Sunday, 9 November 2014

Ignorant idolatry exposed

In his conversation with the men of Athens, Paul cut straight to the heart of the matter.  They were worshipping gods made of gold or silver or stone – images "made by human design and skill" (Acts 17:29).  Paul's comment indicates that this was not simply an "innocent mistake", but an act which required repentance.

The word "repentance" is often equated to "being sorry" but this falls far short of what it means.  It can be understood well by using a combination of two related images.  The first is the idea of "thinking again" and the second is "turning round."  Perhaps an illustration might help.  I remember taking part in one expedition for the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme where, in a moment of haste in torrential rain, I did not orient the map correctly and glanced only briefly at it.  As a result, I led our team south instead of west.  As darkness began to fall, we realised that the road we were on was veering away from our destination.  We had come to the point of repentance: we needed to think again about our onward journey; we were heading the wrong way and needed to turn round.  I can try to make excuses for my "mistake", but ultimately it was simply an expression of my own pride and my prioritising getting out of the rain over following the rules and paying proper attention to our route.  It was a disaster.

It's like that with the Athenians' relationship with God.  Instead of worshipping the God who made them, they had been serving statues they themselves had made in the hope that these idols would provide for their needs and desires.  Accordingly, their whole worldview needed correcting - they needed to think again.  Every affectionate step they took towards their idols was effectively a step away from God - they needed to turn round.  They needed to repent.

The idols of our age may not be statues, but we can be sure that if we serve them, we offend God and need to repent in the same way as the Athenians.  In the west, we are quick to hanker after money or popularity; we seek our own comfort or happiness instead of the glory of God.  In the end, we are no different from the Athenians - so often we ignore the God who made all things and run instead after gods "made by human design and skill" which can ultimately not deliver what we hope to receive from them.

What are the false gods which entice you away from giving your all to the God of creation who deserves all our worship?  God is calling you to repent.  Will you?

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