He comes on that day to be glorified in His saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed.
(2 Thessalonians 1:10)
I’ll let you in on a little secret about God you may not have heard: He’s a glory hound. He is out for His own fame and praise.
We’ve dwelled a bit on the concept of idolatry in the past. Money and power and relationships and comfort and on and on and on—every pseudo-savior out there drains us of our humanity and creates shadow souls, shells of slaves doing their masters’ bidding. These gods empty us of the dignity we were created to display. Today I’d like to zoom in on the one place we can direct the entirety of our life energy in a way that makes us more human.
At first glance, Scripture’s commands to worship the Lord can seem a bit self-serving. He’s a jealous God (Exodus 20:5)? He wants us to war against His spiritual enemies (23:24)? Everything He does is about bringing praise to Himself (Isaiah 48:11)? If we’re not careful, this could easily sound like He’s a selfish child who just doesn’t play well with others.
God wants us to worship Him. And this is because He loves us.
Read that again: God wants us to worship Him. And this is because He loves us.
It would make sense that the master designer of a product would best know how to operate his contraption, no? He’s the one who set it all up and laid it all out. He has the right to decide the most effective way his thingamabob will work. Because God designed the cosmos and everything in it, He has the required standing to determine how we should operate within His creation.
The human heart was made to worship, and the only Being in existence worthy of that worship is God. Turning our praise and adoration to anyone or anything else will warp our design. Because the Lord chooses to love us, He can’t want anything less for us than the absolute best. And idolatry, other-worship, is less than the absolute best. So it is out of kindness and compassion God can stand so solidly against our adoration of anything or anyone but Him.
Think about parenting: why would you intentionally reinforce your toddler’s decision to run out onto a busy highway with ice cream? If she survives, she’ll begin to associate danger with approval. That’s not love; that’s brutality! Why would a good Father reward us for giving ourselves over to spirits who actively seek our destruction? That’s not love; that’s brutality! The only way God can be truly for us is to desire our hearts to delight in Him: everywhere else is a highway full of oncoming traffic.
We were designed as whole beings in the garden, walking daily with our Creator and enjoying unbroken relationship with Him. Our hearts knew nothing but joy. Later, because of the fall, we lost that wholeness, became less ourselves. And we continue becoming less and less ourselves as we are consumed by the gods we chase after, their lusts eating away at the core of who we are like cancer.
God reverses that deterioration, though, making us more and more ourselves as we turn our hearts in worship to Him. He restores our souls. He undoes the dehumanizing we’ve subjected ourselves to. The fact that God seems full of Himself leads to us being fully human, completely functional in our design. So the universe is set up to work for His glory and our good, and we’d be blown away to recognize how often these are one and the same.
John Piper calls this little-known characteristic the Lord’s “God-Centeredness.” I call it love.