On Worship and gods
One of the functions of being a god is how we go about deciding what is true. When we insist that our experience and reason is the highest authority for determining what is truth, we make reason our god and effectively shut out objective truth that God offers us and that has real power to alter our experience and could reinterpret how we process what we believe are facts.
For instance, if I learn things about my brain or my body that seems to convincingly explain why I have some malfunction, my tendency is to latch onto those explanations or 'facts' and become very resistant to questioning their validity. This can leave me trapped in a prison of my own making or of the enemy's design, and it also blocks the Spirit of God from bringing much needed hope and freedom to my soul. By clinging to a scientific explanation that seems to resonate with what I experience as the only valid way to describe my condition, say of depression or despair, I can effectively shut out God and the power He has to change my condition. Once I lock into my version of truth, it becomes nearly impossible to give credibility to anything that may contradict what I believe is the cause of my incurable state. Thus I become locked and unable to move forward until some crisis breaks the locks in my thinking and causes me to be willing to rethink everything I assume in a different light.
This came to my attention this morning as a new awareness related to the definition of a god. I have learned in the past how a god is one who defines my identity and on whom I rely to determine my relative value or how to increase it. In addition, a god is any source that offers to get me things I want from beyond my own capacity to acquire them as well as a power to protect me from threats too great for me to handle alone. The new insight now is that a god is any source I rely on to determine what is true and real. So if I allow someone's explanation of my condition to be the authority I depend on to make decisions, this way of relating to them constitutes worship when you really understand it.
Worship and gods are inextricably linked, like two sides of the same coin. Whatever we depend on to bring us the things we need to live life or to explain reality is by true definition a god for us. By allowing things or personalities to define and explain reality for us we are effectually worshiping, at least in part. More on this later.
The human psyche is pre-wired to worship, so it is impossible to be human without worshiping. However, the way we usually think of worship has blinded us to a great deal of worship we do because we fail to see how we worship so much of the time without ever realizing we are doing it. We call our worship all sorts of other things because we have been so conditioned to imagine that worship is restricted to religious parts of our lives only that the rest has to be something else. But in actuality worship pervades the life of every living intelligent being everywhere, for worship is a central part of being alive and relating to others.
Let me unpack this a bit more. Being alive requires that we receive from other sources what we need to exist and thrive. Without outside sources from which we draw energy and resources for our body and spirit, we will inevitably move closer to dying. All creation is designed to receive life, process what we receive and then pass along life to others for their benefit. This is God's design in the great circuit of life, each receiving to give and experiencing joy in the process. Living in harmony with the way this circuit is designed to function results in ever-expanding life, joy and love. Living selfishly on the other hand, means that our priority is to get things for ourself and look out for our own needs ahead of that of others and leads to death, for this attitude short-circuits the design that keeps the circle of life thriving.
Understanding gods requires understanding how the Creator God designed all this to operate smoothly and effectively. However, when Lucifer invented his alternative explanation and design for living life selfishly, nearly everything healthy in God's systems was counterfeited and the terms were redefined to mean something different than how God designed them. Thus the idea of gods became a problem and a replacement for living in harmony with the cycle of life where all depend on the God of heaven to initiate and support all creation. Sin leads us to imagine that we can somehow live outside that circuit of life, and in place of joy, humility, love and selfless service we can exploit others to extort life and get for ourselves at the expense of others. Selfishness is a distortion leading us to exploit vulnerability in others in attempts to acquire life for ourself at the expense of others instead of humbly trusting in the care of God to provide all our needs through the means He arranges to provide for us.
It is easy to imagine that the very word 'gods' is somehow evil or wrong. But Jesus didn't seem to think so. Jesus quoted Psalms 82:6 when He categorically stated that we are gods (John 10:34). What does this mean? Was He exaggerating for effect, or was He seeking to correct faulty assumptions about the truth and purpose of gods in the great circuit of life from which we are largely estranged?
As we become more willing to allow God to define what gods are and their proper and improper place in our lives, we will begin to see much better how all this originally was to fit together and how God is restoring His original design. First of all, God is the only Source of all life, energy, power, love – everything. Scripture makes this absolutely clear.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him. Without him was not anything made that has been made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. (John 1:1-4)
The God who made the world and all things in it, he, being Lord of heaven and earth, doesn't dwell in temples made with hands, neither is he served by men's hands, as though he needed anything, seeing he himself gives to all life and breath, and all things.
'For in him we live, and move, and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'For we are also his offspring.' (Acts 17:24-25, 28)
For by him all things were created, in the heavens and on the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through him, and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things are held together. (Colossians 1:16-17)
His Son is the radiance of his glory, the very image of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself made purification for our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. (Hebrews 1:3)
However, this does not exclude the fact that there may be other gods involved, and not necessarily in a bad way. It simply means that there is only one origin for all life and that it is really impossible to live outside the atmosphere of life from God that keeps everything in existence or alive. It is vital to begin by realizing that without the Origin of all life to keep everything together and alive, nothing else would matter whatsoever. The very fabric of all that exists is literally held together by the Word of God, and this is actually being confirmed by recent discoveries in physics where they have concluded that the tiniest thing underlying all matter is actually vibrations which happens to be the very essence of words.
