One theologian quipped, “Man could be designated homo sapiens religiosis” – in other words, universally and historically, mankind has been, and continues to be at his core, a worshipper.
As an attempted rebuttal to the above assertion, perhaps one might allude to your comment about the Western world becoming increasingly atheistic. Granted, a recent article in the London Times suggested that if one were to graph the decline of Protestant church attendance in England, in a mere 30 years Christianity will be all but replaced by holistic "pagan" spiritualism.
That may be true, but the original premise concerning man's worshipping nature still holds true even about pagan and atheistic men. Here's why -- mankind was created FOR God. Mankind was created to literally “run on God,” feed upon God, have the deepest longings and thirst satisfied by God (Jer 2). Mankind was created to think God’s thoughts after Him in order to reason rationally. Consider the promises in the Beatitudes (Matt 5), as well as the promises to "overcomers" in Revelation 2-3 and 21 – in those passages God Himself is the "portion," (Ps 73); the reward; the very inheritance and environment of the true believer.
Pastor/theologian (Walter Chantry) describes man's worshipping nature in the following manner.Man was created to be an enthusiastic spectator of excellence. Chantry's statement encapsulates the meaning of "worship" in its rudimentary form. The world is filled with examples which illustrate Chantry’s premise. This author finds it fascinating that once the American West was settled and the fruits of capitalism gained a foothold, athletic arenas and auditoriums were built by the hundreds. Man the pioneer and the patriot showed himself as man the pursuer of pastimes.Yankee Stadium became known as “the house that Ruth built.” Hundreds of billions of dollars are shelled out each year by folks who pass through the turnstiles of arenas in order to watch events – to be ‘spectators of excellence.’
Now as Christians, we know that God desires our worship. He is jealous for His Name sake. Butis God jealous of the attention received by American sports? Is He against baseball or any other national sport? -- That question is an over-simplification of the issue. When God commands that man must love Him with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength, God is commanding something that is inseparable from our highest good and from our very being.
Here is the reason why, when man’s worshipping nature settles onto objects below God,
and remains there – idolatry is the inevitable result. Because man is created in the image and likeness of God, the consequences of idolatry are manifold and grave. There is much more going on in idolatry than merely praising the joys of wine, women, and song – or lauding the desirability of beauty, brawn, bucks, and brains. Idolatry wraps its roots and tentacles around a man’s affections, mind, and will. Like an alien intruder, an idol gets inside a man’s heart and demands the cream of his time, talent, and affection. Lusts hold a man with an iron grip.
The late Francis Schaeffer described an idol as a “false integration point.” In other words, mankind’s worshipping nature craves a higher good than self. Man as body and soul longs for something outside of himself which will bring joy, pleasure, and meaning, as well as inner unity, purpose, and fulfillment. The question which has captivated philosophers throughout history is;where is man to look in order to satisfy this longing? The Holy Scriptures of course give the only authoritative answer. Isaiah 55 proclaims that this God-given longing can only be satisfied by a personal love relationship with the Creator. In likening mankind’s longing to hunger, Isaiah the prophet states that all false sources of food for the soul are akin to “bogus bread” (Is 55:2). Only in God does the soul find true sustenance.
The Holy Scriptures, from cover to cover, state that the battle for the eternal soul of man centers upon what man chooses to worship. Certain Bible texts describe the outcome of this battle of the ages in summary form. Those who love God will live with Him forever, those who love the world will be destroyed along with it (1 Jn 2:15-17). Those who have God and righteousness as their master will gain eternal life; those who serve sin will “earn” the wages of death and eternal separation from God (Rom 6:22, 23). A man’s spiritual state and destiny are known by what a man worships.
Idolatry finds its origin in Satan. He deceived our first parents in the Garden of Eden. He is the “father of lies” (Jn 8:44). His lies “murder the soul” (Jn 8:44). Satan opposes God’s plan to make mankind in the image of God. The devil wishes to distort mankind into his own twisted bestial image, and in the process, damn man’s eternal soul. The evil one’s tool of choice is idolatry.Idolatry degrades man; it pulls him down from his high calling to love, and imitate God (Rom 1:18-32).
