Becoming What We Worship

We not only emulate those who we most admire, but we often tend to go over the top in seeking to become like them as well. We may well pick up their mannerisms, or start talking like them, or seek to duplicate their lifestyle, or dress like them, etc. And if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then to actually look just like someone you idolise is also part of the transformation.

And this is occurring more and more. Just recently I noticed a news item about a half-sister of Lindsay Lohan spending $25,000 on plastic surgery to look like her famous sibling. As one article states, “Lindsay Lohan’s signature look has often been emulated by others.

“But the actress’s estranged half sister has taken things one, very drastic, step further. In a bizarre move, Ashley Horn, who shares the same father as the Mean Girls star, has spent a whopping $25,000 on plastic surgery to look like her famous sibling.

“The 18-year-old underwent five procedures to try and obtain Lindsay’s unique look, including a nose job and several fillers. ‘I’ve gotten rhinoplasty, a bit of refinement underneath my cheeks and jawline, some fat injected into my chin and some fat injected into my upper cheeks,’ Ashley explained to In Touch magazine, in which she reveals her new look.

“Enlisting the expertise of Houston-based surgeon Dr. Franklin Rose, Ashley’s wanted to copy Lindsay’s look during the height of her fame. ‘My goal was to look like Lindsay in her good days, when she was around 18, 19 years old,’ Horn told the magazine.

“And Ashley, who is hoping to launch her own Hollywood career, is clearly pleased with the results, claiming she is now ‘hotter’ than her elder sibling. ‘I’m hotter than Lindsay!’ she told the magazine. ‘I have no problem saying that.’ And while Ashley may now resemble her sibling even more, she claims that they are nothing alike when it comes to their personalities.”

And plenty of other examples can be mentioned. Recently there was the case of the 21-year-old Russian woman who spent $100,000 undergoing countless surgical procedures to look like a Barbie doll. Yes you heard me right: “Most little girls grow up playing with Barbie dolls. Some even want to look like them. One 21-year-old has become one, or so she says.

“Valeria Lukyanova has become an internet sensation in her home country of Russia, claiming on her blog to be the most famed woman on the Russian-language internet. Her doll-like features, long blonde hair and ‘perfect’ body make her look like a real life Barbie.”

Whatever we worship and idolise, we tend to become like. So if we worship dumb things or harmful things, we tend to end up like them. That is why the Bible makes so much about idolatry. It has to do with adoring and worshipping anything other than the one true and living God.

Only God is worth our complete veneration and imitation. Anything else is a false god, and seeking to become like it will only result in our downfall. New Testament scholar Greg Beale has recently penned an entire volume on this. Called We Become What We Worship (IVP, 2008) it provides an in-depth look at idolatry, and how the idolater ends up becoming transformed into the image of the idol.

Beale explains what he means by this: “The thesis of the book is not that people become the idols they worship or become the God they worship, but they become like the idols or like God. The point of figuratively omitting the word like is to emphasize that the worshiper reflects some of the important qualities or attributes of the object of worship….

“What do you and I reflect? One presupposition of this book is that God has made humans to reflect him, but if they do not commit themselves to him, they will not reflect him but something else in creation. At the core of our beings we are imaging creatures. It is not possible to be neutral on this issue: we either reflect the Creator or something in creation.”

In contrast to the flagrant idolatry which exists all around us, we were created to imitate and worship God alone. And the believer is meant to be becoming what he or she worships: we are meant to be becoming more and more Christ-like. The New Testament often speaks to this. Consider just a few texts:

-Romans 8:29: For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
-2 Corinthians 3:18: And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
-Galatians 4:19: My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you.
-Ephesians 4:13: until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

The goal of the Christian is to become more and more Christ-like, while resembling less and less what our old nature was like. So if we are believers yet are not making any progress in becoming increasingly Christ-like, we may need to ask ourselves what it is that we really worship, adore and seek after.

Image of God Is the Gospel: Meditations on God's Love as the Gift of Himself
God Is the Gospel: Meditations on God's Love as the Gift of Himself by Piper, John (Author) Amazon logo

John Piper in his important 2005 volume, God is the Gospel speaks to this issue as well. He writes: “The dynamics of personal transformation in 2 Corinthians 3:18 assume that we are changed into what we admire and fix our attention on. ‘Beholding the glory of the Lord, [we] are being transformed into the same image.’ We know this is so from experience. Long looking with admiration produces change.

“From your heroes you pick up mannerisms and phrases and tones of voice and facial expressions and habits and demeanors and convictions and beliefs. The more admirable the hero is and the more intense your admiration is, the more profound will be your transformation. In the case of Jesus, he is infinitely admirable, and our admiration rises to the most absolute worship. Therefore, when we behold him as we should, the change is profound.”

So the question is, just who is your hero? Is it Barbie? Lindsay Lohan? Or some other pop star, movie star, sports star, celebrity or someone else? Or is it Jesus Christ, the only one we should idolise, adore, worship, emulate, and seek to be like?

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10 Replies to “Becoming What We Worship”

  1. I can’t help but comment. You said: “The goal of the Christian is to become more and more like Christ-like, while resembling less and less what our old nature was like. So if we are believers yet are not making any progress in becoming increasingly Christ-like, we may need to ask ourselves what it is that we really worship, adore and seek after”. Thank you for setting me straight Bill. Love your work.
    Damian Utano

  2. Oooh Bill. “we overcame by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony”. SELAH (pause and calmly think of that).
    Damian Utano

  3. Psalm 115 speaks about an idolater becoming like their idol.

    “Their idols are silver and gold,
    the work of human hands.
    They have mouths, but do not speak;
    eyes, but do not see.
    They have ears, but do not hear;
    noses, but do not smell.
    They have hands, but do not feel;
    feet, but do not walk;
    and they do not make a sound in their throat.
    Those who make them become like them;
    so do all who trust in them.” Ps. 115:4-8

    Annette Nestor

  4. The Israelites were given this commandment:
    ‘You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.’ (Exodus 20:4 NIV)
    This command was given to indicate that God would provide the idol for us to worship – Jesus.
    Sid Avery

  5. Thanks Bill, I love what you wrote you here, thank you.
    Mother Teresa is my role model woman, but yes Jesus is our only idol.

    Loretta Coffey

  6. This is one of your best articles Bill ! The goal of the Christian is to become more Christlike, thats also the reason we attend church, to enable people to grow and become like Him. We are not there for the music, make friends, listen and be entertained by a ‘good’ speaker the food or duty of attending. Not that these are unimportant but the primary purpose surely is to develop His character and edify and encourage other believers in that process. Well done, Kevin McDonald

  7. Idols are images without the substance of the Living and True God. Idolatry is both an insult to the only wise God and a degrading of the human idol worshipper, a being who was created after the image and likeness of the Creator of the Universe.

    God is no Freudian illusion. Unbelievers had Him crucified, but He is irreplaceable, the One who became dead, but lives forever. Contrary to Nietzsche, God is very much alive – mere men, Hitler, Stalin and Mao dare to replace Him at their own peril.

    John Wigg

  8. Damian, the most important part of that scripture from revelation is missing “and they did not love their lives even unto death”. By that we have proved that we have truly overcome.
    It is so much easier to imitate a human being. Becoming like Christ takes a lifetime and more. I wish it were shorter for the sake of those before whom we are to live the gospel because they don’t go to church where they can hear it.
    Many blessings
    Ursula Bennett

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