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A good book will talk about success, but a really good book will talk about failure.

A good book will talk about success, but a really good book will talk about failure.

OCTOBER 20, 2022

/ Programs / Key Life / A good book will talk about success, but a really good book will talk about failure.

Steve Brown:
A good book will talk about success, but a really good book will talk about failure. Let’s talk, on Key Life.

Matthew Porter:
The deepest message of Jesus and the Bible is the radical grace of God to sinners and sufferers. That’s what Key Life is all about. So, if you’re hungry for the hopeful truth, that God isn’t mad at you, keep listening. Steve Brown is a professor and our teacher on Key Life.

Steve Brown:
Thank you Matthew. If you have your Bible open to the 17th chapter of the book of Acts and we’re going to spend some time looking at one of the major failures of the apostle Paul. It’s interesting to note that he was just hanging out and he’s waiting for friends to join him in Athens. And then they’re going to go to where God had called them. And Paul, since he didn’t do twiddling thumbs very well was stirred up. And that starts this passage beginning at the 16th verse of the 17th chapter of Acts. And so, he goes into the synagogue, he preaches Jesus, and then he encounters a bunch of intellectuals, and they are really into finding new stuff and thinking new thoughts and playing with new philosophies. And so, they want Paul to tell them about Jesus and he does in no uncertain terms. And very few, well, one or two, but very few come to Christ. Now there are reasons for that. And one of the reasons is, that intellectual pride will take you away from Jesus as fast as anything that I know. But also you’ve got to know, that here was a place where people had everything, they were satisfied, they were doing fine, thank you. And Paul was trying to preach a God who said they were sinners and lost without Jesus Christ. And frankly, he wasn’t very successful, but Luke decides to include this particular incident in his book, his history of the early church. Why would he do that? Well, cause it’s a honest book. If you’ve got biographies, for instance, in your library of famous Christians and they don’t tell you the sin and the darkness and the struggle and the failure. Let me tell you what to do with those books, burn them, they are of no account. Those books are not good books for you because they only tell you the good stuff and that’ll make you discouraged because you know, there isn’t that much good stuff in you. The Bible never does that, by the way. The Bible is honest and the Book of Acts is certainly honest. Luke, and he does this throughout the book, he talks about the fights and the divisions and the disagreements and the sin and the failure. And that’s one of the sure reasons that you can believe the Book of Acts. It is the word of God because it’s honest and it’s authentic. I would suggest that Luke guided by the Holy Spirit wanted to show us what happens, when the gospel is presented to people who would rather not listen. He lifts up a failure, now Paul, and this often happens, Paul went from Athens, which was his greatest failure. And we’re going to see this later when we get to it, to Corinth, which was his greatest success. So, sometimes that’s the way God uses things. Maybe if you’re in a period of failure right now, you just need to wait and watch and pray, and that God’s going to open a better door and a good door for you, having prepared you for it, by the failure. In short, I believe the Holy Spirit wanted to give us a mini-course in how the world works. And I think before we begin, it would be best for us to stop and define what Paul did. And we’re going to look at it in detail next week when we get into this, but Paul was utilizing apologetics. It is the area of the theological study where the Christian faith is defended before those who just can’t believe it. But the first thing that happens is that God makes you ready. We’ve all heard about Karl Barth and his comment and response to the reporter who asked him what he had learned after all of these years of writing and study. And he said, I have learned, Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. That is so good and so true. But if that’s all you know, you are not going to be very good at being a Christian because theology is important. And the hand maiden of theology is apologetics. Theology will be fruitless. Apologetics comes from the Greek word apologia. And the Greek word means to defend. So theology defines the Christian faith, apologetics defends the Christian faith. Euripides said this.

When once I had seen the truth, there was no drug that I could take to unsee it and to loose again what I had seen.

Well, we see that happening here in the 17th chapter of Acts. Paul is using apologetics, he is making a theological, philosophical, metaphysical statement about God that these people had not heard before. And as a result, there was a failure, but it was God’s failure and it was written to teach us something important. Now, let me kind of introduce this section. And then, next week we’ll get into some details about what you say to an intellectual. The first thing you ought to note is that God stirred Paul up. Look at the 16th verse.

Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him and he saw that the city was full of idols.

Now, if you’re using the King James Version, the text reads, his heart was stirred. If you’re using a newer translation, it’s provoked. If you’re using Phillips, the word is exasperated. The Greek means sharpened beyond measure. In other words, he looked around and said, there’s something that bothers me here. When Peter Cartwright, one of the early circuit writers of the Christian faith would come to a city, he would stand on the hill, looking at the city and he would say to one of his colleagues, I smell hell. Well, Paul smelled hell when he looked at the city of Athens and all of the idols and God stirred him up. Now, God is here speaking through Paul, Luke 1:46 through 47.

My soul magnifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.

John 3:5

Must be born of water and the Spirit.

Romans 8:16

When we cry, “Abba! Father!” It is the Spirit himself bearing witness to our spirit that we’re the children of God.

II Corinthians 2:11 through 12

So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.

And so, what we are seeing is an illustration of I Thessalonians 5:23

May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly, and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

That Spirit to which Scripture so often refers is stirring up Paul’s heart causing him to see a needy people, recognizing that he was born to preach a message of hope to the world. We are too. We are here for them. That wasn’t always true with me, but you need to know that in the last few years, something has radically changed in me. I remember saying one time to a large church where I was preaching the world, there are millions of people going to hell and I don’t give a rip. And everybody laughed because they thought I was making a joke. And I said, don’t laugh. That’s a confession. And I’m asking God to change me. And as a result of their prayers and mine, my heart like Paul has been stirred. And when I go to a mall or a university, when I go to a baseball game or to a concert, I look out over the people and something in me is stirred. That’s the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit stirring me to care for those for whom he died. The Holy Spirit putting on me a burden for those outside. And you know exactly what I’m talking about because you have been stirred in the same way. It’s him. Don’t forget it. You think about that. Amen.

Matthew Porter:
Thank you Steve. Steve Brown there wrapping up another great week of teaching from Acts. Remember if you missed any episodes, you could stream them anytime you want for free at and of course, Steve will return tomorrow along with our good friend Pete Alwinson for Friday Q&A, always a good time. And speaking of questions, we sure get a lot of them here at Key Life, but there’s one we get far more than any other. And it’s this, how can I know that I’m saved? Well, first of all, that’s a great question. And second, Steve spoke about this in a classic sermon titled How to Know that You Know Him. If you ever have doubts about your salvation or maybe you know someone who struggles with those questions, let us mail you this sermon on CD for free. Just call us right now at 1-800-KEY-LIFE. That’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also e-mail [email protected] to ask for that CD. If you’d like to mail your request, send it to

Key Life Network
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in Canada, mail

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Just ask for your free copy of the CD called How to Know that You Know Him. Last thing, would you prayerfully consider partnering in the work of Key Life through your giving? You can charge a gift on your credit card. You can include a gift in your envelope. Or you can join the growing number of folks who give safely and securely by texting Key Life to 28950. That’s Key Life, one word, two words. It doesn’t matter. Just text that to 28950. Key Life is a member of ECFA in the States and CCCC in Canada. And as always, we are a listener supported production of Key Life Network.

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