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What's God Really Like?

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God wants us to help other people know: 1. That He is glorious (vs. 23-25). 2. That He is mysterious (vs. 26-27). 3. That He is generous (vs. 25-31). 4. That He is righteous (vs. 30-31).

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What's God Really Like?

The Book of Acts - Part 59

Acts 17:22-31

Sermon by Rick Crandall

Grayson Baptist Church - September 21, 2014


*In this chapter, Paul was on his second missionary journey, and was now in Athens alone. He was sent there mainly to keep him safe from a Christ-rejecting mob at Berea. And while Paul was at Athens, he did what he always did: Everything he possibly could do to spread the Good News about Jesus Christ.

*So vs. 17 tells us that Paul "reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there." Then in vs. 18, we see that "he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection."

*For this reason, in vs. 19-20, the philosophers brought Paul to the "Areopagus" or "Hill of Mars" to explain himself. Then vs. 22-23 show us that Paul began his explanation in an interesting way:

22. Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, "Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious;" (or "too superstitious" or "as superstitious as possible") (Either translation is possible.)

23. for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to the unknown God. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you:"

*William Barclay tells us that "there were many altars to unknown gods in Athens. Six hundred years before this time, a terrible pestilence had fallen on the city which nothing could halt.

*Then a Cretan poet named Epimenides came forward with a plan: A flock of black and white sheep were let loose throughout the city from the Areopagus. Wherever each sheep lay down, it was sacrificed to the god of the nearest shrine. And if a sheep lay down nowhere near the shrine of a known god it was sacrificed to 'The Unknown God.'" (1)

*I know that sounds ridiculous, and it was ridiculous. But that just reminds us how desperately these people needed Jesus. Let’s think about that as we read vs. 22-31.


*Yesterday I thought back to the time when I was in high school. I was just as lost as these people in Athens. I truly thought that Jesus was just a myth like Zeus and Hercules.

*And I remember this guy in my fraternity: Robbie Smith. He was a great guy, good athlete, straight arrow. But my friends and I called him "Crazy Robbie Smith," because he had this crazy idea that he knew God in a personal way. He even thought that God was living in his heart.

*I thank God that about 6 years later I found out that "Crazy Robbie" wasn’t crazy after all. He really did know God. Do you know God? If Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior, then the answer is "yes!" Christians: We know Him! And God wants us to help other people know what He's really like.

1. So first: Help other people know that God is glorious.

[1] Our God is glorious in countless ways! For example, He is glorious as the Supreme Creator.

*As Paul said in vs. 24: "God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands." The Lord Himself put it this way in Isaiah 66 and Acts 7:49-50:

49. "Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. What house will you build for Me? says the Lord, or what is the place of My rest?

50. Has My hand not made all these things?"

*The Lord God is the Supreme Creator over and above all of His creation. And how glorious He must be to have created this universe!

*Raymond McHenry gave the example of the wonder of the human brain, and said: "To simply count the synapses in your brain, at a rate of one per second would take thirty-two million years." (2)

*Just a few months before he died in 2003, evangelist Bill Bright said, "Even though I’ve always believed in heaven and hell, after I became a believer, I gave little thought to it. But in recent months I’ve been writing on heaven and hell. My logic is this: The God whom we worship created at least 100 billion galaxies -- some astronomers would say 200 billion." (In 2016, the Astrophysical Journal of October 13th revealed a new estimate of 2 trillion galaxies in the universe! The new sky census used data from the Hubble space telescope and other observatories to conclude that the universe has about 10 times more galaxies than previously thought.)

*And Bill Bright said, "Do we give God credit? They say it was the Big Bang. But it was this great Creator God who made all this majesty and glory. Can you imagine, then, what he’s done to create heaven?" No, We can't begin to imagine it all, for 1 Corinthians 2:9 says, "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.'' -- beauty and magnificence beyond anything our little finite minds can imagine." (3)

[2] Our glorious God is the Supreme Creator. He is also supremely complete.

*Speaking of God in vs. 25, Paul said, "Nor is He worshiped with men's hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things."

