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(Acts 17:25–26) The Almighty Mover & Shaker

(Acts 17:25–26) The Almighty Mover & Shaker

by Stephen Davey
Series: Sermons in Acts
Ref: Acts 17:25–26

There's a song that says 'He's Got the Whole World in His Hands!' Paul once stood before a crowd of polytheists and atheists and explained why the simple truth found in that song is so pivotal to the Gospel.

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Has it ever occurred to you that nothing has ever occurred to God?   Have you learned yet that God never learned anything?

He never woke up one day and said, “I think I’ll work on some math problems that have been troubling me.”  Who in their right mind would want to do that anyway?!   

The truth is, God created the very laws and principles that mathematics flow out of when He ordered His universe.

Nothing occurs to God:

 He is omniscient – all knowing;

omnipresent – all present;

omnipotent – all powerful.

And we will never grasp but a fraction of the knowledge of God. 

One of the evidences that you will never master the study of God is the fact that you will never even master His revealed Word, the Bible.  You will never read this Book enough times to where you can put it on a shelf and say, “There, I’ve mastered it!”  No matter how many times you read it, you’re only just beginning to learn it.

However, even though we will never master the study of God as revealed in His word, there isn’t any study more important to life and living.

J. I. Packers introductory remarks in his book Knowing God give an interesting illustration of that truth:  He writes, “Knowing about the nature and character of God is crucially important for the living of our lives.  As it would be cruel to an Amazonian tribesman to fly him to London and put him down without explanation and leave him, as one who knew nothing of English or England, to fend for himself, so we are cruel to ourselves if we try to live in this world without knowing about the God whose world it is and who runs it.  Disregard the study of God, and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life blindfold, as it were, with no sense of direction and no understanding of what surrounds you.  This way you can waste your life and lose your soul.”

            KNOWING GOD  J.I. Packer  InterVarsity Press  19873  pp 14,15 

The tragedy of our generation, is that the study of the character of  God has been removed from the curriculum of the evangelical church.

The church today is more interested in the blessings of God than the character of God.  The pulpits of our land have also been trivialized into personality displays, or therapeutic lecterns that dish out comfortable, practical tips on everything from hygiene to nutrition to positive thinking to financial, relational, marital 3 steps to fulfillment.

I’m not suggesting that the Word of God doesn’t address some of these things – but I am saying that these things have so taken center stage, that the person and character, the nature and attributes, the holiness and judgment, the grace and mercy of God are rarely expounded.

The Bible has become a manual on how to live a happy prosperous life, rather than a manual on how to know and worship the true and living God.

Donald McCullough wrote;

“Visit a church on Sunday morning – almost any will do – and you will likely find a congregation comfortable relating to a deity who fits nicely with its positions, who conforms to individual spiritual experiences.  But you will not likely find much awe or sense of mystery.  The only sweaty palms will be those of the preacher unsure whether the sermon will go over; the only shaking knees will be those of the soloist about to sing.  Yet the New Testament warns us, “Offer to God (believer) an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; for indeed our God is a consuming fire.”  (Heb. 12)  Today, reverence and awe have been replaced by a yawn of familiarity.  The consuming fire has turned into a candle flame with no heat, no blinding light, no power for purification.  Why?  Because we prefer the illusion of a safer deity, and so we have whittled God down to a more manageable size.  It may well be revealed that the worst sin of the church at the end of the 20th century has been the trivialization of God.”

The Trivialization of God   Donald W. McCullough  NavPress 1995  pp 13, 14

Ladies and Gentlemen, I will propose to you this morning that God has become trivialized simply because we do not know who God is. 

He has become, the Unknown God!  And so we have sought to be re-introduced to Him through a sermon preached by the Apostle Paul and recorded for us in Acts 17.  Turn there!

Thus far, we have uncovered two of his sermon points.

Point #1 – My God is more than a monument – that is, He is not a god of stone or gold or silver.  He is the living and true, Lord of heaven and earth.

Point #2 – My God made it all.  We discussed last Lord’s day the world views of Deists and Pantheists and Atheists and Finite Godists – each world view demanding faith to believe whatever they believed.

  • For the Deist to believe that God created the world and then walked away takes faith.
  • For the Polytheist to believe that the world is filled with many gods and he or she is one of them takes great faith.
  • For the Atheist to believe that there is no God – that order evolved on its own and that life and breath sprang out of nothingness takes faith.
  • For the Finite Godist who believes there is a God but He isn’t powerful enough to handle a busy world – takes faith.
  • For the Theist – the one who believes the record of scripture – that God created the heavens and the earth by His almighty power and creative perfection – that also takes faith.

