I have recently been dialoguing with a friend who struggles with the concept that humans exist for the worship of God. This is not an uncommon struggle that people often face. We like to think God created us in order to have a relationship with us. It seems arrogant and egotistical for God to create us for the mere purpose of having us worship him. These two concepts seem antithetical to each other. But are they? Below is my email response to my friend’s concern. Her name has been changed.
I love you very much (I hope that’s been evident) and I will continue to pray for you often. But there are two glaring misconceptions you are struggling with that I see in the first two paragraphs of your email.
First, the scriptures are clear that humans have been created for God’s glory and for his worship. God says in Isaiah, “I will say to the north, ‘Give up’, and to the south, ‘Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made’” (43:6-7 ESV). We were created by God for his glory. The Hebrew word for glory there is the word kabōd, which carries the meaning of ‘to render honor’ or ‘to exalt the weightiness of’. This word is translated into the Greek New Testament with the word doxazō, from which we get out English word doxology which means ‘the practice of worship.’ This is the same word Paul uses when he writes, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31 ESV). God tells us we were created for his glory, and Paul commands that everything we do should be aimed at bringing him glory. We also read in places like Romans 11:36, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory [doxa] forever. Amen.” Thus, all things have been created “from him and through him and to him”; that is, for his glory and honor and worship. Again, we see in Revelation 4 that there are four living creatures who “never cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!’ And whenever the living creatures give glory [doxa : worship] and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders [representatives of all God’s people] fall down before him who is seated on the throne [Christ] and worship him” saying, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, [why?] for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” (4:8-11). God is to be worshipped because he created and sustains (Heb 1:3) all things, and because all things and all people were created to render to him glory and worship (Is 43:6-7). The worship and glory of God is the purpose for which we exist. To not live out that purpose is to live a life without real purpose or meaning. In fact, not fulfilling the purpose for which we have been created, according to scripture, is the reason God’s punishment has and will come upon unbelievers. “For although they knew God, they did not honor [doxa] him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Rom. 1:21 ESV). In the end, God will someday punish unbelievers for not rendering to him his due honor and glory and worship.
Secondly, you seem to think that existing for the worship of God is antithetical to being in an intimate, personal, loving relationship with God. But these two truths are not exclusive of each other. It’s not either/or, but both/and. This is what makes God’s grace so amazing! That the King of kings and the Lord of lords, the very God who spoke the universe into existence by the power of his word, who thundered from atop Mt. Sinai, and parted the Red Sea, is the same God who describes his relationship with his people by saying “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young” (Isa. 40:11 ESV). He describes himself as a tender and loving shepherd who gently takes his lambs, his people, into his arms and snuggles them against his bosom. What a beautiful portrait of a loving God who desires to be in an intimate relationship with his people. This is the same God who says of his people “as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you” (Is 62:5). God rejoices over his people, those who have faith in him and trust him, as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride. God gushes over his bride—his people! What a beautiful picture of a loving, tender, and intimate relationship God has and enjoys with his people. This is also the same God who describes himself in the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Lk 15) as running to his children who turn from sinful living and return to the Father. In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, God runs to us! The almighty, magnificent, all-knowing God runs to us! This is what makes God’s grace so amazing!
In the end, God wants us to worship him because he wants us to experience the greatest joy and happiness that can be experienced by humans. When we love someone, we want to give them and do for them what we think will bring them the greatest joy and delight. God bids us to worship him because he knows he is the greatest source of joy and delight that can be experienced by us. There is nothing in all of creation that is more joyous, more delightful, more pleasurable than God himself. Singing to God, the Psalmist exclaims, “in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11 ESV). Fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore are to be found in the presence of God. But we cannot come into God’s presence without acknowledging the worthiness of God as the sole object of our worship, without extolling the beauty of God, without finding our greatest delight and joy in the glory of God and in glorifying God. Ultimately, this is what it means to worship God. The worship of God is not groveling at his feet as though we are lowly servants unworthy to even gaze upon his presence. The worship of God is (1) the recognition that God alone is worthy of our adoration and praise, (2) the acknowledgment that our greatest joy and delight can only be found in him, and (3) the desire to live a life that pleases God because of the great pleasure we find and experience in him. As John Piper has so often said, “God is most glorified when I am most satisfied in Him.”
I understand you needing to take time to think and read and pray. Let me know when and if you would like to meet again.
In Christ’s love,