So I ask you to answer this question. What is worship? It is the music that we sing? Is it the place that we meet for services? Is it something that we do? My studies for a recent sermon on Realizing Greatness led me to a passage that I believe answers the question in a very practical way.
Those that know me know that I desire to break things down so that I can understand them. There are many times, especially as a follower of Christ, that we talk about truth but don’t really know what it means. For instance, I might ask someone “What is grace?” and a common response would be “Unmerited favor.” But what does that look like in a person’s life. The same is true of worship. What is worship? I recently asked my men’s Bible study and it was interesting to hear accurate but different perspectives on worship.
I was recently led in my studies to the account of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well as recorded in the fourth chapter of John’s Gospel. It is in this account that we witness Jesus sharing the truth of the gospel with a pagan woman. There are many truths worth examining but the one that stood out to me was Jesus’ definition of worship. He states, “Yet 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. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”” (John 4:23–24) Let me share a couple insights on worship from these verses.
First, God the Father determines how He will be worshiped. The statement “for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks” reminds us that we do not determine what is appropriate. It is interesting though when you consider all the different “worship wars” that churches face. It is often centered on the music, but could also be drive by the color of the new auditorium carpet. I find it interesting the father’s focus not on the furniture, the Pastors preference nor the congregation’s preference, the Bible translation or the type of music but on the heart. The statement does not mean that God is looking for people that have it figured out. It does mean that God is looking for people who are willing to let Him work in their lives. The phrase “true worshipers” describes those that are followers of Jesus.
Second, God defines true worship as that done in spirit and truth. I think that most of us would grasp that truth refers to God’s instruction, but what does worship in spirit mean? I believe that the reference in the next verse stating that “God is spirit” is a clue. The Samaritan woman and many of us today often focus on the tangible aspects of religion like location and practices. Yet God’s desire is for His followers to rise above these external components of worship and focus on the heart. The Bible Knowledge Commentary says this, “True worship is that of the spirit, which means that the worshiper must deal honestly and openly with God.” (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: John and Acts, p. 56). I like to think of it as we waving the white flag of surrender to God’s working in and through me. As I mentioned in my sermon, it means that I must let God out of the box I attempt to keep Him in. Because when I do He is able to do great and marvelous things that “my version of god” could never do!
Now I realize that there is much more that could be said about worship. The question I want you to ask yourself , “Who is controlling my life?” Real worship happens when you are in the passenger seat and Jesus is driving!
-Pastor Joe Parkinson