I want to read a text of Scripture in the seventeenth chapter of Acts, so open your Bible, if you will, to Acts again, chapter 17. In verse 16, the apostle Paul has arrived on his second missionary journey in the great city of Athens. That’s where we’ll pick up the account, Acts 17 and verse 16.
“Now, while Paul was waiting for them” - that is, Silas and Timothy who were going to join him there - while he was waiting for them - “at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols. So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be present and also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him. Some were saying, ‘What would this idle babbler wish to say?’ Others, ‘He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities,’ because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection.
“And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, ‘May we know what this new teaching is which you’re proclaiming? For you are bringing some strange things to our ears; so we want to know what these things mean.’ Now, all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.
“So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, ‘Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription: “To an unknown god.” Therefore, what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. 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, 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.
“‘And He made from one, every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, and they would seek God if perhaps they might grope for Him 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 also are His children. 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.
“‘Therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to all men that all people everywhere should repent 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.’ Now, when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, ‘We shall hear you again concerning this.’ So Paul went out of their midst. But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius, the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris and others with them.”
Paul, in the city of Athens, confronts the reality of the unknown God - the unknown God. He says, “You worship but you worship in ignorance. With all the gods that you have here, you have nothing but idols, you have nothing but false gods. The one true God is unknown to you. All your worship, then, is misdirected, all your worship is an expression of ignorance, all your worship is, then, pointless and purposeless and accomplishes absolutely nothing spiritually because you don’t know the true God.” They are in the dark about the true God.
As I was thinking about this passage, it struck me that we live in a nation that could equally be defined in this way, full of notions about God, but the true God is unknown. We have popular theologies in America, in the Western world. We have popular gods who are, sadly to say, quite different from the true God. Though people in our nation talk about God and though as a nation we affirm the existence of God, we’re supposed to trust in Him, we place ourselves under Him in the flag salute and on our coins, we affirm His existence, but He is largely unknown to us, we worship an unknown God.
In fact, like the Greeks, we have placed an idol in the place of the true God, and we ignorantly worship him. I suppose the question can be asked, “Has God created man and revealed Himself or has man created God and revealed himself?” I think the latter would be pretty much true of the popular God of our country and even of the so-called church. God has become a kind of projection of our own minds, of our own will, of our own tolerances. We have designed a God that is comfortable for us. We have violated Psalm 50:21, which says, “You thought that I was altogether like you?” Well, indeed that’s the case.
There are all kinds of misconceptions about God. There is the misconception that God is not to be honored in everything. Oh, He is to be honored in some things, but not in everything. He has no place in the public square. He shouldn’t be prayed to in the schools. His Word should not be read in any public place. His name should be removed from any government facility. We shouldn’t have any kind of national acknowledgment of God, such as a day of prayer or a prayer meeting or any other event led by a Christian who affirms the God of Scripture because that’s a violation of separation that is germane to what it means to be an American.
But on the other hand, we believe in a God, we just believe in a God who is to be honored only slightly and only occasionally and only when kept within certain limits. This God is not a God who is deserving of supreme honor. This is not a God who is deserving of all honor. This God lacks what is necessary for such honor. He also lacks power. We’re comfortable with a God who doesn’t wield absolute power. We want a God who has some limited power, and that’s the God that is popular today, not only in our nation but in the church.
He has good ideas, and we’re glad for that. He has noble intentions, but He struggles to see them realized. There are things He would like to do, but He can’t quite pull them off. And Satan - oh, my, Satan prevents the accomplishment of so much that God wants to do. God wants to bring goodness into the world and happiness and joy and everything to be the way everybody would like it to be, but Satan thwarts all these divine purposes of God and brings troubles and war and conflict and disaster and crime and destruction. Satan is busily thwarting the desires of God and so are people. Poor God, He just doesn’t have the power to really pull off what He would like.
