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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Sermon: A Planet Prepared

I had the privilege of preaching last week at the Dunsinane Seventh-day Adventist Church in Mandeville. My wife was delighted to come on this particular trip since her former coworker worships there. Glendon Jnr came along. He's so smart now.

The Dunsinane church is a relativly small sanctuary just opposite the Oaklawn Cemetery. It was the first Sabbath in October, so I used a personal ministries emphasis. For those not in the know, the first Sabbath of every month is usually assigned to evangelism unless otherwise announced. Here is the sermon as written, not as preached:

A Planet Prepared
Acts 14:8-17; Acts 17:22-30
15 My Maker and My King
373 Seeking the lost
• A young friend said to me this week. “I wish fairy tales were real. Magic, genie. Could do those things."

God is bigger than fairy tale. Welcome to the world of the real. Fairy tales belong in books.
Today dear friends I want to invite you to consider something far more beautiful and real than Lord of the Rings. No snow white. Jack on bean stalk

There is a Book I would like to recommend to this present digital generation immersed in movies, games, music, sex, and forced to attend church by parents who themselves were probably forced to attend church.
Book of questions. “who hath believed our report and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?
Who is the King of glory? Who do men say that I the son of man am? Who then shall be saved? Where is thy brother? What is truth?

Thank god through Jesus that the book we call the Holy Bible is also a book of answers:
The Lord of hosts He is the king of glory.
Lift up your head o ye gates even lifted up ye everlasting doors and the King of glory shall come in.
You are the Christ the Son of the living God.
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou salt be saved.
I am the way … and the truth.

Today I invite us to consider the big picture. A simple message.
A good story has a good beginning, a well developed middle, and a good ending.

Children love fairy tales because they have such a predictable happy ending.

Salvation history began in a garden. Middle filled with war disobedience, bloodshed even of the son of god. Sometimes we are impatient to know the ending. Can’t wait to get to the end

Watch a movie with a friend who saw it already and can’t keep mouth shut. I want to find out for I don’t tell me.

Well when it comes to your salvation God does not leave you guessing. He tells you the story. It comes out all right in the end. Better than any Hollywood or Pinewood or Bollywood fantasy.

“And I saw new heaven and new earth.”
“God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.”
“And he shewed me a pure river of water of life.”

That’s how the story ends.
Happy endings are for believers in Christ, not just movie junkies and comic strip heroes, or fairy godmothers.

What is our task in the middle of the story?
Because I’m in a Seventh-day Adventist church I can quote Ellen G White without apology and say in that great book Evangelism

Compilation from several of her writings:
“Christ’s last words to His disciples were: “Lo I am with you always even unto the end of the world. “Go ye therefore and teach all nations.’

On the LAST PAGE OF THE BOOK she writes
“Our watchword is to be, Onward, ever onward! Angels of heaven will go before us to prepare the way. Our burden for the regions beyond can never be laid down till the whole earth is lightened with the glory of the Lord.” EVANGELISM P.707

According to their 2005 figures: CHRISTIANITY REPRESENTS 33% or 2.1 billion believers followed by Islam with 1.5 billion

Guess which is the third largest group
No not Rastafarian

Nonreligious/secular/agnostic/atheist account for 16% or 1.1 billion.

Rastafarian ranked number 21 at 600,000

How near are we to finishing the work?

We little but we tallawah.
Under the power of the Holy Spirit we’ve blessed the world with
106 tertiary institutions
36 worker training institutions
Over 5000 primary schools
And over 1400 secondary schools

30 food industries
167 hospitals and sanitariums

Publishing work we have 65 publishing houses and branches.
And get this we fellowship and worship in the lands of this earthly globe in over 120,000 churches and companies.

We are in 202 of the 228 UN recognised countries.
General Conference of SDA website states that as of 2005 SDA world membership stands at 14.4 million.
That’s out of a world population of 6.4 billion. A little rough arithmetic tells me the remnant message is just over 0.2% of total world population.

What about Jamaica?

6.7% of Jamaicans are SDA over 170,000.

Only five other countries worldwide beat us in percentage Pitcairn at top of list with 76% a total of 42
Antigua Barbuda
St Lucia
Jamaica shares position with five other countries including Belize.

If we are lazy we’ll say we’re doing great. If we’re easily discouraged we’ll say alas will the Son of Man find faith.

Today as I encourage the missionaries, community service workers, and bible worker and colporteurs, in fact as I encourage all of you and myself I want to remind you that the harvest is ripe. And God has not left Himself without a witness.

Consider with me the Miracle of Mars Hill.
Textual approach to passage under consideration:
Acts of the Apostles could be called the acts of the Holy Spirit. A few men and women under influence of Holy Spirit turned world upside down for Jesus. We need same unction now for this world need to be turned upside down that Jesus might come back to create a new garden where there is no more sin and death and pain. Consider Paul in Athens in Acts chapter 17.

