I have no reason to doubt that her question was entirely sincere—however misguided it was.
“Suppose you could prove to me that there is a God. So what! Would that necessarily mean that I would be obligated to serve him? Your God must be on a super ‘ego trip’ if he expects everyone in the universe to worship him.”
What response should be made to this flippant comment from an intelligent but confused college student?
First, the issue of whether humans should yield their lives to the Creator has nothing to do with the divine ego. God, by definition, is infinite in all of his attributes. He cannot be more powerful than he is. He cannot be wiser than he is. The Lord cannot be any more glorious than he is. Consequently, his ego could never be enhanced by human servitude.
This is implied logically in the language of Christ’s prayer shortly before his crucifixion. Jesus petitioned that he might be glorified with the glory that he shared with the Father “before the world was” (John 17:5).
If it were the case that God’s glory had been inflated by virtue of human devotion across the centuries, the Lord’s prayer surely would have reflected a desire for the current glory of the Father, rather than that possessed before the world was created (cf. Fuller 1963, 23).
God’s requirement that we serve him, therefore, obviously is not for his benefit; rather, it is for our’s. Because God is love (1 John 4:8), he wants the best for us. Our true contentment will be found only in living for him, and that is why he bids us thus to do.
But let us expand this thought with supplemental reasons as to why we, as rational human beings, should be obedient to the Creator of our very being.
The Nature of God
A primary reason for bowing before Jehovah has to do with the nature or essence of this Being. God is worthy of human service simply because of who he is! Exactly what does this suggest?
There are two sources of information regarding the Supreme Being. First, there is the abstract revelation of nature, which argues for the wisdom and power of Deity (Psalm 19:1; Romans 1:20). Jehovah’s power is seen in the vastness of the universe; his wisdom is reflected in its intricate design.
The evidence is so clear that those who survey these data, and yet fail to conclude that “he is,” are “without excuse” (Romans 1:20; Hebrews 11:6).
In addition to the abstract revelation of divinity in the book of nature, there is the concrete revelation of Holy Scripture, which affirms the moral attributes of the Lord. These two “volumes” of testimony complement one another wonderfully. The Bible teaches that God is the eternal Spirit who is the Architect and Creator of the universe.
But when did Jehovah, himself, originate? He didn’t. God has existed always; he is the eternal “I Am” (Exodus 6:3; cf. Genesis 21:33; Psalm 90:2). Logic demands this.
A venerable argument—that remains unanswered to this day—is this: If anything is existing, then something must always have existed. But things are existing; therefore, something always has existed.
That eternal “something” must be either matter or mind. But it is not matter, for science demonstrates that matter is not eternal. Thus, the eternal something is mind. The Scriptures identify this Mind as God.
As to his essence, God is spirit and not flesh (John 4:24; Luke 24:39; Matthew 16:17). He is the Almighty (Genesis 17:1; Revelation 1:8), whose purposes cannot be restrained (Job 42:2).
God is infinitely wise (Romans 11:33-36), and his loving, benevolent disposition is breathtaking (1 John 4:8; Ephesians 2:4; James 1:17). The gift of his Son to accommodate the redemption of rebellious humanity provides ample motive for surrendering one’s life to him.
One of the profound documents of the Old Testament is the book of Job. An interesting aspect of that narrative has to do with the worthiness of God as an object of human adoration. In a mysterious convocation at which Satan was present, the Lord introduced Job, the patriarch of Uz, as a trophy of human character—a spiritually mature, upright man who was unique among his contemporaries.
Satan agreed, but suggested that Job’s righteous demeanor was the result of bribery! In other words, God had blessed Job so abundantly that the sage of Uz would have been foolish not to serve him. In a word, Job knew who buttered his bread!
The subtle and diabolical implication in this charge was this:
You, God, are not worthy of human devotion on the basis of your character; rather, men serve you only because you make it to their advantage to do so. Let us use Job as a test case. Take away his goodies and he will abandon you.
And so, for our benefit (not for his own), the Lord accepted the challenge. Thus, Job was deprived of his wealth, his family, his health, his friends, and his prestige. He lost everything. And yet, the devout dignitary never forsook his faith in God. Though he lashed out in anguish at times—because he did not understand what was happening to him—he nonetheless could proclaim triumphantly: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust him” (Job 13:15).
