Wednesday, 15 October 2014

The Unknown God

The Apostle Paul lived by his own teaching.  He trusted that God had placed him in his historical moment and geographical location for a good purpose.  Accordingly, he took every opportunity to speak of Jesus.  He wasn't about to let a single moment of his life go by without using it to do something of real value - something that would last into eternity.  So whilst in Athens, he turned the dubious religious practice of the people into a window through which they could glimpse the true and living God.  In the city was an altar to an "Unknown God"; Paul took the chance to introduce them to each other.

I wonder what he would have made of 21st Century England.  I am sure he would have been pleased to hear of its Christian heritage, but I am equally sure that he would have quickly picked up on our society's general ignorance of God and his ways.  There are many who profess to believe "in God", and according to the most recent census, most of these profess to be members of the Christian faith - thereby suggesting that faith in the Christian God is the God in view.  But scratch beneath the surface of this claim and what substance is there?  For many people, God is actually largely unknown; at best, the subject of faded recollections of Sunday school teaching.

For the good of everyone the church needs to follow Paul's lead and proclaim clearly not only the God who "made the world and everything in it" (Acts 17:24), but particularly his Son Jesus - his death and resurrection and the eternal implications of these things (c.f. v31).  God has made himself known in Jesus.  It is a tragedy that so many do not know him.  Are you playing your part to make introductions?

Sunday, 5 October 2014

For such a time as this

In his conversation with the people of Athens, Paul argues that God is different than the people imagine.  There's a sense in which they evidently believe God needs them - as if his existence is somehow incomplete without human beings and the attention they pay him.  Paul corrects this rather arrogant and human-centric viewpoint pointing out that God "made the world and everything in it" (Acts 17:24).  With such power, he is surely self-sufficient!

Paul continues with a description of God's providential care for human beings (who are reliant on him, even if he is not reliant on them!) and raises a couple of interesting points which are worthy of reflection.  They're not the main point of Paul's entire argument, but are nonetheless worth considering independently.  Paul writes (v26): "He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live."

The Sovereign Lord of the universe who "made the world and everything in it" has also set in motion a plan in which people are allotted a particular place to live and a particular moment of history to inhabit.  Think of your own situation... you're living at this moment in this place, and this is the deliberate plan of God.  It's no accident.  Your presence in your local community is rich with meaning.  The fact that you're living now rather than 300 years ago gives you some special privileges over those who went before you and those who will follow you.  You have the unique opportunity to love and serve your neighbours.

So what are you doing with this unique, God-given opportunity?