Dr. John B. MacDonald
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Does it matter what you worship?  

If it does, here’s another question:  

How does what you worship impact how you live?  

These are two questions I want to explore with you.   

My position  

My conclusion is that it does matter what you worship.  

I’ve based this on a number of factors, including:

  • My inner experience – Like most of us, I’ve worshiped different things, sometimes without knowing it. When I became a follower of Jesus over 40 years ago, I became more aware of the significance of worship and its purpose.
  • My observations – Rubbing shoulders with other people at home and on my travels, I’ve seen many different types of worship – some Christian, many not. I was struck by how different the ethics and values of people differed according to what they worshipped. This is not necessarily a condemnation; it's an observation.
  • Listening to others – I’ve listened and read widely. Most, I admit, have been Christian conversation partners – but many have not: agnostic, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, atheist, materialist, and so on.

It does matter what you worship. 

Recent examples  

Worship shapes worldview.  

Within the last week, two articles have appeared in international news that describe two different behaviors from two different worldviews on the same issue.  

One article covers the position of Islamic State leaders justifying the enslavement and rape of non-Muslim women (link: “ISIS enshrines a theology of rape”). 

The other article reports the activity of a Jewish man who is rescuing young women taken by ISIS as slaves (link: “Steve Maman, the Jewish Schindler”).  

What motivates and informs these different behaviors?[1]  

You may say it’s the different ways in which they think about and view the world – two different worldviews.  

I agree, but where does a person’s worldview come from?    

Worship shapes how you think and view the world.  

Here’s a couple of general examples:

  • A person who worships Allah thinks and views the world differently than a person who worships as a Hindu.
  • An atheist thinks and views the world differently from a person who worships the God revealed as Jesus.

What you worship shapes your worldview

The connections  

Our two conclusions are:  

1.         What a person worships shapes how that person thinks, interprets, and views the world in which he or she lives.  

2.         In turn, how a person thinks, interprets, and views the world directs the way in which that person lives and behaves.  

Here’s the connection – worship shapes worldview, and worldview directs behavior (or, ways of living).  

A useful formula uses three W’s:  

Worship  =>  Worldview  =>  Ways.  

If you accept the witness of the Bible, here’s some confirmation of this formula. 

Paul’s witness  

Let’s break into Paul’s argument in Romans.  

He states that humans have known, and are able to know, the one true God (Romans 1:19-20 NIV):  

Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that [humans] are without excuse.  

In some way, humans stopped worshiping the one true God – we deflected our worship from God to other things (1:21a):  

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him.  

What was the result?  

This defection in worship has changed the way we think, feel, and understand about God, and as a result our view of everything else. In short, it has shaped our worldviews (1:21b-23):  

Their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.  

We have become like creatures straining at a leash that protects us from harm. God lets go of the leash, and we 'act out' our worldview shaped by our ‘worship’ (1:24) – for example:  

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.  

Paul has confirmed that what we worship shapes our worldview which, in turn, directs our behavior.  

Worship => Worldview => Ways.   

Here’s another way it can be stated: you become what you worship.  

In We Become What We Worship, Greg Beale unwraps this thesis: “what you revere you resemble, either for ruin or for restoration.”[2]   

Four questions to ask yourself  

1.         What is the reason you behave as you do?  

Be intentional in the next week and pay attention to how you behave.  

For example, do you get angry, frightened, or withdraw when someone disagrees with you?  

How do you respond to people who are different than you?  

How do you treat people of the opposite gender or sex?  

How do you deal with money?  

2.         What worldview is directing your behavior?  

Once you have observed your own behavior, discern what has caused you to behave in the way you did.  

What beliefs, thinking, emotions are operating?  

3.         What is shaping your worldview?  

Ask yourself what the basis for your view or thinking or belief is?  

Often it is unspoken – perhaps you have never thought about it.  

How does that expression of your worldview align (or not) with the mind and heart of God revealed as Jesus Christ?

4.         What needs to be challenged, adjusted, or nurtured in your worship of the one true God revealed as Jesus Christ?    

 

These questions can be improved and expanded – but I think you know where I’m going with them.  

Let me know what you discover about your worship.   

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[1] It is not my intent to compare two religions (i.e., a form of Islam, and Judaism), or their adherents. I am comparing the behavior of two individuals (i.e., an ISIS leader and Steve Maman) as an illustration of how an individual’s behavior is directed by his or her worldview which, in turn, is shaped by what that individual worships.

[2] G. K. Beale, We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2008), 11.

Photo Credit: *Pete via Compfight cc

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