A frequent complaint that I have heard from the secular world is that God seems to be egoistical because the bible is filled with verses which encourage and command the praise of God. Indeed, praise and affection for the Lord is of immense importance in the scriptures and Jesus referred to it as the greatest commandment! In Matthew 22:36-40, it is said:
Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment…”
In our secular society, this commandment is faced with strong opposition. I think part of the misunderstanding that follows this commandment is to do with the reality that people look at God as though He is like us and this is a huge error. In Psalm 50:21, God says:
When you did these things and I kept silent, you thought I was exactly like you. But I now arraign you and set my accusations before you.
God is not like us. We are like Him in the sense that He made us in His image (Genesis 1:27), however God is holy, sinless, perfect and has always existed. It is wrong, therefore, to look at the commands of God as though a mere man commanded them. He is the LORD and scripture calls for us to stand in reverence and awe. The commands in scripture to love and praise God are actually rooted in God’s love for the glory of His name and in the unimaginable love He has for us. They are not egoistical because God is deserving of praise because of many reasons including the fact that He alone is the Almighty and He is good in all He does.
Throughout the bible, we see that God desires and sets out to have a relationship with His people, one like that of a father and child. This relationship means that the Christian is to not only know God but have strong and genuine loving affections towards God. Holding to doctrine without possessing love for God is extremely dangerous, even pointless. Jesus said that if anyone loves mother or father more than Him then that person is not worthy of Jesus (Matthew 10:37)!
Edward John Carnell in Christian Commitment used a powerful analogy to demonstrate the importance of genuine love for God. He wrote:
Suppose a husband asks his wife if he must kiss her good night. Her answer is, “You must, but not that kind of a must.” What she means is this: “Unless a spontaneous affection for my person motivates you, your overtures are stripped of all moral value.”
Christianity is not about a set of rules and conducting a number of rituals. The focus of the gospel is the relationship between people and God. God saved us because of His great love and mercy; if you are saved you will respond to God with love and gratitude. Joy will flow from this new heart of love and gratitude that God has given you. Jesus becomes your joy.
I have noticed, in my own journey of faith, the immense joy I feel when I am worshipping God and when I am focused completely on who He is. When I am praying and praising God, I am filled with deep peace and joy, far more than the times when I am asking God for something. My favourite prayers are those where my heart is overwhelmed with love for Him and the praise just runs off the tip of my tongue; there is nothing like it. I can’t think of any other pleasure greater than the one I feel when I am feeling close to my God and I am in awe of Him and Him alone. It is my biggest joy and I just pray it will remain like that for the rest of my life.