Greetings, Created For. I’m so excited to be able to be here with you.
And before we get started, I want to tell you a little bit about myself. I love movies, in particular, I’m a huge Marvel Cinematic Universe fan. I used to read the comics back in the day. But, if you ever go to the movies with me, you have to know, I cannot be late for the coming attractions. I will get an attitude if we get there and we don’t get a chance to see all the coming attractions.
Because, you see, I like watching them because I feel like, first of all, with all the money that I paid to get into this theater, I’m gonna get the entire movie experience that I paid for. But secondly, I want to be able to see previews of what’s to come, because those previews give me a snapshot of if I’m going to like this movie or not.
And the reality is that, when we think about this theme of Created For, that God has made us to be previews of His coming attraction of the kingdom of God. And we are to be image bearers in that way, but the snapshots that He’s given us in His Word also give us nice little indicators of how we should go about the process of living out what we’re created for.
So I want to turn to Acts 17. Because in the book of Acts is the story of the early church, so we get a lot of previews, a lot of coming attractions of what’s to come, particularly in verse 16, in chapter 17, we find a very vivid one, it says, “Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him, as he saw that the city was full of idols.”
Athens is, of course, still the capital of Greece today, it was the hub of the Greco Roman world. And as Paul is sitting there waiting I can picture him being like a coffee shop or something. And he just kind of turns and looks and he sees an idol. Then he sees another idol. And he sees another idol, and then he sees another idol. And it says that his spirit was provoked. He was angry, he was upset to see all of the idolatry and it was probably a part of him that was also burdened by the fact that the people were so lost, that they’re worshipping all these idols. And so he goes and starts engaging with the people and having these conversations in the synagogues and then he goes to this hub of philosophical space called Mars Hill.
And in verse 21, it says, “Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who live there would spend their time in nothing except telling and hearing something new.” So on Mars Hill they would have these debates about what people believed and what was true and what was not true, but it wasn’t so much that there was a search for truth, they just wanted to see what was trending. What was the new idea that was trending, what are what are people talking about, and let’s just debate about it. So you see Mars Hill was the first social media site. I mean it’s the first place where people are really gathering in this way to just kind of engage and sometimes you need to log off.
And verse 22, we see, “So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus said, ‘Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I have found also an altar with this inscription: to the unknown God.'”
Now this is a fascinating picture of what Paul does here. Because you see, typically when we look to try to engage culture today, there’s usually one of two options that people have. The first we see far too often – right? Of what I will call ‘culture breaking.’ This is a complete rejection of the culture – this is just saying, “Oh, you know, the world has going to hell in a handbasket, everything is evil, everything is bad, we just have to reject everything.” The other extreme is ‘culture faking.’ So the first one was culture breaking and the second one is culture faking. And culture faking – what I mean is imitating everything. Accepting everything that the culture has to offer.
But what Paul does here is something called ‘culture making.’
And this is different. He actually engages the culture. He doesn’t just shake his fist at it like many do now. He doesn’t just embrace everything, but he actually does something different. He has a theological vision that goes beyond the culture war and says, “I’m not– there’s no war against you, but what there is, is an opportunity for us to learn – for me to learn from you, you to glean from me. And to see that there’s something redemptive in our various cultures.”
And look at how he turns the corner at the end of verse 23, “What therefore you worship as unknown, I therefore proclaim to you.” This is a fascinating move, because he starts from where they are with the statue of an unknown god. And then he uses that as a springboard to talk about the gospel. He says, “You know that thing that’s unknown? That thing that you’re seeking for? This one that you’re trying to understand? That’s what I’m proclaiming to you.”
So the first thing we’re created for is cultural engagement – right? Culture making. The second is, we’re created for storytelling.
So what Paul does here is he tells a better story. And today we have to recapture the art of telling the story of the gospel in a way where it meets the good news that people are needing to hear because of the bad news that they already have. This is what we need to consider.
So if we move along in verse 24, it says, “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of Heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by a man, nor is He served by human hands.” So he now extends the story, and says, “Okay, there was unknown. And now this known guy that I’m telling you about – He’s actually better than the idols that you’ve come up with.”
If you know anything about, you know, Greek mythology which we call mythology, but they believed is real, their gods were just like them – petty and petulant, selfish and jealous. But Paul says here that actually, you’re selling yourself short and this is disruptive because God is not like those things. That we’re created for God and He’s far better than the pettiness of any idol that we can create. And that still true.
Many of us create idols of work, create idols of self image. And what Paul is getting at is that God is self sufficient, He doesn’t need our needs. He doesn’t need us. In fact, the thing that’s so much better than us making a God in our image, is God making us in His image and being connected to that.
But then look in verse 26. He says, “And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their allotted periods of time and their boundaries of where they live.” And I love this because what Paul is doing now – think about this – he never appeals to the Hebrew Scriptures because this is a Gentile group that wouldn’t have known them. But what he does do is start from the beginning of the creation account and says that we were all created from the same human family, which means we are interrelated, and we need each other. We are created for each other. And as a result of being created for each other, he says that this tells us that we need to engage and we need to understand that there’s something here for me to offer you and there’s something for you that you can offer me.
And the thing that’s amazing is he even quotes their poets when he says, “In Him we live, we move, we have our being.” He’s quoting one of their poets. That wasn’t in the Hebrew Scriptures. And he quoted them to draw a sense of intimacy with them.
And so all of this is summed up, probably best by Paul, in another place in Ephesians 2:10. It says, “For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
Created For conference. This is the ultimate connection point is that we’re created for God and says ‘we are His workmanship,’ which, in the original Greek is the word ‘poiema’ which we get ‘poem’ from. It essentially means we are His masterpiece.
So as we think about where to go from here. Let us be people of peace. People who look to realize that we’re created for cultural engagement, we’re created for God, and that were ultimately created for each other.
God in heaven. Thank you for creating us, and thank you for creating us with a purpose, creating us for cultural engagement, creating us for you. And creating as for each other. Lord help us to be ones that not just try to imitate the culture or denigrate the culture, but let us try to engage with the culture because that’s what you have given us as the cultural mandate to do. Let us be the ones that bear that out in our lives. Thank you. In Jesus’s name, amen.
Well, thank you so much for joining us for this conference and just this time. We look forward to building up God’s kingdom together, as we look to engage the culture.
Take care. God bless.