One of the first tasks given to Gideon by the Angel of the Lord was to tear down his own father’s altar to Baal and to use the wood from the Asherah that was beside it as firewood for a burnt offering:
Now on the same night the LORD said to him, “Take your father’s bull and a second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal which belongs to your father, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it;
26 and build an altar to the LORD your God on the top of this stronghold in an orderly manner, and take a second bull and offer a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah which you shall cut down.”
I have always found this to be rather interesting especially in light of the fact that in his first encounter with the Angel of the Lord, Gideon was able to reference great and mighty acts of Yahweh which he had heard from the fathers among whom would have been his own father:
Then Gideon said to him, “O my lord, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.” (Jdg 6:13)
How did Gideon hear about this? Where did this history come from? Would it not come from his own father?
It is truly enlightening as to the idolatrous nature of man to behold the ease by which he can set the holy and the profane side-by-side, on equal footing, without any sense of contradiction. The fathers passed down stories of how Yahweh proved that the gods of Egypt were not gods only to turn and bow the knee once again to those things which are also by nature not gods.
I contemplate this passage from time to time to remind myself that it is very easy to couch our language with religious terms, to cite with precision Scripture, confessions, doctrinal statements, and the like and yet at root be an idolater. I do not negate the importance of such precision, only to remember that theological precision is not antidote to idolatry if the theological belief is not one that is held in faith and does not promote reverence. True theology melts the heart, for it is in sound theology where one meets his Lord and King.
I also remind myself that if those who hold to sound theology can nevertheless have an idolatrous heart, how much more so will those be who have unsound doctrine as their guiding light? It is the nature of man to be a lover of self, and to desire his own good and pleasure above God.
With that thought, consider the recent video making the rounds which has Victoria Osteen making some very fantastic claims regarding the nature of worship and its purpose. You really must hear it for yourself, but here is a section of the clip:
I just want to encourage every one of us to realize when we obey God, we’re not doing it for God—I mean, that’s one way to look at it—we’re doing it for ourselves, because God takes pleasure when we’re happy. That’s the thing that gives Him the greatest joy.
We’re not doing it for God. Really. We are really doing it for ourselves because God’s greatest pleasure comes from the pleasure of His creation.
Ponder that for a moment. God’s *greatest* pleasure is when we are happy. What would he ever do without us?
This is not the Christian mindset. Of course, it attempts to sound Christian by declaring that by doing that which pleases us we actually please God — after all, we do want to please God, right? So, Osteen sort of gives us permission to seek our own pleasure in order to please God. Oh, I know, she tells us that we should “obey God” but the motive for doing so is not the pleasure of God primarily. It is the pleasure of man primarily and the pleasure of God as a secondary means (only when we are happy is God happy). What Osteen here offers us is a religion that is really about Man by means of God. That is to say, while they speak of God in the most flattering terms and speak with elevated vocabulary, the ultimate aim is the glorification and happiness of man. God is a motivating factor, but not the end and purpose of our being, we are. So long as they say that this is somehow for God and his glory they believe that they have done sufficient worship and reverence to His name. But, when one distills all the rhetoric and emotive words, it comes down to being all about man and his pleasure.
This is truly a far cry from the message of the Apostle Paul who declared:
33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!
34 For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR?
35 Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN?
36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.
For whom are all things? To whom belongs the glory forever? True worship, if it can be called true and proper worship, has as its aim the glory of the Lord. Its primary purpose is the exaltation of God. “Help us, O God of our salvation,” declared Asaph, “for the glory of Your name; And deliver us and forgive our sins for Your name’s sake.” (Psa 79:9) Even pleading for their own good, safety, and salvation, the motivation was for the glory of His name and for His name’s sake.
When we consider the words and thoughts of Victoria Osteen, we must recognize that this expression is the core of their theology. Indeed, and quite often unknowingly, this man-centeredness is the theology of much of what is considered to be theology today. Would that Christians examine the motives of their worship, to see whether or not its primary concern is the majesty of God or the good of man. B. B. Warfield, if I may paraphrase him, once described Reformed Theology as the apprehension of God in majesty. This is the core of Reformed worship. We declare with one voice the words of Paul, with no sense if irony or contradiction, “To Him be the glory forever. Amen.”