And the popular God is also lacking in knowledge. He has definite desires for His kingdom. He has definite purposes that He would like to accomplish. But He’s really limited in the ability to accomplish them because He is subject to the same problem that we have, and it is this: He doesn’t know what’s going to happen. This is a new view of God called the openness of God, that God does not know the future. That’s how you eliminate Him being responsible for it, by saying He doesn’t know what it’s going to be.
God doesn’t know anything that hasn’t happened because it hasn’t happened, it can’t be known, and God is just like we are, He doesn’t know what’s going to happen until it actually happen, and that makes it really hard to plan. So God has all these great intentions, all these great objectives, all these great purposes but is severely limited because He can’t know the future, doesn’t have knowledge of events that haven’t come to pass yet, and so He can only coordinate these things after they happen. It’s kind of a mop-up operation.
He has no more control of the future than you do or I do, and He’s always reacting just the way we react. The future is not known to Him and, therefore, the future is not planned by Him. In fact, the future is known to nobody, and it is only planned as it unfolds by the millions of contingent actions of the multiple millions of people who act. So God is not the one worthy of supreme honor. He is not the one who is supremely and absolutely powerful. He is not the one who has all knowledge of all things past, all things present, and all things future and how they all fit together. We can’t let Him be that kind of God because then He would be responsible for what happens.
He’s also lacking in wisdom. What we hear is that He loves everybody unconditionally, wants everybody to be saved, but couldn’t figure out a plan to make that happen. He wants everybody even to be healed. And, frankly, if he wanted everybody to be healed, it wasn’t very wise to make that healing dependent upon the faith of the people. If he really wanted everybody to be healed, why didn’t he just heal everybody? Seems like an unwise plan, if that’s what you really want.
He also wants everybody to be wealthy. He wants everybody to be healthy and he wants everybody to be successful and prosperous, but he really devised a rather inept plan to get that done because he made it dependent upon us. It’s a poor plan, which reflects a lack of wisdom. And the popular God lacks in holiness. He really does not believe that the wages of sin is eternal death and punishment an everlasting hell. He loves everybody unconditionally, He treats everybody with unconditional pity, and He would never send good people to hell.
So His sense of justice is limited. His sense of righteousness is limited and, therefore, His holiness is limited. He’s also lacking in authority. He’s not really sovereign over all people, all creation, all events, and all experiences. He would like to be, and guess what - He claims to be in the Bible, but it’s really just an empty boast. Yeah, when He says that He’s in control of everything, all His purposes will stand and nobody can thwart them, that’s just an empty boast on His part. He really is not in control.
Whatever authority He does have, whatever prerogatives He does exercise, whatever choices He does make, whatever rights He does possess are, in the end, subordinated to the authority and the rights and the choices and the prerogatives of people. And, by the way, if He does have anything good to offer to his creatures, He must offer it equally to all - that’s only fair. And to be really fair, He has to offer it equally to everybody, and the final decision has to be up to each individual - that’s fair.
So man exercises the final authority. God has less freedom than man because God can’t choose. He can only offer; man chooses. Is that the God of the Bible who is perfect in power, perfect in glory, perfect in knowledge, perfect in wisdom, perfect in holiness, exercising perfect authority? No. The God that I’ve described to you is an idol. The God that I described to you is a false god. The God that I described to you is an object of blasphemy, exists not only in the thinking of people outside the church but in the thinking of people inside the so-called church who have made an idol, they have created a God who doesn’t exist.
I can illustrate this many ways but one that is on my mind and tending to dominate my thoughts is this idea that the God that we’re comfortable with is not really unique. He lacks uniqueness. He’s really not that different than we are. In fact, the truth of the matter is He’s pretty much shared his own nature with us. We’re all sort of “little Gods,” we all have a piece of the divine nature. Now, you’ve heard that. That’s pantheism, right? That God is in everything and in everyone. That has found its way into quote/unquote evangelical Christianity.