But that faith is substantiated by the creative order of the heavens and earth – as David said, “The heavens declare the glory of God and their expanse declares the work of His hands.”  Psalm 19:1

Sir Isaac Newton had a perfectly scaled down replica of the then known solar system built for his studies.  A large golden ball represented the sun at the center and the known planets revolved around it through a series of cogs, belts, and rods.  It was a rather sophisticated, marvelous machine.  One day while Newton was studying his model an agnostic friend stopped by for a visit.  The man marveled at the machinery and asked, "Who made this exquisite thing?"  Without looking up, Newton replied, "No one." "No one?" his friend asked.  "That's right, said Newton, all of these balls and cogs and belts and gears just happened to come together, and wonder of wonders, by chance they began revolving in their set orbits with perfect timing."  The message was loud and clear.

Here in this text, the Apostle Paul is saying nothing less to the Athenians than this; “My God made it all!”

And now for today, we have enough time to uncover his third point, and it is this - “My God is the Almighty Mover and Shaker.”

Now in order for the God of the Apostle Paul, this unknown God to the Athenians, to be the mover and shaker of planet earth – two things would have to be true.  

God would have to be transcendent and immanent.

You can easily divide verses 25-29 along these two theological expressions of the nature and character of God.

When we say that God is transcendent, we mean that God is over and above all of creation.  We also mean that God is separate from creation – a distinct, superior, sovereign spirit.

While He is everywhere, He is not in everything!

Notice what Paul says of God,  24.  The God who made the world (he is separate from the world) and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth (He is transcendent – over and above as Master), does not dwell in temples made with hands.   25a.  Neither is He served by human hands . . .

This doesn’t mean that we can’t serve Him, it simply means that God doesn’t depend on us for His existence.  Theologians refer to that as the self-existence of God.

He doesn’t need you to survive – you need Him!  You don’t put a plate of food out for this god – you don’t have to burn incense to this Deity, as I saw in the homes of unbelievers in Japan – with their god-shelves and constantly burning incense.

God does not want the work of our hands, He wants the worship of our hearts.

In fact, notice the next phrase,   25b. “As though He needed anything.”

He is self-sufficient!

The original word translated “He needed anything,”  is prosdeomia – which could be rendered, “He doesn’t want anything or need anything in addition.”

He is unlike us isn’t He – we always want something in addition to what we already have.

Whether it’s an addition to our home or an addition to our automobile collection or an addition to our wardrobe or an addition to our status or position in life.

If you were to ask my wife and me – is there anything you’d like more of – she’d say without hesitation – “More storage space – my wife’s birthday is coming up – what she’d really like is another closet.”  They just don’t sell those at Wal-Mart.   I’d probably say, “There’s this set of books I’d like to add to my library – I don’t have any room, but I’ll make room!”

Last year you thought, ‘If only I made a few dollars more a week, I’d be so much better off.”  Well, now you make a few dollars more a week and now what?

None of us ever say, “We have enough!”

God does!  He is self-sufficient.

David wrote in Psalm 50:10-12  “Every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills.  I know every bird of the mountains, and everything that moves in the field is Mine.  If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world is Mine, and all it contains.”

Now notice the middle part of verse 25.  25b.  Since He Himself gives to all life and breath and all things.”

Now at this point in his sermon, Paul begins to fire some missiles of truth into the Athenians fortress of polytheism.

They had given to Zeus the honor of being the source of life.  In fact, the greek word for life is Zoë. 

Paul is saying, Zoë does not come from Zeus! 

There is a mover and a shaker of planet earth – Paul says, “That sovereign, self-existent, self-sufficient transcendent Lord is the God you do not know.”

Now why is it important that we understand the transcendence of God?  That God is separate from His creation – that He is above and sovereign over His creation.

For one thing it gives us a proper view toward creation.  You can’t deify or personalize the earth as if it were a mother that requires your protection in order for her to be happy and fulfilled.

I’ve seen bumper stickers that say, “Love your mother – earth.”

The elevation of creation occurs simply because people do not know the Creator.

And so rather than love and worship and honor and love the Creator, they offer all of that worship and honor and love to creation.

But if we understand that a separate, superintending person known as the triune God, who through Jesus Christ, the second person of the Godhead created all there is, then we place our worship at His feet.

You see, the Bible makes it clear that God uses nature sort of like the way we use a telephone – we just read “The earth declares the glory of God.”

We hear as it were, the attributes of creative design and power coming through the telephone of nature.  But can you imagine a man who hears the voice of his sweetheart through the telephone, then falls in love with the telephone.  Well, he explains, “I heard her voice through this plastic thing, and I’ve decided to marry it instead . . . I just love my telephone!” 

