by Rayola Kelley
Last month I talked about who we serve and what we worship. If we are not serving the God of heaven and worshipping Him, we will not survive the present darkness engulfing the world. Whatever, or whomever we serve will give us identity and purpose, and what or whom we worship will determine the extent of our hope and expectation.
This brings us to the harsh reality that there is much vying for our worship. It is vital that we understand what desires worship. There are three sources that desire worship: Man, Satan, and God. Included also in the worship of man is the worship of the self-life. It is clear that we must discern and recognize what we are directing our devotion towards. We cannot assume because we participate in something called “worship” that it is acceptable to God. The truth is the Father could very well be passing by us as we worship. Remember, worship is a matter of the right spirit (Holy Spirit) and the truth concerning the nature, person, and work of Jesus Christ (John 4:23-24). It can only come from the altar of the heart that has been completely consecrated to God. Consecration will sanctify the Lord in the heart, making Him God, distinct in nature, worthy of exaltation, and deserving of worship. Such an environment is conducive to honor God in the way in which He is worthy. It will be natural in its adoration, praise, and thanksgiving as it personally honors God in an excellent manner.
To understand the fruits worship produces, we must understand how man and Satan seek worship. We can understand this pursuit by studying the temptations of Eve and Jesus found in Genesis 3 and Matthew 4. Keep in mind, we do not worship the counterfeit unless we have first been tempted in the flesh to do so. Our imagination must be enticed, our affections ensnared, and our will puffed up with pride in order to give something an idolatrous status.
James 1:14-16 gives us a rundown as to temptation that ends in sin, “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” It is important to point out that man is tempted by his own appetites, but there must be some point of attraction to tempt him. This is where the world comes in. It has been designed by its god, Satan, to lure us into his various traps (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). Once an appetite is enticed to believe something as being valuable, the imagination kicks in to consider the possibilities of how partaking of the attraction will benefit the flesh. This is when sin is conceived. Once a person gives way to the false promise or lie of the attraction, he or she will partake of the poison fruit, resulting in broken fellowship with God.
This brings us to the next question. What is Satan’s goal in tempting people? We know he hates us and desires to destroy each of us, but is he after more than our destruction? The answer is yes. The “more” he is after is our worship. He desires to be worshipped. The motivation behind such worship is pride. And, when man is also beset, motivated, and plagued by pride, he will desire to be worshipped as well. That is the nature and creature of pride. Let us now follow the progression of temptation and the ultimate path that leads a person to some form of worship.
Eve represents how the idea of personal exaltation entangles man, while Jesus’ temptation shows how Satan operates to ultimately receive the worship of man. The goal of all temptation is to get people to bow down to something, while they fling all moral conscience, or truth, aside to possess the attraction or false hope. The fruit of idolatry produces the same affects: spiritual death or separation from the true God of heaven. It is easy to follow the pattern of idolatry in each temptation.
All temptation begins with a simple lie. Such a lie will present the possibilities of something in order to stir up the imagination. Imagination represents sort of a focal point that is necessary to ensure the person will zoom in on something that really did not have his or her previous attention. This is how our materialistic world sells products. Its first convinces us that we have need of something (enticement), and then it presents the solution (conception of sin). In the case of Eve, Satan simply asked a question in Genesis 3:1 to bring attention to one particular tree in order to entice the imagination. “Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree in the garden?”
Satan is simply putting doubt on what God has said, but in doing so he succeeded in getting Eve to consider the tree. All idolatry begins with a lie that will bring doubt as to what God said. After all, if one is to justify his or her disobedience towards God, His Word must be discredited in some way. Such lies produce erroneous doctrines, cults, and insane beliefs.
For Jesus, Satan tried to use the need of the flesh for food to get Him to bow down to His lie that His very existence depended on that which was seen. It was his way of enticing Jesus to give way to the flesh. The appetites of the flesh must become activated for idolatry to take place. Whether the imagination is tantalized or the ways of the flesh brought to the forefront, the fleshly activities of the soul must be present for the environment of idolatry to be in place before the idol can be exalted.
