The Idol of the “Unknown God”
Wherever there is a need for revival, one can probably find there is an idol problem. In Acts 17:22-31 Paul was waiting in Athens for Timothy and Silas to join him. We find that Paul’s spirit was troubled within him because of all the idols that were in Athens. In fact, the Athenians wanted to be so sure they had every god accounted for that there was even an idol to “the unknown god.”
In Romans 1:20, Paul said, “For his [God’s] invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”
The Athenians may have been worshiping idols in ignorance because they did not know about the “unknown god”. However, God’s invisible attributes, eternal power, divine nature had been perceived. And, at some level, they knew there was a God who was responsible for all of creation because they made an idol for this God they did not know. Because of this, they were without excuse for being ignorant. Neither are we. Paul stepped up to remedy their ignorance and preached the gospel to them and with his words preserved within Acts 17, he remedies our ignorance as well. As you continue reading, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any idols you have in your life and invite Him to start a revival in your heart as you surrender your idols to Him.
Idols that we worship in ignorance gets in the way of Revival
Therefore, what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it—He is Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in shrines made by hands. Neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives everyone life and breath and all things.— Acts 17:23-25
The idols we worship in ignorance
All of us are guilty of creating idols in our lives. Perhaps you worship God every Sunday, but you still have some idols that you are worshipping too. Like the Athenians, you might have a lot of idols. They may not be in a shrine or carved out of stone or cast into golden images – but we have idols just the same. They may look more like our career, image, position, money, possessions, hobbies, or children. Whenever we make things or people more important than our personal relationship with God, we have “demoted” God and “promoted” these other things or people to status of idol. Just ask yourself what you give the most time, money or attention to and if its anything other than God, then you’ve found an idol.
Idols get in the way of the revival work of the Holy Spirit. So if we are to experience revival in America, it is important that each one of us take time alone with the Holy Spirit and ask Him about the idols we’ve created. You can no longer worship these idol in ignorance once He reveals them to you. Romans 1:24-25 teaches us, “Therefore God delivered them over in the cravings of their hearts to sexual impurity, so that their bodies were degraded among themselves. Because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever!”
We need to exchange our idols for a revival
How do idols hinder revival? Idols exchange the truth about God for the lie of the idol that you worship. Do you believe your idol will bring you peace, happiness, contentment, love, joy? If you do, then, yes, you have exchanged the truth about God for the lie of your idol. You will only know lasting and true peace, happiness, contentment, love, and joy when you surrender your heart to God and make Him the God you worship with all your heart, mind, and soul. It is only in surrendering our idols that we will experience revival.
Hidden idols we worship in ignorance also stop revival
When ministry becomes an idol
Sometimes we make ministry an idol. We can be guilty of forming our identity in the ministry we serve in rather than in Christ. We look for that next “bigger” ministry or greater opportunity rather than serving where God has called us to serve. Whether the ministry is a megachurch or a large non-profit, or you’ve become a well-known Christian speaker ask yourself – “What’s my motivation?” Then ask the Holy Spirit, “What’s my motivation?”
If you are struggling with your “small” ministry and can’t understand why God doesn’t grow your ministry or move you to a bigger one, ask yourself – “What’s my motivation?” Then ask the Holy Spirit, “What’s my motivation?”
If your motivation is or has become more about fame, self-importance, recognition, or money, then your ministry has become an idol you are worshiping and it’s time to invite the Holy Spirit to start a revival in you. However, unlike the Athenians, you are not worshiping your idol in ignorance. You’re idolatry is just a straight up sin – because you know God and choose to make ministry an idol.
When church becomes an idol
Sometimes we are guilty of making an idol out of the building we call “church.” We can get so wrapped up in the color of the carpet, the style of worship, or even the time or day we worship until we create divisions within the body of Christ that God never intended, nor does He want. We need to remember that God made the world and everything in it. He is Lord of heaven and earth. He does not dwell in the church building, even though we may call it “God’s House.” God isn’t after the best looking building or the perfect grounds (although we should honor God by taking care of what He has blessed us with). What God is after is our hearts – totally sold out and surrendered to Him – which is what happens when we trade our idols for revival.
