A World of Idols – Gospel in Life

A World of Idols

Tim Keller |  March 29, 1998

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  • Idolatry
Acts 17:16-34
RS 89-8


The gospel should change not just our inner being but also the way we relate to the outside world. Paul engaged with society every day. He was distressed, indignant and compassionate about the Athenians’ beliefs, but he kept his eyes on the cross to inform his words. He recognized their idols and raised up Jesus as the only true God.

Acts 17:16–21

The good news about Jesus can change not just us, but also how we see the world. Being a Christian is more than just feeling good about ourselves. It changes how we relate to everything – music, different cultures, our own selves, other people, our government, and even our work. To understand this, we need to look at how Paul reacted when he was in the city of Athens, because being a Christian affects every part of our lives.

1. Where Paul went

The marketplace in ancient Athens was more than just a place to buy and sell things. It was also where people went to worship, appreciate art, and have deep discussions. The Bible shows us that being a Christian should affect every part of our lives, including our work, relationships, and how we interact with culture. It uses the story of a man named Naaman to show us how finding the true God can change us. It also encourages us to openly express our faith and be responsible, creative, and wise when dealing with life’s challenges.

2. What Paul felt

It’s important for us to develop a heart that understands what God wants, instead of always looking for exact instructions in the Bible. When we communicate, we need to mix compassion with indignation, because not caring, not anger, is the real opposite of love. We should embrace the idea of the cross, which shows both God’s holiness and love. Being completely devoted to the good news about Jesus, not just moderately interested, is the answer to clumsy expressions of faith.

3. What Paul saw

When Paul was in Athens, he saw that people had lots of idols, not just statues but also things in their lives like art, business, and government. The good news tells us that everyone worships something, and that thing becomes their idol, causing all kinds of personal, social, and intellectual problems. The only way to be truly free from these idols is to find our worth and purpose in Jesus. This changes how we see things and what’s important to us, helping us understand and deal with life’s problems better.

4. What Paul did

Paul taught that being a Christian is about objective truth, especially the historical fact that Jesus was raised from the dead. He said that being a Christian is not just about having beliefs that make us feel good or change our lives, but about accepting the undeniable reality of Jesus. He emphasized having a personal, life-changing relationship with Jesus. According to Paul, the good news offers a unique way of seeing the world. It shows the difference between people who try to find salvation in worldly idols and those who surrender to Jesus, saying that only Jesus can truly satisfy us.



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