Engaging Your Culture

Bible Book: Acts  17 : 16-34
Subject: Culture; Witnessing; Soul Winning

Matthew, in Matthew 5:14-16, writes, “14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” We Christians are to influence the culture that is around us. Wherever we work, eat, sleep, play, etc. we are to be a Christian influence in that area of our culture. We aren’t Christians only on Sunday, but are to be Christians in every area of our lives. The culture is either influencing us or we are influencing our culture. We find Paul engaging his culture in Acts 17:16-34. From his example, we can learn how to engage our culture.

I. Burdened for Our Culture

Luke, in Acts 17:16-21 shows us a real life example of how Christians are to be burdened for the culture around them.

A. What Paul Didn’t Do In Athens

Paul didn’t seek to “try out” the idols of Athens

As Christians we must do our best not to be deceived by the world. As Children of God we must continually remind ourselves that the grass is not greener in the Devil’s kingdom, though it may often appear to be. In response to our wonderful salvation, we must exercise self-control and seek to bring glory to God is all that we do. We owe Him more than we can give. Our actions will show exactly how much we believe we owe.

Materialism is an idol. Though few American Christians today are being deceived by tangible idols, many however do worship something called “The American Dream”. The American Dream is that of having a family, a home, and making good money. Though these things in and of themselves aren’t evil, when a person makes these the priority of his or her life, then these have become idols. The point at which these things become idols is whenever they are viewed as the ultimate goal. Whenever our ending goal is a family, a house, and making good money, instead of viewing these things as ways of glorifying God, then they become idols. With this definition, the question is, “How many Christians are unknowingly worshipping idols?” The answer is obviously “too many.” The apostle Paul didn’t add these idols to his worship of God; and Christians today must not add any idols to their worship of God. Regardless how tempting idol worship is, Christians must be about God’s glory alone.

B. What Paul Did Do In Athens

Paul was sparked to respond to his burden

Being burdened for the culture isn’t enough. We must be willing to spring to action. If we are silent about the truth, then the culture will not change. When we Christians hear some of the music or see some of the movies from our culture, our response is often “the world is going to hell in a hand basket.” However, we find Paul responding to the Athenian culture with burden and response. Instead of shaking our heads in “holier than thou” disgust at our culture, we must be burdened, and we must actively seek to teach our culture the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

II. Aware of Our Culture

Luke, in Acts 17:22-23 shows us a real life example of how Christians should recognize their culture’s inconsistencies.

A. Paul Realized that the Athenians were very Religious.

Paul observed his culture, caring enough to seek out their inconsistencies.

Over the years there has developed this anti-intellectual, anti-culture mentality within the evangelical community. Across the board we have Christianized nearly everything we could get our hands on. We have Christian music, movies, television shows, and even tools. Though these things aren’t bad, some Christians view that if there is a Christianized alternative, then an individual is a piece of trash if he or she partakes of the worldly one. For some reason this withdrawal of Christians from society has been viewed as godly. However, if we’re going to be salt and light in our culture, then we’re going to have to observe our culture. We don’t have to participate in ungodliness; however, we do have to participate in our culture. If we’re going to understand our culture’s inconsistencies, then we’re going to have to take time understanding our culture. All of these extra boundaries in Christians’ lives actually hurt our engagement of culture. We have become Pharisees. We have added to God’s Word with the goal of godliness; however, the goal of godliness is achieved by God’s definition, not mans. Paul knew these Athenians were very religious because he witnessed their idols. Paul didn’t stick his nose up in the air trying to Christianize their pagan festivals or their pagan forms of worship. He simply observed, finding their inconsistencies, and responded in telling the truth. We too must observe our culture. Let us always realize that it’s what comes out of a man that defiles him, not what goes in. We must submit to God’s Word first, our consciences second, while always holding fellow Christians accountable to God’s Word and never accountable to our consciences.

B. Paul Realized that the Athenians were Struggling

Paul realized that the Athenians knew they didn’t have everything figured out concerning their deities.

Paul observed that these Athenians, in order to cover their bases, had even dedicated an idol to the “Unknown god”. Though they were very religious, they still didn’t have everything figured out concerning God.

Paul knew that this acknowledgement of an unknown god by the Athenians was an indirect admission to their uncertainty about their religion. In like manner, today in America, we have many who say that there is no absolute truth, and everything is relative. Yet, many of these individuals absolutely deplore murder. Now, if there are no absolutes, then murder cannot be absolutely wrong, and how dare anyone condemn anyone else, forcing their relative opinion as if it’s absolute. This is a clear inconsistency in our American culture. Let us recognize that our culture cannot say there are no absolutes, and live and practice as if there are. Let us seek to show our culture its inconsistencies, giving them the truth.