Isn’t that what unregenerate man has done – he sees and hears the character of Creator God coming through nature, and then falls in love with nature!

Now there’s a second critical thing to understand about God.  He is not only – over and above all of creation – but He is also immanent. 

By that we mean that while God is separate from creation, He is at the same time actively involved in human nature and human history.   He is a personal caring, loving Leader who interacts with His creation.

The Greeks that Paul spoke to knew nothing of a personal, caring God. 

And yet, as already declared in the last part of verse 25, Paul will go on to teach the personal involvement to God. 

Matthew records the sermon of Jesus Christ who preached that Creator God was involved in the sending of sunshine and rain, the feeding and protecting of the birds and the clothing of the flowers. 

And He went on to make an astounding politically incorrect statement when he said to His human audience – “You are worth much more then they.”

You have more value than a bird – you are more important than a flower – a tree does not have an inherent right to exist – but you do!

Imagine how Jesus would be quoted in the newspapers today!

But the wonderful thing is the point that Christ was making with his audience – it was this “If God cares so much about the birds and the flowers of the field, imagine then how much He cares about you.”

Verse 25 – He gives to all life, and breath and all things!  James wrote, “Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father.”  He isn’t a distant removed transcendent God – He is an intimately involved – an transcendent, yet immanent God.

Paul goes on to say, “Here’s just how involved He is!:  Notice verse  26.  And He made from one, every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth.  Having determined their appointed times, and the boundaries of their habitation.

The Greeks believed they were a special master race – Paul says, you originated from the same man everyone else did – Adam and his wife Eve.  Thus, the Greeks could not claim to be some special class or race of people; they were made out of the same clay as everyone else.

I found it fascinating to read the results of a study by 2 biochemists at the University of California at Berkeley.  The article reads, “Most of the DNA in human cells is in the cell nucleus, in the form of chromosomes.  But there is also DNA outside the nucleus – in mitochondria (or mtDNA). The interesting thing about mtDNA is that over generations, it changes at a steady, known rate of mutation in human beings – another interesting thing is that mtDNA is inherited solely through the mother.  These biochemists examined mtDNA from 147 individuals representing five broad geographic regions of the world  They were able then to construct a family tree by analyzing the differences in the mtDNA samples -–the data revealed a common ancestral mtDNA.  They believe now that one single female was the ancestor of everyone on Earth today – they’ve nicknamed her EVE.”

So it isn’t mother earth – it’s mother Eve . . . what a discovery!

Nearly 2,000 years ago, the Apostle Paul made the declaration that the proud Greek was of the same family tree as everybody else – there isn’t any special class or race. 

In other words, the Unknown God is color blind – He is race blind – He is no respecter of persons.  No one has the inside track with Him – all are equally sinners and all will stand before Him one day.

And Paul is moving toward the climax of his sermon with that very point.

I had originally hoped to get further than this, but if I don’t stop now, I won’t be able to develop the next critical point of Paul’s sermon – that God has already determined the boundaries of Russia and China and America. . .and He knows how long these nations are going to be around. 

Let me make a connection between the preciousness of these attributes of God that we’ve studied this morning with life in general.

One author told the following story;  Theodore Roosevelt and I used to play a little game together.  After an evening of talk, before retiring to our sleeping quarters, we would go out on the lawn and search the skies until we found the faint spot of light-mist beyond the lower left-hand corner of the Great Square of Pegasus.  Then one or the other of us would recite:  "That is the Spiral Galaxy in Andromeda.  It is as large as our Milky Way.  It is one of a hundred million galaxies.  It consists of one billion suns, each larger than our sun."  Then Roosevelt would grin and say:  "Well, I think we are small enough now!  Let's go on to bed."  - William Beebe.

You know the wonderful thing about studying of God’s greatness and majesty – that He is transcendent and immanent – that He alone is self-existent and self-sufficient – that He is the Divine Resource and that He is the Divine ruler.

The wonderful thing about that is when I discover how big He is – I re-discover how small I am.  And my problems that I thought were large, become very small compared to Him.  My little challenges over my brief life are nothing compared to His transcendence and immanence – and I can come and take every one of my problems and cast them on Him because He cares about me.

Like my little four year old daughter comes to me with her little plastic bracelet that she couldn’t get on her wrist – the one with the really fancy plastic jewels all over it – she brings it to me and says, “Daddy, can you fix this?”  And with a few adjustments I put that little bracelet on her little wrist.  It was big to her – it was nothing to me.

The reason the church is overwhelmed with its problems and Christians are as anxious and troubled as non-Christians, is because there God has become small, and distant – in reality, He has become an unknown God.

But when you discover the greatness of your God, then you become small enough to rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  And you can flee into the strength of His everlasting arms.

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