We Become What We Worship

We all worship. In our previous post, we said that we are most fully human when we are engaged in worship. Worship is “to give something its worth” — or to put our trust, hopes, and security onto something because it is worthy of those things.

Worship is like breathing. We do it without thinking about it, and we are doing it all the time. Worship is part of the autonomic system of our souls.

That’s who we are and it’s what we do. From the moment we wake up in the morning until the moment we put our heads to the pillow, we are worshiping.

The reason for this is because we are made in the image of God. This is an amazing description of the status of every human being. “Images” is royal language. In the ancient near east, kings would create images of themselves and place them all over their kingdom — little statues that reminded the people whose kingdom they belonged to.

But God didn’t create inanimate rocks to bear his image, he created living people. And what made us alive is that he breathed into us the breath of life (Genesis 2:7).

We were made to live by the life of the Creator and under his rule. There is a built-in dependency. Our dependency on the life of another is not a design flaw, it is a feature.

As a result, we become what we worship.

Greg Beale in his excellent book puts it this way, “What people revere, they resemble, either for ruin or for restoration.”

The Psalmist says it this way in Psalm 115:

“Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.” (Psalm 115:4–8, ESV, emphasis added)

“Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them”. If our object of worship is deaf, dumb, and blind, then all they can do is ruin us.

Because who or what you are breathing in will either ruin or restore you. An addict breathes in his addiction of choice – pornography, drugs, or even buying things. We do this to feed the deep needs of our souls.

We don’t usually think about worship. We have developed an automatic reaction that functions like this: I feel a need —> I turn to my object of worship.

The progress looks like this: I am bored (which is happening a lot during the pandemic), so I’ll go to my favorite shopping website. I feel insecure —> maybe a drink will make me bolder in social settings. I’m scared, so I’ll expect my spouse to solve my problems. I just landed a big deal at work, so I’ll reward myself with an evening of fantasies.

These are all acts of worship. We are giving ourselves to something for hope, deliverance, and security.

If you don’t believe me, try this: notice what you turn to when you have a need, and then try to keep from it. You will feel as if you are losing life.

And the point that the Psalmist is making is that we become what we worship — and the object of our worship will either further ruin us, or it will lovingly redeem us.

Now, notice what the apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

If our idols enslave us because they are deaf, dumb, and blind. Then, Jesus redeems us — he straightens out our bent heart — because he is full of glory in and of himself. He doesn’t receive his glory from another, he doesn’t receive his power from another. He is the Living One who is alive for ever more. And therefore, can transform us as we simply look at him in our neediness.

D.A. Carson digs into this dynamic in a 20-year-old book that still seems rather appropriate for today.

“What ought to make worship delightful to us is not…its novelty or its aesthetic beauty, but its object: God himself is delightfully wonderful, and we learn to delight in him…there is a profound sense in which excellent worship cannot be attained merely by pursuing excellent worship. In the same way that, according to Jesus, you cannot find yourself until you lose yourself, so also you cannot find excellent corporate worship until you stop trying to find excellent corporate worship and pursue God whims. Despite the protestations, one sometimes wonders if we are beginning to worship worship rather than worship God…What we must strive for is growing knowledge of God and delight in him – not delight in worship per se, but delight in God.” (DA Carson, Worship By the Book, pg. 30-32).

In a future post, we are going to drill down into what tools God has given us to straighten out our bent hearts.

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