Years ago, our family traveled to Wyoming on vacation. Other than Yellowstone for the very first time, we also wanted to see the Grand Tetons. We’d driven across the state and came in from the east. As we rounded a bend in the road, across some 40 miles of flat prairie, the Grand Tetons broke into view. Even at that distance, the jagged peaks were breathtaking.
It was all I could do to quickly pull off the road and stop the car. I literally could not keep driving until I took the time to soak in the beauty and magnificence of God’s creation. I found myself wondering aloud, “How could anyone see the beauty and magnificence of creation not believe in God?”
Over time, a part of the answer to that question has made itself known. Eventually, we believe in what we worship most, or not. If what we worship is something other than the Creator of all that exists, we will believe in God less and less. A false god is anyone or anything we worship other than Holy God. A false god can be another person or something material or even a way of thinking.
The late Malcom Muggeridge, a British philosopher and theologian, was an atheist who set out to prove there was no God. In the process, his research instead led him faith in Christ. In A Twentieth Century Christian Testimony, he wrote, “Every happening, great and small, is a parable whereby God speaks to us, and the art of life is to get the message.”
Every time I see the stars or the ocean or any part of creation, I marvel at the beauty of it all, and it always leads me to think of the sovereignty of Holy God. Even when I look into the eyes of my Golden Retriever, I see the handiwork and presence of God in my life.
It was in that same spirit that the Psalmist wrote: “For the Lord is a great God, and a great king above all god. In his hand are the depths of the earth, the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and the dry land, which his hands have formed.”
There are times I don’t want to go to church. I may be tired from a busy week, or emotionally exhausted, or both. My natural inclination in those moments may be to pull the covers up and sleep longer. I’ve learned that, among other things, genuine worship requires discipline of heart and mind. Again, the Psalmist doesn’t suggest we worship because it’s what we feel like doing. Worship should be intentional. We should worship God because he is God, whether we feel like it or not.
The Psalmist invites us to celebrate God actively and joyfully, even physically. His is not an invitation to feel a certain way or to simply dialogue the finer details of theology. It is an invitation to pour out our hearts—indeed, our entire being—in the act of worshipping God.
Bowing and kneeling (v. 6) are sometimes the only way to express adequately what we’ve come to believe about God. Just as pulling off the road was a spontaneous response to seeing the incredible beauty of the Tetons, bowing or kneeling can be a spontaneous response to the holiness and presence of God. Sometimes, when we enter into genuine worship, it’s all but impossible not to give physical expression to what we believe in our hearts.
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As the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to Roman Christians, “I appeal to you therefore, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship,” (Romans 12:1). We, too, easily think of the physical and the spiritual as distinct from each other. We do so at great peril to both. If worship doesn’t, in some way, involve our whole being, then it is not genuine worship.
To Paul, every act of our bodies should be carried out as acts of holy worship. Whether in private or public, how we spend our time, our money and how we treat others should be done with the presence, the holiness and the sovereignty of Holy God in mind. Otherwise, we will drift into unholy living and, perhaps, come to the place where we are indifferent to God if we still believe in him at all.
In his elderly years, Muggeridge also wrote, “When I look back on my life nowadays, what strikes me most forcibly about it is that what seemed at the time most significant and seductive now seems now most futile and absurd. For instance, success in all its various guises; being known and being praised, ostensible pleasures, like acquiring money or seducing women, or travelling, going to and fro in the world and up and down in it like Satan. In retrospect, all of these exercises in self-gratification seem pure fantasy, what Pascal called ‘licking the earth.’ They are diversions designed to distract our attention from the true purpose of our existence in this world, which is, quite simply, to look for God, and, in looking, to find him, and having found him, to love him, thereby establishing a harmonious relationship with his purposes for his creation.”
Quoting the prophet Isaiah, Paul wrote, “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee shall bow to me; every tongue shall give praise to God,’” (Romans 14:11). As surely as the Grand Tetons took my breath away, I can only imagine the view of Holy God from heaven’s vantage point.