June 26, 2016   Acts 17:16 – 33   Passion


   We see a number of different things in this passage today and I want to touch upon a couple of things.  One of the first things that I notice is Paul’s passion.  In verse 16 we read while Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. Paul goes into this city of Athens and he sees that the people are involved with many idols.  The pagan writer Petronius sarcastically said it was easier to find an idol in Athens than a man.   Every public building was dedicated to a god and statues of gods filled the city.  Paul did not come to the city as a tourist but as a Christian. It has been said that Athens was Satan’s city.    Idols were the in thing and that bothers Paul a great deal because of his walk with Jesus and his love for Jesus.  Jesus was deeply disturbed as he entered Jerusalem.  Jesus had a passion to heal and to bless people.  Jesus had a passion to obey God.   Paul had a passion for lost people.  

   Webster defines passion as any emotion such as hate or fear, intense emotional excitement as rage enthusiasm or lust, and the object of any strong desire.  And wisely Webster relates that also to the sufferings of Jesus beginning after the last supper and continuing to his death on the cross.  Paul has seen Jesus and he has had revelations and his heart goes out to these misguided and lost people.  There is pain in his heart for them.  The apostle Paul was greatly distressed.  That is an emotional drain on a person’s life to love and care for others.  It can be a strain. 

    Then we see the people of Athens.   They also have a passion.  The people of Athens worshipped and talked about various gods who were nothing more than idols.   In verse 21 we read (all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)    I suppose everyone has a passion.  Does anybody know anyone who does not have a passion for something?  I think everybody has a passion or passions.  There are many passions in America today.  There is a passion for money, for pleasure, for leisure, for food and drink and we are seeing a great passion for drugs.   In America we have our idols.  We must not lose sight that every person is broken and every person needs Jesus.   Every person has some sort of pain or unfulfilled desire in their life.  Nobody has it all together.   Every person is broken and needy.  Do not put people way above yourself or look at folks in the world who have a lot of stuff as successful and better than you because it is not true. 

    The people of Athens had a desire for idols and idol talk.   I do not think it cost them too much. They probably did not invest too much in idle chit chat.  In fact it seems like they did not have much to do.   It was the in thing to go and discuss various thoughts about different gods and about life.  I remember from college that they were called arm chair philosophers.  I guess that is sitting around and talking.   Perhaps the passion was just a past time for some and maybe for others they were very passionate.  Anyway it would fill their days.   Paul’s passion comes with a price tag.  Paul’s passion cost him everything.  Paul’s passion was Jesus.  Paul writes I count everything loss compared to Jesus.  I am forgetting all that stuff I had and I press on to goal before me.  He was single minded.  Christians should be passionate. 

     John Piper says the greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world.   It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night.   For all the ill that Satan can do, when God describes what keeps us from the banquet table of his love, it is a piece of land, a yoke of oxen, and a wife (Luke 14:18 – 20).   The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts.  And the deadliest appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth.   For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable and almost incurable.   Jesus said some people hear the word of God, and a desire for God is awakened in their hearts. 

    But then “as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life” (Luke 8:14 NASB). In another place he said, “The desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Mark 4:19 NASB). “The pleasures of this life” and “the desires for other things” are not evil in themselves. These are not vices. These are gifts of God.  They are your basic meat and potatoes and coffee and gardening and reading and decorating and traveling and investing and TV-watching and Internet-surfing and shopping and exercising and collecting and talking.  And all of them can become deadly substitutes for God.   — John Piper,  A Hunger for God (Crossway, 1997).  Church growth can be an idol in a person’s life if that growth replaces God.  Proverbs says keep your heart with all diligence for out of it are the issues of life.  Today we really need to be diligent in keeping our heart set upon God. 

    How is our passion today for the things of God?  How is our passion to minister?   How many of us have asked a person if they are Christian or asked a person if they are born again or something similar in the last month?     I have asked a few people.  One person was in a Wal Mart store and one in a hospital and one in an apartment building.   If we have a passion for God, God will use us.   

    Brandon Bradley shares.    I am a surgical assistant — the surgeon’s right-hand man.   At one point in my career, I lost my passion. I wanted a job with spiritual significance, and I prayed for that.    That is an interesting comment that he makes about losing his passion.  We can lose our passion for life if we ignore God in our life.  It can be challenging to maintain a passion in life today.     Our lives are filled with stress, pain, and with challenges.   A lot of people are sleep deprived today.   People are tired.   The load that people carry today is heavy.  Do you feel the load and the pain of others around you?   At times we wonder how we are going to get through.  The tasks and problems seem so much greater than we are.  But life can be full and meaningful as we walk in Jesus. 

