What is your life all about? What have you been thinking about all week? What is the next landmark achievement you have been working toward? How do you want to be remembered when you’re gone?
What do your friends think of you? How do you feel about yourself? What is your greatest achievement? What are your regrets? What are you looking forward to? What do you enjoy the most? If you had a spare weekend, what would you do with it? If you had enough money, what would you do? If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?
What are You Worshiping?
Your answers to those questions reveal what you are worshipping.
By ‘worship’ I am not talking about temples, candles, incense, robes, hymns and the like. I’m talking about the more real form of worship. What do you glorify? What do you consider to have real weight in your life? That’s what you worship. What are you exchanging the years and energies of your life for? That’s what you are worshipping.
Some people worship education. Others worship pleasure. Some worship self-will, being able to have things their way, as they like it. Some worship meaningfulness, ever seeking to impress others in some way or another. Some worship sin and shame, intent on getting away with illicit things. Some worship things they are enslaved to, like booze and drugs, sex or power.
The Gods Define You
While you may think of yourself as an individual, you are defined by who and what you worship. And at the same time, your culture is defined by the pantheon of gods which you collectively worship.
[A Pantheon was a place of worship where the local gods were to be honoured. Pan means across or all. Theon means god. Pan-theon, then, means “all the gods”. The Greeks built Pantheon buildings which served as a place of worship of the mix of local deities, as opposed to the specific temples to the more important gods.]
Among other things, Aussies worship independence, pleasure, material comfort, and freedom to do as they please. Aussies also worship the State, expecting the government to be the provider of solutions for social ills, welfare payments for the needy and so on.
Americans have a higher component of national pride in their mix. And each culture and sub-cultural group has its own blend of things that the members will spend their lives in pursuit of, or stand up and defend.
The gods in any cultural pantheon not only specify what is to be worshipped, but also what is not to be worshipped. Certain things are seen as “Culturally Correct” (to spin off the notion of Political Correctness) while other things are seen as un-cultural. Anti-social behaviour is seen as incorrect in Australia. Taking life easy is seen as incorrect to Asian students. Multiculturalism is incorrect to some extremist groups. Being excessively rich is incorrect to the working class. And so it goes.
Religion in the Mix
The sorry situation for western Christians is that it is culturally correct to add God, Jesus and Faith into the cultural mix, but incorrect to allow them to displace the approved gods in the local pantheon.
Religion is allowed in the mix and is smiled upon with approval, as long as the religionist is also committed to materialism, social approval, education, independence, pleasure, and the other gods worshipped by those around them.
When a person decides to throw away their education, career, comforts, money and talents, and then give up their freedom (such as some Moravians did in selling themselves into slavery) or go to some place where their life was sure to be cut short, then they are seen as cultural misfits. They are despised, because they will not worship what everyone else is worshipping.
It’s All About God
The Bible does not allow for a cultural pantheon. The Bible reveals that the whole and sole focus of life is to be one God; and one God only. Almighty God does not fit in any pantheon, because He declares Himself to be, exclusively, the one true God. He is a jealous God who forbids the worship of anything else. Every other god, be it a recognised deity, or a thing to which people devote themselves (such as wealth, fame, independence, or the like), is not a true god at all.
So the whole of human existence is to be focused on Almighty God. It’s all about God.
When cultures, nations and communities give themselves over to the worship of anything other than Almighty God they are abducted by those other gods. When people and societies give themselves to the worship of their cultural values they have walked away from God, come out from under His protection, rejected His blessing and become abandoned to their own inept and useless provisions.
Look at how the prophet Jeremiah describes the state of a people who have decided to worship something other than Almighty God.
“For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed out for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.” Jeremiah 2:13
While Christians know that the first two of the Ten Commandments declare that there is to be only one God and that no idols are to be worshipped, and that the First and Great Commandment is to Love God with all our being, they give those truths lip-service only.
They have no intention of giving up their comfort, materialism, pleasure, independence, reliance on the State, position and place in society, wealth, security and so on. They cling to those things with a grip that cannot be opened even by their worship of God. So God becomes a lesser god in their pantheon. Their religion becomes empty, since it is nothing but a show of piety and ceremonial devotion. Their true religion can be seen by what they give their time, money, emotion and energies to.
The Call to Worship
You, your family and your culture have no real hope of transformation and glory until you come back to the true worship of the true and living God. As long as you bow the knee (figuratively) to all those other things you love and honour, you will be drawing water from broken water tanks that are empty. You will pursue your hoped for outcomes, but never realise them.
It is reformation time. It is revival time. It is time for a revolution. It is time for God’s people to become God’s people. It is time for them to begin to worship Him. It is time for them to renounce their worship of other things and to become good at taking time to give God the honour that He is due.
I call you to worship: in your home; at your work; with your family; at your leisure; with your time; with your money; as a lifestyle; in place of the things you normally do; in prayer; in Bible reading; in acts of devotion; and in yielding your life to God.
Note: The concept of the Cultural Pantheon was presented to me by my son, Stephen. It’s a handy way to see what is really going on in a culture.