The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;Psalms 19:7
Engaging in the Marketplace of Ideas
There is an excellent Christian radio talk show titled, “In the Market with Janet Parshall.” She usually has guests that focus on a specific aspect of our Christian life. It is always truly relevant to things happening in the world that have a moral aspect. The apostle Paul’s ministry, too, focused on the marketplace of ideas.
While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting?Acts 17:16-19 (ESV)
In Athens, Paul preached the good news about Jesus and His resurrection. In Paul’s message, we find three responses from the Greeks:
1- “What is the babbler trying to say?”
Ridiculer: Demeaning what they do not know.
2- “He seems to be advocating foreign gods”
Dismisser: What is being taught does not fit their world view.
3- “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting?”
Debater: They do not fear the ideas of others.
We May Fear
I have no doubt that each of us is challenged in at least one of these three human responses. We may fear an aggressive dialogue, one where people attack you personally and ridicule you. We may fear a dialogue with one or more people that simply dismiss what you are saying. Perhaps we grew up being dismissed so these kinds of conversations dredge up old emotions. Finally, we may feel inadequate to engage in conversations with people that are deeply educated, extraordinarily successful, or have great authority. Because of their “high” position they will “entertain” foreign ideas, but give little credence to them.
Our Key Verse for today is a promise from God to us, which will help us when we witness to others.
1- “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving our souls.”
We need not fear the despiser or ridiculer for what we say is not us. We represent Jesus when we witness, and His doctrine is true. We have no reason to fear.
2- “The testimony of the LORD is sure.”
Those that dismiss our testimony are not rejecting us, but the testimony of the LORD, and His testimony is certain; it is sure.
3- “Making wise the simple.”
The debaters are people that rest on their education, their personal successes, or their institutional authority; their “houses” are built on sand. We will speak true wisdom despite our inferior education, social position, or humanistic authority. When we have hidden God’s Word within us, we can cast our trust upon the Holy Spirit.
I can personally attest to what I have just written. Many years ago, I found myself in a car, in the wee hours of the morning, with a highly educated and brilliant president of a remarkably successful company; he was an atheist. God turned our conversation to Jesus. For three unbroken hours he assailed me with worldly reasoning and beguiling ideas. God gave me the wisdom and stamina to keep our dialogue upon Jesus.
At the end of our trip we still had a good relationship, but he did not yield to the Holy Spirit’s call. However, I later learned that his wife began attending church and I am confident that he accepted Christ before he died. God gave me the wisdom for this conversation.
The media streams the sins of the world into our homes, into our streets, and into our leaders from the gods of the despiser, the dismisser, and the debater. But I have Good News! “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)
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