Earth from Space

Good morning! Welcome to the continuation of our series on Seeing As God Does. We began with what the Bible says about seeing yourself as God does. What we heard from Scripture is that if you trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord:

  • God loves you
  • God sees you
  • God knows you
  • God holds your future

God wants you to see yourself in this light, that what God says of you is the most important thing about you is. And this is what he says. He loves you, sees you, knows you, and holds your future. Praise God!

Last week we turned to seeing one another as God does. The Scriptures challenge us to remember that Whoever I am with…

  • This is someone created in God’s image
  • This is someone for whom Christ came
  • This is someone whom I’m commanded to love

This is seeing one another as God does.

Today we turn to seeing the world as God does. What we’re exploring is your worldview. Everyone has one. Your worldview is the interconnected web of everything you believe about life, including the deep questions like:

  • What does it mean to be human?
  • Is there such a thing as right and wrong?
  • What is the meaning of history, if any?
  • What’s wrong with us, with humanity?
  • Is there a solution to what’s wrong with us?
  • Is there a God?
  • What happens after death?
  • What time is it? Meaning, where are we in the grand scheme of things, where do we stand in the flow of history?

What is the Christian worldview?

Your answers to those kinds of questions together form your worldview. The question for today is, what is the Christian worldview? As Christians, how should we see the world? How do we make sense of things?

I think the best place in the Bible to look for a distinctly Christian worldview is a spontaneous talk that the apostle Paul gave in the city of Athens. It’s found in Acts chapter 17. Open your Bible or Bible app there, please, Acts 17.

Paul had not planned on going to Athens. He had not planned to bring the good news of Jesus to the people of Athens. Athens was simply a stopping place when Paul had to flee persecution elsewhere. He was just waiting to meet up with friends and leave from Athens on to other places. But then we read this, Acts 17:16…

“While Paul was waiting…in Athens, he was greatly distressed…” Acts 17:16

The more Paul looks around, the more he feels distressed. Upset. Chewed up inside. He’s not angry at the people. What’s happening inside Paul is what we covered last week, that when we see one another as God does, we see that this is someone who has been created in God’s image, for whom Christ came, and whom I am commanded to love. The distress Paul feels is the love of God for spiritually lost people. All around Athens are idols. It was said that ancient Athens had more gods than men. Seeing this, Paul realizes they are spiritually confused. And so the love of God welling up within him prompts Paul to initiate conversations about Jesus.

He initiates conversations in the local synagogue. He initiates conversations out in the marketplace, with whoever happens to be there, with anyone who might listen. And in one of those conversations, a wider opportunity pops up. Verse 18 describes it:

“A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him.” Acts 17:18

Now listen for a couple of parallels to what you hear in America in the 21st century. Epicureans believed the most important thing in life is pleasure. Try to avoid pain at all costs, don’t worry about anything, and certainly don’t give any thought to death. You might call it the “don’t worry, be happy” worldview. Don’t wrestle with the big questions. Just live for pleasure.

The Stoics were all about individual self-sufficiency. Stand on your own two feet!

Representatives of both groups invite Paul to speak to a larger gathering. He agrees. They change locations, and ask, verse 19…

“May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we would like to know what they mean.” Acts 17:19-20

Ancient Greece before this meeting had been known for their deep thinkers like Aristotle and Plato and Socrates. But by the time the first century rolled around, they had shifted to being fascinated with the new. One of their own politicians in the 5th century B.C. chastised the people of Athens, writing, “You are the best people at being deceived by something new that is said!” [Thucydides History 2.38.5] That’s something you see in 21st-century American society, a quickness to discard what has stood the test of time and replace it with whatever is novel or new.

So for a group of people who had some common ground with us today, Paul is invited to explain the Christian worldview; how to see the world as God does. Here’s where Paul begins, verse 22:

“People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.” Acts 17:22-23

In Greek, the name inscribed on that altar read agnosto Theo, as in our word agnostic. The Athenians are saying, “Maybe there’s a god nobody knows! Maybe there’s a god we don’t know about yet!” Paul seizes on that and says in effect, “I see your spiritual openness in this altar to an unknown God. Well, I know Him, and I’d like to make Him known to you!”

Similarly today we have people like actress Halle Berry, who said in an interview, “I believe in God. I just don’t know if that God is Jehovah, Buddha, or Allah.” That is agnosto Theo, she’s saying I don’t know who God is.