*Now this statement about hands has nothing to do with lifting our hands in worship or anything like that. In fact, this word translated "worship" in the KJV and NKJV is not the word we usually see for worship. That word is "proskuneo," which has that wonderful word picture of an affectionate dog licking his master’s hand.

*This word "worship" in vs. 25 is "therapeuo." It's where we get our words "therapy" and "therapeutic". It is used 44 times in the New Testament, but 43 of those times it is translated as "heal" or "cure."

*This is the only place where it is translated as "worship." The underlying thought of this word is serving someone, and usually it's about serving to heal their pain or disease. This word translated as "worship" in our Bibles has to do with meeting someone else's needs.

*So what Paul is really saying here is that God doesn’t have any needs. Again, as Paul said in vs. 25: "Nor is He worshiped with men's hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things." The New Living Translation puts it this way: "Human hands can't serve his needs -- for He has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and He satisfies every need there is."

*Our God is gloriously complete in Himself, and God wants us to help other people know Him.

2. So help people know that God is glorious. -- And help them know that He is mysterious.

*God is mysterious. He is infinitely more than we can ever understand in this world. As Paul proclaimed in Romans 11:33-36:

33. Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!

34. "For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?''

35. "Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him?''

36. For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.

*Now as we look at vs. 26 again, think about the mystery of God’s ways as He unfolds His plan for all people: "He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their habitation."

*Do you ever think about why God allowed us to be born with so much, when most of the world has so little? I know it doesn’t always seem like it, with all the news out of Washington, but we are blessed politically. We have more freedom than most people who have ever lived in this world!

*We are also blessed financially. For example, World Vision reported that more than a third of the world's people don't have access to a decent bathroom. That's over 2 billion people! World Vision also reported that every 15 seconds a child dies from diseases linked to contaminated water. (4)

*We are blessed financially. And most of all, we are blessed spiritually! Raymond McHenry gave this example: "The average Christian household in America contains 9 Bibles. But in Third World countries a typical pastor doesn't own even one Bible." On top of that, there are hundreds of millions of people who have never even heard of Jesus Christ. (5)

*That's a tragedy, and we need to do everything we can to help spread the gospel around the world. But we also need to know that it is only by the MYSTERIOUS GRACE of Almighty God that we are here, and they are there.

*We will not always understand what God is doing, and we will not always understand why. But God wants us to help other people know Him.

3. So help them know that He is mysterious. -- And help them know that He is generous.

*In vs. 25-31, we can see great evidence of God’s generosity. For example, in vs. 25 God "gives to all life, breath, and all things." Our God is generous! In vs. 27-28, He is a God who wants to be known. He wants us to seek Him, and He wants to be found, so He is always close by.

*In vs. 27-28, Paul tells us that God designed the world:

27. "so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;

28. for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, 'For we are also His offspring.'"

*Our God is generous! In vs. 29-30, we see His patient restraint. Talking about worshiping idols, here Paul said:

29. "Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man's devising.

30. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent."

*Paul was not saying there that it was okay for them to worship idols, or that all of them were saved. He was saying that when God could have obliterated them with a word, He restrained Himself and give them time to repent.

*Our God is generous! We see this in vs. 31, where Paul talked to them about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Here Paul tells us that God "has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.''

*Of course, the unspoken truth in this verse is that the resurrection of Jesus Christ was only necessary, because Jesus humbled Himself to become a man and die on the cross for our sins. The unspoken truth here is that resurrection is also available to us too through faith in Jesus Christ. And this is the pinnacle of God’s generosity toward us: That He would want us to have a personal relationship with Him, living forever with Him in Heaven!

*We get a taste of the resurrection in a story I love. It started on a sad note in July 2002, in Artesia, New Mexico. There Mary Bratcher ran over her pet dog, Browny. The family tearfully buried Browny in a field near their home.

*But the Bratcher’s youngest son refused to accept that Browny was gone. Neither would Browny’s momma! She dug her baby pooch out of the ground. And when the family got back from a trip the next day, there he was on the front porch.

