To worship God in spirit and in truth is to declare that God is worthy of our reverence. We do this in spirit through our heart, the seat of our emotions, based on the truth of who He is, the truth of who we are, the truth of what God does and has done for us, and the truth of what is going on in our lives.
We all remember the story of the conversation that Jesus had with the woman at a well in Samaria. If you don’t know the whole story you can read it in John chapter 4. In the conversation, Jesus revealed that He knew all about this woman. She had been married 5 times, and the guy she was living with now with was not her husband. This made her uncomfortable, so she changed the subject from her personal life to religion, asking why the Samaritans worshiped at Mount Gerizim and the Jews at Jerusalem. Jesus’ response was that a day was coming when that it didn’t matter WHERE a person worshiped God. What mattered was HOW they worshiped Him. He said they must worship Him in spirit and in truth.
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. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth. John 4:23-24 NLT
So the question is just how do we worship God in spirit and in truth?
Let’s first look at a definition of worship; it’s “the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity”. To Worship then, is to show reverence and adoration for (a deity); to honor them with religious rites. The deity I’m talking about, of course, is Jehovah, God Almighty.
Eugene Patterson the creator of “The Message” Bible translation says that worship is “A tribute to God when He comes.”
We worship when we come into God’s presence. God’s presence makes us who we are. His presence sets us apart from others. And every time we draw near to Him, He draws near to us.
We don’t have to be in a church or any specific place to feel God’s presence and worship Him. Psalm 139 says that God's presence can be wherever are.
O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O Lord , You know it altogether. You have hedged me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is high, I cannot attain it. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me. Psalms 139:1-10 NKJV
We know that God isn’t confined to a church building or only available at certain times of day. So we don’t have to wait until we come to church or a certain time of day to worship Him. We don’t even have to wait until we feel spiritual.
Worship is all about responding to who God is and what He’s done for us. It’s about being so into God that we can’t help responding out loud or with our actions. Worshiping God is just about focusing on Him.
God doesn’t require some kind of perfect, complicated worship act. He just wants it to be authentic and genuine.
Here’s what He wants in worship.
Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord . “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.Isaiah 1:16-20 NIV
We should be so tuned in to God that we’re feeling His presence in our lives in big and small ways all the time. It’s about who He is, what He does, and our response to those things. Worship isn’t about us. It’s about Him.
Worshiping God isn’t just something you do, it’s the way you live. Worship can be as intense as spending an hour every day in quiet time listening and talking to God. It can be something as simple as when you go to work, or to volunteer, or to talking just talking to someone on the street and thanking God for the opportunity that He has given you. You realize that it’s because of Him that you get to do any of these things.
To worship God in spirit and in truth is to declare that God is worthy of our reverence. We do this in spirit through our heart, the seat of our emotions, based on the truth of who He is, the truth of who we are, the truth of what God does and has done for us, and the truth of what is going on in our lives. We do it with a heart inclined toward God and in submission to Him. We worship God when our attitudes, actions, and words declare that He is worthy of our praise.
Worship Is Not What You Think
From the "What If Christianity Isn't What You Think?" Reading Plan by Jefferson Bethke from his book It's Not What You Think: Why Christianity Is About So Much More Than Going to Heaven When You Die (Italics mine)
When I was growing up and I heard the word “worship” I always thought it meant Hillsong United, Chris Tomlin, and Michael W. Smith. But the more I dug into the scripture the more I realized the word “worship” is more about the affection of our heart. It’s not music, it’s the very air we breathe. It’s whatever we give our time, energy, money, and attention to. It’s whatever is on the throne of our heart. That’s what we worship.
The Psalmist though makes the bold statement to say that whatever that thing is—i.e. money, sex, power, our boyfriend, our reputation, etc—when you worship it, you actually become like it. It’s as if we have a metaphorical mirror in our hearts and whatever we center or orbit around, we start to reflect and become like. When we worship sex, we too become an object. When we worship money, we too become a transaction. When we worship power, we become a pawn.
Those who make them are like them; So is everyone who trusts in them. Psalms 135:18 NKJV
It’s because we were created with an image on us, namely the image of God. We were created to reflect Him. His goodness. His beauty. His love. And that’s what makes us human. But because of sin that image has been fractured and we can now choose to reflect other things. But the beauty of Jesus is He fully imaged God so that through Him we can begin to too. He put the true mirror back together, and calls us back to Himself to say no to false idols and things and put Him back in His proper place.
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Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.