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How church should use culture to reach people

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Spiritual Longing

Big Idea of the Series:
We as humans are an important part of this world, as Gods people we are an integral part of this world & instead of being scared of culture which is so often the case with Christians. We either don’t engage at all separating ourselves completely so that we become totally irrelevant to this world, we know nothing of it what peoples problems are & because we are irrelevant to them a dinosaur that should be extinct they don’t care what we have to say because we don’t understand them. Or we try to hard to be culturally attractive, losing our identity, being unrecognisable by Jesus & then dead Spiritually, ill give you an example from the Bible. the Church in Ephesus.
They have served faithfully in all things, there can be no criticism of their service to God or the people. The people volunteered to help the poor, help with the setting up of church, fed people I would imagine that they had an army of people who would serve at the soup kitchen or whatever they called it. These were people who day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year served, they were devoted to the cause. This wasn’t a place that the 80/20 rule applied, everyone served as they could, gave time into serving God. It doesn’t say the Pastors or Elders, these were just faithful Christians. Because of this the church in Ephesus was at the centre for missionary activity in this region.
They have served faithfully in all things, there can be no criticism of their service to God or the people. The people volunteered to help the poor, help with the setting up of church, fed people I would imagine that they had an army of people who would serve at the soup kitchen or whatever they called it. These were people who day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year served, they were devoted to the cause. This wasn’t a place that the 80/20 rule applied, everyone served as they could, gave time into serving God. It doesn’t say the Pastors or Elders, these were just faithful Christians. Because of this the church in Ephesus was at the centre for missionary activity in this region.
They have endured hardships, Spiritual attacks, Ephesus has been a very dark place, and there were about 50 gods that were worshipped in Ephesus. It was a busy city, so there was always people coming through, spiritual opposition of all sorts and kinds.
They were doing a great Job but what does Jesus say;
Revelation 2:4
Revelation 2:4–7 ESV
But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’
Whatever happens we are not to lose our love for one another which is hard by ourselves, we need God, we are at the beginning and we need to get it right now, as we grow because that is what God wants to do, we need to stay faithful to what he is calling us to, and love one another, don’t be people that just leave disgruntled, go to another church or not go to church, we need to be people committed to growth and to each other and sometimes that can be painful, sometimes we ourselves down and sometimes we let others down but we must love through that. Be a people of Grace. That’s not a badge to hang others by, or hide behind but be real people treat people as you want to be treated.
We can be people who say we’re Bible believing people, that’s cool but are you nice? Because the Bible says love a lot, you say we speak the truth, but do you speak truth in love? Because the Bible says we are to speak the truth in love.
What could happen for those who are like the Ephesians, its truth and works and perseverance, but not love and Grace and kindness and so become very heavy handed, authoritarian, a little cold. It’s not all about serving, we serve out of love not because we are told to our love for God, and Jesus in our hearts changing us from the inside should have an effect on our outward lives and cause us to want to serve Christ by serving the People where we live.
You see what had happened they had become hard hearted to where they lived, tired of all the needy, sick of the religious people, sick of the people who were living wrongly. They had fallen out of love with where they lived, it had all become a burden, so they served but didn’t love, and it had become acts of service. We need to love where we live.
Once there was balance the love that had been poured out to them by Jesus & out of that Faith that that love had produced there came action, they saw the need & filled the need, they were also eager to pray, they had a Spiritual longing born out of there first love.
Our Spiritual longing, wanting to grow closer to God is great but what we must not forget is that God poured out Love that’s a doing thing, loving someone, there’s movement that’s required in that.
iv’e said this before Faith is a doing word.
James 1:19–26 ESV
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.
James 1:19-
James 2:14–26 ESV
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
James 2
What the church in Ephesus ended up doing was serve the culture they were in but were not part of it, the church was just going through the motions, almost this is what we are supposed to do as Christians. What we need to understand is that everyone has a Spiritual longing & that as the church, that’s you & me.
we need to be more like Paul. In Athens Paul used the obvious Spiritual longing of the people & their interests to explain the Gospel. He used the culture around him.
As Christians we can use the culture around us to help people understand their need for God.
Our Text for this morning is Acts 17;16-34
what we are looking at this week is peoples Spiritual longing, knowing that something is missing but not quite what it is, when we know it’s a relationship with Jesus. But we don’t know how to communicate that. I said at the beginning that we are an integral part of this world & instead of being scared of this culture, we should seek to understand & communicate it through the lens of our Christian world view. Use what goes on around us to communicate to people the love of God.
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There are things we can do with culture.
Ignore it:
Which the church has done for years but the more we ignore culture the more irrelevant we’ll become & if the church ignores the culture, the culture will ignore the church.
2. Imitate it:
We can imitate culture, but imitation is a form of suicide. Originality is sacrificed on the altar of cultural conformity, we don’t conform, if we don’t shape the culture, the culture will shape us.
3.Condemn it:
We’ve got to stop pointing the finger & start offering better alternatives. if the church condemns the culture, the culture will condemn the church. This has happened down the years.
As a church we create a culture for the church going on what i said last week, of knowing who Jesus is & what he says about himself & us, by being people of prayer & by being people of deed, not out of some religious, we have to do this because Jesus did it, but because of the love that Jesus poured out over us, which changes us & therefore we cannot help but pour out that love on others.
Acts 17:16-34
There was only one God, the people of Athens did not understand this we spoke of this when we went through the book of Acts
They had no knowledge of the one true God, they had statues of the unknown God’s to cover themselves in case they had missed one out, hedging their bets in a way.
600 , before Paul a plague had decimated the city & a man named Epimenides had an idea. He let lose a flock of sheep through the Town & wherever they lay down, they sacrificed that sheep to the god that had the nearest shrine or Temple. if a sheep lay down near no shrine or temple, they sacrificed the sheep to the unknown God.
Paul uses what’s in his hands here to talk to the people, he knew that Athens was a place of religion & that the Athenians were the most religious of people, so that’s where he starts.
In these times people had many ideas about god’s, the problem was they didn’t know that there was only one true God, that is what Paul was doing here using what he had in his hands, in this case the knowledge that they worshipped an unknown God & that they didn’t know who the one true God was & putting them together.
you know Paul was a very clever man, he’d spotted it and used that knowledge to get the message across about God & lead them to Jesus.
with Jews he knew they had knowledge of who God is, what he had to do with them is help them see the reality of who Jesus is.
Same message different approach.
what about me & you what does this say to us about how we approach telling people about Jesus.
what we need to understand is that as society changes, we need to change, not the message but how we deliver the message, it’s no good doing it the same way as we did 60 years ago, times have changed there are more people who have no idea of who God is in this country than ever before.
We need to use what is around us to reach out to people TV programmes, films, the news.
A story on Tonya Harding who was the worlds best skater & the controversy around her main opponent being attacked, did she have anything to do with it, did she know it was happening. she never skated again. her story is a film called I, Tonya you can see her story there.
Tammy Faye Bakker. A TVevangelist, her ministry collapses, she was a co-host singer, part of heritage USA theme park. a Christian theme park in south Carolina. you can read the story for yourself, People loved these 2 women until they hated them, were they guilty, were they the problem, was it their husbands or business partners or bodyguards, were these women innocent. I don’t know. all i know is that we are the audience with the appetite for scandal standing around the woman at the well ready to throw stones or maybe their stories are like the woman who was caught in sin, everyone around her wants to stone her.
But i am reminded of what Jesus says “ The sinless among you, go first throw the stones”
We can use what happens around us to bring out Jesus teaching, Jesus love to the people around us.
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