You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.  You shall not worship them or serve them….”                                                                          – Exodus 20:4-5a

There is a logic to the Scriptures.  Atheists and unbelievers of all kinds reject the logic because the implications are too repulsive to them.  If God is – and He is- then Man is accountable.  And his first responsibility is to bow down to God and worship Him.  Furthermore, Man always knows this, but denies it.  That is, in principle, the nature of sin.  

 Psalm 14 (and also Psalm 53) begins: “The fool [Hebrew- nabal– foolish intellectually and morally] has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’”.  The Hebrew text does not include “There is.”  John Gerstner, who taught reformed Church history in Pittsburgh seminaries, used to point out that it’s not that the atheist does not know there is a God: he just denies it.  If he admits it, he knows he is bound to worship/serve Him.  That is why Jesus said, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  

 It is of no small matter that when Jesus spoke with an adulterous woman, she brought up the matter of worship (John 4).  She tried to sidetrack Jesus into abstract talk about worship rather than discuss her promiscuous sex life.  So, she brought up the question of where they should worship.  Jesus brought her back to Whom we are to worship.  Before it was over, the Spirit revealed to her Who Jesus is, and she was converted.  

 Once one has accepted the fact that God is, the implication draws attention to how He is to be treated.  The answer is worship.  And that fact shows itself in all kinds of religious traditions.  Heathen people who have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ have had their idols of worship.  One simply cannot get around the obvious fact that Man, male and female, has known he did not make himself … or just evolve. Consequently, when missionaries have gone to heathen tribes, they find idols…someone’s imagination about God!   But they know He is.  

 So, Man has always known there is a God. But in his sinful ignorance he created his idols… which in many cases he can carry around.  When missionaries come and tell them about the true and living God, having already been acquainted with worship, they must learn Who He is.  When the Holy Spirit opens their heart to learn the gospel, they come to realize Who God is and how He is known in Jesus Christ.  But they already as created beings instinctively know they must worship.  Man knows.

 It is not my intent in this writing to deal with how to worship but rather Whom we are to worship.  I’ve just finished reading Not a Day Care: The Devastating Consequences of Abandoning Truth by Everett Piper, president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University. He reflects on the state of many modern-day students whose thinking has its focus on themselves and on what pleases them.  Obviously, the students he cites are caught up in their own emotions and really become unsettled when they encounter different viewpoints from their own.  A friend of mine used to say, “When the world is your backyard, a weed is a real problem.”  But the plot thickens when the institutions they attend bow down to their whims instead of challenging them to act like students in a university, ready to address conflicting viewpoints. Christianity builds on the truth that God is, that He is the Creator of all, eternal in His existence, and that He is worthy of Man’s worship.  In fact, according to the Bible, Man was created (yes, I said “created”) to serve His Creator.  Worship, therefore, is fundamental to Man’s existence.  Man does not exist to worship himself and his own whims. 

The great Creator cannot be reduced to an idol fashioned by hand or devised by human contemplation.  Don’t mess with His worship!  No doubt you have heard me say this before, but don’t be like the boy who gave his mother a baseball glove for Christmas!  Self-centered worship reeks in the presence of God.

 So how are the people God created intended to treat Him?  Since He is Who He is, the eternal Creator of all things – including us – we are to treat Him as He is.  And that means with reverence and holy fear.  But it also means more than that.  As fallen Man we not only have to overcome our own resistance to bow down, but we will not “reach” God as we are.  Sinners apart from grace look around for God like you look for a cop when you’ve run a red light in your car.  No, Man only comes to God when he is drawn to do so by the Holy Spirit.  And how does the Spirit do that?  He convicts us of our sin and woos us to Jesus Christ.  With faith in Christ and His atonement for our sins on the cross, a person can find acceptance with his Maker.  Jesus said, “No man comes to the Father but by Me” (John 14:6b).   That’s the way we worship the true God.

Ken G Smith

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