As Christians who ought to understand the role and importance of worship, most of us have limited our view and experience of worship to the singing of songs on Sunday morning. The New Testament Greek word most frequently translated as “worship” (proskuneo) means “to fall or bow down before”, but worship (as described in Christian scripture) is more than an occasional activity. It is an attitude of the heart. For this reason, each of us can (and ought to) possess an attitude of worship that transforms us at all times, even when we’re not in the presence of the Sunday worship team. This is why Paul encourages us to “present (our) bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is (our) spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1). Paul’s not talking about a weekly activity; he’s talking about an attitude toward all of life. As John Frame writes, “Redemption is the means; worship is the goal. In one sense, worship is the whole point of everything. It is the purpose of history, the goal of the whole Christian story. Worship is not one segment of the Christian life among others. Worship is the entire Christian life, seen as a priestly offering to God” (Worship in Spirit and Truth, page 11).
All of us engage in some form of worship, even if we reject the religious connotations of the word. The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes worship as an “extravagant respect or admiration for or devotion to an object of esteem.” All of us worship something, and we seem to agree on how objects of worship should be selected. As John Frame suggests, most of us worship the object or being that redeems us, that justifies our existence. In other words, we worship the object or being that saves us, attributes meaning to our lives, or defines our identity. Sometimes the object of our worship is a job, a hobby, or a person. It’s easy to allow activities or people to become the source of our justification. I’ve certainly allowed myself to find meaning, identity and purpose in my work. There were times when my profession defined me; I justified my existence through the work I did as an investigator. It turns out that whatever you think validates your existence, this is your God. This is the thing (or being) you’ve chosen to worship. Whatever you think “saves” you, gives your life meaning, or foundationally shapes your identity, this is your God.
When I was a non-believer, I rejected the Christian claims related to salvation. I thought, “Hey, even if there is a God, he certainly will judge me based on my personal effort. After all, I’m a good guy.” In other words, I trusted my own efforts; I was my own object of worship. Whatever saves or redeems you, this is your God. Many of my family members are Mormons. They too trust their own efforts to save them in a “works-based” theological system. They too, either willingly or unknowingly, have become their own objects of worship. Whatever saves or redeems you, this is your God. If you’re wondering what you’ve chosen to worship, it’s easy enough to find out. Take a look at your calendar and your bank account. Where do you spend your time and money? Who (or what) do you trust to give your life meaning and purpose? Who (or what) is justifying your existence?
Most of us are idolaters, me included. God alone has the power to save me, to redeem me, to justify me, to give my life purpose and meaning. Yet I often choose to find my salvation in something else. I create idols that demand my attention and worship. I crowd God out of the equation. As a fallen human, I am far more self-possessed and arrogant than I care to admit. I want to choose my objects of worship. I want to create my own meaning. I want to do my own saving. Maybe your experience is similar, if you really think about it honestly. God knows our inclinations in this regard. Perhaps this is why, when providing us with a moral code of conduct, God began with an admonition related to our objects of worship:
“You shall have no other gods before Me. 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 20:3-5a)
Maybe it’s time for each of us to examine our own life to see what we truly worship. Do we trust our own performance as Christians? Do we spend our time and resources appropriately? Have we allowed some activity or person to become our object of worship? Have we become our own object of worship? It’s time to return worship to its rightful recipient. The Being that justifies us is still our God.
For more information about the scientific and philosophical evidence pointing to a Divine Creator, please read God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe. This book employs a simple crime scene strategy to investigate eight pieces of evidence in the universe to determine the most reasonable explanation. The book is accompanied by an eight-session God’s Crime Scene DVD Set (and Participant’s Guide) to help individuals or small groups examine the evidence and make the case.
J. Warner Wallace is a Dateline featured Cold-Case Detective, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, Adj. Professor of Christian Apologetics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, author of Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, and creator of the Case Makers Academy for kids.
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