To An Unknown God: An Altar and An Invitation
Acts 17:16-21// Acts 17:22-34// Exodus 3:13-15
In Acts 17, Paul visited Athens and was quickly angered by the number of idols in the city. Instead of condemning the Athenians though, he realized there was an open door to minister to the people. They were very religious and devout to their gods, but they didn’t know the ONE true God--the one they labeled on an altar “To An Unknown God”.
As we study the text, it might seem easy to judge the Athenians for their lack of devotion to the true God. They lacked in their faith, because they couldn’t see God, nor had they experienced His life-changing love. But ask yourself, who is God to you?
This is the question Pastor Noah rhetorically posed, but the validity of it is profound. The God of the cosmos isn’t easily understood. As we go through life experiencing ups and downs, it’s almost second nature to ascribe God a specific characteristic that may not actually be Him. How many times have you labored before God for something only for Him to go completely silent? The emotion behind your feelings are real but don’t mistake God not answering your petitions as God not loving or caring for you.
“Many of us have been left stranded with an incoherent fuzzy concept of God, but while our understanding of the Santa Claus phenomenon evolved and matured, our understanding of God, didn’t.” - Karen Armstrong//The Case For God
Can you say you truly “get” God? It’s okay to be honest with yourself. The saying “God works in mysterious ways” seems valid. One day you might see Him move expeditiously in your life for a need or a desire, and other times, it seems like God is on vacation with no set return date.
Yet God is so much more than you know Him to be.
Pastor Noah described 4 boxes we often like to place God in throughout our lives:
1) The “Bubble” God: If I give my life to God, He will protect me from everything bad in my life. He’s my forcefield -God. This way of thinking is a facade. Jesus says in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world.” Despite the trials we may face, Jesus has already won the battle. Our hope should remain in Him because we are promised eternal life. That’s the goal!
2) The “On Demand” God: I’m expecting it NOW! This need for instant gratification can be an Achilles heel because, oftentimes, God doesn’t operate this way. We can’t want God on our own terms. Think about this: what if what you want you right now isn’t what you need right now? You don’t know, but God does.
3) The “Make Me Happy” God: Feelings are fickle, and God shouldn’t be relegated to a feeling or a sense. We want to feel God, but if you don’t, that doesn’t mean He isn’t there. We are often not cognizant of the things that are always present. Don’t confuse your perceived feeling of God’s lack of presence with Him not being present. God is always present.
4) The “Make Me Good” God: Change your perspective of God. Imagine a God that when you mess up, instead of condemnation, He receives you with unending love and kindness. That’s the God we serve. When we fall, He’s there with open arms ready to pick us up and direct our path.
Maybe it’s time we seek the Unknown God with childlike wonder and open expectations. When we try to define God, we lose out on who He truly could be to and for us. This week, may your purpose be to seek Him-- completely letting go of what we think we already know about who God is.
The Unknown God wants to be known in everything we do.