1. Paul leaves Silas and Timothy in Berea to organise the work there and sails for Athens.
a. Acts 17:16 Paul was like any good Christian upset with the idolatry of Athens. Possibly hundreds of gods.
b. DON RICHARDSON IN BOOK ETERNITY IN THEIR HEARTS writes “Once men reject the one omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent god in favour of lesser deities, they eventually discover that it takes an infinite number of lesser deities to fill the true God’s shoes.” P18.
Church!!! Once reject Creator nothing can fill the soul’s needs. Not liquor, not drugs, not lust of flesh, not lust of eyes, not pride of life. Only the love of Jesus.

2. What did Paul do?
a. “He started to motivate the people who already believed in Yahweh, the one true God. Like Lot in Sodom they were so accustomed to evil that they needed someone to come with new insight.
b. Secondly verse 17: “he went to thoroughfare to preach against evils of the day.”
1. In midst of idolatry Paul comes teaching and preaching.
There is a story of man in Sodom
Talked nobody talked
Wore a sign REPENT nobody paid attention
Shouted “Repent” people laughed
Still he went about shouting “Repent.”
Someone said “Cant you see you’re shouting is useless.”
“Yes I see that when I arrived I was convinced that I could change them. Now I know I cannot. But I continue shouting because I don’t them to change me!”

c. V.18; Athens had many gods so when philosophers
i. These Epicureans and stoics:
The founder of stoicism is Zeno of Citium (333-262) in Cyprus. Basically, he believed in being virtuous, and that virtue was a matter of submitting to God’s will. As usual for Greeks who postulated a single god, Zeno did not strongly differentiate God from nature. So another way of putting it is to live according to nature (“Zen kata physin.”).
The school got its name from the Painted Porch (stoa poikile) in Athens where Zeno studied. Walking up and down the open hallways, he lectured his students on the value of apatheia, the absence of passion, something not too different from the Buddhist idea of non-attachment. By passion Zeno meant uncontrolled emotion or physical desire. Only by taking this attitude, he felt, could we develop wisdom and the ability to apply it.
“Let no one break your will!” he said. Man conquers the world by conquering himself. Start by developing an indifference to pain and pleasure, through meditation. Wisdom occurs when reason controls passions; Evil occurs when passions control us.
Another aspect of Stoicism is its belief in the development of a universal state, in which all men were brothers. Stoics believed in certain “natural rights,” a concept which we wouldn’t see again until the 18th century. They also believed in the right to commit suicide -- an important part of Roman cultural tradition.
Epicureans. Another set of bright people out to challenge Paul.
Virtue for Epicurus was a means to an end. That end is happiness. It is good to feel pleasure and to avoid pain, but one needs to apply reason to life. Sometimes pain is necessary in order to gain happiness. Other times, pleasure leads to more suffering than it is worth.
And there are levels of pain and pleasure, smaller and greater happiness’s. Friendship, for example, is rated one of the highest pleasures. “A sage loves his friends as he loves himself,” he said, and “It is better to give than to receive.” And “It is not possible to live pleasantly without living prudently, honorably, and justly; nor to live prudently, honorably, and justly without living pleasantly.”
Society is seen as necessary: It protects one from injustices. He foreshadows utilitarianism by suggesting that a society should be arranged to provide the greatest happiness to the greatest number.
The ultimate happiness, though, is peace, and he borrows Pyrrho’s word for tranquility -- ataraxia. His motto was “lathe biosas” -- live unobtrusively. He may be considered the first true humanist, as witnessed by this quote: "Philosophy is an activity that uses reasoning and rigorous argument to promote human flourishing."

These were the kind of ideas that Paul had to confront. Jesus showed him the way.
d. heard Paul talking about Jesus two thing happen:
i. Speaking in foreign tongue/accent so call him babbler
ii. He was preaching of Jesus and resurrection so thought just another god to add to many they had.
But how could Paul carry out the Damascus Road commission “I am sending you to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light.”
Paul needed an eye opener. An icebreaker. For that we go back six centuries before Paul.
Yes children a story even more fascinating than fairy tale.
Wise man said offered to many gods but still have plague.
Which of many gods not yet placated? Sent for a wise man afar.
Epimenides. There is a god I don’t know.
Sheep. Allowed to graze yet several rested one by one. Those that rested were sacrificed to the unknown god. Plague abated.

Paul saw one of these altars 600 years later. To Unknown God.
Paul could have behaved like so many good zealous Christians and just go right ahead and condemned the sins and leave it at that.

But he was first and foremost an evangelist. Christ told him to open eyes in order to turn from darkness to light.

v. 22, 23: The newer versions give a slightly more accurate rendering: “Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious, for as I was walking along I saw your many altars. And one of them had this inscription upon it – to an Unknown god. You have been worshiping Him without knowing who He is, and now I wish to tell you about Him.”

Children if your parents have the book Acts of the Apostles it will help you to understand background to apostle’s work
Read p237 to 239 Acts of the Apostles
A few became followers.