I’ll show you how. Some - a couple of years ago, there was a book written by Rhonda Byrne called The Secret - please don’t raise your hand if you read it. The Secret - I’ll let you off the hook. The Secret. It sold in the millions. At one point, it was selling at a hundred and fifty thousand copies a week. It is a pagan book based on a pantheistic view of the universe, that all things are one with God, all things are God, we are God, everything is God. In fact, in the book, it says we are light, we are the “I am,” we are truth, we are God. God is in us. We possess part of God in us, divine power.
This sounds like Deepak Chopra, whom I engaged a few times on the Larry King program, who believed he was God, he was part of God. I was trying to convince him that even though he hated everything I stood for, if that was true, then I was a part of God also. He wouldn’t buy that. Somehow I didn’t fit into his pantheism, I’m not sure how that works, but at least one person was left out of the pantheistic perspective.
But in the light of Isaiah 42:8, which says, “I am the Lord, that is my name;” - I am the Lord, that is my name - “I will not give my glory to another.” God does not share His person with anyone. We are human. We are not divine. We do not possess divine attributes. Even when God takes up residence in our hearts as believers, it is the living God within us - it is not us. We have no divine power. We do not share, by being human beings, in the divine nature.
Well, that’s what The Secret said. If you can get in touch with the divine power within you, you can create your world - you have creative power. Now, the Bible says that everything that was made was made by God and without Him was not anything made that was made. That He is the one who creates everything, sustains everything, controls everything, consummates everything, and that power belongs only to Him. But pagan pantheism says we all share that power, God is not really unique. It is a book that essentially says you have divine power within you; you’re part of the divine energy.
In other words, you can create your life the way you want your life to be. You can create your world the way you want your world to be. In the book, there is something called the law of attraction - the law of attraction. You attract a certain kind of reality to yourself. Your thoughts and your words attract this reality - literally create this reality. The sequence goes like this: Know what you want; (2) Believe you will get it; (3) Visualize the fulfillment of it; and (4) Speak it out loud and you will bring it into existence.
You want money, then know you want it, believe you will get it, visualize the getting of it (in other words, go through the emotions you would feel if you had it) and then speak it and it will happen. The book says it works every time with every person, just place your order and it’s yours. That you have enough divine power - you have enough of God in you - to create your world. Your life is the reality that you create by attracting it. Your thoughts and words, then, have this divine creative power. What you think, what you believe, what you visualize, and what you speak becomes the reality that you live.
And if you like the way your life is, then keep speaking the same thing, thinking the same thing, visualizing the same thing, believing the same thing. But if you don’t like the way your life is, change what you want, believe you’ll get it, visualize the receiving of it, and speak it out loud. You will cause the universe literally to rearrange itself to make it happen for you by the law of attraction. Start feeling what you would feel when your reality arrives and speak it. You have the power. Quote, “You have the energy of the universe to create your world. You are the designer of your destiny.”
Wow. The outcome is what you choose. The roots of this nonsense are in bizarre people like an 1860 writer by the name of Phineas Quimby. It’s been passed down. It’s a form of deception, illusion, and kind of pantheistic sharing of the divine nature, which is a pagan concept.
So faith is a powerful personal force that enables you to express supernatural energy that overcomes all restriction and creates the world that you want. First thing is decide what you want. And by the way, I’ve checked out the list, and I didn’t find these things on the want list: humility, brokenness, repentance, holiness, purity of heart, worship, sacrifice, unselfishness, sacrificial love - mm, not so much. What’s on the list? Health, wealth, prosperity, success, all temporal material things - none of that that we heard Jubilant singing about.
Now, if all of that sounds familiar to you, but you say, “I didn’t read The Secret, but that sounds so familiar.” You have been watching TBN, what you’ve been doing. You have been exposed to this lie, this deception, this pagan pantheistic perspective that has been turned into a spiritual Ponzi scheme, making the people at the top of the food chain rich, preying on the desires, the material worldly desires, of the people who want all this stuff. Comes under the name the Word Faith movement, prosperity gospel, name-it-and-claim-it.