We must note how each individual responded to the temptation. Eve tried to reason with Satan. However, such reasoning is a trap that will prove to become a cesspool of seduction and insanity. Jesus held the line of truth by refuting the lie with the Word of God. We do not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from of the mouth of God.
The second temptation Satan weaved into his seduction of Eve implied that God did not really mean what He said. At the point of this temptation carnal logic takes center stage. Eve stated that if she ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil that she would die. However, Satan declared that she would not die, opening up the way for delusion. Surely, such a statement gives the impression that there must be a loophole or misunderstanding about what was said. God would not let a mere tree cause such consequences to occur. It does not make sense; therefore, there must be some mistake in what He meant. In the first temptation, the lie was implied, but from this premise, Satan actually declared the lie. However you may look at this particular temptation, it is calling God a liar. For this reason the Apostle Paul stated inRomans 3:4, “God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.”
It was at this time that Eve had been completely taken captive. The imagination was now focused on the tree of knowledge of good and evil. It stood before her in a different light. It was now magnified in her mind. She was now hooked into a different reality.
Since she was totally beguiled by the lie that God does not mean what He says, it was up to her to figure it out herself (2 Corinthians 11:2-3). At this point, the determination as to what was true was placed on her shoulders. Since the flesh had been activated, Satan’s lies became more appealing to her mind.
For Jesus, His temptation was to prove that He was the Son of God. The simple truth was that Jesus was the Son of God. As in the situation with Eve, the real test at this point had nothing to do with proving a matter for Satan already knew that death would result for Eve, and He clearly knew who Jesus was. The test was obvious. Satan wanted the Son of God to bow down from a place of excellence to a base level in order to play some sick game. If Jesus had given way to the temptation, He would have lost the distinction or glory that clearly identified Him as the undefiled Son of God. He knew it was a foolish test, while Eve believed the lie.
As we can see, the second stage of temptation results in God being humbled before man. This means that in the eyes of man He, in some way, loses His glory. To Eve, since God did not mean what He said, there were no absolutes. It was up to her to figure out what was true and real. When a person becomes the one who determines truth, everything comes into subjection to his or her conclusion. This is a subtle way of humbling God as to the authority He should hold in our lives. In a sense, God is demoted while the individual begins to exalt personal intelligence or understanding about a matter. Such individuals ultimately become judges that will lord over others with their so-called “insights.” It is for this reason that we are told we are to worship God in Spirit and truth.
The third temptation for Eve had to do with God’s intention. We know God is good, but to discredit His character, His intentions must be brought into doubt. This is the most subtle part of Satan’s lies. He does not point blank accuse God, for that would be too obvious. However, he cleverly sows a small seed of discord that is designed to bring division. It is for this reason that God hates those who sow discord among the brethren (Proverbs 6:15-19).
Satan convinced Eve that God’s intention for not wanting her to eat of the tree was dishonorable. This made Him untrustworthy and unbelievable in Eve’s mind. The enemy of God simply humanized God in the eyes of Eve. He implied that God is no different than mere man. In fact, in some cases He is worse. When Satan convinced Eve that if she ate of the tree she would be as God, he revealed the end results of all temptation. At this point God ceases to be, and man is exalted and deified in some way.
Romans 1:23-26 talks about humanizing God. We are told that in order to humanize God, His glory must be given to some aspect of His creation. It is at this point that God will give a person up to pursue his or her particular idol. Clearly, idolatry takes on a form in the high places of the mind. It is in the mind where a person gives God’s glory to some part of His creation. To strip God of His glory means that the individual has bought the same lie as Eve did in the garden. In a sense, a person becomes a fool who secretly declares at the altar of his or her heart that there is no real true God. In the end, such a person will be turned over to a reprobate mind that retains no real knowledge or conscience about the true God of heaven. This person will also be turned over to the ways of wickedness to eventually face the wrath and rejection of God.
Jesus clearly brings the goal of idolatry out in His final temptation. When Satan offered the Lord all the kingdoms of the world in exchange for His worship, what was Jesus’ response?“Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Matthew 4:10). Anytime, anything is exalted over God, Satan is receiving the worship. Granted, a person may be receiving exaltation, but it is due to the pagan environment of the world. Since Satan is the god of this world, he is indirectly being worshipped. If something such as worldly education, money, or power is being pursued, honored, and exalted, Satan is really the object of worship because he is lord over the world’s systems.
