D.A. Carson, Tim Keller, N.T. Wright, Mark Driscoll, etc.: they all say this in one way or another. Why do they all agree? Because the Bible is so clear about this principle. In some ways, the whole story of the Bible’s conflict after Genesis 3, that is the theme of sin, is really the conflict between the worship of idols (created things) and the worship of The true God (the Creator). Now, what is the “golden rule” of worship? Let me give it and then draw out two logical implications that the Bible teaches. First, the rule is simply this: you become like what you worship.
The Bible demonstrates this positively in Genesis 1 and 2 when God makes humankind and says, “Let us make man in our own image.” Now, God can’t make God, because part of being God is that God is eternal and unmade. Therefore, God doesn’t say, “Let’s make another one of us.” God says as a mysterious Community-of-One, “Let’s make a creation of persons who are like us.” (Doctrine, pg. 28-29). That’s why when we were made we were like God but we were not gods ourselves or part of the Divine as in other religions. Nevertheless, we were made to reflect the glory of the Creator out to the world and back to Him.
The apostle Paul tells the church in Corinth that they can expect to be made like God when he says, "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." (2 Corinthians 3:18) If you look at the foot notes of the ESV, another way to phrase it is that "we all, with unveiled face, reflecting the glory of God..." That is precisely God’s original plan in creating human worshipers. It’s almost like this: as we look into the face, the character, and the person of Jesus we become more like him as we adore him in the Scripture, serve him, and offer ourselves to him. That’s the “looking” that literally transforms us.
So, here’s the first implication of the golden rule:
1.) Worship of the true God makes you more human.
Now usually at this point people react with something like, “Humans are bad! Human by definition means fallible and corrupt.” To which I would say - “yes”. Humans are bad and corrupted. But, humans are being re-tooled, restored, re-made, and re-created through Jesus so that they are not bad people anymore. When we started out, we weren’t gods, but we weren’t monsters either! And just as Pilate announced at Jesus’ trial, “Behold the man” and Jesus titled himself “the Son of Man”, and Paul calls him the “Second Adam (Man),” so we should not cringe from the reality that God is making a new humanity out of his worshipers (John 19:5; 1 Corinthians 15:45; Luke 19:10). Jesus is himself the proto-type of a humanity whose body has been resurrected to reflect the glory of all that God is. It is then no wonder that he calls the church his “body” (Romans 12:4-5; Ephesians 4:4, 15, 16).
However, the second implication is simply the converse of the first:
2.) Worship of a false god makes you less human.
In some ways this is the easy one. Secular and non-Christian artists illustrate this well all the time. It’s always easier to see how evil corrupts than imagine how God restores. Evil is so much more familiar to all of us. You don’t have to go far to see that the more a person idolizes something besides the Creator-God, the more they lose their capacity to reflect Him in their humanity.
For example, the man who is addicted to the affirmation he gets from working hard in his career has transformed into a workaholic. And we may say has “become the job.” He has turned into a “machine” we say. Why? Because his love of work has pushed out relationships with others, normal healthy activity, or quite possibly his family. Those aspects of his or her humanity are being lost; not because someone is taking them away by force, but because of his daily choice to serve and adore the gods of Work: self-affirmation, prestige, accomplishment, money, and power. You can see the same dynamic at work when gossip or lies actually destroy a person’s ability to maintain a relationship through authentic communication. Or further, how an addiction to sexual relationship erodes a person’s ability to experience the intimacy that sex was designed for.
Jeremiah 2:5 says that those who “worship worthless idols…become worthless themselves.” Similarly Psalm 115 describes how people who bow down to deaf, dumb, blind, and mute idols will also become like them, i.e. deaf, dumb, blind, and mute.
In conclusion, all of us have some options on the table. We can take good things and make “god things” out of them, which is a “bad thing” as the ever-witty Mark Driscoll says. Or on the other hand we can make the Real God our most important “thing” and become more like him, which is a great thing.
Let’s “behold the Man” indeed as Pilate ignorantly exhorted his audience, and find in Jesus all we need to be transformed into his likeness.
Comments for this post have been disabled