So now having been invited, Paul extemporaneously attempts to make the unknown God known to the Athenians, by laying out four foundational principles of the Christian worldview. Here’s the first principle for…

Seeing the world as God does:

  • This world has a Creator. Verse 24, Paul says,

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.” Acts 17:24

When Paul spoke to his fellow Jews, he started with the Old Testament Scriptures. That’s what they already knew and believed. But speaking here to Gentiles, Paul starts with the witness of creation. Everyone knows there is a God by what we see in the world around us. Paul explains that in greater detail in Romans 1:19-20, writing…

“What may be known about God is plain…because God has made it plain…For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Romans 1:19-20

Notice that Paul doesn’t pick a fight over how the world was made. He simply states that God made the world and everything in it. This world has a Creator. The world’s design hints at a Designer. Everyone knows this.

Horror novel writer Stephen King was being interviewed when he shared his wonderings about God like this: “If you say, ‘Well, OK, I don’t believe in God. There’s no evidence of God,’ [King said] then you’re missing the stars in the sky and you’re missing the sunrises and sunsets and you’re missing the fact that bees pollinate all these crops and keep us alive and the way that everything seems to work together. Everything is sort of built in a way that to me suggests intelligent design.”

Carolyn Kellogg, “Does Stephen King believe in God? Yes and no, he tells ‘Fresh Air,'” Los Angeles Times (3-29-13)

King isn’t a Christian, yet he acknowledges that the design of the world speaks of a Designer. Same place Paul starts: God made the world and everything in it. And since he created us, Paul points out, God is not limited to temples or on altars that we create for Him.

There’s the first foundational principle in the Christian worldview: this world has a Creator. The second principle in seeing the world as God does is that…

This world has a Sustainer.

“And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.” Acts 17:25

Watch how Paul makes his case. God is our Creator, meaning he’s not limited to manmade sanctuaries or altars or idols. Building on that, God is our Sustainer—meaning he doesn’t need us to sustain Him. In idol temples back then and even today, people bring bring food and other supposed “necessities” to their gods.

The next time you go to a Chinese or Thai restaurant, look high up on the wall near the cash register, and you will likely see a god shelf. It may have a Buddha statue on it, along with food offerings, perhaps a few oranges and a bowl of rice, as sustenance for their god.

Paul attempts to correct their worldview, telling them, “God doesn’t need that. We need Him! He doesn’t need us to sustain Him. He sustains us!”

We all have a gracious and powerful Sustainer! God “gave us” someone has said, “a world with trails and truth, neighbors and noodles, Bibles and beauty, oceans and orchestras, spreadsheets and spears, art and animals, language and lumber, the gospel and grapes, Yosemite and Yelp, Mars and marriage, goose down and God’s glory. And the Creator gave us eyeballs, fingertips, nostrils, holes in our ears, bumps on our tongues, synapses in our brain, and curiosity in our hearts as tools to explore with.”

Justin Buzzard, “Never Stop Exploring,” Justin Buzzard blog (4-11-16)

God created us, and He so kindly sustains us. Jesus points out the same in Matthew 5:45 when he says, “[God] causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” God is so good to us, to everyone. He gives us life and breath and everything else. This world has a Creator, and this world has a Sustainer.

The third foundational principle for seeing the world as God does is that…

This world has a Ruler.

“From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’” Acts 17:26-28

Starting from scratch, God made the entire human race. He made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the dark, but actually find him.

Here’s something fascinating, did you catch it? Because he is speaking to people who don’t know the Bible, and don’t accept the Bible as God’s Word, Paul quotes their own pagan poets! We know the poems these two lines come from. Both of them are dedicated to the mythological Greek god Zeus. But Paul grabs lines from these poems, then disinfects and rebaptizes them to convey the truth that this world has a Sustainer.

The equivalent today might be snatching a line from a song or movie where the source may not be anywhere close to Christian, but that line matches what the Bible reveals.

Back to the point Paul is trying to convince the Athenians of, here it is: God does not play hide-and-seek. God is not remote or distant or aloof; He’s actually near. He’s close. He wants people to find Him. So while the people of Athens had built an altar to an unknown God, God wanted them to know Him.

This is still who God is. He wants everyone to seek out the truth on the big questions, then reach out, and find Him. And the reason He orchestrates our times and places and histories is for this great purpose, that people everywhere will seek him, and find him.

Hormoz Shariat, for example, grew up in Iran and came to this country for college and grad school. While he was here, he found Jesus. Paul would say God marked out that man’s appointed time in history and where he went to school, so that he would find the one true God.

Hormoz Shariat now leads Iran Alive Ministries, and he points out that today, Iran has more people finding Jesus than any other nation on earth. People there are seeking God, reaching out for God, and they are finding Him!