There are many masks that hide the fact that if man is not worshipping God, then he is bowing down to Satan in some way. He is in essence selling his soul to possess the emptiness of the vanity of the world, the fading glory of the flesh, and the useless, fickle ways of the present age.
This brings me to a very important aspect of idolatry. Idolatry leaves the most sickening fruits in its wake. When you consider how many vie for the place of supremacy in their lives, relationships, and activities, you realize what a destructive trap it is. Since pride is the main motivation behind why the god of this world and those plagued by idolatry in the high places of arrogance and haughtiness strives for supremacy, you can begin to see how perverted and tormenting a pursuit of worship will always prove to be.
Idolatry proves to possess a sick dichotomy. On one hand, pride will travel to great lengths to receive worship. In fact, such a pursuit is tormenting and relentless in its insatiable desire to be adored, recognized, or worshipped. When it comes to Satan, he will lie, seduce, beguile, and falsely promise the world to receive such worship. He will cause much conflict, torment, and despair until he receives it.
For people, they will play all sorts of games to gain such worship. They will strive to come out on top in some fashion in order to appear superior. They will play others’ game to win confidence or agreement in order to establish a mutual adoration society where everyone is receiving some type of worship. They will also go into self-pity to cause others to lower themselves into their pigpens, so they can be exalted in some way as individuals try to comfort or bring some happiness to them. However, it is all games, wicked games that are dishonorable. The psalmist in Psalm 119:104 wrote, “Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.” The games people play to receive adoration and worship are misleading, deceptive, and just plain false.
Now here is where the real dichotomy comes in. Have you ever watched how those who are caught up in the web of idolatry, especially those who are being improperly exalted, act or respond to such idolatry? The truth is, on the other side of the coin of idolatry are the fruits of cruelty, judgmentalism, ruthless attitudes, the indifference of superiority, and the right to become tyrants and despots in any form of supremacy.
It always amazes me that when you fall into the trap and worship Satan and others, they end up despising you. On the one hand, they are tormented if they do not receive worship, but on the other they think those who worship them are far inferior to them. For example, have you ever been around those who worship Satan? They live in utter torment. Have you ever been around individuals who are being worshipped? They operate in insanity and they prove to be tyrants and despots, while they often show perversion or disdain towards their worshippers. Such arrogant souls regard those who worship them as weak, stupid, and foolish. It would seem that since they got what they wanted, it would be most pleasing to them; but, instead they show utter contempt towards those who bow before their whims.
This is the insipid, sick reality of idolatry, and my question is why is there such a response toward misguided adoration, worship, and exaltation by those who receive it? I have come to the conclusion that Satan and people may desire worship, but they do not know how to receive it because they do not deserve it.
It only makes sense that if you do not deserve something, then all you can do is improperly receive it. Since you do not have the means or character to receive it, you will end up showing contempt towards it. This would be a good message to send to those individuals who think the government owes them everything. The truth is, all such people can do is be miserable and contemptuous in their unhappy state. They are not doing anything constructive with their life, gifts, or abilities to bring meaning and purpose to their unresponsive, meaningless existence.
This brings us to the final aspect of worship. Since God deserves worship, He knows how to receive it. God is worthy of worship because of who He is. As Creator, we can only stand in awe that He alone stands distinct in the midst of all creation. As our Redeemer, we can only praise Him for securing our salvation. As Lord, we can only honor Him for His goodness towards us, and as God, we can do nothing but bow before Him in humility and declare what is true about Him in adoration, love, praise, and thankfulness.
The question is who are you worshipping and who am I worshipping? There is only one true God who stands high and lifted up above all of the idols of the world. It is for this reason that He alone is worthy of our unadulterated worship. He alone knows how to receive it in a way that will clearly benefit the lives of those who properly honor Him from the altars of their hearts.
Let those who are around the throne in Revelation 5:12, 14 best summarize true worship of the One who is worthy of it: “Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing…and the four beasts said Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.”