Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 16, 1962
NUMBER 15, PAGE 4,13b

The God We Worship


Students of the world's great religions, as well as students of the Bible, have long since recognized as axiomatic the simple truth that "man becomes like that which he worships." And it is not always the outward and apparent deity, whether Zeus on Olympus or a totem pole in Alaska, which is the real object of one's devotion and worship. The Israelites in the days of Amos ostensibly worshipped Jehovah; but in reality the true objects of their affections were prestige and wealth and success. And because this was the case, they were quite willing to trample under foot and despise the precepts of Jehovah in pursuit of their true ambition, while meticulously observing the ritual and ceremonial requirements of the law. They apparently felt it necessary to follow these outward symbols in order to be assured of gaining the things they truly valued.

They had changed but little, if any, by the time of Christ. Paying lip service to Jehovah, they actually worshipped power and prestige and success. Sadly, but accurately, Christ arraigned them with the scathing words of Isaiah, "This people honoreth me with their lips; But their heart is far from me." (Matt. 15:8) They had made void the word of God, turning the simple requirements, "Honor thy father and mother," into a grotesque and complicated ratiocination by which they could escape obligation. They were most careful to mouth the time-honored phraseology of Moses' law, and would have stoned with frenzied zeal any man who had dared deny that law by spoken word. The party shibboleths and catch-words must be honored; the heretic who denied or gain-said them must be destroyed. But actually to live by the law they professedly honored was the desire of only a few.

There should be a solemn warning in this for the Israel of God in our day. It is so easy for us to mistake our desires, our plans, our ambitions for the church with God's desires and plans. By a not too subtle alchemy of the soul we convince ourselves that we are doing God's will when we go all out to "promote" the church — to make the Church of Christ the biggest, loudest, noisiest and brassiest band of "go-getters" in the land! The nauseating "hero-worship" of "our" boys (such as Bobby Morrow, Pat Boone, B. S. Estes, etc.) is woven from this time material. When these heroes turn out to have feet of clay (as both Pat and Billy Sol are now demonstrating) Their most ardent fans and exploiters are the first to feel betrayed and misused! Yet Pat and Billy are not the ones to blame; the guilt lies with those who have worshipped at the shrine of success and wealth. They worship false gods, without ever admitting, even to themselves, that their religion is a religion of materialism and "this worldliness."

As men worship "success" it will inevitably follow that their thoughts, their plans, their ambitions will be moulded into that pattern. To succeed becomes the overwhelming obsession. Huge crowds at the services are something to be desired for their own sakes; gimmicks, sensational advertising, "promotions" galore are used to lure them. National and international "campaigns," to which the devotees can point with pride, become the hallmarks of true devotion. That the idol of "success" rather than the spiritual welfare of the individual is the thing sought after is easily seen in the efforts of certain congregations to "set, a record attendance" oil some certain day — which they do by inviting and enticing friends, relatives, and acquaintances from other churches of Christ to forsake their own congregations for that one day and "help us set a record!"

While at the present our liberal-thinking brethren are probably more guilty than the conservatives, it is nevertheless a twentieth-century spiritual virus to which any may fall victim — and which must be constantly guarded against.

The man, or congregation, who thinks this danger is only for others needs to take a second look. What are the real values in your life, as an individual or as a congregation? What are the gods that are worshipped?

To what are the most time, thought, effort, and sacrifice given? Is the supreme desire in life to walk humbly with God? to measure every act, every word, every decision in the light of what please Him? Does the deepest satisfaction come from doing that which is pleasing to Him (even at the cost of suffering and dishonor from men), or does it come from the feeling of success and achievement in carrying some great project "over the top" — a religious project which can carry the aura and aspect of service to God? Those simple Christians of that far-off day "rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the Name." They worshipped the God of Christ and the apostles, and, like Moses before them, "accounted the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt." It cannot be denied, we think, that there are multitudes today who wear the name of Christ, who endlessly repeat the traditional formulae concerning such things as "local autonomy," "speaking where the Scriptures speak," etc., who ostensibly worship the Father of Christ, but whose real gods are success, achievement in the eyes of men, power, prestige, and the smug feeling of inner satisfaction that comes with "belonging to the fastest-growing, most aggressive, most successful, religious body in America"!

— F. Y. T.