So, the whole “I can’t believe in a God who demands worship” card. Any advice on how to talk about this when the other party won’t believe/understand that we were created for God? And that we do better when we work to glorify Him because He is love and because when we glorify Him things just work out better?
You know: I totally understand what you mean when you say “God demands worship,” because you mean that the nature of God is demanding of praise. But the one thing you must know, dear friend, is that God Himself never ever once demands worship from people. Not once.
Before you bring out the stake and lighter fluid to burn the heretic, here we go. The first time I heard this “God doesn’t demand worship” in seminary, I actually didn’t believe it. Surely at least one time in the Bible, God at least asks for praise — right?
So then the professor spent the next four hours exegeting the entire fricking Bible for every instance of worship, and we slowly noticed that each time people worshiped, it was almost always spontaneous. Never coerced. God doesn’t even make a case for Himself or mildly ask for it — it just happens out of the gladness of peoples’ hearts.
I really wouldn’t go down this road of Worship God because you just better, okay. God doesn’t do things against a person’s will. He doesn’t shotgun-blast someone’s knees so they’ll bow down to Him. Again, I know what you mean by this: of course God is worthy of praise. Of course we are made to worship God. Of course one day, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess Jesus is Lord.
But only pagan deities have ever demanded stuff. Even in the Old Testament, when the Israelites had to sacrifice animals in the Temple, this was never about worship: it was about the atonement of sin. When the people saw they were eternally forgiven by sacrificing an animal (instead of like, you know, themselves), they were grateful. That’s when worship happened.
For your second statement, I think you’d have to define a few terms.
When we glorify God, you say, “things just work out better.” But a non-Christian would absolutely disagree. If glorifying God means you can’t sleep with anyone you want, nor do drugs and get drunk, plus you have to love your enemy and forgive everyone, then no, a non-believer would not say that’s better.
Really we need to show the other end of this equation. God does not want us to have a shallow superficial life that goes halfway. God ordains marriage to glorify Him because a covenantal promise between a man and a woman that is grounded by total mutual security always leads to the best sex ever. Sleeping around is like a sad runner-up prize. God ordains no mind-altering substances because it’s a little difficult to have loving relationships, hold down a job, and have joy and peace when your brain is desperately fixated on the next hit. I could keep going, but you see what I mean.
Please also don’t hear me as saying, “If I follow God’s rules, it all works out fine for me.” I believe there must be a conscious decision to love God, love His Son, and lift up His name when we follow Him. Otherwise it’s just blind legalism, which is exhausting and selfish. You’re right in saying that we glorify God because He is love, and it’s only that very love which will break us beyond ourselves.
If you really want to to explain to your friend why we should glorify God, then your friend needs to know the heart of the Gospel. What Jesus came to do. How Jesus lived, died, and rose again. The more your friend hears this, the more the Holy Spirit will work, and by God’s grace, your friend will come to a place of surrender and worship. Not demanded, but spontaneous. I pray it happens.