We all have an internal operating system, whether we know it or not. It’s driving what we believe, how we live and what we pursue. These stories of pursuit come to us all day long in hundreds of ways including ads, tweets, music, and movies, among others. They are competing worldviews and opinions about who and what we should be pursuing. Some of these messages are good in part, but, if these pursuits were the whole truth, and could actually make us feel whole, content, and good, then we’d probably see more evidence of that.
Statistics and our own lives reveal we are lonelier, more unsatisfied, more divided, and more depressed than ever before. More than any other moment in our lives, we need a better pursuit, one that leads to real purpose, meaning, freedom, identity and a hope for the future. Christianity is about a God who you don’t find, but who finds you. It’s about a God who did everything to pursue you. And this God is still pursuing you.
There’s a famous sermon by the Apostle Paul in Acts 17. In his short sermon in Athens, Paul reveals two ways God pursues us. The first is God pursues us a Creator. The people of Athens believed in a variety of ideas and gods and today, I run into people like this all the time. Those who are spiritual, but not religious, tolerant of most ideas until you make exclusive claims especially about Jesus, smart and well educated, but completely ill-informed about the actual claims of Jesus Christ. Paul says God is the Maker and not the one who was made. Paul claimed there was one God, who created it all, a God who is personal and orderly. Paul also says that God is the sustainer of it all too. God not only sustains us, but the entire universe. The Greek gods on the other hand were petty and constantly had to be appeased with worship, prayers and gifts. Though we may not worship shrines or statues, we worship things like innovation, success, comfort, wealth, education, power, and progress among many other things.
Next, Paul said that God pursues us in Jesus Christ. Paul commands the Athenians to repent because Jesus will one day return and judge the world. The Greek thinkers didn’t think they needed to repent from anything, like some of us today. Deep down we hope that if there is a God, our good deeds will outweigh our bad and we’ll be fine. But the Scriptures teach that a day of judgment is coming and this judge, unlike all other judges, will judge the world with true justice. His pursuit of you is so you can trust HIM, HIS justice, HIS power, and HIS love.
Paul then ends his sermon talking about the resurrection of Jesus Christ as further proof of God’s pursuit of them. The resurrection of Jesus is the proof of God’s love and pursuit of you. The resurrection was and continues to be the centerpiece of Christianity. Christianity is all about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When we talk about resurrection we mean Jesus’ rose bodily from the tomb, not just his spirit. The Scriptures promise that the same thing will happen to you. One day our bodies will rise from the grave and we’ll experience a resurrection too. For some, we’ll be with Jesus forever in the new heavens and new earth, and for others, they will be separated from Jesus forever.
Paul ends his sermon with the resurrection of Jesus because it’s that important! The resurrection of Jesus’ gives us a new pursuit. Our goals, dreams, and pursuits are all different because of the resurrection of Jesus. We now live in pursuit of Jesus and his Kingdom. His pursuits become our pursuits. Instead of living to work, we work to live for God. Instead of building a life of success and comfort we pursue generosity and serving others. Instead of creating a life that revolves around “My will being done” we pray, “Thy will be done.” When you pursue Jesus, you can get some of what you want, but God wants to give you so much more.
Paul preached to the Athenians about God as Creator, Sustainer, and Judge but leaves us with a question we all have to answer one day. Will you continue to live your life in pursuit of all the things that ultimately don’t satisfy you, or will you embrace the God who has been relentlessly pursuing you? To reject Jesus is to reject God and his pursuit of you.
If Paul were living today, I wonder how he would change his sermon. Maybe it would be something like this:
“People of San Francisco! I see that in every way you are very intelligent, innovative and tolerant. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship I saw your skyscrapers, homes, cars, and institutions of education, I even found a sign on someone’s lawn with this written: love is love. You are educated but ignorant of the very essence of love—and this is what I want to share with you.
Believe it or not, there is a God who made the world and everything in it. Don’t worry about how, I’m here to tell you about who. He is the Lord, the one true King of heaven and earth, and trust me, he does not live in churches built by human hands, He doesn’t need anything. But what he wants is you. He wants you to experience His love. He wants to give you real and abundant life, the life you are trying to pursue apart from him. God has it all planned out, so you don’t need to worry about a thing. Actually, God created you with an inner ache for him and he did this so you would seek him and hopefully reach out for him and find him, though God is not far from any one of us. As some of your own artists have said, ‘Lost and insecure, you found me, you found me.’ You are God’s sons and daughters. God has overlooked your ignorance, but now, today, he commands you to turn away from all these false gods and religions and turn to the one true God, your Heavenly Father who loves you. For a day is coming soon when Jesus will return and judge the world with true justice. And he has already given you proof of this by his resurrection. God is pursuing you, so what more are you waiting for?”