For the truth about God is known to them instinctively. God has put this knowledge in their hearts. From the time the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky and all that God made. They can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. … Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. The result was that their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they became utter fools instead. And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols … (Romans 1:19-23 NLT)
“Wow! Thank you Lord.” My friend Jamie kept saying, as we sat outside under a full moon looking at the sky and listening to the thundering waves of the ocean.
We took a couple of days off this past week and stayed at Virginia Beach with the Winships. Robin and I have been friends with Jamie and Donna since our college days. It’s great to get away and refresh friendships and recharge our batteries. There’s something special about being at the beach and enjoying time with old friends. Through the years, getting our families together at the beach has become a kind of Combs/Winship tradition.
But it’s easy to get so caught up in the enjoyment of creation and the pleasure of human friendship that we forget to worship the Creator from whom these gifts come. That’s why it was good to sit with a friend and proclaim together our thanks for the God of creation.
All too often I have lowered my eyes and my affection from the Creator to his creation. I go to the beach and I enjoy it so much that I want a house there. I drive to a lake in the mountains and I dream of owning a cabin there. I grasp for and try to keep those beautiful, awe-filled moments in my hands to assure my future enjoyment of them. I don’t want to let go of the beauty of those moments.
Perhaps that’s what motivated the apostle Peter to want to build a temple on the mountain when he saw the glorified Christ transfigured. It’s the human response. We want to keep what we just experienced. We want to build a monument, a temple to it. Then, we think to ourselves, we can visit it anytime we like and experience that same feeling again. In a way, Peter was saying, “Let’s just build houses up here and live on this mountain.”
But God doesn’t want us worshiping the mountains, or the beach or the stars… He wants us to worship him.
Is it because he is jealous of our worship? Yes. He is jealous because it belongs to him like the love of a wife belongs exclusively to her husband.
But I don’t think that’s the only reason he wants our total and exclusive worship. I think he wants us to worship him because he knows that’s how he made us. We were made to worship him. When we put something else in the place where God is supposed to be, it’s like trying to run a car on water. Sure, it’s a liquid and it fills the space, but it doesn’t make the engine run. And make no mistake, we were made to run on our worship of him.
The apostle Paul explains our need for worshiping the true Creator in his letter to the Romans. He says that when we lower our worship from the Creator to his creation, it results in our minds being “dark and confused.” He goes on to describe a state of mind that causes us to go about putting everything we can find into that place, but finding nothing to fill it. So, we settle for idols — mere man-made images of God. The result is that we become fallen creatures that no longer glorify God in this world by being the Imago Dei, the image of God, that he made us to be.
I think it was the French philosopher Pascal who said, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the soul of every man that can only be filled by the person of Jesus Christ.”
When we put anything, no matter how good, in the “God-shaped” space within us our worship is fallen and so are we. It keeps us from living out the God designed purpose of our lives. It keeps us from living out the “full and abundant life” that Christ came to give. Having the awareness that only God fulfills, pulls our worship off the creation and onto him and causes us to be what he wants – one who reflects the image of his Son.
“Yes, thanks Lord!” I agreed with Jamie as I sat back and drank another sip of warm coffee.