The noble patriarch thus demonstrated this proposition: God is worthy of human service on the basis of his own nature—apart from the generous blessings he bestows. As the psalmist expressed it: “I will call upon Jehovah, who is worthy to be praised” (Psalm 18:3).
We ought to praise God simply on account of who he is!
The Relationship We Sustain to Our Maker
Certain associations carry with them intrinsic responsibilities. One of those is that of the Creator-creature relationship.
The created thing sustains a subordinate status to that which created it. Paul argued this very point in his letter to the Romans. “Or hath not a potter a right over the clay?,” he asked rhetorically (Romans 9:21). In the Greek text, the query implies an affirmative answer, as suggested by the particle ouk (cf. Matthew 13:55). The term rendered “right” in our common versions is the Greek exousia, literally “authority.” The potter, by virtue of his status, has authority over the vessel he has fashioned.
The historical facts are these. “Jehovah God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7; cf. 3:19). The inspired writers of both testaments affirmed that the Lord is our “Creator” (Ecclesiastes 12:1; Isaiah 40:28; Romans 1:25), or our “Maker” (Psalm 95:6; Proverbs 14:31; Isaiah 17:7; Hosea 8:14). Hence, by virtue of this Creator-creature relationship, Jehovah has a right to commission human loyalty.
But there always has been a propensity in man to repudiate the Creator-creature relationship in order to justify human self-centeredness. More than anything else, some people want to be their own god.
Seven centuries before the birth of Christ, Isaiah wrote regarding the rebels of his day:
Ye turn things upside down! Shall the potter be esteemed as clay; that the thing made should say of him that made it, he made me not; or the thing formed say of him that formed it, he hath no understanding? (Isaiah 29:16).
Of this arrogant claim—“He made me not”—Edward J. Young rightly observed: “Words more wrong, more foolish, more soul-destroying have never been uttered by human lips” (1969, 325). May we be chastened by the inspired writer: “Know that the Lord Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves” (Psalm 100:3, NASB).
This haughty and independent attitude, of course, is the motive behind the theory of evolution. Foolish man wishes to cut loose from the moral and religious ties that bind him to a sovereign Creator. Hence, he has fashioned gods of his own design—Mother Nature and Father Time—to whom he owes no responsibility.
As the late George G. Simpson, the renowned paleontologist and evolutionist of Harvard University, once expressed it:
Man stands alone in the universe, a unique product of a long, unconscious, impersonal material process with unique understanding and potentialities. These he owes to no one but himself, and it is to himself that he is responsible. He is not the creature of uncontrollable and undeterminable forces, but is his own master. He can and must decide and manage his own destiny (1953, 155).
Despite such infidelic protestations, the theory of naturalistic origins is void of proof that man is the “product of a long, unconscious, impersonal material process.” Rather, the evidence suggests that human beings are the result of an intelligent Cause who specially designed them (see Thompson and Jackson 1996; Jackson 1993). As creatures of divine planning, we have a responsibility to submit to God—and he has the right to require it!
The Human Condition
Another valid reason for serving Jehovah has to do with the status quo of the human family. As an old, country philosopher put it: “That’s Latin for ‘the mess we’re in’.” Nothing could be further from the truth than the old cliché: “Every day, in every way, we’re getting better and better.” The fact is, as Paul once wrote: “Evil men and impostors shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13).
The presence of evil is apparent universally, and has been acknowledged from time immemorial. The Roman philosopher Seneca said: “We have all sinned, some more, and some less.” A Chinese proverb states: “There are two good men: one is dead and the other is not yet born.” Paul wrote: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). And John bluntly noted: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).
How is this deplorable condition to be remedied? Man has never been able to concoct a solution. When it was alleged that education could provide the answer, we discovered that education, without spiritual values, makes only more skillful criminals.
Those who touted psychology as the panacea for human woes have lived to see one theory after another disappear into complete obscurity. Ours is now a world of escapists—alcoholics, drug-abusers, and dream-world mystics. A recent news feature suggested that by the end of the next decade, the third leading cause of work-disability will be clinical depression.
And we have more material security than any generation that has gone before us, but generally speaking we are a miserable lot. Is there no help for the human family?
Someone is bound to claim that religion surely is not the answer, for it has been around for centuries, and yet, here we are, in this sordid predicament. Yes, “religion” has been around alright, but it rarely has been tried on a massive scale in its pristine form. If the teaching of Jesus Christ were to be adopted sincerely and pursued rigorously by a significant segment of society, changes so dramatic would occur as to produce utter amazement.
