With this final sermon of our series, Christ into the City, we can make some broad, general observations about the expected effects of believers in Jesus entering into their surrounding culture (the city of Portland, in our case!), and simply talking about Jesus in a way that invites our family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc., to enter into a relationship with Him.
But, as we’ve seen over these past weeks in our sermons on Acts 16-18, when the good news of hope and forgiveness found in Jesus Christ bump up against the values of our culture, of any culture, that culture will inevitably bump back! But, along with opposition and indifference, we can also count on the Lord Himself reaching into the hearts of those who hear our message, and calling people to relationship with Him.
In Philippi, we saw that the values of the culture bumped up against the materialism and profiteering nature of that culture, when slave-owners brought Paul before the town judgment seat because in driving a demonic spirit from their slave-girl, he’d destroyed their hope of continued profit off of her fortune telling.
In Thessalonica, we found that the good news of Jesus was offensive and threatening to the leaders of the synagogue there, as they saw Paul’s message taking hold of many of the members of their synagogue, particularly members who were very influential and prominent in their city.
In Athens, we found the simple, but astounding, claims of the gospel both offending and intriguing the intellectual gate-keepers and philosophy teachers of that city.
In Corinth, we find that the claims of the gospel can enter into the grittiest, most worldly culture imaginable, and powerfully convince people that there is hope beyond the simple satisfaction of their sensual desires.
In each city Paul, preached in (save Athens) the gospel was met with suspicion, opposition that led to persecution, and eventually, an appeal to the Roman government to intervene against this new religion brought to their city by this Jew from Tarsus. But…in each city people believed in Jesus, and found deliverance from sin, hope for the future, and a genuine, spiritual community in which to belong, grow, and thrive!
In this sermon, we discuss both the need for courage in our speaking of Jesus to the surrounding culture and of the dynamic of opposition that we may well find as we seek to speak out of Him. That’s the bulk of this sermon. But the primary idea that I wanted to express is that for Christ to be truly brought to the city, to our city, we must open our mouths and speak of Him—clearly, courageously, often, and with great sensitivity and humility. Many in in the United States and Europe today speak ruefully of the concept that we are now a Post-Christian socity: our cultures values, laws, customs, lifestyles, etc., no long reflect a respect for the teachings, beliefs and practices of Christianity. This is demonstrated in many ways, from our entertainment industry to our financial crises, to our soaring rates of divorce, to our confusion regarding sexual ethics and the definition of marriage, to our educational system. Well-meaning Christians sometimes seem to mourn the loss of a supposed Christian culture in the West.
However, I believe that our responsibility and tremendous opportunity as Christians in this time, wherever we are, is to view our culture as being decidedly Pre-Christian and waiting for someone to share with it an answer that truly works—the answer of the gospel of Jesus! Let’s stop grieving over a past temple of our old practices and habits, and start reveling in the amazing opportunities and fascinating, precious people that the Lord has put before us!
We were hard-wired by God Himself to be obedient, effective followers of Jesus Christ, including witnesses to the gospel of Jesus–right where we’re at; here, today, at this specific time in history. Let’s embrace that idea, and stop the hand-wringing over what our world has come to, and how tough it is to be a Christian, and how no one’s interested in Jesus anymore, etc! Let’s stop the whining and complaining! Instead, start planning to witness the amazing, earth-shaking power of the love of God, when it is turned loose in a culture–a culture like ours, when we simply open our mouths and tell people about Jesus. We were made for this moment! That’s how Paul seemed to have viewed his culture, and his place in it, and I believe our efforts and hopes should be set along the same lines as those of the great Apostle!
Blessings, Pastor Ken