Worship is a part of my faith that has, is and will hopefully continue to develop in existence both in and through my life for the remainder of my life. It is not something that I pretend to have figured out; whatever that means, but is a constant process of learning, defining and refining. In my muses I hope to give an account for worship as I understand it as well as how it is implemented in my life and relationship with God and in the local church.
What is worship?
From a secular perspective the New Oxford World Dictionary defines worship in several forms, three of which include:
- the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity : the worship of God | ancestor worship.
- the acts or rites that make up a formal expression of reverence for a deity; a religious ceremony or ceremonies : the church was opened for public worship.
- archaic honor given to someone in recognition of their merit.
While I feel that these definitions offered are adequate in describing the general idea of worship as either a noun or a verb, I do not believe that it encompasses worship as is intended or described for the believer – an individual in a committed relationship with God. As such I want to offer a common passage of scripture that most in Christian circles are familiar with, this coming from the gospel of John, the fourth chapter:
21Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
In a recent review of Tozer’s book, “Whatever Happened To Worship?” I have known for some time that God desires worshipers who make the decision to worship Him in Spirit and in truth. My understanding of this passage of Scripture has been relatively shallow; to allow the Holy Spirit to lead when we worship and to be certain that what you are offering is genuine.
In John’s gospel he gives an account of Jesus’ extremely taboo conversation with a Samaritan woman, which took place in heat of the day near a well in which the outcast woman had come to draw water from. Jesus addresses the customs of this woman’s world and flips them upside down and inside out. When this woman was accustomed to worshiping in a specific place, at a specific time and with specific practices, Jesus gives her several things to reconsider for worship as a lifestyle, opposite of her previous ritualistic mindset. In Jesus’ discourse he makes it known in no uncertain terms that a time has come in which worship will no longer consist of meaningless monotony, rather, it will now be an intentional way of living life; that it is no longer about where one worships, but that when one is in a love relationship with the Father, he/she will choose to make their lives a temple (place of worship) and that we will no longer worship what we thought we knew. Instead, we will worship a living God and we will do so in spirit and it truth.
Worship in Spirit
My understanding of worship in spirit is to allow the Holy Spirit to guide, lead and direct your everything; thoughts, words, deeds – your life. After Jesus’ ascension into heaven, He left for us the Holy Spirit which envelopes each believer as they make a decision to surrender their lives to God and allow Him to be Lord. God’s spirit is active and alive, convicting us, prompting us, and leading us. As such, when we worship God in spirit, we are proactively seeking the spirit within us to guide us in loving, celebrating and surrendering to our God. This idea of worship is something that is significantly short-changed if not near impossible without the presence of the Holy Spirit working both in and through us to God our Father.
What’s more is that the Spirit of God is not a physical body or being but is everywhere present. This is exciting as it does not confine our worship to a specific place and time, but makes it possible to worship in spirit in all things.
Worship in Truth
Truth. For some this word is relative, meaning you can make it whatever you want it to be to fit your individual needs and desires. The fact of the matter is that truth is in no way relative, but is the crux of actuality. This is not different in worship. I believe there are several adjectives surrounding truth that help to better describe truth – words like: integrity, candor, reality, sincerity, honesty, and authenticity. While these words are not the definition of truth per the world’s standards, they are no less important or vital.
To worship in truth is to give 100% of one’s self with authenticity and sincerity; to offer a life as you are, where you are with everything that makes up who you are. I don’t believe that God is looking for fakes, frauds or phonies. Instead, I think that God examines a man’s heart and appreciates honesty in worship as is exhibited in David’s account in Psalm 139:
1 O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD.
5 You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence…
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
I don’t think God is looking for pretenders; rather, He’s looking for candor from His children. It seems to me that God wants us to worship Him with intentionality and vulnerability, and sometimes that may mean that we are not feeling it as much as we would like, still we choose to worship anyway. This also means that when we are in a state of happiness we give God worship through our praise and adoration, giving Him the credit for the things we have in our lives.
What I’ve come to come to understand and believe about worship is this: worship is as much about whom one is as it is about what one does. Worship is both an inward and outward expression of our love relationship with God – an opportunity for us to exercise our existence in that we each are created for worship. Not just any worship, but worship in spirit and in truth.