But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:23-24)
When we look at the awesome magnitude and perfection of creation – the intricate and complex structures of all living things, the incredible beauty of sunrise and sunset and powerful storms or balmy days, the breathtaking panorama from a high mountain peak and the carefully ordered ebb and flow of the tides and the seasons – we cannot help but acknowledge the glory and sovereignty of our God.
Worship becomes so incredibly simple when confronted by the majesty of a scene blazed in glorious technicolour, it seems rooted in something far greater than we can grasp. And yet, so often, our individual and corporate worship gets reduced to man-made rituals and processes, and the true meaning of it is lost in a worldly application to the act and activity of worship. True reverence is so easily swept away in ‘hype’ – in musical excellence, in meeting human expectations and gratuitous desires, in a ‘recipe’ for worship that denies the heart of it.
Lest the previous paragraph create misconception, let me set the record straight. I’m all for corporate worship. I’m all for worship teams striving to improve their craft so as to offer their very best to God. I’m all for the orderly conduct in worship taught by Paul. I’m all for music – it is, I believe, God’s ‘language of love,’ a beautiful gift of expression through which we can commune with and respond to Him in a deep and precious way. I’m all for resounding praise and voluble thanksgiving. I’m all for inner, quiet praise and thanksgiving. I’m all for the actions of worship where led to do so by the Spirit – to raise hands, to bow, to kneel, even to fall prostrate before the presence of His glory.
As a musician who has had the incredible privilege of ‘leading’ worship, all these things are written boldly in my spirit, and believe absolutely and completely that we were created, first and foremost, to worship Him. But I also believe that too much focus is placed on the ‘form’ of it, so that many churches constantly strive to have the ‘best’ worship. I hear the words ‘the worship was wonderful’ far more than I hear ‘the Word today was wonderful,’ yet Jesus said we were to worship in Spirit and in Truth. Worship is rapidly becoming the ‘star attraction,’ the ‘drawcard’ to bring people in and increase membership. It’s become a ‘tool,’ and that is tragic beyond measure.
So what does it mean to worship ‘in Spirit and in Truth?’ Simply put, it’s ‘led by the Spirit’ and ‘rooted in the Truth, the Word.’ This implies far more than the currently accepted definition of worship.
First and foremost, it implies a thorough knowledge of the Word of God, and with it a call to unreserved obedience. We called to study the Word, to know the Word, and to live the Word. We are called to make it ‘heart knowledge,’ the very source of life within us.
Second, it implies the yielding of ourselves to the Holy Spirit. Just as He gives us the Word, teaches us the Word, provides Rhema Words or prophetic utterance, and guides and assists us to pray, the Spirit is also the source and empowerment of our worship. Were it not for the Holy Spirit within us, we would not even have the desire to worship, so it is right and fitting that He should ‘lead’ the Worship.
This, sadly, is where things often go wrong. With man’s thirst for self-gratification, the emotions and feelings so easily stirred by music and ‘crowd imprinting’ get confused for a ‘move of the Spirit.’ It’s a real danger when the focus is wholly on the Spirit side of things without the Truth side there to balance it. The Spirit and the Word work as one, and can never be separated. It’s a very fine line between ‘spirit’ and ‘flesh,’ and that is why we are told to walk in Spirit and in Truth. Together.
The inevitable result of this is true worship, and it does not begin in a corporate setting. It begins at home, alone, in my fellowship with God and my study of His Word. The real act of worship is not the songs, the church ‘experience,’ or the gestures. It’s obedience. It’s in how we live, in our total surrender in all things. It’s our putting His will above our own, in listening for and hearing His Word and His Spirit, and ‘hastening to obey.’
Micah 6: 6-8 says this: With what shall I come to the LORD And bow myself before the God on high? Shall I come to Him with burnt offerings, With yearling calves? Does the LORD take delight in thousands of rams, In ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts, The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?
When these things are in place, our corporate worship will be a beautiful outpouring of surrendered lives. It will be an expression of worship that is pure and holy, focused on God alone. We will come to give, rather than to receive, and in giving will encounter the incredible blessing of living what we were called to be: worshipers.
True worship is a way of life, not an action or experience. When our lives become an ongoing expression of small, individual acts of worship, when worship becomes us, becomes our very nature, the intrinsic expression of who we really are in Christ, and when we, in response, become worship, we will come to that place of oneness with God to which we are daily being called.
Truly, Lord, the heavens declare Your glory, and the earth manifests Your power and majesty. Forgive me for taking this for granted, for the times I may have reduced the act of worship to include my needs and my foolish desires. Teach me to live a life that is praise to You, to keep thanksgiving continually in my heart, to yield to You my life in a sacrifice of continual obedience and surrender to you.