I would like to point out here that even in the very reading of these passages we are confronted with a choice of who we will give authority to define what is true. We each decide what version of reality we will embrace, but in doing so the source or sources we rely on to determine what we believe about where life comes from reveals who we choose to be our God. By choosing what and who we will rely on to explain reality, we worship, for to worship involves giving authority and credence to whatever source we use to construct our thinking and beliefs and what in turn will shape our character.
So, is there a place for other gods in the design of creation as God set it up to function? I believe there is, otherwise why would God word the first 'commandment' the way He did?
You shall have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:3)
Think about this carefully: if God didn't want us to even think there were any such thing as other gods, then He would have said, you shall have no other gods and just left it at that. But He didn't phrase it that way. Rather He added, before me, strongly suggesting that there may be a place for other gods in our lives, but that never are we to allow any of them higher priority or give them undo authority to define truth or provide for our needs above the true God of heaven, the Creator of all things.
God could have designed all creation to be directly dependent exclusively on Him alone I suppose. But then again, because of the nature of true love I doubt that would be possible, for love is not unidirectional but rather flourishes and thrives in multifaceted relationships of mutual love and trust. So the design of creation is itself an expression of the very nature of God's character of agape love. Because of this He arranged that we not only depend on His heart as the ultimate source of everything we need, but He placed us in a complex matrix in which everything receives in order to give.
What does this have to do with gods? It has everything to do with it, for to bless others is part of the function of being a god, and to depend on others is part of worship. When Jesus told us that we are all gods, He was not just using a metaphor or trying to argue with His opponents. He was stating the truth about His original purpose that all of us live are to live in both dependency on others as well as participating in the privilege of blessing others.
Many things that God does for others, we are also designed to do in our own sphere. Thus we are little gods as we fulfill the purpose of our design by receiving from others what we need and then generously and joyfully passing along to others more blessings and good things we have 'created' from what we received. In this way we are designed to be gods, not to exalt ourselves as somehow being more important than others but rather to participate passionately in the circuit of life in which the Spirit of God directs each participant to share the joy of distributing life that originates from the throne of God.
One way in which it is impossible for us to be like God is that no created being can originate life and love. There is only one origin which is God. Yet in His overflowing love He created innumerable beings through which to distribute His life in a complex circuit of interdependence where every point along the way involves lesser gods who can act similarly to the supreme God who oversees and directs all this activity. Human beings were especially created to reflect God more than any other species, so it makes sense that we should be called gods.
Sadly the human reflectors of the real truth of what God is like were kidnapped by the enemy and the gory we were to reflect was distorted to reinforce lies circulated by Satan that God is selfish, arbitrary, severe and duplicitous like Satan. This is why God is working so hard to restore His true image in us and is why Jesus was sent to fully identify with humanity. By redeeming humanity and restoring our true identity, as many of us as are willing to cooperate can be restored to living healthy, functional lives as gods as we were originally meant to be. So to be a true god involves reflecting our loving Creator as Adam and Eve were originally designed in His image.
Since we can now see that God is seeking to restore as many as possible to being true gods instead of acting like the god Satan acts out, what does it look like to live in such a way? It might be well to take more time to examine more closely what it means to be a god in proper relationship to the creator God. And the only way we can learn how to act like a true god is to examine the example Jesus provided when He lived out such a life as a human here on earth. Jesus showed us how to live like true gods instead of reflecting the character of selfishness, by simply reflecting the true image of God instead of trying to live independently of Him. Jesus is the ultimate example of both what God is like as well as how we may reflect the true God by living as reflective gods.
Where and how does worship fit into all this? Is there any legitimate place for worship of a lesser god, or does all worship have to be reserved for God alone? These are valid questions that we would do well to ponder and process with an open mind and heart, but it requires laying aside preconceptions and prejudices that distort our thinking about such things. If we allow the Spirit of God to lead us into all truth as Jesus promised He can do, then this might be an area of much needed remedy for our serious lack of understanding which greatly hampers our ability to function as God designed for us to do.
This may well require that we revisit the whole concept of what it means to worship and what worship is all about. As I mentioned previously, I believe that most notions about worship are so distorted and severely limited by our skewed ideas about it, along with distorted ideas about what God is like, that much of what we call worship is not really worship, while much of our actual worship we never even think of as being worship. What a mess! It would be good to sort this out more and discover who or what we are actually worshiping and how to better worship God. We need to be integrated back into the original circuit of life where we may receive, enjoy and pass along all the benefits that come with it.