Being God’s offspring then, we shouldn’t think that the divine nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image fashioned by human art and imagination. –Acts 17:29
We need to remember that he dwells within each believer. Our bodies are His temple. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). So whether there is a pulpit or not on the stage, doesn’t matter. The color of the carpets don’t matter. Where the piano is positioned on the stage doesn’t matter. Whether there is a choir or praise team doesn’t matter. What matters are these simple questions: Does God dwell within you? If He does, then does He have first place in your life? If not, are you seeking Him?
Forsaking Idols and Seeking God is the beginning of Revival
From one man He has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live. He did this so they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. For in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring. — Acts 17:26-28
God created each and every one of us. From Adam and down to the newest baby just conceived. He has determined everything about us – from the moment in time and history that we live, where we live, to whom we are born, our nationality, our personality, and our individuality. He gifted us with exactly what we need to fulfill the purpose for which He created us. Why? So that we might seek Him and just maybe reach out and find our Creator.
Why am I here?
Just about every single person at some point in their life will ask “Why am I here? What’s my purpose?” We all seek that because in seeking the answer, it draws us to our creator who knows the answer. However, if we seek the answer through career, status, partying, drugs, or sex, the question goes unanswered and we become miserable people. We only find the answer to our purpose and being in God. Paul said we live, move, and exist because God willed it to be so. Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.“
In Jeremiah 29:11, we find that God has plans for us – good plans. Ecclesiastes 12:13 says, “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” Jesus said in John 15:16, “I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit.” In other words, we have been called by God to tell others about God and lead people to Him. Isaiah 43:7 says, “Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” — That’s why we were created — for God’s glory.
The time of worshiping idols in ignorance is over – let’s seek Revival
“Therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, God now commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has set a day when He is going to judge the world in righteousness by the Man He has appointed. He has provided proof of this to everyone by raising Him from the dead.” –Acts 17:30-31
If you have been worshiping an idol and unaware of doing so, the time of ignorance is over. The Holy Spirit may be speaking to you right now to repent and return or make God the God you worship with all your heart, mind and soul. If you’ve felt lately that you life is out of balance, that something is off, or that God feels far away, then its time to seek Him with a repentant heart.
A Set day of Judgement
God has established and set a day when He is going to judge the world. His measure of doing so will be according to the righteousness by the Man He has appointed – Jesus – God’s only Son who lived a sinless life and died in our place to pay the penalty and price for our sin. And then God added proof to whom Jesus is by raising Him from the dead. 1 Corinthians 6:9 says, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?” On God’s set day of judgement will God find you righteous or unrighteous?
Depart from iniquity
2 Timothy 2:19 tells us, “But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” If you’ve discovered idols in your life, God gave as part of what we call the Ten Commandment, this command in Exodus 20:3, “You shall have no other gods before me.” If you’ve discovered an idol, then you have a ‘god’ that you have placed before God and you have iniquity or sin.
God calls all people everywhere to repent
There are many memes going around about 2020 and all that is taking place in our world today. Idolatry was one the biggest reason that God judged Israel and Judah and America is just as guilty. Perhaps the biggest idol America is guilty of is the idol of “I.” We live life according to how each one of us wants to without regards to what God says. We’ve kicked God’s laws to the curb and instill our own so that we can live without guilt. But God’s laws still stand no matter how we attempt to rewrite them and when God’s day of judgement comes, it will be by His laws, not ours.
God is calling America to repent, but our hearts have become as hardened as Israel and Judah. How bad do things have to get before God’s people humble themselves, pray, seek God’s face, and repent? If we are to see a revival in America – if we want to see God heal our land – then we must remove idols and seek God with all our heart and soul as we humbly come to Him in repentance.
Today’s Revival prayer:
Father, give us a hunger and thirst for righteousness that causes us to seek after you with all our hearts, minds, and soul. May we say, with David, “As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs for you.” God, reveal and convicts us of any idols we have created in our lives. Help us to see the lie of the idol and exchange it for Your truth. God, today, your people stand before You, choosing to throw down our idol and bow before you in worship and praise of our Holy and loving Creator.
In the name of Jesus, Amen.
“The coming revival must begin with a great prayer revival. It is in the closet, with the door shut, that the sound of abundant revival will be first heard. An increase in the secret prayer of ministers and members will be the sure herald of blessing.”Andrew Murray
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