There is absolutely no remedy to human distress apart from the divine plan as implemented through the atoning work of Jesus of Nazareth. The Lord declared emphatically: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one comes unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). This declaration carries validity because of the solid historical evidence that undergirds Christ’s authoritative claim of being the Son of God.
The truth is, there is no abiding contentment in a world without God. Out of a background of materialism and hedonism, Solomon, an inspired penman, proclaimed: “[T]he way of the transgressor is hard” (Proverbs 13:15). “Fear [reverence] God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
On the other hand, it is a lie which suggests that serving the Creator is all pain and tears. Moses was willing to forsake the temporal “pleasures of sin,” which are but for a season, to identify with the people of God. Why? He did so because he knew that the reproaches of Christ are vastly superior to the treasures of any land (Hebrews 11:24-26 — see also He Forsook the Treasures of Egypt).
For troubled souls in a world of confusion, the Scriptures offer hope: “And the peace of God which passes all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
In the sermon on the mount, Jesus announced: “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). This passage has long perplexed multitudes. It cannot be a prophecy that finds its fulfillment in events following the return of Christ (as some allege), for there will be no earth at that point (Matthew 24:35; 2 Peter 3:10ff.). Rather, it is a promise for those who yield to God—here and now! Barclay has shown that the “meek” person is the one who has been mastered by God (1974, 240-242).
The passage suggests this: as children of him who is the God of heaven and earth, those who yield to Christ will enjoy this planet’s blessings more than all others. The point is: people ought to serve the Lord for the sheer joy that it brings—not only in eternity, but right now, here on the earth.
All Accounts Are Not Settled in this Life
Some years ago there was published an edition of Charles Darwin’s revolutionary volume, The Origin of Species. On the back dust jacket were these words: “This book has made a joke of ‘the Day of Judgment.’” If there is a joke in this, Jehovah will have the last laugh: “He that sitteth in the heavens will laugh: The Lord will have them in derision” (Psalm 2:4).
The laughable thing is that man labors under the illusion that he can thwart the will of the Almighty. If there is no ultimate Judgment—where all wrongs are made right and where justice ultimately prevails—then life is a meaningless riddle.
Consider the plight of Asaph who, according to the superscription, penned the seventy-third psalm. The poet had assumed that if one enjoyed a right relationship with God, his well-being always would be secure. Conversely, it is implied that rebellion against the Creator would bring only woe. That concept is suggested subtly in the opening verse of the narrative.
However, as he considered the circumstances of his environment, Asaph was baffled by life’s inequities (73:2-9). In this state of bewilderment, his “steps had well nigh slipped,” i.e., he had almost lost his faith in Heaven’s providential government of earthly affairs. He surveyed the “prosperity of the wicked” and was confused. Though evil men wear pride like a chain around their neck, and their eyes bulge with opulence, they finally seem to die in peace. The godless live as though the Judge of the earth has no knowledge of what is transpiring on his planet (v. 11).
Asaph wondered, therefore, whether his religious exercises had been for naught. He had attempted to serve his Maker, yet he suffered hardship consistently (vv. 13-14). What is the answer to this enigma? The writer says that he entered “into the sanctuary of God,” i.e., the place where divine truth was revealed.
Delitzsch and Keil observed that he became privy to the “holy plans and ways of God” (1978, 318). He discovered that the “latter end” of the wicked would be destruction (vv. 17-18). He learned this truth: all accounts are not settled in this life!
If there is no final Judgment, then it makes no difference at all as to how men live upon this globe. The life of Jesus Christ amounts to no more than that of Adolf Hitler. But who can live with such a senseless philosophy? No one who is rational can do so.
Orin Gifford wrote: “You may juggle human laws, you may fool with human courts, but there is a judgment to come, and from it there is no appeal” (Mead 1965, 259).
Men need to serve God because they possess an immortal soul that eventually will give account to the Creator.
There are multiplied thousands of people who are willing to give intellectual assent to the fact that a Supreme Being exists, but who do not see that such an idea bears any relationship to their daily personal lives.
Technically, these people are designated as deists. They are theoretical theists, but practical atheists. Such people have made a tragic mistake.
There are powerful and valid reasons for totally surrendering to the will of God, as such ultimately is made known in the revelation of the New Testament. May we urge our contemporaries to give due attention to such matters.