The question sometimes arises: “How could anyone be devoted to a narcissistic God who commands us to worship only him and to have no other gods before him? How could you revere someone who appears to be obsessed with his own validation and recognition?”
God—a narcissist? Nothing could be further from the truth. God is not self-centered—He is completely other-centered. That’s what it means when the Bible states that God is love. He is boundlessly selfless by definition. He is an endless outflow of goodness and blessing and beauty. “In God there is no hunger that needs to be filled,” points out C.S. Lewis, “only plenteousness that desires to give.” The ultimate proof is the cross where God’s Son laid down his life to redeem us.
We are commanded to worship God, not because He needs it—we are the ones who need it. We can no more do without God than a bird can fly without air, or a fish can swim without water. To worship God is to be centered in the center, it is to have things in focus, to get things right side up. It is what we were made for. It is to ascribe ultimate worth to the One who is the Highest and most worthy object of worship.
If we don’t worship God, we will find something else to worship. Surrogate gods come trooping in. We end up connecting our innermost need for unconditional love, significance, and security to lesser deities who cannot bear the weight of our expectations. Things like relationships, pleasure, achievement, and success are forced to take on divine status—and they can’t do the job.
Not only do the false gods fail to deliver, they bring a little bit of hell with them. They become tyrants, and the tyrants become slave masters. When we attribute ultimate worth to something less that the most High God, we degrade and debase ourselves. This leads to the multiple addictions and failures of human living. Not to worship the true God is blindness, it is slavery, it is death.
The infinite worthiness of God makes Him the only fitting object of adoration. No one is more deserving. Every other contender for our adoration is woefully inadequate. The perfection of God’s character and the wonder of His works in creating us and in giving His Son to redeem us vigorously call for our worship. If we don’t, the stones will cry out.
It is not narcissism that prompts God to command our worship. It is love. There is nothing is more ennobling, elevating, or enriching than to revere Him. There is nothing more fitting.
To worship Him is to come back to reality.
It is to come back to the source of freedom, joy, and life.
One New Atheist motto says “There is no God and I hate Him.”
You hate someone who doesn’t exist?
That doesn’t make sense.
However . . . perhaps it makes perfect sense. This absurd statement could well be a most revealing one. Maybe the New Atheists have let the cat out of the bag, and we can now get down to the real issue.
What the God-deniers are saying is this: “I reject God. I don’t want Him in my world. I know He’s there, but I want nothing to do with Him. And, to ensure that He doesn’t interfere with my life, I will even deny that He exists. That makes it just a little bit easier to steer clear of God and to run my life just as I please.”
There’s an old word for this: subterfuge. It comes from a verb which means “to evade, escape, flee by stealth.” Avoidance by distraction. We are all good at playing that game, aren’t we?
And here it seems that the New Atheists are playing it. The God-deniers are telling us that they are, in fact, God-rejectors, and that the philosophical and scientific banter is really a smokescreen. The root issue is much deeper and more personal.
We can all find plenty of reasons to reject God, but deep down there is one fundamental reason: We are rebels at heart. We harbor within us a deep-seated craving for self-autonomy. We don’t want God messing with our lives.
If we are honest, that’s what’s going on inside. It’s true of all of us.
Unfortunately, it’s a dead end street. A forever dead end.
Listen to Martin Luther: “It is the utmost stupidity for us to imagine that our cure lies in flight from God rather than in our return to God…”
The incredibly good news of the Gospel is that the God we run away from is the God who lovingly and patiently pursues us. His name is Jesus. He became human and died on a cross to destroy the lies we have believed and to bring us back.
When we finally lay down our arms, listen to His voice, and respond to His call, everything changes. Our life is flooded with light. The truth sets us free.
And we begin to discover that the Good News is better than we ever imagined.
Skeptics should find it most comforting to consider the possibility that they may be wrong, and that there may be a God who made the world, and who one day will fix everything that’s wrong with it.
This thought is heartening because we all have dreams for a better world—dreams of freedom and beauty, of goodness and love. Most of us hope we can somehow make this world a better place.
But if, as naturalism claims, this material world is all humans have ever known, if this is “normal” and things have been this way for millions of years, then our dreams make very little sense. What do we mean by “better”? To what are we comparing this world?
However, our dreams make a lot of sense when we put them in a framework of belief in a God who created a perfect world that was ruined by sin, and who purposes to make everything right, and good, and beautiful. The Biblical narrative tells us that the Creator also happens to be a Redeemer and that paradise will one day be restored. The last chapter will be glorious.
Perhaps even skeptics could get excited about that.
People can think of a thousand reasons why God could not possibly exist. Reasons abound when there is an issue we hope to avoid. They come swarming like bees whose honey is being stolen. Even the worst knucklehead suddenly becomes as sharp-minded as a mathematics professor when it comes to discovering reasons for dodging an undesirable matter. People have an astounding capacity for assembling compelling arguments to arrive at erroneous conclusions. C. S. Lewis lamented, “Oh Adam’s sons, how cleverly you defend yourself from all that might do you good.” The road to hell is paved not only with good intentions but with good reasons.
Some say my faith is no more than an illusion, and insist there is absolutely no scientific basis for it. Others claim that Jesus never existed, that he is no more than a myth. It’s all a fabrication.
If that is the case, I have a lot of questions…
How is it that this “illusion” has turned my life around? (And the lives of millions.) How in the world does it empower me to live with hope, to experience deep joy, and to walk through life with purpose and a song in my heart? How is it that the deeper I go into this “illusion” the richer my life becomes?
If Christ never existed, why do I find such satisfaction in prayer and praise? In studying His Word? Where does this power come from that helps me to love my enemies, to choose right over wrong, to forgive 70 x 7, to have a heart full of gratitude, to smile at storms, to keep getting up when I stumble, and to face death with confidence?
If this is all an illusion—what a fabulous illusion!
I think I’ll stick with it.
It sure beats anything I had when I tried to live life without Jesus.
Christian faith is not a shot in the dark. It is trust in a God who revealed Himself in Jesus of Nazareth. It is belief in the invisible God who became visible when He came to this world and lived among us for 33 years. Christian faith is not mystical speculation, wishful thinking, assent to irrational notions, nor is directed into empty space. It rests upon the concrete historical revelation of God in human form in the person of Jesus.
His life is without comparison. No one was born as He was born, no one spoke as He spoke, no one did what He did, and no one died as He died. He was sentenced unjustly, lashed with a whip, showered with spit, nailed to a cross, and He died pronouncing forgiveness on us all.
It is impossible to argue with such goodness.
It is blindness to dismiss such beauty.
Who but God could be the explanation for such a life?
When one is confronted by the overwhelming awesomeness of Jesus Christ, faith ceases to be a blind leap. It becomes the most reasonable and sensible thing to do. If you cannot trust someone who gave His life for you, who could you possibly trust?
Perhaps the most irrational decision of all is NOT to believe in Him.
If any country in the world should be known for its cynicism and contempt for religion, it should be Russia. For over seven decades the Russian populace was exposed to a tireless barrage that mocked Christianity and sought to liberate the masses from all such “ridiculous superstitions.” The soviet state ruthlessly pursued its goal to obliterate religious belief through propaganda, imprisonment, torture, and mass murder.
One would expect that this region of the world would now be a hotbed of atheism, the Mecca of materialism.
The relentless onslaught backfired. Communism collapsed, but faith in God didn’t. It flourished.
According to Wikipedia approximately 50% of Russians now identify with some branch of Christianity. They have tasted and seen firsthand what a Christless state is all about. It wasn’t good. They have been there and have come back. Russia tried secularism and discovered it is morally bankrupt.