On May 27, 2009, the world’s largest worship venue opened in Arlington, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. With close to 30,000 parking spaces, the ability to hold 110,000 people, a state-of-the-art sound system, and a gigantic center-hung, high-definition television screen that measures 160 x 72 feet, it is the perfect location to gather, sing, shout, cry, clap, and feel the energy that occurs when that many souls come together with the same hope in mind.
What church does this massive edifice belong to? It must be the Baptists or charismatics, right? Who else has that kind of coin? No, the owner of this $1.33 billion monster in Arlington with its retractable roof and almost limitless possibilities for usage is none other than Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys. And all year long, whether for a concert, motocross event, tractor pull, or football game, men and women flood into the stadium ready to support and cheer on their favorite team, band, or player. They’ve come for one reason and one reason alone. They have come to . . . rejoice!
Rejoice is a simple yet serious word, meaning to celebrate, cheer, exult, or delight in. One synonym for rejoice is worship, and we were each created by God to do so, hardwired by our Creator for it. And thus, even those men and women who don’t enjoy worshipping their Maker can sometimes be seen with their bodies painted in team colors, becoming emotionally affected for hours, sometimes days, by how the game went on a particular Saturday or Sunday, or Monday night, or Thursday night. They’re ready for worship any day of the week—morning, noon, or evening. But, their hearts are yielded to lesser things.
Because we humans are worshippers, we are rejoicers. It’s what we do. Every single person, whether religious or irreligious, actively worships. They have identified something bigger than themselves that they believe is worthy of their money, time, and the meditations of their hearts. In many ways, they have offered themselves as sacrifices to that “something,” whatever it is. It comes naturally to them. Easily. Enjoyably.
But in our sinfulness, this tendency to worship things other than God is an exercise in disappointment. It offers us nothing but temporary satisfaction while simultaneously bringing down God’s judgment upon us (Eccl. 11:9). Since we are worshippers by God’s design, the problem is not that we rejoice but rather that we rejoice wrongly. In the book of Romans, Paul writes:
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. . . . They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served something created instead of the Creator who is forever praised. (Rom. 1:21–23, 25 ESV and HCSB)
Simply put, we prefer creation to the Creator.
So in essence, sin is a fundamental failure to rejoice in what we should rejoice in. Our worship has to be redeemed and rescued from futile things. Rather than rejoicing in our Creator—the Creator of all that exists—we rejoice in and serve shallow, temporary things that are here one moment and gone the next. The reason some of us swing from elation to despair so easily is that we rejoice wrongly. Our worshipping is in the wrong place. We spend too much of our energy and vitality on the wrong thing.
Yet God, because He created us for worship, pursues our worship. The first commandment listed in the Ten Commandments is God instructing His people to worship only Him. He said to the Jewish people in Exodus 20 (with major implications to all of us):
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God.” (vv. 2–5 NIV)
Out of slavery. Delivered into freedom. By His own gracious hand. Sounds a lot like the gospel, doesn’t it.