On one famous occasion, Satan came to Jesus and invited Jesus to worship him. You can read about it in Matthew 4:9. Satan promised to give Jesus the whole world if only Jesus would fall down in front of him and worship him. The word for ‘worship’ in this verse is the Greek word proskyne. This word means kiss, but not in a romantic way. This is a kiss that is like a dog licking its master’s hand. It also means to lie on the ground in front of a superior and kiss the ground. It means to show homage, to make a gesture of obeisance, to express supplication.
That’s what worship means in the Bible.
Jesus answered Satan’s invitation by quoting Deuteronomy 6:13 – ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’ The Hebrew word used here for worship is abad and it means to work for another, serve another by labour, or to serve as subjects. ‘Abad’ is a word used in the Old Testament for slavery and bondage.
That’s what worship means in the Bible.
To worship means to give power and authority to who, or what, you worship. It has very little to do with singing songs of praise and adoration.
The reason today’s reading is Genesis 3 is that verse six shows us the first act of worship. The woman broke God’s command and did what the serpent wanted her to do. Eve gave control over to Satan. She licked his hand like a dog licks the hand of its master. Eve made the devil her master instead of God. God told Eve that as a result she would try to control her husband, but her husband would rule over her.
In other words, Eve worshipped the serpent instead of God. That is the origin of human history. History started with false worship and the world was built on false worship. In this age of darkness, the world system dominates. In the coming age of light, the whole earth will be the Kingdom of God with heavenly rule.
The ruler of the world is Satan, so everything about the world pulls us away from God. It all leads us to false worship. We are made by God to worship him only, not to worship idols; and an idol is whatever isn’t God. We are made by God to be free, not slaves to Satan. Jesus came to set us free. He made it possible for us to worship God just as he did.
We have been missing the mark since the beginning of history. This is called sin, which means to miss the mark. God created us in his image to be filled with glory and exercise God’s authority on the earth. We can see sin as false worship.
“Everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” Or as the ESV translates it, we all “fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
We were not created to be anything less than a perfect reflection of the glory of God. We were created in his image to be just like him, even to shine with the same glory as God.
We all fall short of the glory of God. That is sin. We all miss the mark. It’s not about how much we stray. It’s not about the ways in which we stray. It’s the simple fact that all of us are not up to God’s standard. Any sin, every sin, is the same. We have to learn not to think that the sins other people commit are somehow worse or different from our sins. Murder or greed or gossip, it doesn’t matter.
All of us just need to stop doing it and worship God, instead of whatever idol we were kneeling in front of. That’s the problem with the world and its institutions. They are all controlled by the false gods they worship. We have been asked to shine a light and tell them the Good News so they can be set free. We have been asked to introduce them to the one true God so they can worship him.
Paul explains the problem in the first chapter of his letter to the Romans. People knew God, Paul says, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. Instead they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. “As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. And instead of worshipping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshipped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles.”
The problem with this world is a problem of worship. We were given authority by God, but we handed it over to Satan. Every time we worship an idol we hand control to Satan. We are so selfish. That’s at the root of idolatry. We worship ourselves or something that God created.
When we see people worship power, we need to remember that it isn’t a moral problem. They are giving control over to a real evil power. Behind every idol is a real evil spirit.
A person who has given their life over to wealth is actually worshipping an idol.
A person who has given their life over to status is actually worshipping an idol.
A person who has given their life over to pleasure is actually worshipping an idol.
In ancient times it was easy to spot someone kneeling before a wooden carving or bowing to a pile of rocks or a tree. Modern people may be tempted to think they don’t worship idols, but the truth is that they do. Our hearts become attached to our stuff, whether clothes or cars or smartphones. Our hearts become attached to pleasures. Our hearts become attached to status. It’s no different. These are the idols of today. In fact we even use the word idol for popular singers and actors.
Temptation from Satan and his army of demons is the effort to entice our hearts away from God. Satan and his demons want to seduce us into attaching our hearts to anything other than the one true God. It is a battle for our worship.
Satan isn’t interested in the ways in which you sin. He doesn’t really care if you are a mass murderer or a glutton or a boring selfish workaholic. His goal is to get you to worship a false god and give away the control of your life to him.
That’s how Satan stole away Adam and Eve. They became dominated by Satan the moment they bowed to him and followed his instructions. At that moment he had stolen away their hearts and stolen their God-given authority for himself.
We who have already given our lives to Jesus are set free from slavery to Satan, but the rest of the world is still enslaved. There is a battle raging, and we are tasked with shining with God’s glory. We are tasked with revealing the glory of God in our lives.
We have learned to worship God, and now we need to teach others how to worship him.
Or as Jesus said in Matthew 28:19, our work is to “go and make disciples.” And also as Jesus said in Matthew 5:14, “You are the light of the world.”
We are learning how to see the beauty of God and display it for others to see.
When our eyes are not open to God’s glory and loveliness, we are enticed by false visions into grave spiritual danger.
Don’t give away God’s power. Don’t fall for the lie of self-sufficiency and independence. True freedom only exists when we worship God. God is the master who sets us free. Satan is the master who kills and enslaves.
Satan has always promised great things, like a politician. Satan has always failed to deliver, serving up instead great amounts of boredom and death. He lies that to worship God is to give away your freedom, but we know that Jesus came that we might have life and have it abundantly. Divine life. Eternal life.
Life is all about which kingdom you choose. Life’s great war is raging over who you will worship and whose kingdom you will live in. There are only two choices. Those people who don’t worship God are worshipping Satan. They may not feel like it, but they are. Only Jesus can set them free. The world needs Jesus, not more politicians or lawyers or generals. The world needs the light of God’s glory that shines in you.