Volume 11, No. 1 (January 2016)
As has often been pointed out, the problem is NOT that there are people in this world who do not worship. Rather it is that so many worship the wrong thing. Everybody worships something.
As Max Lucado has observed:
You don’t need what Dorothy found. Remember her discovery in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz? She and her trio followed the yellow-brick road only to discover that the wizard was a wimp! Nothing but smoke and mirrors and tin-drum thunder. Is that the kind of god you need?
You don’t need to carry the burden of a lesser god . . . a god on a shelf, a god in a box, or a god in a bottle.
No, you need a God who can place 100 billion stars in our galaxy and 100 billion galaxies in the universe. (Max Lucado, Traveling Light, 21)
That’s a God worth worshiping. John Piper has written:
The great hindrance to worship is not that we are a pleasure-seeking people, but that we are willing to settle for such pitiful pleasures. (John Piper, Desiring God, 98)
In fact, Piper points out, sin is seeking satisfaction in anything short of the eternal satisfaction God offers us in Jesus Christ:
In Your presence there is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)
As one businessman lamented, “I spent my life climbing the ladder of success, only to find out too late that it was leaning against the wrong wall.”
In his book Desiring the Kingdom, James A. K. Smith fancifully imagines a Martian anthropologist coming to earth to study human institutions and behavior. He investigates a “place of worship” with a huge parking lot, vaulted ceilings, and attractive displays that offer various competing visions of what constitutes “the good life” and claim to meet one’s inner longings. It soon becomes apparent that the anthropologist has come across a shopping mall.
Even believers are tempted to focus their affections on other supposed sources of satisfaction:
“My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” (Jeremiah 2:11-13)
The most important question facing every man, woman and child on earth: WHOM are you going to worship? Who is going to be on the throne of your heart?
Satan and the Fall
Isaiah 14 speaks of Lucifer, the created angel who rebelled against God and became Satan. In that chapter we read of the root of Lucifer’s rebellion:
“I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I WILL MAKE MYSELF LIKE THE MOST HIGH.” (Isaiah 14:14)
Instead of taking his appropriate place in the created order in submission to God the Creator, Lucifer wanted to be like God: an impossibility, because God as the Creator is absolutely and infinitely unique; there is and can be no one like Him; He has brought all other beings into existence.
When Satan, in the guise of the serpent, tempts Eve in the Garden of Eden, we see that the basis of that temptation is this same corrupt claim:
“For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and YOU WILL BE LIKE GOD, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5)
Satan’s lie (which he himself believes) is that a created being can usurp the position of Almighty God and take a place at least in parallel to Him.
And so Paul in Romans 1 tells us of Adam and Eve that
although they knew God, they DID NOT HONOR HIM AS GOD or give thanks to Him . . . and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images . . . they exchanged the truth about God for a lie . . . and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator. (Romans 1:21,23,25
In denying the foundational understanding that underlies true worship (the unique glory of god the Creator), Adam and Eve did not “honor Him as God” and inevitably turned to false worship.
So we see that the first people answered wrongly that fundamental question, “Whom are you going to worship?” and led the entire human race down that road of rebellion against their Maker.
And so God worked in human history to bring His Son into the world. At the beginning of His ministry, Satan appears again to pose the same question to Jesus:
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”
Then Jesus said to Him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.’” (Matthew 4:8-10)
The fundamental question, “Whom are you going to worship,” which Adam and Eve answered so wrongly, Jesus answers rightly: “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and HIM ONLY shall you serve.’” And He then has enabled us through His atoning work to answer that question rightly as well.
Believers in Christ
A. W. Tozer wrote:
Why did Christ come? Why was He conceived? Why was He born? Why was He crucified? Why did He rise again? Why is He now at the right hand of the Father?
The answer to all these questions is, ‘in order that He might make worshipers out of rebels; in order that He might restore us again to the place of worship we knew when we were first created.’ (A. W. Tozer)
Christ has enabled us to become true worshipers, and to reverse the effects of Adam and Eve’s decision that we saw in Romans 1, so that in Christ we can now
honor God as God and give thanks
exchange images for the glory of the immortal God
exchange Satan’s lie (“you can be like God”) for the truth of God (His unique glory)
worship and serve the Creator rather than the creature
THE TRAJECTORY OF BIBLICAL AND HUMAN HISTORY
“Whom will you worship?” is the most important question in the world.
In Revelation 22 we read that the apostle John, in amazement at the brilliant angel who had been showing him the tremendous visions of which he wrote,
fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed me these things. But he said to me, “Do not do that! I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book. WORSHIP GOD.” (Revelation 22:8-9; cf. 19:10)
And so, in the very last book of the Bible, the angel summarizes with two words what is in fact the message of the entire Bible (as we have seen), from beginning to end, and our message to the nations: