Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Worship, part 1

In the Christian community, "worship" has become a word synonymous with singing. It is typically relegated to that period that people sing about 3-5 songs before someone prays and the pastor comes up. Oh, and maybe you worship (sing) some more after the sermon, and then are dismissed and go home. The only problem with this is, well, the Bible.

In the Bible we don't find worship to be singing; we find worship to be something that is woven into the fabric of every human being. Instead of being something religious people do on Sundays, it is something every human being does. But, what is worship? Worship actually used to be spelled differently in the old days, and was called "worth-ship" (pronounce it with a lisp and you get the idea). Worship is giving something your utmost "worth" or value, your greatest amount of dedication. The object of worship is whatever you are centered on, whatever life ultimately depends on for you. And you know what? We were all created to worship God. And we'd all like to think that we worship God pretty well. The only problem with this is, well, the Bible.

The apostle Paul sums up humanity this way in Romans 1:22-25 - "Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen." You see, the opposite of worshiping God is not "not worshiping" but it is idolatry. Now idolatry is another word usually devoid of meaning these days because we think of people in foreign lands who make things out of wood or bronze, bow down to it or dance around it or paint silly things on their faces. The only problem with this is, well, the Bible (am I getting repetitive?).

In the book of Ezekiel, chapter 14, God talks to the prophet Ezekiel about how the people of Israel had "taken idols into their hearts". This is known as heart idolatry and is the most subtle and deadliest kind of idolatry. Heart idolatry happens when someone removes God from the rightful position of authority, influence, and honor in their life and puts something else there. This could be a relationship, the pursuit of more money, your children, sports, independence, nature, education, or any number of other things. Heart idolatry can be hard to spot, but here are three ways to be pretty sure something has become an idol in your heart:
  1. What is it in your life that, if you lost it or it left you somehow, you would be utterly ruined and life would lose much of its meaning and purpose?
  2. What do you spend most of your time thinking about, being concerned with or maybe worrying over?
  3. What is that one thing that you routinely make sacrifices for? (The main thrust behind "sacrifice" here has to do with money and time being spent on itinstead of other things)
Here's the deal: usually an idol is actually a good thing like family, children, careers, your house, possessions like cars, boats, and your hobbies like golf, soccer, and so on. But, it becomes an idol when it becomes the Ultimate Thing in your life. This is called making a good thing a "god thing". So how do we get rid of these things? How can we return to worshiping God as God and keep other things in their right place? Is this even possible? We'll look at this next time.

Soli Deo Gloria

If you want an interesting read on "heart idolatry", click here for a great article.

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