Living in the Shadow of the Resurrection – Responding to the Resurrection – 4 of 4
Had there been no resurrection, we—and nearly 2 billion others around the world—would not be gathered to worship the risen Christ. And this world would be very different than it is. The Christian faith has had a dramatic influence for good, and its influence has been passed down to us, one transformed life at a time. Today I want to take a look at just one man whose life was radically transformed by the resurrection: the great Apostle Paul (formerly “Saul”). You may not know that Paul wasn’t always a friend of the church; in fact, he was its avowed enemy! He saw Christianity as a perversion of, and threat to, his beloved Judaism. His first recorded target was a powerful Christian preacher named Stephen. After one of his messages, a mob dragged him off and stoned him to death. “I guess they didn’t like his sermon!” (see Acts 7:54—8:3).
Now at the time, no one would have looked at Saul, and said, “Now there is a future Sunday School teacher! Let’s put him in charge of outreach for our church!”—and yet in the providence of God he became the church’s greatest advocate, teacher, and missionary. What in the world happened? How does one go from “Saul the persecutor”, to “Paul the missionary?” I’ll tell you how. He had a personal encounter with the resurrected Jesus, and that changed everything! (Acts 26: 12-18). Paul became a Christian. From that point on, it became his burning passion to convince others that Jesus of Nazareth was the focal point of biblical prophecy, the unique Son of God, the promised Savior of all mankind. If you’re a Christian, you should be following Paul’s example and looking for opportunities to tell others about the love and forgiveness that God offers us in Christ.
In Acts 17:16-34, Paul gives us a model for engaging our culture. He didn’t initially target the hardened skeptic, but rather the open-minded inquirer—those who already believed in a personal creator God, who revered the Old Testament, who shared his morality and hope in a coming Messiah. You too should begin with those who believe that there is a God and who have a generally favorable disposition toward Jesus. Soon enough Paul came across some philosophy professors who were more than happy to debate him (kind of like today!). Paul familiarized himself with their views, so that he could intelligently counter them. Paul’s views generated a lot of interest and he was asked to appear before the most distinguished and venerable academic institution in Athens. Paul gave us a model to follow:
 Establish a connecting point for spiritual discussion. Paul understood that this altar was an admission by the Athenians that their knowledge of the supernatural was incomplete (v. 22-23). Paul then lovingly challenged their views where they differed from the truth.
 Lovingly challenge false views of God (v. 24-26). A person’s view of God is foundational to everything else, influencing our moral values, perceptions of reality, political views, and ultimately our eternal destiny. Any meaningful discussion about spiritual things has to begin with God as Creator, sustainer, determiner of good and evil, true and false, moral and immoral—and lovingly involved in humanity (v. 27). God has so designed us, that we instinctively know that he exists (but we suppress that knowledge). Oftentimes the real blockage is not intellectual, but moral. Others find the evidence of God’s existence is too overwhelming, so they fashion a god that’s less demanding—but that’s idolatry.
 Call people to embrace Jesus Christ as Savior, since one day he will return as Judge (v. 30-31). We are to repent—to have a change of mind: Jesus is Savior and resurrected Lord. Repentance is to be followed by placing our trust or faith in Jesus. Whenever we witness, some will reject the message, others will think about it further, but some will believe. (v. 32-34). Whatever we decide, there are eternal implications to our response to Jesus.
APPLICATION / CHALLENGE
- If you’ve not already done so, trust Christ as Savior.
- If you are a Christian, share the transforming message of Jesus Christ with your family, friends and neighbors. Establish a connecting point for a spiritual discussion. Lovingly challenge false views of God. Encourage others to explore the claims of Christ (More Than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell, The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel). Be ready to share your own story (tell them how your life has changed; how God has answered prayer, guided you through the Scriptures, helped you forgive, enabled you to be a better spouse/parent, has delivered you from a destructive lifestyle).
TAKE ONE STEP
Each week, write down one doable concrete step of obedience, small or large that you will put into practice this week. (James 1:22: “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”)