How do we share the gospel in a culture that does not recognize or value the Bible or Christian traditions? The Apostle Paul dealt with this in his day, and his approach serves as a model for us today.
When we seek to understand how to reach people in our culture with the gospel, it is helpful to understand how Paul sought to reach those in his culture. As a monotheistic Jew, Paul was deeply disturbed by all the idols. Yet, he doesn’t display a sense of moral superiority by stepping up to the street corner and preaching about other people’s sins. He doesn’t go into a tirade against idolatry. On the contrary, he compliments them by saying, “I see that you are very religious.” Instead of railing against the negative, Paul builds on the positive.
Paul announces to those of his day that from the start and throughout all of history, God has been working with the rising and falling of kingdom after kingdom to get each and every person to search for God, even to grope after God and perhaps even to find him. However this searching for God looks different from culture to culture, and Paul even uses pagan philosophers to illustrate his point.
Because God is at work in all places and in all times, our job is to pay attention to what God is doing and get involved at those points. The Bible highlights the story of God’s working through one people, Israel, but God has been at work in all peoples to bring them to himself. We can see this in Amos 9:7, where we read that God loves the Ethiopians as much as the Israelites and just as he delivered Israel from Egypt, he delivered the Philistines from Caphtor and the Arameans from Kir. When people are being oppressed, whether they’re Jew or Ethiopian or Philistine or Aramean, God is at work to liberate them. He is on the side that offers salvation, love and justice, and that has happened throughout history.
Paul says that we are God’s co-workers. “As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain” (1 Cor 6:1). We bring our work alongside God’s work to accomplish his will on Earth as in heaven. This is what gives our life significance and meaning: God has created us with our own power, say-so, domain of responsibility, and free will. Our job is to bring our says-so into alignment with what God is already doing. We must follow the Spirit to see what God is up to.
Greg concludes the sermon by introducing Kris Beckert who leads Fresh Expressions in central Pennsylvania as a modern illustration of Paul’s approach to sharing the gospel in our culture.
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