Worship in Spirit and Truth
This past Sunday, Pastor Stephani Tague took us into the practical “how to” of corporate worship. If we are ever going to worship as God intended, it starts with owning and admitting some realities around worship. First and foremost, we need to embrace the reality that worship is God’s expectation, not an option. Once that is wrestled to the ground, we need to deal with the realities surrounding how we worship.
In John chapter 4, we read the story of Jesus’ interaction with a Samaritan woman at a well in her hometown. This story is about Jesus breaking cultural norms (by talking to a woman AND by talking to a hated Samaritan). It’s also about meeting this woman where she was at spiritually. It’s about Jesus’ power and it’s about the power of being a witness for Jesus. Worship does make an appearance, but almost as a footnote. Jesus confronts this woman about her current lifestyle and she tries to change the subject. She starts asking about the mechanics of worship; when and where it was appropriate. Jesus quickly brings her back to the reality of the situation at hand, but before He does, he gives a profound insight into how we are to worship.
Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. 23 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. 24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:21-24 NLT)
Listen to the words of Jesus. True worshipers will worship the Father how? In Spirit and in Truth. Apparently the “How” of worship, though carried out through the physical mechanics of worshipping, actually has much more to do with the condition of our hearts in worship.
First, we are to worship in Spirit. What does that even mean? We could wrestle for hours with what Jesus was trying to say here, but I think it comes down to this; Worship is not just a physical act. So many come to worship and go through all the right motions. When we argue about worship, we argue about how we are to physically worship- what style the worship should be, should we raise our hands or not. All of these are important to work through, but ultimately they miss the point. If you go through all the motions physically, but you haven’t prepared yourself spiritually, you missed it. In a way, corporate worship is a little like baptism. It’s not the act that changes you. It’s an act of obedience, and it’s on outward, physical expression of an internal change. When you worship, it starts with your spirit.
Second, we are to worship in Truth. In Matthew 15, Jesus is teaching about inner purity, and he makes this statement about the religious.
‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 9 Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’” (Matthew 15:8-9 NLT)
When we haven’t approached God in worship with our Spirit prepared, our words and our hearts can be far from each other. Have you ever just “gone through the motions” in a worship service? Have you ever wanted worship to end so we could “get to the good stuff?” Again, you missed it. True worship, Real worship- starts with the soul and then brings our actions into alignment.
How are we to worship? In Spirit and in Truth. So how do YOU worship?