There is something most intriguing about worship (whether of God or an idol) – men become conformed to what they worship. Numerous Scripture texts state this operative dynamic. Those who worship idols will become like them (Ps 115:8; 135:18). By contrast, those who worship God are transformed into His moral likeness (2 Cor 3:18). Thus the object of one’s worship sets a person upon a course, a path, a direction which has a definite destination.
Satan is utterly conversant with this principle of conformity. He uses the entire world system to his end of enslaving man to idolatry (1 Jn 5:19). He uses the “lusts of deceit” to take men captive (Eph 4:22). Only through the Lord Jesus Christ are men and women liberated and restored to spiritual life; only through the truth of the Gospel are people “remade” into true worshippers of God capable of loving God (Jn 4:23, 24; 1 Jn 4:19).
Through Christ’s work as the suffering Substitute, He reconciled sinful man (all who believe and repent) to God (Col 1:20-22). Our utter dependency and need of God now is evident when one considers the array of enemies that stand in the way of reaching heaven – the sinner is confronted with the world, the flesh, the devil, sin, death, and hell. Only Christ can safely get us past even one of these mortal enemies of our souls.
In the N.T. salvation has three tenses; believing sinners are saved, are being saved, and will be saved. This can be stated in another manner which drives home the point that we need God in Christ for every single facet of our salvation. At the moment of saving faith, the believer is saved from the penalty of sin (Rom 6:23). Throughout the Christian life, the believer exercises faith in Christ and obedience and is delivered from the power of sin (Rom 6:22). The end and destiny of the believer’s life of faith and obedience through the grace of God is ultimate freedom in glory from the presence of sin (Rom 8:23).
Why does man need God? The answer is bound up in God’s original purpose to make man for Himself. Creation was not born of a need in God. The Holy Trinity needed nothing. God’s desire to create issued from His desire to share Himself – to share His love, glory, beauty, and excellence with an order of creatures that would find their highest joy, good, fulfillment, and purpose in their Creator, and thereby give Him the glory He deserves.
The entrance of sin appeared to interrupt God’s purpose. But now, the manner in which God is recovering sinners through Christ has become the primary revealer of the Godhead – a revelation that is both to men and to angels (see Eph 3:8-12; 2 Cor 4:3-6). God’s purpose stated in creation (to make man in His image) is a purpose that is restored and even strengthened in the salvation of the elect. All of the promises and provisions of salvation in Christ have been forged in the foundry of God’s eternal attributes. It is a profound thought that God has harnessed and put to work, and put on display His own attributes in the salvation of the sinner (see 2 Pet 1:1-4).
The Apostle Paul casts this divine purpose of redemption in a most sublime manner, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might become the first-born among many brethren” (Rom 8:29). Salvation is about knowing God; it is about being loved by God and loving Him back. It is about leaving the false refuges of this world and finding one’s true lasting home in God. It’s about turning our backs upon the city of destruction (this world) and resolutely walking toward the celestial city. It is all about preparing to live with God so that when we meet Him we will not meet Him as a stranger (1 Jn 2:28).
Paul stretches the believer’s imagination to the nth degree when he says that divine assistance is needed just to be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth, and length, and height, and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God (Eph 3:18, 19). To be immersed in the sea of God’s eternal love is a future experience beyond our comprehension. Paul states that the Holy Spirit’s enablement is needed just to be able to comprehend the concept of God’s dimension-less love for His own (Eph 1:17-23; 3:16, 17).
To be created in the image and likeness of God is an infinite privilege. It comes with the mandate of reflecting the moral perfection of God Almighty. That is only possible if one lives as a true worshipper. God’s claims are upon His creatures – what He has made, He owns. Sinful man cannot be restored to his cultural calling as moral reflector of God except by the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Only through Christ do we come to know the Holy One. Only through Christ are we made fit to live with God. Only through Christ are we made true worshippers of God.
Man is always worshipping. Those who fear and reverence God will smash their idols and worship God alone through Christ. Salvation is about our love relationship with God. In Scripture the believer’s relationship with God is described as even more intimate than marriage. If a woman marries a man solely for his money, we rightly say that her virtue and character are in short supply. So also, when a creature’s regard for God turns solely upon a mercenary desire for personal peace and prosperity in this world, we rightly discern that the individual has yet to come into a saving knowledge of Him who is Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace (Is 9:6).