There’s one more foundational principle to seeing the world as God does, and it is that…

This world has a Judge.

“Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” Acts 17:29-31

We have been created by God, so it makes no sense for us to imagine we can create little gods. Paul says, “God has overlooked that until now, but that season has now passed. The unknown is now known. Now you know the truth about this world, and God, and sin, and judgment. God is calling you to change your thinking—about this world, and about God being your Creator, Sustainer, Ruler, and coming Judge. And the proof that judgment is coming, the evidence that demands a verdict, is the resurrection of Jesus.

Jesus’ resurrection confirms:

  • God’s existence
  • Jesus’ claims
  • And that there is life after death.

Just as Jesus was raised, so everyone will be raised, on the day of judgment.

Tim Keller’s book The Reason for God adds, “The message of the resurrection is that this world matters! [Jesus’ resurrection] means that in a world where injustice, violence and degradation are endemic, God is not prepared to tolerate such things. “He has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed—[Jesus].”

Tim Keller, The Reason for God (Penguin Books, 2009), pp. 210

God who created us all, who sustains us all

Now here’s the good news: God who created us all, who sustains us all, who rules over us all, and who will judge all, has sent His Son to save all who will repent and trust in Him. The coming Judge has already come to be your Savior, to forgive your sins.

This is the Christian worldview. This is seeing the world as God does.

  • This makes sense of the fine-tuned design we see in the human body and in nature and in the universe.
  • What Paul explains makes sense of how abundantly the created world provides for us. We have a myriad of foods to enjoy. There will never be an end to coming up with new recipes and new food combinations to savor. Why? Because God sustains us. He blesses us, with friends (that’s part of how God sustains us). He blesses us with a thousand little pleasures along the way.
  • And what Paul explains here makes sense of our search for meaning and purpose. God wants everyone to reach out and find Him. That’s why He sent His Son!

Let’s end with a true story that shows why any of this matters. It shows that your worldview affects everything you do. In the early 90s, gang violence really picked up in a section of East Los Angeles called Boyle Heights. Eight gangs were getting very violent against one another in the area around a local church. Killings and injuries happened every day.

At the same time, a group of women who met for prayer and Bible study were reading about Jesus’ life and teachings and ministry, when one of the women became electrified by what they were reading. She began to see parallels between Jesus’ story and their own.

So that same night, seventy women began…a procession from one neighborhood to another. They carried food, guitars, and love. They went out and found gang members and ate chips and salsa and drank Cokes with them, and they sang traditional Mexican songs together.

The gang members felt disoriented. Their war zones turned silent. Every night those moms walked the streets of Boyle Heights. They called them “love walks.” And through their love, by nonviolently intruding into that gang war, they broke the rules of gang violence. The old script of retaliation and escalation of violence was challenged and changed.

And as friendships between the women and gang members grew, gang members began to tell their stories to these women who could be their mothers. They told of anguish over lack of jobs; anger at police brutality; rage over the hopelessness of poverty.

And then the Christian worldview of these women led them to act. Along with gang members, they began to work together, for the good of everyone. Together they started a tortilla factory. After that came a bakery. That was followed by them together opening a child-care center. Then a job-training program. Someone put together a class on conflict-resolution techniques and a school for further learning.

And it all began with the challenge to do for one another what Jesus did on the night he would be betrayed. Listen, here’s what it all points to: those women had their worldview changed by Jesus’ example. And then by acting on that Christian worldview, they helped change the worldview of gang members. And over time, the whole point of that true story, is that how God sees the world changed all of them.

James Bryan Smith, The Good and Beautiful Life (InterVarsity Press, 2010), pp. 131-132

If you don’t know who God is, start here. Stick around. Come back. We’re going to keep learning. In a couple of months, we’re going to walk alongside Jesus in the gospel of Mark. We’ll keep learning, and changing how we see, to more and more see the world as God does.

Pray with me.

Our Father in heaven, thank you for creating all that there is. Thank you for so graciously and generously sustaining us. We thank you that this world has a Ruler and a Judge. We thank you that evil will not win in the end. And with our whole hearts, we thank and praise you that the coming Judge has already come to be our Savior. We believe Jesus died and rose for the forgiveness of our sins—and we praise you for that. Help us this week to truly follow Jesus in all that we say and do. Along the way, we ask, open opportunities for conversations like you opened for Paul in Athens. Give us eyes to see people with your compassion. And give us courage to speak up with your truth, that the next person might seek You and find You. In Jesus’ awesome name we pray. Amen!