It’s being advocated by people like Benny Hinn, Marilyn Hickey, Fredrick Price, Joyce Meyer, Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagin, Robert Tilton, a man named Coontz, Oral Roberts, Paul Crouch, on and on and on. It’s what they say. They all claim the same thing. As a Christian, you have the personal power to recreate life’s reality into exactly what you want it to be. And they do it in the name of Jesus. All this in the name of Jesus. It is a lie, it is a blasphemous lie, it is a lie that preys on the weak and the desperate and preys on the people who have nothing but fallen, corrupt, unregenerate, normal human desires.
Oh, it works. It makes the predators rich because everybody sends them the money, that’s how you trigger it, that’s how you prove your faith. And everybody else is disappointed. A few weeks ago, there was an event here at Dodger Stadium with Joel Osteen, thirty-five thousand people at Dodger Stadium, something like that. He is now the largest quote/unquote church - I’m using the word loosely - in America down in Houston. You need to understand that he is a pagan religionist in every sense. He’s a quasi-pantheist. Jesus is a footnote that satisfies his critics and deceives his followers.
The idea of his whole thing is that men have the power in themselves to change their lives. In his definitive book, Your Best Life Now, he says - and that ought to be a dead giveaway since the only way this could be your best life is if you’re going to hell - he says that anyone can create by faith and words the dreams he desires. Health, wealth, happiness, success - the list is always the same. Here are some quotes from his book, Your Best Life Now. “If you develop an image of success, health, abundance, joy, peace, happiness, nothing on earth will be able to hold those things from you,” end quote. See, that’s the law of attraction that’s a part of this kind of system.
Here’s another quote. “All of us are born for earthly greatness. You were born to win.” Win what? “God wants you to live in abundance. You were born to be a champion. He wants to give you the desires of your heart. Before we were formed, He prepared us to live abundant lives, to be happy, healthy and whole. But when our thinking becomes contaminated, it’s no longer in line with God’s Word,” end quote. By the way, God’s Word is not the Bible, God’s Word is that word that comes to us mystically, spiritually, that tells us what we should want.
Here’s another quote. “Get your thinking positive and He will bring your desires to pass. He regards you as a strong, courageous, successful person. You’re on your way to a new level of glory.” Hmph. How do you get there? “Believe,” - he says - visualize, and speak out loud.” Same exact approach. Words release your power. Words give life to your dreams. Here’s another quote. “Friend, there’s a miracle in your mouth.” I think Isaiah might object to that. He said, “I’m a man of unclean lips and I dwell amidst a people of unclean lips.”
Here’s Joel Osteen’s prayer. “I thank you, Father, that I have your favor.” Wow. Did he meet the Pharisee in Luke 18 or what? “I thank you that I’m not like other people.” Here’s another quote. “I know these principles are true because they work for me and my wife.” Oh, so that’s the test of truth. Are you kidding? I know these things are true because they work for me and my wife? Sure, you’re at the top of the Ponzi scheme. And then he said, “Even finding a perfect parking spot at the mall.” And I ask, “What about the little old lady you cut off to get into that parking - what about her dreams?” Maybe she was born to lose. I mean, it’s so silly, so bizarre.
He says, “God has already done everything He’s going to do, the ball’s in your court. You have to take that part of God which exists in you and create your own reality.” What is the source of this? Where does this come from? Answer: Satan. This is satanic - this is satanic. This is not just off-centered, this is satanic. Why do I say that? Because health, wealth, prosperity, the fulfillment of all your dreams and your desires, that’s what Satan always offers. That’s called temptation, based on the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. That’s exactly what corrupt, fallen, unregenerate people want.