II. A planet prepared.
a. Wherever God send you to witness he has prepared the vineyard. It’s not the baptism it’s the preaching. Witness, witness, witness.
a. *revival at comfort Richie and others etc
• Later in year he was baptised.
b. Through visions, and other tokens of providence God is preparing world for harvest.
i. In midst of Canaanite Abraham stumbled upon a godly king/priest Melchezidek

c. I’ve seen baptisms where persons prepared by Holy Spirit and just waiting for witness.
d. So called pagans have not been left without a witness:
i. Long before Europe Christianised the New world, Inca king Pachacuti who ruled 1438 to 1471 worshipped the creator as Viracocha. Unfortunately the Spanish destroyed the upper class that had knowledge of this truth.
ii. Before the coming of missionaries the Santal people of India longed for Thakur Jiu the Genuine god. When they received gospel their church grew faster than Europe. Their culture had dim history of god’s truth.
Stories all over the world of tribes and people prepared for the coming of missionaries prepared with cultural tools to welcome gospel. Africa, China. India.
The numbers look big but we serve a big god.

e. All over the planet God is preparing the harvest.
i. Pray for it
ii. Work for it
iii. Sacrifice for it

III. Mission and the Motivation
The site summarises it beautifully:

I. The Mission -- It is a command of God to preach the gospel to all the world (Mk.
16:15,16; Mat. 28:18-20).
A. Assumes Christians will not be stagnant
1. As you are going, teach (go discipling)
2. The goal is to baptize and then to stabilize
B. Christianity is a taught, learned religion
1. No one can call on the Lord who has not believed; and no one can
believe who has not heard (Rom. 10:13,14).
2. This is the Lord's arrangement: teaching, understanding, conversion,
and forgiveness (Mat 13:15).
-- Mat. 13:15 -- For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of
hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their
eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should
be converted, and I should heal them.
C. The target is the world (Mat. 13:38 -- The field is the world)
1. Where there is sin there is need for a Savior
2. 1 Jn. 5:19 -- And we know that we are of God, and the whole
world lieth in wickedness.

II. The Man -- The world is yours to illuminate, serve and save
A. Christians "light candles" rather than "curse darkness." (Mat. 5:13-16)
1. "Shine in the midst of a crooked world." (Phil. 2:15)
-- Phil 2:14-16 -- Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be
blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked
and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the
word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain,
neither laboured in vain.
a. The honest Christian is a light shining in the midst of the
darkness of dishonesty.
b. The pure Christian shines as a light in the midst of the
darkness of vice and corruption.
c. The peace-making Christian shines in the midst of the
darkness of struggle, dog-eat-dog conflict.
2. Christians shine because they have been called out of darkness into
"His marvelous light." (1 Pet. 2:9)
3. Because of this transition from "darkness to light," his philosophy
toward the world has changed.
a. No longer "What can I get out of it?" but "What can I give?”
(Lk 12:15; Eph. 4:28)
b. No longer is his attitude toward others "What do you owe
me?" but "How can I serve?". (Mat. 20:26-28)
c. No longer is his conduct governed by the question "How
much fun can I have?", but "Is this pure and wholesome?".
(1 Cor. 3:16,17)
d. No longer is his confidence based upon the ideas and
traditions of men, but upon the simplicity of the gospel of
Christ. (2 Cor. 11:3)
B. The early Christians conquered and claimed the world for Christ.
1. As soldiers for Christ we need to:
a. Know the power and craftiness of the enemy-sin and Satan.
(1 Pet. 5:8)
b. Recognize the supreme power of our Captain who
conquered the flesh, Satan and death.
c. He has equipped us with "the sword of the Spirit." (Eph. 6:17)
2. Early Christians conquered by going. equipped by the Lord. (Acts
a. They went.
b. They went everywhere.
c. They went everywhere preaching.
d. They went everywhere preaching the Word.
C. Let us not be weary in well-doing for in due season, we shall reap if we
faint not. (Gal. 6:9)
III. The Motivation -- (2 Cor 5:14-15) For the love of Christ constraineth us; because
we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that
they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died
for them, and rose again.
A. "Lift up your eyes and look." (Jn. 4:35-38)
1. See its plight. (Rom. 3:23 - all have sinned and come short of the
glory of God)
2. See its need for a Savior. "Jew & Gentile" (Mat.1:21)
B. Vision to see and feel the needs of our fellowman is imperative. (Prov. 29:18)
1. We need tender hearts that care. (Rom. 9:1-3 -- I say the truth in
Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy
Ghost, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.
For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my
brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh...)
2. We need eager ears to hear. (Acts 16:9-10 -- And a vision appeared
to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed
him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. And after he
had seen the vision, immediately we endeavored to go into
Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to
preach the gospel unto them.)
3. We need alert eyes to see. (Mat. 9:37, 38 -- Then saith he unto his
disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few;
Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth
labourers into his harvest.)
4. We need open hands to give like the Philippians did for Paul (Phil.
4:15, 16)
5. We need willing feet to go. (Isa. 52:7)

D. Where would you and I be if someone, somewhere, had not said, “Here am
I send me?”