal & Abigail Jesus Reinstates Peter (1 Samuel 25) (John 21:1-19) Key Idea: “I am thoughtful, considerate and calm in my dealings with others.” Key Verse: Philippians 4:5
30 – Humility Nebuchadnezzar Jesus Washes Disciples’ Feet (Daniel 4:1-37) (John 13:1-17) Key Idea: “I choose to esteem others above myself.” Key Verse: Philippians 2:3-4