“My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the LORD” (Psalm 104:34).
This past Sunday was Father’s Day, and like holidays in the past, many dads enjoyed their day with their family in the Great Outdoors , instead of worshiping the Father in heaven on the Lord’s Day with His family in church. If you were to challenge this decision, many dads would probably answer, “I do not have to go to church to worship God. I can worship Him in the woods as well as anywhere.” How should we respond to such an assertion?
Two answers come to mind.
First–agreement. “I agree with you. You truly can worship God in the woods, but do you? Do you really worship God, or do you worship nature itself? After all, mere enjoyment is not necessarily worship, and not all worship is directed towards God.”
There is a fine line between idolatry and true worship. Many men simply enjoy the outdoors. Some strongly desire the outdoors, and heartily take it in when they are there, being very reluctant to leave its pleasurable presence. For these avid outdoorsmen, the woods have become the Great Outdoors and their enjoyment has become idolatry, for all strong desire for more is idolatry (Colossians 3:5). Indeed, these men are worshiping, but they are worshiping Nature itself as a god, rather than the God of all nature.
In countering this idolatry, we are not saying that the true worshiper cannot enjoy the woods or even desire to be there. The Bible has many songs, proverbs, and poetry that revel in the details of God’s physical creation. From the mysterious limits of time and space in Job 38 and 39, to the wondrous ecology of Psalm 104, the Bible is not shy to promote a detailed knowledge of God’s physical world, and even to say that God Himself enjoys the works of His creation (Psalm 104:31). What keeps this enjoyment from turning into idolatry? More specifically, how can a true worshiper of God properly enjoy the outdoors as an experience of worship?
The short answer is: He must think. True worship is below the surface of mere physical enjoyment. Many outdoorsmen are creatures of sense, and have little concept of drawing thoughtful lines from physical sensations to the spiritual Reality. Therefore, instead of enjoying the outdoors as human beings made in the image of God, these creatures of sense act as mere animals, gratifying their flesh with sights and sounds and tastes and smells.
According to Psalm 104, God created us to go deeper. He wants us to marvel at Him through what we sense in His world: “My mediation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the LORD” (v. 34). Instead of worshiping Nature, we must learn to worship God–and I truly mean learn, for this is a skill that we lost at the Fall, and now need to regain through Christ and a careful consideration of the Scriptures, which are able to restore our soul (Psalm 19:7).
For example, we must change our vocabulary. Instead of “Nature,” we should identify the outdoors as God’s “works” filled with His “possessions” (v. 24). Instead of going to the Great Outdoors, we should go to God’s world.
Further, we must identify the invisible hand of God behind every natural event and process. It is God who waters the hills and causes the grass to grow (vv. 13, 14). It is God who feeds the beasts and causes the seismic phenomena of earthquakes and volcanoes (vv. 28, 32). The world is His personal farm, where He either opens His hand to preserve life or hides His face to finish life (vv. 28-29). These events are not the product of “luck” (as if no one were there) or of “Mother Nature” (as if she were a real god), but of the one true and living God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In conjunction with His Son, He sends forth His Spirit to replenish the earth time and time again (v. 30).
When in the woods, we see God’s works–His actions–on display. Therefore, to worship Him, we must think on Him, and identify what we see as what He does. Mere thoughtless enjoyment tends to idolatry.
Second–a challenge. “If you really are worshiping God in the woods, then you will also find time to go to church, for the glory of God is seen more brightly in His people and especially in His Son, Jesus Christ.”
If stars and oaks and beetles amaze me, how much more should the human being! And if I should be able to see the wisdom and power of God in physical objects, how much more should I see His character in humans, who have been made in His image–especially humans being remade into His image through the grace of God in Christ. Finally, if I delight in the glory of God in His works, I will also delight in His glory as seen in His word, which alone speaks of His Son, who is Himself the very “brightness of his glory” (Hebrews 1:3). Do you see? True worshipers will worship God wherever His glory is found, but especially where His glory shines the brightest–in church.
Why not make this next Lord’s Day a full Father’s Day by worshiping the God and Father of Jesus Christ in church?
God bless you!
For His sake,
Pastor, Open Door Bible Church