Why Worship God?

My pastor made a statement last Sunday that was intended to be a little bit provocative, and it was. He was preaching from Malachi 4 where the people are complaining that God isn’t smiting the wicked, and conclude that it’s vain to worship him. The preacher pointed out that we should worship God for who He is, not for what He can do for us.

Then he said “We should worship God even if we knew that, at the end of our lives, we’d burn in Hell forever.”

One man later told him that this was “absurd” but I think it was profound.

We use the term “God” as though it were simply a proper name. But it’s far more than that. It’s a descriptive term. He is not only all powerful, all wise, all knowing, and all good. He is also _vastly more important_ than anything else. His pleasure and will are supremely important. Not only does He have the sovereign right and the omnipotent power to carry out His will; _it is entirely proper_ for His will to trump everything else. And it’s proper not simply because God is so good and nice that He deserves our allegiance – rather, _because He is God_.

We know that God has many characteristics that we appreciate. He is just, and holy, and good, and merciful, and loving, and generous, and patient. We like all those things. We love Him because He first loved us. But what if those things were not true of God? What if He were not particularly nice, and if He didn’t extend any grace and love aside from the common grace and benevolence that the entire creation gets? He would still be worthy of our worship and adoration. That’s what being God is all about.

This is why in my theology class I emphasize certain doctrines, giving particular attention to things like God’s sovereignty, man’s thorough depravity, and God’s sovereignty in election and reprobation. Copernicus made people aware of a heliocentric solar system. We need to be aware of a _theocentric_ moral and theological universe. We need to recognize that our universe orbits around God.

The ancients used to look at the skies and see very confusing things, from their earth-centered view. Planets changed course, even going backwards at time. Astronomers understood that planets moved in circles and spheres, so they put together very complex interactions of spheres in an attempt to explain what they saw and what they believed must be true.

Copernicus presented a much simpler understanding. Astronomers no longer viewed Mercury’s movement in relation to _Earth_, which led to such complex models. They viewed Mercury’s movements in relation to the _Sun_, viewed from the perspective of Earth. Suddenly the models were much easier to understand. The theoretical (that planets should move in – generally – circles) and what could be observed (that planets move in strange patterns) collapsed into a single, simple model.

I believe that a proper theocentric view of the world will also help resolve complex theological and moral issues. For instance, one of the most troubling questions in Christianity is, why doesn’t God work it so that everyone at least has a genuine opportunity to be saved? A human-centered theology has no answer. This situation is the ultimate in cosmic injustice. If “man” and “man’s salvation” are the most important things in the universe, the idea that a man might not even have a chance to be saved is antithetical to the very order and purpose of the universe. But a theocentric understanding realizes that God may have a divine purpose in the condemnation of men, and that it’s perfectly within His rights to order events that way.

If we understand that the universe is all about _God_, the idea that we ought to worship Him even if we knew we were going to hell is not absurd. It makes perfect sense.

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12 Responses to Why Worship God?

  1. This is a hard word, but it’s good to hear. This message doesn’t go over well with a world that is so steeped in humanism…but I guess it has been since the fall (i.e. self-centeredness).

    Thanks for updating the link to my blog!

  2. Monica says:

    ?We should worship God even if we knew that, at the end of our lives, we?d burn in Hell forever.?

    This really provoked reflection for me, especially in reading the second to last paragraph. Thanks for posting, your blog is insightful.

  3. Elle says:

    Profound. Thank you. I want to take your theology class!

  4. alison says:

    I’m voting with the guy who called it “absurd.” I think even the Apostle Paul (1 Cor. 15) would call it absurd. I know Paul is talking about the resurrection, but still …

    On the other hand, maybe we could “worship” God, we just couldn’t or shouldn’t love Him, or have faith in him.

  5. Alison, I thought of 1 Cor 15 but didn’t bring it up to my pastor because I think you’re taking it entirely out of context. Paul’s point is that IF you are trusting in Christ for salvation, and you are wrong, you are to be pitied. Obviously in the hypothetical situation I described, you’d have no reason to hope in Christ for salvation.

    God is worthy of worship and honor _because He is God_, not because He has certain traits that work out to our advantage.

