Word For Wednesday: The U-Turn

December 1, 2010

WFW

Paul was waiting in Athens, Greece, for his fellow partners to meet him there. While waiting, he walked throughout the city and encountered numerous statues, monuments, and altars to all sorts of gods: the gods of fertility, the gods of strength, the gods of the sea and the weather and of agriculture and even a god for the door hinges (seriously, yes!)…. he was overwhelmed by all the monuments. He even came across one monument that said TO THE UNKNOWN GOD, erected by the city in case the Greeks had accidentally missed one.

Paul decided to go into the local synagogue to preach the news that only one god had risen from the dead: Jesus the Christ. He reasoned with the Jews and Gentiles in the synagogue, explaining the Old Testament prophecies about Jesus and his life.

Some of the Grecian philosophers heard Paul, and asked him questions about what he was saying. They brought him to the Aeropagus (Mars Hill, which stands to this day) to explain further to all the people. The Aeropagus was like a town hall (like Drudge Report or Twitter) where people gathered to hear and report the latest news and gossip. Paul stood up among them, and said to them:

“Men, Athenians… listen: God, the One who created the world and everything in it, is Lord of heaven and of earth, and He doesn’t live in temples and altars made with human hands, nor is He served by the hands of people, as if he needs something. On the contrary, God made everything and needs nothing… so we should not be thinking that God is similar to gold or silver or stone, crafted by mankind’s imagination and skill. These times of such ignorance God overlooked– because God is now giving strict orders to all people everywhere to be repenting, because He set a day in which He is about to judge the world… giving us positive proof of this by raising Jesus from the dead.” Acts 17: 30

Some Athenians listened and believed, while others scorned what he said. Apparently, some were happy to honor all gods except the ones they didn’t create from their own imaginations…

Question: What does it means to “be repenting.” Repent of what? To repent just means “to change your mind and go in a different direction.” But change the mind about what, and go in what direction??

Apparently, some of the Athenians liked any kind of god (that is, all concepts of gods) that didn’t require any change of behavior. It’s pretty easy to pinch some incense or drop a few coins and then go along your merry way. Yet to the true and living God, that stuff is meaningless. What good is it if you eat a wafer or donate some old clothes yet still lash out in vicious anger, tell lies, or selfishly slander someone behind their back; what good is your religion?? How does one change??

Well, the New Testament has the answers. In a very, very basic nutshell:

Permanently stop doing wrong things, things like telling lies, pilfering (stealing, even the smallest things), lusting after the opposite sex, using people for your own pleasures, being greedy for stuff especially when others are in need, showing partiality and lavishing your attentions on people who are pretty or rich, stop using people for gain, stop being so selfish and nasty, stop the outbursts of wrath and the lies and dirty language…. Colossians 3: 5-10

This is called “putting to death the deeds of the body.” The New Testament is full of what this is and how to do it.

It doesn’t take long before you realize that… well, being perfect is IMPOSSIBLE. I mean, who is perfect???

I think everyone universally agrees that Love Your Neighbor As Yourself is a good rule (especially when you are “the neighbor”). But… who keeps it? Who possibly CAN keep it?

This is the basis of what Jesus did. HE did it, He kept that precept. Yep, He did it, without fault. How do we know? Well, not only is His life recorded by at least 4 guys, and was foretold in detail thousands of years before He was here, but He also happened to die and then rise from the dead. Hello, that would get my attention. Moreover, God says that WE are justified with Jesus. Justified, as in “just if I’d” never sinned. God forgave us all the nasty stuff of our past when Jesus made the decision to sacrifice Himself as payment for our failures. That’s KIND OF a big deal.

And not only that, but He gives us the means to CONTINUE doing it for the future– the proof of this is that He raised Christ from the dead. That’s a pretty monumental feat, and I haven’t seen or heard of it happening to anyone else. Yah, as great as Ghandi, Mary, Buddha, Mother Teresa, Mohammed, and all those guys were, none of them rose from the dead. They couldn’t do it even if they wanted to. And even if they could, they sure wouldn’t do it for me, or you, or Hitler or Stalin or Idi Amin. Only God is that forgiving.

But going back to HOW do you stop doing nasty things, and HOW do you go about repenting… Paul in the book of Romans called it “putting to death the deeds of the body.”

For if you live according to the flesh, you are about to die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God. Romans 8: 13-14

…if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, this one is not His. Romans 8:9

What that means is that you need to be born again, you need to live a totally new life. It’s not magic. It is something that God does deep in our hearts when we realize all that He did for us, and what we now need to do for Him. It’s a decision, a determination that you keep continually. In our own efforts, it’s impossible to do. But that’s where the Holy Spirit comes in– God is Spirit. He Himself is with us to help us refuse to do the nasty works and gives us energy to live a life of love.

If a person truly realizes the incredible thing that God did for us, and is truly grateful for it, repenting isn’t very difficult. Resisting temptation isn’t too difficult. It’s not like God is requiring us to bleed to death to prove anything (Hebrews 13: 3-4). Trials come, yes they can be so hard… but they do not have the power to overcome us.

So the idea that Paul was presenting is still being presented to us today: God isn’t something that humans created. On the contrary, He created everything, and, moreover, requires something of us– faith. Do we believe that He sent His Son so that we could have peace with God? If so, we prove it by changing the way we think and the way we live. He’ll give us what we need to do it. And we’ll be so happy, and be such a blessing to others, because we really will love others as we love yourselves. And best of all, after we die we will continue to live on in God’s love.

If you’re still wondering about some of the stuff I’ve mentioned here, feel free to leave a comment, and I’ll get back to you.

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One Response to “Word For Wednesday: The U-Turn”

  1. Mike Says:

    Thanks for sharing! I like your comparison of the Aeropagus with the Drudge Report and Twitter. How fitting. šŸ™‚
    Mike