“… The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24)
Easter Sunday is nine days away, and most churches in our region will once again experience their largest worship service attendance of the year. Attendance increase is a good thing: more people to hear God’s Word and, hopefully, experience His love. But many of us who regularly participate in the Church may find ourselves quietly asking if these rarely seen attendees are true worshipers of God or just making a token appearance.
God cautions us about judging others because, unlike the Lord, we cannot see inside someone’s heart. (Matthew 7:1-2; Jeremiah 17:10; John 2:25-26) It is, however, extremely important that we understand what it means to be a “true worshipper” of God because those are the people God seeks to worship Him. And our Lord Jesus has told us who these true worshippers are. They are the people who worship God in spirit and truth.
What did Jesus mean by “worship in spirit and truth”? Certainly, it is something more than token or even regular church attendance, or some minimum level of enthusiasm and sincerity. To answer that question, we need to understand (1) “worship”, (2) “in spirit”, and (3) “in truth”.
The Greek word used in John 4 for “worship” is “proskuneo”, which literally means to prostrate oneself or bow down before God. This word images an act of both deep reverence and full allegiance, and it should be understood in the context of the Great Commandment that we love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. (Mark 12:30)
In other words, worship is much more than songs or a church service. Worship is the heart-felt reverent love of God expressed through our praise and adoration, our gratitude, our trust and obedience, and our selfless acts of service to God and other people He loves. (Romans 12:1; John 14:21-23; Matthew 25:31-46)
To worship God as He desires, we must be “in spirit and truth”. “In spirit” refers to nothing less than the reality that every real Christian is born of the Spirit – born again, and now born of God and a child of God, because she or he has received the Holy Spirit. (John 3:1-8 and 1:12-13; Acts 2:38-39)
Perspectives on the Holy Spirit may vary widely in the many “divisions” of the One Church, but the Bible speaks clearly on the matter. You do not belong to Christ until the Holy Spirit dwells in you. (Romans 8:9) Thereafter, your human spirit and the Holy Spirit are joined and can together testify that the God you worship is your Abba Father. (1 Corinthians 6:17; Romans 8:15-17)
When Paul says only the “spiritual” person, and not the natural person, can understand spiritual truths, he is talking about people who have received the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of Truth who leads us into all truth. (1 Corinthians 2:12-16; John 16:13) One of the greatest spiritual truths we receive is that the Holy Spirit indwelling us, who is also called the Spirit of the Lord, the Spirit of Christ, and the Spirit of your Father, is the third person of the Trinity. (Luke 4:18; Romans 8:9; Matthew 10:20; John 15:26) True worshippers, no longer separated from God by sin, worship a God who sits on His heavenly throne and, additionally, lives inside them, closer than the air they breathe.
To worship “in truth” includes the recognition that Jesus Christ brought us truth and is the Truth. (John 1:17, 14:6) However, it is best understood through the words of Jesus in John 8:31-32: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Those who abide in the word of the Lord truly love Him because they learn, have, and keep His commandments. (John 14:21-23) They are disciples of the Lord, both hearers and doers of the Word, and are readily taught to obey all He has commanded so they can witness and make others into disciples as well. (Matthew 7:24-27, 28:19-20) The truth sets them free from self-centeredness and ignorance, and the eyes of their hearts are enlightened, so that they can unashamedly worship a God who is magnificent beyond measure. (Ephesians 1:16-23; Romans 1:16)
The question I need to ask myself on Easter Sunday is not whether that infrequent attender next to me is a true worshipper, but whether I am one, and what I can do to become a better one. God is seeking Spirit-born disciples to worship Him, and He is worthy of such true worship! (John 3:16; James 1:17; Revelation 4:11; Hebrews 12)
God bless you, and God bless our community.