That’s why it works so well, right? You can go right into Satan’s system, make everybody feel religious, and turn their desires, their temptations, into somehow honorable desires. I mean what did Satan say to Jesus? “Grab some satisfaction. Why are you hungry? You need to eat. You need to be healthy, whole. Why would you let yourself be unpopular? Dive off the temple corner - hoo, everybody’ll be wowed. You’ll be the winner, you’ll be the champion. You’ll be the Messiah. They’ll hail you. And by the way, if you just look over the kingdoms of the world, I’ll give those to you, too.”
That’s satanic. It’s the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life, 1 John 2:15 to 17. It’s all a part of the world and it’s all passing away. And why are these false teachers so successful at what they do? Because they’re in cahoots with the devil. Why is Satan successful? Because his temptations, although they might appear noble on the outside, are in perfect accord with all the fallen, corrupt, selfish, proud, evil desires of sinners. This is a false kind of Christianity and a false view of God.
God is the one who reserves the right to make you well (“Have not I made the blind and the lame and the halt? He says) or to allow you to be sick? God has the right to make you prosperous or to give you little. God reserves the right to control the circumstances and events and experiences of your life for His own ends and His own purpose.
False religion is the most heinous of all sins because it’s a violation of the great commandment, “Love the Lord your God, the true One, with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength,” and false religion that borrows His name but creates a false God and borrows the name of Christ but creates a false Christ is the worst kind of blasphemy.
And by the way, I’ve said these things in a letter to the people at TBN because I know that they would hear this, and I put it in a letter. They weren’t too happy about it. But I need to say that. Do you understand this is a burden for me? And I think preachers like this who preach this stuff hate the true God. I really believe that. I believe they hate the true God and they’re afraid to death that somebody might find out who He really is, that He’s a God of absolute sovereignty, that He’s a God of absolute knowledge, He is a God of perfect wisdom, He is a God of perfect holiness, He is in perfect control of everything - absolutely sovereign over everything.
That kind of God terrifies these kinds of people. And He is a God who is concerned about fulfilling things in a spiritual level whether you ever receive anything on a temporal level. I think they have hatred for the true God. They hide the true God from the eyes of their followers and they put in His place an idol of their own making with the same God.
Do you remember in Exodus when they made the golden calf? Did you know that when the Israelites made the golden calf, that was their representation of Jehovah? That was their representation of Jehovah. We have it again today. We have even in the church the unknown God invented by man and worshiped. The comfortable God, the God who can’t be responsible for everything, the God who can’t be absolutely just, absolutely sovereign.
The God who is to be honored in everything, the God who is the very source of our existence in whom we live and move and have our being, the God who sets the boundaries of all nations; therefore, the God who is, believe me, in control of every nation’s history and every nation’s place in history. We don’t like that God. And even preachers use the name of God and the name of Christ to propagate blasphemously a false God.
There’s nothing that has a greater effect on your life than your view of God. Okay? You live your view of God. It affects everything you do - everything I do. In John 17 - we love to go back to the marvelous high priestly prayer of our Savior and kind of camp on the fact that He prayed that we would be one, pray for unity, which He did pray, but that was a spiritual unity, not a superficial kind of unity. But what is the first thing that comes out of the lips of Jesus? The first request?
John 17, as He speaks to the Father, it’s in verse 3, “This is eternal life” - this is eternal life, this is what He prays. You want eternal life? Here’s how - “that they may know you the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you’ve sent.” What is the prayer of Christ? For a true knowledge of the true God. Do you know that God? Do you understand the fullness of His nature? That’s why we’re going to do this series. That’s our Lord’s prayer, “that they may know you.”
And isn’t it wonderful that He has revealed Himself on the pages of Scripture? That’s why the Bible is called (in Psalm 19) the testimony of the Lord. It is the Lord’s personal self-disclosure. In Jeremiah, we are told that we have a right to boast. But if you’re going to boast, Jeremiah 9:23, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom. Let not a mighty man boast of his might. Let not a rich man boast of his riches.” Then verse 24 of Jeremiah 9, “But let him who boasts, boast of this, that he understands and knows me.”
