Idolatry and Worship

By Pastor Tolivar Wills

Dr. Greg Biehl, in his book We Become What We Worship highlights the significance of what our idolatries convey about our beliefs about God. In particular, when believers disobey the first and second commandment of the law we immediately begin to subtract from the divine nature of God. In one sense we begin the process of taking an eraser to the character of God. It is this reality that helps me understand why the first two commandments are so important in the mind of the Triune God. The Lord wants us to have a knowledge and experience that literally goes beyond anything that we can experience within our senses and mental capacity.

These points force me to call into question my trust in the idolatries of my life. Specifically, it forces me to ask the question of why I submit my heart, soul, mind, and body to that which is limited and fallen at the same time; or by illustration, why would I give my life to a debilitated ship that is doomed to sinking because of the decay of the fall? Secondly, if I am putting myself forth as an idol, am I ok with the prospect of knowing that I am putting others on the same path of destruction, for I myself am experiencing the decay of the fall every day as well? Regardless, both of these scenarios lead to destruction of ourselves, God’s people, and His glory.

These questions bring me back to the supernatural foundation and only hope of the Christian faith; namely, that an infinite and eternal God has reached across eternity, into time, and united His holy being to a sick and dying creation, so that He may give it newness of life. Even so, the beauty of that statement loses it shine in the blurriness of my fallenness, both spiritually and physically; as Paul stated in I Corinthians that we look through a glass dimly into the eyes of a eternal God. It is this seemingly impossible scenario that further drives home the truth that God breaks through my blindness and grips my heart. It is this truth that necessitates a means by which our Father can renew our vision of Him and ourselves within His kingdom. Apart from Him, we simply do not have the ability to walk with confidence beyond our senses. Thankfully, it is the gracious provision of worship that puts before us the triune God reaching out once again via a gospel-driven service, to remind us of his enduring embrace and direction through the work of Jesus Christ, and the mediation of that work by the Holy Spirit. Worship, by the Spirit, uses our senses to lift us beyond them to the eternal throne of Heaven. Worship brings heaven to earth, and earth to heaven by the mediating work and presence of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. It is our faith in this reconciling work of the Trinity that enables us to trust His invisible nature and good guidance into the infiniteness of His person, while remaining grounded in the finiteness of our earthly existence.

So what is a practical way that we can experience these truths in the midst of our finiteness? One practice for me to help with this has been the slow development of a scripturally-based imagination. While in corporate worship, I try to envision standing before the throne of God, singing, enjoying and marveling at the glory of God’s presence, with billions of believers from around the globe. In addition, we are joined by the billions of saints who walked by faith in the millennias before us. In my mind’s eye, walking through the different elements of our service, I look on with anticipation, knowing that this vision is not just something made up in my head, but is a scene the the Lord has given us over and over again throughout scripture. Sometimes, my experience is so real that I feel like we are worshipping in the new heavens and the new earth; that some of the dust of heaven actually falls on us, leaving us transfixed. At other times, when my soul feels dead and unresponsive, our participation in Word, Sacrament, and loving one another enters into my mundane experience to remind me that despite how I feel, God is faithful and near. Sometimes worship lifts me up into the heavenly places; and other times it meets and nourishes me in the mud of my constrained heart. Either way, I have seen the Lord meet with me in either place, giving me what I need at the moment. My hope and prayer is that the Lord will give us more of his grace and apprehension of His presence in our lives as we learn to dig deeper into His person through worship. Amen!

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