Presenting Jesus to Intellectual Pagans.

I have overslept and feel rushed and disoriented – my mind threshing around as I try to become quiet – there is a scene floating before my eyes – a scene where the waves of the ocean are breaking on the rocks – tumultuous waves shooting spray high into the sky- the water churning, green-opaque – foaming and swirling – that is how my mind is feeling – all sorts of conversations and thoughts clamouring to be heard. “Help me Lord, to become quiet”. As I ask this I see a sunrise above the churning ocean – a beautiful sunrise with multiple colours and slowly it is dominating the scene and the Lord is showing me that in the presence and beauty of His holiness, the sea is no longer a factor. His presence and His love will settle it like a calm mist descending over it.

“Reflect on the beauty of My holiness – My otherness – in a positive way”. The words of the song fill my mind, “I pause at His gates once more and my heart and my spirit soar and I wish I could love you more”.

“You have My love and you have My holiness – your place is to reflect My holiness to those around you – My holiness is in My Spirit who indwells you. Allow My Spirit to demonstrate His fruit in your life – and My holiness will become like a blazing light – just remember this is not about trying to do this – it is about trusting Me to do this in and through you – when you slip – don’t try harder, just stop, confess and trust Me to change you and restore your reflection of Me. Remember too that one of the fruit of My Spirit is peace, which you were longing for earlier”.

In my reading in Acts I have reached Acts 17:16-34, the description of Paul’s interactions with the pagan Greeks in Athens. Having visited the agora or marketplace myself in Athens, I visualize Paul meeting with various groups, who are discussing the philosophies of the time and earnestly presenting the case for Christ. Why don’t you read through vv 22 – 31 and see if you can pick up the flow of Paul’s presentation, remembering he is now speaking to people who have no previous knowledge of the Jewish faith and see how he links into their discussions. This is a very concise summary by Luke so virtually every word and every concept counts.

Once again I am struck by the absolute certainty of the statement by Paul that, having created every person on earth, God “determines the times set for us and the exact places where we should live”. v 26. But I notice something important just after that. God did this for a purpose, see it? God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out to Him. Hmmmm. How does that fit into my and many other people’s thinking about God’s providence? I am again encouraged by the outright statement and reminder of my security in vs 28 “In him we live and move and have our being”. and following that the encouraging reminder of our status as His “offspring”.

The last thing that I see, which surprises me, is the fact that Jesus is presented as “Judge” not as Saviour, which is confirmed by His resurrection. vv 30-31. Why would that be? I wonder.

I am reminded of a sunny day on a farm East of Pretoria, where I had gone to meet with “Woodie”, my devastated best friend from varsity. He had walked out of his family and was lodging on a colleague’s farm. It was an amazing experience because he was a complete pagan. He had absolutely no knowledge of the bible and the biblical story. Jesus was just a vague name to him. For two hours I started at he beginning and fed his hungry heart with the good news of the gospel. What a privilege. Twenty five years later he passed away with the name of Jesus on his lips, a firm believer and lover of Jesus his personal Saviour, having returned many years earlier and become reconciled to his family.

What was Jesus saying to me this morning? Two grandchildren families are gearing up to leave SA and this was a real encouragement as I realized that no matter what their plans may be there is a loving hand which will be setting times and place, hard as it is to say goodbye.

Again the wonder of God’s providence. What a comfort in these troubled times, when that frees us to focus on Him and His holiness and reflecting that to the world rather, than pessimism and gloom.

One Reply to “Presenting Jesus to Intellectual Pagans.”

  1. Thank you, Ian…. this is so exciting. I remember being encouraged by your “Woodie” story once before. Our German “Losungen” Bible readings for 2021 were posted in Herrnhut Saxony (Germany) on 05.01.2021 and arrived yesterday…. our reading was Acts 17!!! Verse 28 is profound…and so meaningful to me personally. I wish to repeat it from the Amp. Bible “For in Him we live and move (I add : … ‘and breathe’) and have our being; as even some of your (own) poets have said …For we are also His offspring”. We belong to Him…. Jesus is not ashamed to call us his brothers and sisters. So let us go forth for His fields are white for harvesting (John 4:35).

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