*Little Browny was caked with mud and dried blood, and he was barely breathing, but he was alive! They rushed him to the vet, and he recovered. After that, they decided to give Browny a new name: Lazarus! -- Back from the dead! (6)

*That’s us, believers! We are going to live forever in Heaven with Jesus! What joy! What a celebration! What generosity from our God! Because again, there could be no resurrection without the crucifixion. There could be no eternal life for us without the Lord’s death on the cross. But Jesus did die on the cross and rose again to save all who will trust in Him.

4. God wants us to help other people know Him. So, help them know that He is generous. -- And help them know that He is righteous.

*Paul made this truth so clear in vs. 30-31, when he said that God:

30. . . now commands all men everywhere to repent,

31. because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.''

*God is righteous! King David expressed it this way in Psalm 36:

5. Your mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens, And Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.

6. Your righteousness is like the great mountains; Your judgments are a great deep; O Lord, You preserve man and beast.

7. How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings.

8. They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house, And You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures.

9. For with You is the fountain of life; In Your light we see light.

10. Oh, continue Your lovingkindness to those who know You, And Your righteousness to the upright in heart.

*God is righteous! Author Max Lucado wrote: "All of us occasionally do what is right. A few predominately do what is right. But do any of us always do what is right? According to the Word of God, we don’t. As Paul said in Romans 3:10, 'There is none righteous, no, not one.'

*Some may beg to differ, and say, 'I’m not perfect, Max, but I’m better than most folks. I’ve led a good life. I don’t break the rules. I don’t break hearts. I help people. I like people. Compared to others, I think I could say I’m a righteous person.'"

*Then Max said, "I used to try that on my mother. She’d tell me that my room wasn’t clean, and I’d ask her to go with me to my brother’s room. His was always messier than mine. 'See, my room is clean; just look at his.'

*Never worked. She’d walk me down the hall to her room. When it came to tidy rooms, my mom was righteous. Her closet was just right. Her bed was just right. Her bathroom was just right. Compared to hers, my room was, -- well, -- just wrong. She would show me her room and say, 'This is what I mean by clean.'

*God does the same thing. He points to himself and says, 'This is what I mean by righteousness.'" (7)

*Church: God is righteous! And so He calls all people to repent. Change our minds about sin. Change our minds about Him. Turn away from sin, selfishness and self-righteousness. And turn to Him, receiving His righteousness by receiving Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

*Then God wants us to help others receive it too. Thom Rainer is the head of our LifeWay Christian Resources. Back in 2007, he made this statement about LifeWay's research of unchurched American adults: "Our research shows that more than 60 million unchurched adults are eager for a Christian to share the Gospel with them." (8)

*This finding reflects the truth of Jesus' words in Matthew 9:37-38:

37. . . "The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.

38. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.''

*God wants us to help other people know that He is glorious, that He is mysterious, that He is generous, and that He is righteous! May God help us to help other people come to truly know our God.

*Would you please bow for prayer.

(1) Sources:

Barclay's Daily Bible Study Series (NT) by William Barclay, Revised Edition - Copyright 1975 William Barclay. First published by the Saint Andrew - Press, Edinburgh, Scotland. The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. - A SERMON TO THE PHILOSOPHERS - Acts 17:22-31

(2) Leadership, Winter 2007, p.63 - Source: In other Words - August 2007 #2 - Produced by Dr. Raymond McHenry -

(3) Sources:

-Adapted from SermonCentral illustration contributed by Pat Cook

-Houston Chronicle, 101716, p. A2 - Source: "In Other Words" - November 2016 #2 produced by Dr. Raymond McHenry -

(4) World Vision, Summer 2007, p. 11, 25 - Source: "In Other Words" - August 2007 #2 produced by Dr. Raymond McHenry -

(5) Outreach, March/April 2007, p. 22 - Source: "In Other Words" - August 2007 #2 produced by Dr. Raymond McHenry -

(6) SermonCentral sermon "How to Live Really Free" by Russell Brownworth - John 11:1-46

(7) Lucado Says God’s Standard Is Perfection, Citation: Max Lucado, Traveling Light - Word, 2001 - Source: SermonCentral illustration contributed by A. Todd Coget

(8) Outreach, March/April 2007, p.18 - Source: "In Other Words" - August 2007 #2 produced by Dr. Raymond McHenry -

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