When judgement precedes witness, the witness won’t work.
NOVEMBER 3, 2022
When Judgment precedes witness, the witness won’t work. Let’s talk about it, on Key Life.
That was Steve Brown and this is Key Life. We’re dedicated to the teaching that the only people who get any better, are those who know that if they don’t get any better, God will still love them anyway. Steve is an author, seminary professor, and our teacher on Key Life.
Thank you Matthew. If you have your Bible open to the 17th chapter of Acts. We’re looking at Paul’s ministry in Athens, which frankly was a bomb. It was the worst time of ministry Paul has, at least recorded in the book of Acts, followed by his biggest success in Corinth. And we’ll talk about that when we have time. But we’re looking at Paul because he did it right, even if it wasn’t successful, he did it right. And we need to learn to do that too. We need to keep on keeping on the way God tells us to keep on keeping on, even if it’s not successful in the world’s eyes. And that’s what we’re doing with Paul. He did it right and we’re looking at some things, in that model as they apply to us and our witness to others in general and intellectuals in particular. We’ve noted that Paul was willing to bend, Acts 17:22. We saw that he used tact and sensitivity and tolerance, 17:22. And then thirdly, I want you to note that he was not only willing to bend and be tactful, he also did not proceed his witness with a judgment of the Athenian intellectuals. Look at the 23rd verse.
For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’
And he didn’t say, that’s stupid. Look at 28.
And even some of your poets have said.
And then he quotes one of their poets without judgment and without condemnation. Listen to me, I know. We live in a culture and I spend more of my time witnessing, or wincing then I do at witnessing, You know, if you watch television news and I’m just about giving it up, I can be depressed for the whole evening, just watching a half an hour of news. And not only that, I can be self righteous. I’m a Christian. How could these people say these things? How could they lie this way? How could they believe something so silly and superficial and sophomoric? How can they be this way? And then I want to go find some of them and tell them what I think. And if I do that, if I proceed my witness with judgment, the witness will fail and you can hang your hat on it. So, the apostle Paul not only learned the language, he didn’t judge. He quoted one of their poets. He didn’t tell them that their statue to an unknown god was dumb, he just made reference to it because he was not judging them. He was telling them why God would not judge them if they met Jesus. When a Christian leader talks to teenagers and says, sex is animalistic, all rock music and rap music is of the devil. And by the way, neither of those things is true. But even if they were, it’s just dumb to say so. I think I’ve told you before, and this is not a political statement, but I voted years ago for Barry Goldwater because I was a student, a graduate student at Boston University, and the professor, every class said something negative about Goldwater. I was not political. I didn’t know what the issues were. I was young and I was just learning about a lot of things, but he kept going after Goldwater. And I remember saying to my friend if he says one more thing about Goldwater, I’m going to vote for him. And I did. And that set my political views for the rest of my life. And while we’re talking about Barry Goldwater, he was not very sensitive in his campaign. And he lost, I mean, really lost big. He was a conservative. And he didn’t do anything that Paul did at Athens. For instance, he went to Florida and he spoke against Social Security. What’s with that? He went to Tennessee and spoke against the Tennessee Valley Authority, where a lot of those folks got their jobs. And one of Goldwater’s Senator friends said, Barry, I know you’ve got to walk through that field where that bull is, but every time you walk through that field, you don’t have to wave a red flag at that bull. That was good advice and it was good advice, that Paul gives us in this 17th chapter of Acts. Don’t judge unbelievers because they act like unbelievers. Don’t judge people’s comments when they have never been educated. Don’t judge others, until you love them. And when you love them and they know it, then you can speak truth. And Paul understood that. Christians need to learn the nature of the people to whom they speak and not judge them because they are that way. You know, one of the mistakes we have made in our educational system. Our academic educational system is in shambles, by the way. And you know it. And I know it. They don’t know it, so we have to be careful when we’re talking about it. But we take our young people in the church and we tell them that they’re going off to a liberal, academic institution when they’d go to a college or a university. And then we tell them that the professors are monsters and they have to watch out because they’re monsters. And they need to be on their guard all the time, when they go there. And then the kids go off to the university and kind of like their professors, they’re not monsters, they’re kind people. In some ways, they’re good people, and then they begin to think maybe what they’re saying is right. And pretty soon those kids slip into the darkness. What’s going on? Well, it’s something that Paul wouldn’t do in Athens. He didn’t paint the people in Athens as if they were monsters. He saw them as people for whom Christ died, and he didn’t judge them for being who they were. Please don’t judge unbelievers because they believe like unbelievers or think like unbelievers or act like unbelievers. The truth is we’re like them in so many ways, but the truth is they just don’t know and you’ve got to be careful in how you tell them. Let me show you something else. Notice from our text that Paul didn’t allow his tact and cultural understanding to interfere with his clear presentation of the gospel. You’ll find that in 17:30 through 31. A man told me recently how tactful he had been when talking to an believer. I’ll listen to him, explain himself and realize that he had not been tactful, he had been a coward. He had not spoken what needed to be spoken about when he talked to his friends. A number of years ago, I had a friend who was a professor at a graduate school of theology. And it was an evangelical and orthodox graduate school of theology. And my friend called me one day and said, Steve, you’re not going to believe this. And I said, Well, tell me what I’m not going to believe. And he said, I have been given a contract to write a piece for a very liberal, theological journal. And I listened to him talk. He had submitted this article to the journal, and then I said to him, Jim, and that’s not his name. Jim, when you did that article, what did you have to leave out in order to get it published there? Dead silence on the other end of the line, and he said, Steve, you can’t see cause we’re talking on the telephone, but I’m blushing and I repent. Listen, Jesus didn’t die to make us nice, but he didn’t die to make us a jerk either. But when Jesus died for us and that became the focus of our life, we’ve got to be careful that in our tact and our sensitivity and our being able to speak the language of the world, that we not sell out the truth that God has given us to speak. Speak it with gentleness and love, but for God’s sake, speak it. You think about that. Amen.
Thank you Steve. Steve Brown there, wrapping up another great week of teaching from Acts. Remember, if you missed any episodes, you can stream them anytime you want for free at Keylife.org. And of course, Steve will return tomorrow along with our friend Pete Alwinson for Friday Q&A. On tap for tomorrow, a challenging question about Jesus and Big Macs. No, don’t rewind the audio because you heard me exactly right. Be sure to come back for that one. So, Keylife.org we spend a lot of time and energy making it an amazing place for you. And one of the newest things on the site is this, if you go to key life.org/magazines you’ll find not only the current issue of our digital magazine, but a whole archive going back years. It’s the first time we’ve ever done this. Again, that’s key life.org/magazines. And speaking of magazines through the end of the year, we still have copies available of our 2022 print magazine. It’s a completely different set of articles. To claim your free copy of that, just call us at 1-800-KEY-LIFE. That’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also e-mail [email protected] to ask for the magazine. If you’d like to mail your request, send it to
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