Hmm. “That he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness on earth, for I delight in these things.” God delights in a true knowledge of Him. That’s why Jesus prayed, “that they may know you, the only true God.”
Hosea 6, verse 6, the prophet (speaking for God) says, “For I desired mercy and not sacrifice” - and listen - “and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” There was a place for sacrifice, there was a place for burnt offerings. But what God really wanted was that we would know Him - that we would know Him. Why? Because He seeks our worship, right? John 4, “The Father seeks true worshipers who worship Him in Spirit and in truth.”
He must be known to be truly worshiped. There’s nothing more important than this, folks. There’s nothing more important than knowing who God is, worshiping the true God, the one true God, the true and living God. We have one purpose in the world and that is to know God and to make our boast in the fact that we understand and know Him.
Well, let’s go back to Acts 17. This is on Paul’s heart. You’ll have to forgive me, folks. I know I’m talking about very specific things today, and some of you think maybe I’ve gone too far. Listen, I’ve suppressed this as long as I can and it is not easy. I have a hard time coping with the dishonoring of God in His name and in the name of Jesus Christ. And I do my best to keep a lid on it. It helps to be going through the exposition of Scripture because I have to stay in the text. But just give me a Sunday when I can do something else and this is liable to happen, as you know.
And I want you to know that I’m in good company - my hero, Paul. Verse 16, Acts 17, “Now, while Paul was waiting for them at Athens” - now, get the picture for just a minute. Second tour from the church in Antioch of Syria, missionary tour, he comes to Macedonia, he founds churches in Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, and everywhere he went, he planted a church, but he generated a lot of hostility and opposition and persecution, so he had to flee for his safety. Well, he finally has come to kind of be lost in the crowd at Athens.
He’s gotten away from the last stop, which was Berea, and the Bereans escorted him to Athens to give him some rest from the trauma that he was suffering in these towns where he had such a large exposure. He’s now just sitting in Athens and ,he’s waiting for Timothy and Silas to join him. But I understand. He’s waiting there, this is a time for rest, this is a time to recover from the arduous second missionary journey, all on foot, the threats (that he talks about in 2 Corinthians) of robbers and all these kinds of things that he endured, and hunger and thirst. Now he’s getting a little bit of a break and he’s resting in Athens.
However, he didn’t rest well. Verse 16, “His spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols.” His spirit was being provoked within him because he was observing the city full of idols - he didn’t find any real rest in this city.
Athens was a great city. If you were an architect, you’d be in architect heaven in ancient Athens. It’s even remarkable to see what’s left of it now. If you were an architect, you’d see the buildings. If you were a stone mason, you’d see how the bricks were laid. If you were a street cleaner, you’d see how clean the streets were. If you were a clothier, you’d be looking at the wardrobe of everybody. But if you’re a preacher of the gospel, all you can see is the spiritual realities. That’s how you view the world. That’s how I view the world. The rest escapes me, like it escaped Paul.
It’s very hard to take a tour. I can promise you, I’ve been in a lot of places in the world and have seen a lot of things in the world, but when I come away from all those things, what dominates my mind is nothing physical that I saw but it’s the overwhelming sense of the spiritual emptiness and the horrors of not knowing Christ and not knowing the gospel. Friday, I did a seminar in Amman, Jordan, by video. Saturday, I did a seminar in Beirut, Lebanon, by video. My only interest in Amman, Jordan, and Beirut, Lebanon, is to get the gospel of Jesus Christ into those places.
I have a passion that the Word of God would get everywhere in the world where it needs to be heard. Paul only viewed the world from the spiritual perspective. Remember what he says in writing to the Corinthians: “Since I’ve come to Christ, I know no man according to the flesh.” I don’t see people superficially anymore. There he is in the great city. He doesn’t say, “Wow, this is a very religious city. That’s good.” That’s not good. He was impressed that it was full of idols. Then he goes to the Areopagus, where the Supreme Court of Athens met, the very court where Socrates, by the way, was tried and condemned.
