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Strange Ideas

Date Tuesday, 26th March 2024

Preached by Rob Eldridge

What do Athens and London have in common?

Don’t worry, this isn’t the start of a bad joke.

This term in our focus groups, we’ve been looking at Acts 17, in a series called Strange Ideas. Across these studies, so much was revealed to us about the dangers of ignorance and the joy of knowing God, and through this the urgency of the Athenians’ situation, and that of ours in London, was made clear.

London is full of idols. Impressive metal monoliths that elevate the skyline, statues honouring those who made the city what it is today, big brands in shop windows, lucrative careers, politicians, celebrities, the list goes on! It’s a lot to take in. I certainly find that, when left unchecked, I can get lost in it.

Comparing our 21st century climate to the city of Athens (circa 50AD) is the first step to realising the problem we face. They too would pride themselves on their architecture, built for their gods, the remains of which we can still see today. Acts 17:29 mentions the idols they worshipped, made of “gold or silver or stone”.  Paul walked around the city and saw their “objects of worship”.

It’s hard to deny the similarities between the two cities. Both are full of idols, and both are teeming with unfulfilling things to worship.

Seeing these parallels revealed as we studied the passage made me reflect on how my own heart gets so easily caught up in this culture of idolatry. I am constantly asking the world to fulfil me through objects and relationships and, just like the first century Greeks and other twenty-first century Londoners, I find myself searching for joy in things that won’t last.

Acknowledging these idols is tough, but Paul’s time in Athens not only reminds us of our reason for hope, but also of the urgent situation we find our world in and how we are called to action.

Looking at the idolatry of Athens, Paul was greatly distressed and saw that the people needed a saviour. He knew that upon Jesus’ return there would be judgement for those who didn’t repent, so instead of leaving them to figure something out on their own, he acted urgently with love and started talking to them about the gospel. He saw the dire situation they were in and knew that without God, they would be lost in sin forever, so he immediately took action. Paul’s example makes it clear that telling people about Jesus isn’t just a nicety, it’s a necessity.

But we find it hard. How can we be certain that this day is coming? It’s difficult to think about the coming judgement. We know that we’re sinful, and those around us are too, so we might shut off the idea.

To be certain of this coming day and need for urgency, however, we need only look at the resurrection. God sent Jesus so we could know Him personally, and the resurrection of Christ is the proof that we too will be raised to heaven when the day comes. We need to be, and can be, ready for that day by putting our faith in Him!

When we’re certain of the urgency of this message, telling those around us becomes easier. It’s still not a walk in the park – we don’t always know what reactions we’ll face – but for the joy of our friends and families and colleagues having a place in heaven, it’s a truth worth sharing.

So, we must remember and share that there is one God who deserves our worship and, wonderfully, He is the God who knows and loves you.