God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (Joh 4:24 ESV)
Some years ago a Christian friend had gotten into a discussion about true worship. The particular church he attended was a Four Square church. This church’s worship was contemporary. The worship service’s liturgy was simple. Typical of most Pentecostal churches this church eschewed formal worship. It was within this context that a number of his fellow members got into a discussion about what made worship true worship. The discussion took place on Face Book. I noticed many people talking about traditional versus contemporary worship, high liturgy versus low liturgy, organs versus drums. It was in the midst of this back-and-forth that I entered the fray and reminded them of how Jesus defined true worship. I simply posted Jesus’ words from John 4:24. Simply put Jesus is reminding us that worship is all about God, not about us. Worship is about the nature of God which is spirit, not about the nature of man which is flesh. Spirit in biblical parlance is focused on the will of God; flesh is the opposite: it’s about the will of man. Since the nature of God is spirit, then the response of those who focus on God must be spiritual and truthful. In other words true worship is not about external formalities. When external formalities become the focus of worship, when our symbols and forms become more significant than what our symbols and forms ought to signify…then such worship in vain. This is what our Lord meant when he said, You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: 8 “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 9 in vain do they worship me….'” (Mat 15:7-9aESV)
So what is true worship? Jesus notes that true worship is in spirit and in truth. Spirit, in part, is a heart and will in lockstep with God’s heart and will. Truth is, in part, a mind that corresponds with the mind of God. Simply put, true worship is a heart and will of a man or woman, boy or girl who loves what God loves, does what God demands, and believes what God says and teaches—all formed and informed by the Word of God.
Next month we will delve into the content of worshiping God in spirit and in truth, but for now let us be reminded of true worship. Much so called worship across churches today in America is fleshly. Fleshly worship can be external and formal, focusing on external symbols and acts void of spirit. On the other hand, worship can be fleshly by focusing on ourselves: how we feel, how we emote, how we think, instead of how God feels, and what God thinks. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (Mat 7:21 ESV). May we always do the will of the Father in our worship! Amen!!
Soli Deo Gloria
G Carl Moore