Worship Is Truth 

Suppose you painted a great painting and put it up in an art gallery for all to see, and then stood by your painting to hear what people might say about it. And standing there, you overhear things like, "Wow! what a great painting." That would be nice, right? Except when you smile and say, "I painted that you know," the viewers look at you and say, "Well, so what? It’s the painting that's important, not the artist! Haven't you read Keats?"

When old age shall this generation waste, 
        Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe 
    Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st, 
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty," - that is all 
        Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

Well, perhaps. After all, the art remains when we are dead and gone. But still it might make you a bit angry, wouldn't it? You would have a right to be acknowledged as the artist. But don't think I'm talking about pride and ego here, although with human beings that may very well be why an artist would be upset. Ask the artist and he is likely to tell you it's more than ego and pride; the nature of the artist is revealed in his work. How can you separate the two?

For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse. (Rom 1:20)

They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creation rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. (Rom 1:25)

So Paul says it – you know the creator through his creation and to worship the thing that was made without acknowledging the maker is wrong. Yet, there are complaints…

If the creation reveals the nature of the creator, and there are things in the creation that are evil, what does that say about the creator? One of the age-old complaints goes something like, "If God is good and created all things, and has the power to control all things, then why is there evil in the world? Either God is not worthy to be worshiped, or He does not exist!" (There! Take that! You silly believers in God.)

But here's the thing – to say there is evil in the world requires us to first define good and evil. The human-centered assumption (put simplistically) is that good is what makes man happy and evil is what makes man sad. Because man usually suffers in this life, because we face tribulation and discomfort, many will deny the truth of God. But Paul's argument in Romans says, "You've got it all backwards." Evil is not a creation of God; it is a result of man's rejection of God:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness, because what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. (Rom 1:18-19)

I like this translation better than others because it uses "suppress" rather than the more generic "hold" to interpret the Greek word katecho. Our unrighteousness hides the truth about God.

Given that as a premise, the only way to remove all evil in the world would be to remove man from the world. Uh-oh. Ah, but the deniers will claim that since God made us this way (with a choice between good and evil) it's still God's fault. He could have made us differently. Sadly, even followers of Jesus can fall into this trap, struggling to understand why, why, why must there be such trouble and tribulation in this life. "If God loves me, why doesn't He just 'fix' everything RIGHT NOW!" That's a tough one (not really) and a lot of Christians find they can't get a good answer and fumble about trying to explain things. I like the old catechism "I am here to know, love, and serve God so that I might be happy in the next life," but it sounds a lot like a rationalization or excuse doesn't it? Just put up with it so you get to heaven. I would like to suggest that maybe there is more going on here…

Ponder this for a moment: all of this babbling about what God could have done and should have done presumes to know the purpose of God's creation, and that the purpose was somehow to make things good for us. That's backwards. Get it? That attitude projects man's desire onto God and demands that God live up to our expectations. We should instead assume that whatever is the nature of the creation is the very thing God wants revealed. So maybe man's comfort is not the purpose of this creation, and maybe all this misunderstanding is because we don't really know the Creator, have not understood His creation and what it reveals.

Back to where I started: You know the artist through His work. If true, then all these things that we complain about should not be covered up, rationalized, or excused, but should be considered part of God's revelation of Himself. As part of His creation, we are part of His revelation. We express the aspects of God that we call "relationship" and "moral choice" and "creativity" and "love" and so on. The problems of the world are not that God created us wrong, but that we have not lived according to His purposes. We have sought our own way, not His way, and in so doing have got it wrong.

But that's not the end of the story. The Gospel (in fact all of the Bible) reveals another attribute of God that is rarely acknowledged by the world. Although there is evil in the world, evil is not absolute nor is it permanent. The story of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus is the most dramatic demonstration we have of God's power. The evil that men intended towards Jesus did not destroy God's purpose, it led directly to it. God can allow evil, even though He does not desire it, because it is within His power to overcome any and all evil. The ability of God to overcome evil reveals His total power over His creation. Paradoxically, evil must be allowed in order to demonstrate its frailty. Had God not allowed the possibility of man's error, there would always be the question, "Does God forbid evil because He cannot control it?" The answer to that question is provided in the resurrection of Jesus and in the regeneration of man through the Holy Spirit.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is God's power for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel from faith to faith, just as it is written, "The righteous by faith will live." (Rom 1:16-17)

When we seek to know God, we must accept that our understanding must ultimately come through revelation. Our faith is sure when we realize that all of human life, even its pain, ultimately reveals God's glory. The beautiful truth of God's power to overcome evil gives us a basis for worship. It is a misunderstanding to think that we worship God in order to get something back from God, or that God demands worship because He is a petty tyrant. Worship of God is the natural reaction of man when man understands the revealed truth of God's nature. 


Bookmark and Share