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"Nature abhors a vacuum" is a scientific phrase that has always stuck in my mind.


A vacuum is a space that is devoid of matter; there are no particles or atoms, nothing, not even air. Here on earth we have air pressure all around us all the time, pressing us in. We don't feel it because it is so constant and ordinary for us.


Air pressure is kind of like the water pressure you feel when you get into the pool, you feel the water press against you but interestingly you are only really aware of the fact you are in water for a couple minutes until you just get used to it. Because air pressure is so ubiquitous, we don't notice it at all, we don't even consider what it would be like if there was no air pressure on us at every moment. We are made to live in air pressure, our bodies thrive here, it is natural to us.


Anyway, getting back to vacuums. Here on earth, because of the air pressure all around us all the time, whenever we try to make vacuums, like in science labs, air pressure just forces matter back into the space. As soon as you try to create a space with nothing in it, it will fill back up with something unless you can mechanically force the matter to stay out.


"Nature abhors a vacuum" is a saying that reminds us that in nature on earth empty spaces always get filled with something. This holds most true on an atomistic level, where you cannot find naturally-occurring true vacuums on the planet, and in a general anecdotal sense whenever something is removed from an environment, something else comes in to fill the void.


Now you may be wondering why on earth am I writing about this? Did I pick up side-hustle as a science tutor? No!


This idea reminds me of the way that humans will always worship. We are made to worship, and to thrive in worship. When you take away the proper object of our worship, we will fill that space with something else that is not worthy of worship.


We are taught about this in Romans 1 where Paul is discussing the foundational problems with the human race and why we need a saviour. Our problem is that we know innately that we should worship God, but in our sinful state we have taken to replacing him with other objects of worship. If it is not God, something else will fill that vacuum. For much of human history, and even still in many places, those objects of worship were primarily hand made idols (statues/totems/pictures/etc.) or representative idols (like sacred trees/stones/rivers/cows/etc.).


"For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honour 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." (Ro 1:19–23).


So if we don't honour the true God, we end up worshiping something else. And this "something else" is not always explicitly religious. We have seen in recent history some interesting experiments at trying to remove religion from the picture. Some of the well known examples are the communist regimes mostly established in the 20th century. They tried to remove religion from their citizens and in it's place people ended up worshiping the state as their god.


In the secular western societies of the world we have been on a similar trajectory. It has not been as obvious as the Soviet attempts, but nonetheless year after year the LORD God has been progressively side-lined and ignored, and in some respects, outlawed. We're trying to make a society without any explicitly religious connections, yet as we try to drive out God, other religious worship crops up to receive our devotion.


This worship-replacement can be observed on a cultural level, looking at us as a group. But you can observe the phenomena on an individual level too. When people refuse to worship God, they worship other stuff. You see so many people pursuing metaphorical idols; no longer do they bow down to wood and stone carvings but to brands and ideologies and celebrity. Perhaps the idol is more tangible than that, it is a mental obeisance to otherwise good things like family, or career, or wealth. You can usually tell what such an "idol" is by seeing what someone could not live without, or, seeing what causes them the most offence.


It is a fun game to make up names of the present western pantheon. There is the goddess Genesia of the earth who demands disorder as her sacrament. There is Governmentus a obscenely bloated fat man who is an awful father. Gnosistos the androgynous god of victimhood mystery cults. Theraputeia who feeds on her children's despair and pain.  Corprotos Midas the lobotomised god of profit who is destined to drown himself in a sea of gold. Hedonia the purveyor of empty pleasures. But I digress...


If I could postulate here for a moment, I would like to suggest one of the most pervasive idols is now the Self. Carl Trueman does an excellent job of tracing the roots of this present predicament in The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, and in his more manageable summary of that book called Strange New World. The temptation to think of oneself more highly than they ought has always been around, however we sit in a cultural moment where the true God has been side-lined in the public consciousness, divine justice and holy law has been rejected, and the individual has been progressively promoted to higher and higher levels of self determination.


The inherent value of the individual as a person made in the image of God has been highjacked to mean "I have supreme rights over my life" which is an unbiblical falsehood. You're either outside God's kingdom, whereout you stand accused and guilty of crimes punishable by death, or you are inside God's kingdom wherein your guilt is atoned for and Christ suffered in your place. But in either case you do not hold the rights to you own life, God does.


Back to the idolatry of self. We have been catechised from a number of sources to see ourselves as the arbiter and creator of our identity. We have stripped away more and more of the tethers that helped to shape and fashion us into better people and humble us to our proper place in the world. So now, too many souls are like hot air balloons, puffed up with pride and given over to the wind. It feels like freedom to let go ones morays and give over to passions, yet we soon come to the realisation that this balloon cannot be steered and we will be blown every which way. We learn the hard way that the tethers serve to help us, not hurt us.


Yet sadly, many are going to learn these lessons by experience. They are putting their Self at centre; they worship only one frail and powerless god. Far too many will learn soon learn that their god is completely dependant on external forces and they are utterly incapable of producing anything within themselves but counterfeits of what God has already made. Far from having aseity, every human is utterly dependant on God for their life and being in every moment of their existence. Worshipping the Self will only lead to sorrow because you are not meant to be a source of glory, but a receiver and reflector of another's glory.


God made us to be worshipers, and we only find our true purpose and flourishing when we are worshipping him. When we exchange the glory of God for created images we will find some traces of goodness there, but only because their origin and ours is from our good God. Created things reflect God's glory but it is a trap to see that glory as originating from the created world untethered from the immortal God.


How can we tell when knowing, honouring and thanking God does not have it's proper place in our lives? Well there are obvious results. We can look around at the results unfolding around us and perhaps even in our own lives. Just as there is fruit of righteousness for those who belong to Jesus, there is a kind of wicked fruit for those who reject God: "And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness..." (Ro 1:28–29).


Although there is sin in every age, and there are always wicked perversions practiced behind closed doors, our cultural moment is characterised by the public proliferation of all manner of unrighteousness: it is paraded in our streets and advertised on our screens; It is legislated in our parliaments and enforced in our courts; it is catechised by our parents, and trained in our schools. "Filled with all manner of unrighteousness" is the mission statement for our country.


Without God, we have to put something else up front. For a while we thought it could be a neutral benevolence shared among all citizens, yet Romans 1 has proved true: It's Christ or Chaos, worship God or be given over to our wicked pursuits.


"Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them."  (Ro 1:32).


I am reminded by the words of Jesus who said: "When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.” (Lk 11:24–26).


We might even say "spirits abhor a vacuum." When demons are sent out, the "house" needs to have something else fill that space lest they return in force. It is not enough to simply be free from demons, we need to be filled with God's Spirit. We need Christ in us: "if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness."  (Ro 8:10).


This is the antidote to all our woes. It may seem trite to come back and say "the answer is Jesus," but just because it is a cliché does not mean it isn't true. This is our only hope for our countries, our communities, our neighbourhoods our families: that we worship the one we were designed to worship. If we create a void of proper worship, it will only be filled by other things that lead to all manner of unrighteousness. A fact that we can see borne out around us every day.


Come in faith through Jesus to worship the Living God.