One who worships idols.
One who blindly or excessively admires or adores another.
There are no atheists, just idolaters. Humans will worship something; the imprint for worship is stamped on every heart. For atheists, they have no one to worship but themselves, excessively admiring and adoring themselves. This is not a new idea. Paul talked about it in the book of Acts, chapter 17.
The Athenians were using all of these philosophies and religions as much to hide from God as to find Him. They were looking for reasons to be an intellectually and spiritually fulfilled rebel. But Paul is still tender…
“Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you,” says Paul.
Acts 17:24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27 God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.
There’s this inner void in our hearts. We grope for things to fill it. It’s not the wanting and the reaching however that’s wrong. God has been ripped from our hearts. A glitch is wired into the system of every heart. We are born not just rebels, but rebels who are reaching out for something. So the groping, reaching, and grasping – these are not the problem: it’s what we grope, reach, and grasp for instead of God that is the problem. Reaching for true purpose, peace, and joy is what you should be doing. We mustn’t be ashamed of the reaching.
The Bible teaches us that God is a hidden God. But He has given you clues you can follow, pieces of the puzzle. If we had no clues or pieces, we would never find God. But God has given us just enough evidence so that those who want Him can have him. Those who want to follow the clues will find Him. Reach out to Him.
Some question: if there is a God, why does he allow people to live in open defiance of Him? The answer: Love and mercy. He made us. We belong to Him. But He will not make us love Him back. He asks us to repent – to change our mind about who is God. For those who refuse to change their mind, He will eventually give the rebellious what they want – total separation from Him. It’s a form of judgment – giving them what they want; it’s called hell in the Bible.
Says Paul Acts 17:31: For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.” 32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” 33 At that, Paul left the Council. 34 A few men became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others (NIV).
Among the many things that could be said about what Dr. Luke, the author of this book records here, it certainly underscores the fact that we are rebels without a cause. In fact, we will even make a shrine to an “unknown god” rather than bow to the God who has so graciously created us, loved us, redeemed us, and who restores us. We are rebels without a cause and this is expressed in the form of idolatry.
Paul makes a similar point in a letter he wrote to people who lived in Rome. The letter is called Romans, but it reads like a book on theology. Listen to his words:
Romans 1:20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
God has revealed Himself in what He has made. If you never hear a sermon or read the Bible, you can still discover a lot about God by looking at what He has made – clues that lead you to Him. Look at the clues long enough and they begin to look back at you in the form of a God who made you and your world. Look closely at your world and God will whisper to you what He’s like. Mountains, lakes, oceans, clouds, wind, rain, people, and sunshine’s warmth strike a deep chord, “Yes, there is a God.”
21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
The ancients knew God but they suppressed it by their wickedness and rebellion.
22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
How could we do this? Paul does not preach against atheism; he’s preaches against idolatry. The implication is that everyone will worship some kind of deity. If you refuse that point, you yourself are your own deity. To say that you are an atheist (one who does not believe in God) does not mean that you believe in nothing; it means you are liable to believe in anything – anything can and will become your god. We’ll fall in love with animals and nature because we have fallen out of love with God. We will even fall in love with ourselves.
24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.
In my opinion, the greatest tragedy of all is to surrender ourselves so totally to our gods, that God eventually gives us up to it. It becomes our lord and master. It consumes us. We wind up used, wasted and discarded by the very thing that has charmed us.
25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
If we deny our rebellion, self-deceit sets in. I rule over my own life. No one will tell me how to live my life. But still we are hardwired for worship. So even in our rebellious state, we reach out to worship and bond with something.
Among the many things that could be said about what Paul wrote, it once again underscores the fact that we are rebels without a cause. In fact, we will go to such extremes that we will worship just about anything, so long as it’s not the one true God. We are rebels without a cause. We are not just imperfect people who need growth, but we are rebels who need to lay down our arms, idolaters who need to tear down our shrines.
These words from the Bible reveal that our fallen hearts are self-asserting, God-defying, and self-deifying. Self-worship is the religion of our time. We are a rebel race. We have bought into the notion that the serpent suggested to Eve, “God is holding out on you.” Take control of your own life. Arrange for the life you want. If God is holding out on you, then you hold out on God. And whatever you do, keep God out of your life.
There are no atheists – just idolaters.