Now, four centuries later, the apostle Paul is there. And Athens offered a home to almost every imaginable god in the vast pantheon of paganism. Even if you go to Athens today, you see that massive temple up on the Acropolis. It was a temple to myriad gods. Nearly every public building in Athens was at the same time a shrine to a god. The recording house where documents were recorded was a temple to the mother of all gods. The council house where the council met was a temple to Apollo and Jupiter. The theater was consecrated to Bacchus, the god of orgies and drunkenness. In the Acropolis, as I said, was a collection of the sculptures of all the primary gods.
The importance of Athens could hardly be exaggerated. It was the city of Socrates, the city of Plato, the adopted city of Aristotle and Epicurus, who started Epicureanism, and Zeno, who started Stoicism. Sculptures were everywhere. Philosophies were everywhere - religious philosophies because all their philosophies were connected to gods. Athens was a breathtaking city, a blend of amazing architectural design, natural spectacle Greece, amazing mountains and sea, artistic genius, a vision of splendor in marble and gold. It was the epitome of human achievement, epitome of religion.
But all Paul could see was all the false gods. That’s all he could see. And his spirit was provoked within him, it says. His spirit was provoked. He was severely agitated. I understand that. Stirred up his emotions.
One of my favorite missionaries is Henry Martyn, who went to India, and he kept a journal - and it’s so beneficial to have some of these journals from these great men of the past - and after exiting an early visit to a Hindu Temple, he wrote this: “This excited more horror in me than I can well express. I was cut to the soul at this blasphemy. I couldn’t endure existence if Jesus was not glorified. It would be hell to me if He were to be always thus dishonored.” When asked why, he replied with these words: “If anyone pluck out your eyes, there’s no saying why there is pain, it’s feeling. It’s because I am one with Christ that I am thus dreadfully wounded.”
Do we understand that? And that was Paul and that was any man who looks at corrupt religion. Oh, they had a place for God, an unknown God whom they worshiped in ignorance. But Paul’s pain was over the fact that with all that religion, there was not a true understanding of the true God.
So he put an end to his little vacation. Verse 17, “He took off and began to minister everywhere he could, with Jews and Gentiles, and ended up on a mountain with the philosophers. His pain drove him into public discourse. His pain drove him to proclaim the truth and to tell people the identity of the unknown God, the only true and living God.
I understand that pain, I understand that drive because I think we live in a time, even in America, where there’s a whole lot of confusion about who God really is. And we have a God that has been made, developed, concocted. Satan’s happy with Him. If you want to worship that God who is not the true and living God, he’s okay with that. He’s very religious; he’s disguised as an angel of light, along with his messengers. But we cannot allow the God of human invention and the God of satanic partnership to be the God that we worship. You need to know more about God. You need to plumb the depths of the nature of God.
I found a quote from Spurgeon. He said, “Would you lose your sorrows? Would you drown your cares? Then go plunge yourself into the Godhead’s deepest sea and be lost in its immensity.” That’s what we want you to do. And I hope that I’ve been able to stimulate you as to the importance of this. You need to be a part of the solution and not be caught up in the false worship of the unknown God in our day.
Father, a lot ahead of us and we’re grateful for it. We’re so thankful, so grateful that you have loved us enough to make us your own. You’ve given us the knowledge of yourself by the work of your Holy Spirit. You’ve brought us to truth and life. You have made us your sons and daughters, adopted us into your family, made us joint heirs with Christ, where we will forever reign as citizens of heaven.
We want to proclaim the true God, we want to worship Him in truth. We want to rescue people from the idols that bear the name of the true God. How horrible that your name would be blasphemed by being given to an idol of man’s making and Satan’s commiseration.
And give us a clear understanding of who you are in all your glory as revealed on the pages of Scripture, and make the days ahead as we learn all these things, days of great enrichment and blessing for your glory - all of it for your glory and your honor because unto you are all things, for you are all things. All the glory belongs to you. Amen.
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