Out in the marketplaces
Last week, we enjoyed a day representing Living Waters Church of God at the Aveley Community Festival. It was wonderful to meet new and old friends and talk about their lives, God and the Bible.
(We'll be advising the outcome this week of the draw for the Illuminated Bible.)
It reminded me of Paul's times circulating and appearing in the marketplaces of Asia Minor and the Roman Empire. The thousands of people moving through the marketplace are of different backgrounds, beliefs and bearing. Yet all are sought by God. He calls on them all to turn to Him.
"The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands;
25 nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things;
26 and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation,
27 that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, although He is not far from each one of us;
28 for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’
29 “Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man.
30 “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent,
31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”
You can see it in our marketplaces, can't you? People all of different beliefs and philosophies about the world and their lives; some beliefs stated, many unrecognised but just played out in their lives. Wondering about what will happen today, tomorrow, into the future. Sometimes just turning a blind eye, sometimes looking this way and dismissing, sometimes inquiring and wanting to know a little, sometimes wanting to know a lot more.
And in the midst of it all, wondering how far they are from the deeper, significant elements of eternity. How do they fit in? Where? When? Or is it just an empty promise to be lived and snuffed out in the blink of an eye? "Maybe God's just something I can create in my own mind, fashion after whatever feverish dream I have." "If there really is a God, what do I have to do with Him and He with me?"
Not one of us is ever far from God, truth be told. Our very lives continue only through God's hand upholding the universe itself. Think about it: there is not one astrophysicist, astronomer, mathematician or other who can describe how the stuff of the universe continues to exist on a fundamental level. It doesn't matter how much they describe molecules, atoms, protons, electrons, quarks, leptons, wave theory, dark matter, and so on, it all comes down to "We honestly don't know."
God, however, does know. Because He made it all. And not only did He appoint the stars in the heavens of the universe and make us, He also appointed times for all peoples and He appointed a time for you and for me. If we try to "think this up" by ourselves, we remain ignorant of this greater, deeper reality. The world around us, as all who walked through that marketplace know, is astounding, beautiful, filled with delights. It is also filled with confusion, darkness and ignorance. The only way we can ever learn how to overcome that ignorance is by turning to the one who understands and sustains it all and has promised good things to come.
God draws all people to Himself and He did that through the visible, attestable, verified death and then resurrection of Jesus Christ. That reality is attested now through the lives of all those who come to believe in Christ and know that He changes their lives at a fundamental level, a deeper level than the quarks and leptons - at the level of the mind and heart.
God won't forever leave the world He created to chart its own course. He has appointed a time for all.
When Paul spoke those thousands of years ago, there were just a few who responded and believed. There were just a few who responded with their belief last weekend when we entered the marketplace and we look forward with excitement to welcoming those people to God's church. We're not saying we're on Paul's level. But the message is the same. And the response is the same.
Do you hear the message? What is your response?
God is declaring to you and to me that all people everywhere should repent, turn to Him and come to Him through the man He appointed to be the the servant, the Saviour and the loving judge and leader of our lives forever, Jesus Christ.