III. Confronting our Culture

Luke, in Acts 17:24-29 gives us a real-life example of how Christians should tell the culture the truth.

A. Paul Shared the Nature of God

Paul told the Athenians that God created everything, is omnipresent, and is in need of nothing.

Not only was Paul burdened for the Athenian culture, and not only did he recognize their inconsistencies, he was also intentional in telling them the truth.

Being burdened and recognizing inconsistencies isn’t enough. If we’re going to reach America with the good news of Jesus Christ, then we’re going to have to tell them the truth. The reality with having an idol is that it’s a visible and/or tangible object or feeling. Whether it’s money, material things, power, intelligence, popularity, or the applause of men, we must tell our culture that these things aren’t God, and these things do not provide physical, nor spiritual life. In response to the physical nature of idols, Paul tells the Athenians where all things came from, that He is everywhere, and in need of nothing. Idols in Athens were fashioned by men, could only be in one place at a time, and were in need of constant care. Paul sought to correct their thinking with the truth. We must do the same. We must tell our culture that worshipping tangible things is to worship the gift instead of the giver. We must also tell them that God isn’t found in these passing things; nor is God in need of constant care or building up as these things are. We serve a God who is Creator and autonomous.

B. Paul Shared the Glory of God


Paul told the Athenians that God is the sovereign life-giving, life-sustaining deity who created mankind for the purpose of bringing Him glory.

Paul, in continuing his response to the Athenians’ inconsistencies told them that God is the life-giver. In the Athenian worship system, Athenians were the ones who were fashioning their idols. They were the creators and sustainers of their idols.

In response to our culture we must tell Americans that the objects that they worship, created by their own hands, do not give life, nor sustain it. Also, we must share that these idols aren’t the reason these people are alive. Though many in our culture live like it does, money doesn’t create or sustain life. Millionaires still die. Not only do they die, but they leave everything they worked their entire lives for, that they worshipped, behind for someone else to vainly enjoy. We must share that God is the giver and sustainer of everyone’s life. God also created mankind with the purpose of glorifying Him. To live for any other reason is to live for that which isn’t of eternal value.

IV. Witnessing to Our Culture

Luke, in Acts 17:30-34 gives us a real life example of how Christians must give their cultures the Gospel.

A. Paul Told the Athenians of God’s Call and Coming Judgment

Paul told the Athenians that God is calling all men to repent for there is a day of judgment coming at the feet of Jesus Christ.

Paul, in continuing to give the truth to the Athenians seeks to make them aware of their inescapable judgment before their Lord. The belief of Christ doesn’t make Him Lord; He is already Lord and we have the choice of acknowledging His Lordship or facing His judgment.

We must tell Americans of their coming judgment. Their judgment is coming whether they believe it or not. I presently own a Miniature Jack Russell. Her name is Allie. A few days ago I came home from work and she had torn up a bag full of trash. Trash was all over my apartment. Now, this dog believes she rules the roost. She believes she’s autonomous; however, reality states that I’m her boss and I can give her away to another family in a heartbeat. Whether Allie believes I’m the boss or not doesn’t change or validate the truth. Whether Americans believe there is a judgment or not doesn’t prove or disprove Paul’s claim. The truth is that God has provided One Way of salvation, and His name is Jesus Christ. Americans must either repent today while mercy is offered by Jesus or repent one day when they stand before him for judgment; however, on that day there will be no mercy. A serial rapist who repents today can receive Christ’s forgiveness; but a law-abiding citizen who repents at judgment will be sent to hell. Repentance is a privilege today that may be gone tomorrow.

B. Paul Told the Athenians that God Raised Jesus from the Dead.

Paul continued in sharing the Gospel with the Athenians. Paul didn’t care if the Athenians thought the physical resurrection of Christ was a foolish thing. He simply wanted to communicate the truth to them.

Paul knew the Holy Spirit is the One who is responsible for the salvation of souls. Paul also knew that it is absolutely necessary to believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ in order to be saved. We must always include Jesus’ resurrection when we share the Gospel. Jesus’ resurrection is the main truth about His life that separates Him from the other messiahs of history. Christianity is founded on the fact that the dead God-Man physically rose from the dead. Christ’s resurrection also validated His coming judgment of all peoples.


Engaging the culture is every Christian’s equal responsibility. We must see it as our privilege. Our goal shouldn’t be to form a Christian sub-culture or counter-culture. Paul’s goal was to be burdened for the culture, to recognize its inconsistencies, to give them the truth, and to make sure he gave them the Gospel. Our goal, in being parallel to Paul, should be to bring the culture God has placed us in to its knees in repentance at the feet of the Lord of Glory Jesus Christ. We must be so jealous for God’s glory that we actively and intentionally engage our culture until all peoples praise His name.