  6. alison says:

    I realize that 1 Cor. 15 is Paul making an argument for the importance of the resurrection; however, my second paragraph still stands in that case. Plus, since God is all about planning for our salvation before the foundation of the world, the argument really is moot, so why bring it up? The comments of the pastor could only be considered hypothetical.

  7. My (and his) point is simply that God is worthy of honor and worship _because He is God_, not because of what He does for us. This example is simple hyperbole. I’m sorry that you weren’t edified by it.

  8. alison says:

    Robert, there is no harm in disagreeing. I wouldn’t say I wasn’t edified, because anything that makes me think is good for me.

  9. Rong says:

    What if He were not particularly nice, and if He didn?t extend any grace and love aside from the common grace and benevolence that the entire creation gets?
    I’m studying Pipers Desiring God and I guess I’m having an issue with this one statement. We worship God because it is in our best interest to do so, because of His promises. I think back to my military days when we were told to respect the rank if we couldn’t respect the person. I may fear a god as you describe but I would/could never worship him. Thankfully this is hypothetical, otherwise I’d have one major migraine.
    I guess what I’m saying is I understand the idea but I’m skeptical of the explanation. I’ll give you one thing though, you’ve got one heck of a bold preacher.

  10. I have not read Desiring God, but I do respect John Piper. DG is on my reading list. It is true that it is in our best interest to worship God. I agree. And I also agree that is a perfectly valid motivation for worshipping Him. I have no issue at all with those ideas.

    That may even be our primary motivation – worship God out of gratitude for what He has done / will do, and because a life lived in obedience to God will have rewards in this life and the one to come. And I’m agreeable to that, too.

    What I want to point out though, is that it’s not the only good motivation for worshipping God. God is worthy of worship just because He is God. John Piper shows us that it is smart to worship God. I’m just emphasizing that it’s also right to do so.

    Romans 9:20 is a reminder, maybe a little bit shocking or harsh, that He is God and we are nothing compared to Him. That’s the same sort of thing I’m trying to say here.

    You could easily find fault because God’s grace and love are an integral part of Him, and if you took those things away He wouldn’t be the same God. So maybe it’s not technically a theologically perfect statement. But I thought it was a good way to remind me of things I forget about sometimes.

  11. Jared says:

    I think Robert’s just saying that God deserves worship because of who He is, not merely for what He’s done.
    It’s something that has resonated with me ever since I was a kid and my parents were always playing this Sandi Patty song that goes something like, “Lord, we praise You because of who You are. Not just for all the mighty things that You have done.”

    That struck me as both odd and awesome even at a young age, and so I’ve always sort of held onto that, even before I became a Calvinist (which has done “wonders” for my God/man perspective).

    I do think, though, that the point about worhsipping Him even if we were going to hell is a bit moot, mainly because people who are going to hell don’t want to worship God and don’t worship Him period.
    But I understand that as a hypothetical, perhaps just illuminating the larger point, one which I wholeheartedly agree with.

    Thanks for a thought provoking post, Robert.

  12. Mark De Zonia says:

    If God was not Love and truth
    then this poem describes my soul very well

    THE
    UNCONQUERABLE

    by: William Ernest Henley

    OUT of the night that covers me,
    Black as the pit from pole to pole,
    I thank whatever gods may be
    For my unconquerable soul.

    In the fell clutch of circumstance
    I have not winced nor cried aloud:
    Under the bludgeonings of chance
    My head is bloody, but unbow’d.

    Beyond this place of wrath and tears
    Looms but the Horror of the shade,
    And yet the menace of the years
    Finds and shall find me unafraid.

    It matters not how strait the gate,
    How charged with punishments the scroll,
    I am the master of my fate:
    I am the captain of my soul.

    But My God is Love and Truth.

    I think that God will CONQUER my soul with love and truth which is in his Word and Word is Christ, Emmanuel, God with us.

    As of yet I do not Worship God although I cry not to.

    I Read his Word that I might know my Father and the more I read the more I recognize what manner of person he is.
    This causes me to Love him.

    You should Worship him, but if you can?t, read his Word, When you know him enough, then you will Worship him in truth and Love.

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