     Brandon shares imagine my shock when God led me to a position in plastic surgery.   Why would God want me in a hotbed of vanity I wondered?  During my quiet times, the Lord assured me that this was part of his plan and that I should wait for his direction.   So I obeyed, continuing to pray that the Lord would use me in this job.  The first directive when I started my new position was “Gather and pray in my name.” There were only a few Christians who worked in the plastic surgery department, but I started with them. “I’m going to start praying for our workplace each Monday, fifteen minutes before we clock in,” I told them. “I’ll be in Operating Room 2, and I hope you will join me.”  We met each week, praying for our work, our colleagues, and our patients. Soon we were praying boldly for opportunities to witness. By the end of that year, God had answered many prayers, which included ten friends who accepted Christ as their Savior!

      God has given me a purpose far beyond patient care. He expanded my circle of influence by transferring me to the main surgery department, where I now rotate through all four departments in the hospital campus. I have started several prayer groups throughout the hospital.   Each group focuses on inviting the Holy Spirit to move in their department. We encourage each other in Christ, pray for opportunities to witness, seek God’s will, and ask that Christ be glorified in our work.   Since I realized that I could advance the kingdom of God through praying at work, I have found renewed passion for my job, as well as for the opportunities for ministry it provides.    — Brandon A. Bradley, “Prayer at Work:
Surgical Assistant,” Pray! (July – August 2006)

    I like this story because it is simple. He took the work that he was in gave it to God, prayed every day and saw God do great things and he got his passion back.     It shows us that we can relate Jesus to people around us day by day.  We pray and God opens doors.  The Lord has a plan for us that is meaningful and has purpose and it is powerful to pray for your work place daily.   Even if your work place is home you can be led to pray for someone or bring a word to someone.  When I was in the Navigators in Colorado Springs in 1969 to 71 I worked for a company called Western Forge which made Craftsman tools.  I worked in the grinding department for about  2 years.  At one point we had 11 men working there and we prayed for the work place as we drove to work.   Several people came to the Lord through that.  We went to California and I was one of the last persons to go and I saw several decisions during those last days there.     I hope we have a passion to minister God’s word.  I hope you have a passion to pray for VBS this week.  This church can pull together to share Jesus.  Every person has a part.  The crafts, the refreshments, the stories, the store, the games and the skits each one is important.               

   Then in verses 29 to 31 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill.    In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.    For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”  In times past God overlooked.  The King James says and the times of this ignorance God winked at.   God never winks at unbelief and sin.  But God understood where man was at and what God had revealed to man.  The living bible writes that God tolerated man’s past ignorance about these things. 

     I personally think that God is not winking or over looking man’s sin, our ignorance in these days.   A week ago yesterday we celebrated Aunt Barb’s 100th birthday and I think at least 3 Christians told me that we are closer to the end then we think.  I would suggest that all of us be careful of our passions.  A good parent would not allow their child to do bad things.  A good parent would not allow their child to bully others or do things that are dangerous.  A good parent would do all they can to stop their child to drink and do drugs.  God is a good father.  God warns us to stay away from different things.  The bible says flee youthful lusts.  There is a time to run from things.  I think Americans walk in way too much grace. Shall we sin that grace may abound.   The bible says no. 

    Max Lucado writes that he liked beer and one day it was hot.  He said did I say that it was hot?  He was thirsty and a soda would not do.  So he thought about where he could go and not be seen by anyone who might know him.  He drove to an out of the way convenience store and waited until the customers were gone and then in to buy a beer.   He held it close to his side and darted out to the car.  That is when the rooster crowed.  It crowed because he was sneaking around.  It really hurt because he scolded one of his daughters the night before because she was keeping secrets from him.  He threw it in the trash.  Whatever is not of faith is sin.  If you are sneaking something it is not good.    One of the first things that a person has to do to get right or well is to admit they have a problem.  The Holy Spirit helps people with that.  The Holy Spirit convicts the world and the Spirit convicts the Christian.   

    .  God corrects his children.  God works in our life so that we are not condemned with the world.  Hebrews tells us that we submitted to our father’s discipline that was not perfect.  I know my father’s discipline was not perfect – often done in great anger.  There is a lot of good news about God’s correction.  He knows us perfectly.  He disciplines us out of great love and concern for us.  God does not make any mistakes.  The discipline is always for our good because God looks out for us.  He has our back so to speak.  God’s discipline is not pleasant but it can build holiness in our life.  The fruit of his discipline is good.     We need to thank God that He is involved in our life. 

     I believe that not everything bad that happens to us is God disciplining us but we do reap what we sow.   God is rich in love and slow to anger but in these days I think we are pushing it.  He is the judge.  He is holy.  If you sin you open the door for punishment.  Maybe a better word is correction.  God corrects his children so guard your hearts.  Guard your passion.  Sin opens the door for things to fall apart.  Guard your heart and watch your passions.  Keep your passions God centered.