Sunday February 28, 2016 | Greg Boyd
Acts 17:16, 22-24, 26-28, 32-33
While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was deeply distressed to see that the city was full of idols....Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription:
‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands...
From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us.
For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’
In this third installment of the Everyday Influence evangelism series, Greg shares how the real good news is meant to impact all of our relationships, especially with those that don’t know Jesus. We were created with an innermost need and desire for significance and value that only God can satisfy. We were also born into an environment filled with lies and deception about how that desire is to be satisfied. Our call to share the good news starts with our experience of the good news. Greg shares how listening and learning are just as important in evangelizing as speaking and sharing. As the saying goes, no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.
It sounds simple, but the test of whether or not news is the real gospel is if it’s good – does it help set the captive free, bring comfort to the lonely, or liberate the oppressed. Just as the Springsteen song goes, “everybody has a hungry heart.” We’re all born with a desire to imprint on another. We need to have our innermost longing for love, significance, and value satisfied, but unfortunately we believe many lies about where the source of that fulfillment is to come from. Our homing device that was meant to lead us to Christ gets mixed up and starts pointing toward things like money, power, fame, or pleasure as ways to get full, to get life.
We do so much damage when we live our life out of a hungry heart trying to get full instead of a full heart overflowing toward those around us. The good news, the real gospel, is that we don’t have to chase after these things. If we let Him, Jesus will provide peace to our longings and satisfy the innermost desires of our heart. To bear this good news we have to embody it. We have to ask ourselves “Is the good news good news to us?” Are we free or getting free from the stuff people chase to get full? We can’t expect to share the good news if we’re not experiencing it ourselves.
Greg shared four key principles related to embodying the good news. The first is to regularly have our own hungry hearts filled with the love of God. As we continually experience the good news it becomes much easier to notice when others aren’t. Noticing this emptiness in others creates a natural desire to share what we’re experiencing from an authentic place. The second principle is to look past whatever sin you see in another and see the hungry heart behind it. God took sin off the table two thousand years ago so there’s no reason for us to bring it back, related to others or ourselves. The Pharisees would have railed against Paul and Jesus for not calling out and cracking down on the sin of those they were sharing life with. In reality this authentic caring for and sharing with is what attracted sinners of all sorts to hear Jesus’ message of love, grace, & forgiveness. The good news that God doesn’t hold our sin against us and the playing field is leveled is threatening to the Pharisees. In our world today, the Pharisee can take the form of a religious accuser around us, or sometimes the voice inside our own head that says we’re condoning the behavior of another if we don’t call it out and judge it as sin. The third principle is to listen carefully and learn about the life and worldview of the other person so we can connect with them. We are to relate with others that same way Jesus relates to us. There is certainly much Jesus could disagree with about our lifestyle, both external and internal, but He listens patiently in order to learn how we think and know what makes us tick. In reality evangelism is a lot more about listening and learning than about talking and teaching.
The fourth principle is that evangelism is to be a byproduct of loving people, not the other way around. We are not to listen and learn so that we’ll get our turn to talk, but because we’re interacting with another that was made in the image of God that deserves our love and attention. Loving on another with an agenda to evangelize insults their worth and comes across very insincere. It makes people feel used if they think we’re in relationship with them in order to fulfill our agenda of sharing Jesus. We love people because our Lord says they are worth loving. If you’re in a life giving relationship with God, and someone we come in contact with is hungry, it becomes very natural to share the source of our fulfillment. Evangelism is the byproduct of our loving relationship.