Each One Reach One, Part 1:
Come to the Party
April 27, 2008
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
22Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, "Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. 23For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, 'To an unknown god.' What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, 25nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. 26From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, 27so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him--though indeed he is not far from each one of us. 28For 'In him we live and move and have our being'; as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we too are his offspring.' 29Since we are God's offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. 30While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead."
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning!
We are starting a little series this morning, and our topic and our title for today is “Each One Reach One, Part 1: Come to the Party.”
We have such an exciting story in our Bible reading this morning from the book of Acts. We hear about a man who is on fire for Jesus Christ. We hear words from a man who is so enthusiastic about the Lord and enthusiastic about communicating it to other people, so that they might find the joy and the inspiration and the salvation that comes from Jesus Christ. He has found a peace and a solidity and a hope with Jesus Christ that he cannot help but share with other people. He has found a connection with God and a sense of community and the hope of everlasting life as assured to those who connect with Jesus Christ, and he wants to share it. His name is Paul.
Now, just a little step to the side here—remember last week, we began to talk about this man, Saul, who was in charge of the persecution and the execution of people who believed in Jesus. Do you remember the story about Stephen, who looked up to heaven and committed his soul to God as stones were being thrown at him by men who had laid their cloaks at the feet of a man named Saul? Laying their cloaks at that man’s feet meant one thing and one thing only—let all the guilt be on his head. That’s what that symbolized. So, these men felt exonerated from their deed, because they put their cloaks at the feet of Saul and said, “May all that guilt be upon him.”
Saul then was riding to another location to persecute some more Christians, and he had a supernatural experience. The Lord Jesus Christ knocked him off his horse. He fell to the ground; his eyes were blinded. He heard a voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” And he knew it was Jesus. And through the ministrations of a brother Christian, Saul came to be converted to one of Jesus’s strongest and greatest followers. His name was changed to Paul, and it is from Paul that hear this morning.
Paul has traveled to Athens to talk to the Athenians, and he is speaking from the front of the Areopagus. The Areopagus is a stony hill, and it must form a natural amphitheater, because it’s the place where the local council met and where people met to discuss big ideas, elevated ideas. He’s speaking to the learned and reasonable people of Athens from the front of the Areopagus.
I wonder—did he look at that stony hill, see those stones, and remember the stones that were thrown at Stephen? Remember his guilt? Remember his redemption from guilt that was given in Jesus Christ? He must have triumphed over that guilt through the Lord as he spoke to those people. And he said this, as he reached out to them: “I see how extremely religious you are in every way.” He approached them with kindness. He met them exactly where they were. He did not put them down. In our day, we might say to a person, “I know that you are a deeply spiritual person. Maybe you don’t go to church right now, or maybe you haven’t had an encounter with Jesus, but I know you are a spiritual person.” It’s a good place to start. It’s an important place to start, to recognize the other person and where they are.
The other thing about Paul’s speech that I just love is in verse 28: “For in Him we live and move and have our being.” I love that phrase! I invite you to take that phrase to heart and meditate on it. God is the one in whom we live and move and have our being. He is the trunk of the tree. He puts life in our veins. He is the one that we worship, a living God.
Paul spoke to the Athenians. Think of what it must have been like to be one of the Athenians there that day, to be hearing about Jesus Christ for the first time. How thrilling that must have been! And how many generations of Christians have come to be today because from that moment each one reached one?
I believe the message of the scripture this morning is that we are called to do what Paul did. Now, we may not be talking in front of the Areopagus. We might be in the supermarket. We might not be inviting them to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior—not at the moment—but we may be inviting them to a fun event at church, during which time a seed may be planted. Maybe they’ll come to realize that the church is a good and friendly and warm place. And maybe, little by little, they’ll want to find out more about this fellow Jesus.
My friends, my goal this morning is simply this: I want to plant a seed in your heart. I do not know who God will put upon your path this week or this month or this year or the next several years. But I am inviting you to consider that God may be asking you to reach one for Him, to reach out with your story of what faith does for you, why you love church. Someone may come across your path that desperately needs to hear it. And I am inviting you to make a decision now to step out boldly and to speak the right word, to issue the invitation, to share your story with them, to reach that person, because Christianity is done one on one. Someone once said, “God has children, but He has no grandchildren.” Every person must be directly related to Him. I invite you to reach out in faith with Christ to those you meet this week, because someone may need to hear about God through you.
Take a moment with me now and think about this—I’d be willing to wager that just about everybody in church today is here because someone at some point invited them. Someone at some point invited you to know Jesus Christ, and I invite you to close your eyes with me now and think about who that might be for you. Who comes to mind? Is it a parent? Or a Sunday school teacher or vacation Bible school teacher? Is it a fellow student at school who invited you to church? Could it be that it was several people who gradually nurtured you along the path to Christ? Think about them; give thanks for them. Give thanks for that wonderful procession of saints of which you are now a part.
And as you open your eyes, I invite you to think about the ways in which God may lead you to share Him with others. It’s important.
May I share with you, in closing, a dream that I had months ago? It must have been around Christmas time, because I believe I’d seen the movie “Polar Express” sometime before I had this dream. The dream was this—I was riding on a train in the night. Many people were seating in the passenger car I was in. I remember that, in the dream, I didn’t have a church home. I didn’t know anything about the church. I didn’t know anything about Jesus Christ. I’d heard of such things, and I found them somehow attractive, but I didn’t have a contact there. I was on the outside looking in. There was a young woman, a very pleasant person up toward the front of the passenger car, going from person to person in the seats, and asking them something. I looked up, and I wondered what she was doing, and I came to realize that she was inviting them to a party at her church. She was inviting them to come and enjoy it. I’d never been invited to a party at a church before. But I watched her as she went from person to person, and I watched people smiling and nodding. As she got closer to where I was sitting, I remember thinking one thought, “I hope she asks me.” And then I woke up.
What if there’s someone out there who’s hoping that you’ll ask him or her? Oh, my friends, I invite you to have courage and speak out and say the word that will help you reach out for Jesus Christ.
In closing, won’t you join me in the song I taught the children this morning?
Each one, reach one.
That’s the way our Savior shows.
Each one, reach one.
That’s the way the Kingdom grows.
God loves you. I do, too. Have a blessed week. Amen.
© 2008 Anthony J. Godlefski