Worship Part 2 - In Spirit and Truth
Topic: Worship Passage: John 4:23–4:24
The Centrality of Worship
M. Twain – “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” I hope today you discover or re-discover you were born to worship. We exist for the praise and glory of God.
John Piper in his book “Let the Nations Be Glad” said, “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. Worship, therefore, is the fuel and goal of missions.”
Everything starts with worship. So what is the essence or heart of worship?
The Essence of True Worship
When we worship with song together, should we sing a cappella or with instruments? Should we clap our hands, raise our hands, and dance? Should we be more outwardly expressive or less? Should we sing old hymns or more contemporary songs? Should our worship times be 20 minutes or 60 minutes? These are important things to talk about, but miss the core of what worship is.
With the coming of Jesus, worship changed from essentially being about outward form and location to being about spirit and truth. IN other words, it changed from outward oriented to inward oriented. What is going on in your heart and mind in worship is what’s important. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for their hypocritical worship:
You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said, “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. In vain do their worship me.” (Matthew 15:7-9)
The heart of worship is a heart that prizes God above all things. So true worship must involve a God-centered pursuit with a mind enlightened by Christ-exalting truth and a heart inflamed by the Holy Spirit.
Jesus says “true worshipers will worship the Father.” Jesus differentiates between true worshipers and false worshipers. This is important, because Jesus knows image bearers of God and that they all, every one of them, are worshipers. So it is not a question of if you will worship. You will. The question is what will you worship – or better who you will worship and how. Romans 1 says those who don’t worship God,
…exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. (Romans 1:25)
True worship, however, is worship of the Father. Here’s the exciting and sober truth: we will become like what we worship (Psalm 135:15-18). Exciting because as we worship God, we will become more like our Father. Sober because if we give ourselves to the worship of anything else, we will become more like whatever it is we worship.
The reason I say God-centered “pursuit” is because we are pursuing God. We want to meet with God. We want to draw near to God in worship. Psalm 27 says, “This one thing I ask for and seek.” So we want our worship to be not minimally God-centered, but radically God-centered. Centered on God and pursuing God.
A Mind Enlightened By Christ-Exalting Truth
A careless mental attitude prevents true worship. Just mindlessly singing words is not worship. Worse, singing untrue things that we have made up is not true worship. Heresy sung with excitement and joy does not honor God. If I began telling you how amazing my wife is, but it soon became very apparent I was describing someone other than my wife, no matter how passionate I was, my actual wife would not be honored. We must have our minds enlightened by the truth of who God is and what he has done. Worship must be “in truth” or in accordance to truth.
Of course, we get the content of this truth not out of thin air or our own minds, but from the scriptures. Jesus, praying to the Father said, “Sanctify them in the truth, your word is truth. Ps. 19:8 says, “The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.”
And since Jesus Christ is the center of God’s revelation (Hebrews 1), our worship must aim to exalt the truth about the Person and work of Christ, who is “the truth” (John 14:6). His coming, life, death, resurrection, ascension, second coming – this is the blazing center of God’s revelation. So our worship must exalt what God exalts! God is thrilled with his eternal plan to reconcile all things through Jesus Christ. We must be too! In Revelation 5, we get a glimpse into the worship of heaven and Jesus is at the center and it is awesome!
And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation… [a couple verses later] Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing! (Revelation 5:9-12)
Our worship must be filled with Christ-exalting truth whether in a song with more complex lyrics such as “In Christ Alone” or a song with a simple, repeatable chorus, “You Are Worthy of it All”. But we are to worship not just “in truth” but “in spirit and truth”.
A Heart Inflamed By the Holy Spirit
Lifeless, cold orthodoxy does not honor God. Correct doctrine with zero enjoyment is not worship! Which is why it must be “in spirit” as well. Now what does it mean when Jesus says, true worshipers must worship “in spirit”? Is it in the Holy Spirit or in the human spirit? It is not either-or, but both-and. John 3:6 helps shed some light,
That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
That which is born of the Spirit has been given new spiritual life. LIFE! This is the miracle spoken of hundreds of years earlier by the prophet Ezekiel,
And I will give you a new heart and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you… (Ezekiel 36:26-27)
For those who are new creations in Christ, our spirit exists and has its life through the Spirit of God. So true worship happens when our inner man or spirits are made alive and made sensitive to the inner workings of the Spirit of God. Which is why true worship is not just an enlightened mind, but also an inflamed heart – a heart set on fire by the Holy Spirit of God. Deep affections. Emotions enlivened. A heart on fire. Now, some get concerned here that we may get carried away and caught up in emotionalism.
Well, I agree with Charles Spurgeon who said, “I would sooner risk the dangers of a tornado of religious excitement than see the air grow stagnant with a dead formality.”
But we just want to be fully biblical. What is it to have a heart full of the Spirit of God? Romans 5:5-6 says,
Hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. ~ Romans 5:5
Can you have the Holy Spirit poured into your heart (shed abroad – NASB) and not be touched deeply in your emotions? Impossible! Look at what Romans 8:15-16 says,
You did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, buy whom we cry “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are sons of God.
The Holy Spirit fills our hearts and takes the truths we believe about God, his nature, and his work in Christ, and makes them come alive – he helps us to really believe them (as Jenny testified). He really is good, holy, loving, just, and merciful. He really is my Savior, Substitute, Sovereign King, Friend, and Father. He really has taken away my sin, secured my eternal salvation, and his second coming.
The Father is Seeking Such People
This is the kind of worship the Father seeks because he is glorified not just by a correct apprehension of the truth, but an enjoyment of it – the corresponding affections of joy, love, reverence, and hope! He is honored, not just by stirred emotions, but by stirred emotions in correlation with biblical truth. True worship the Father loves must include head and heart; light and heat; seeing with our minds and feeling with our hearts. He is seeking true worshipers who worship this way. So we must and when we do, He is very pleased. And it is explosive!
Why Music and Singing?
First, the bible is a book full of singing! The Psalms. Jesus sang. God sings. NT church sings. Revelation shows all heaven singing. In just two verses, Psalm 47:6-7 makes the point,
Sing praises to our God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm!
Second, because music and singing is a wonderful gift of God which can reach the mind and heart. Warren Wiersbe wrote,
Music reaches the mind and heart at the same time. It has the power to touch and move the emotions, and for that reason can become a wonderful tool in the hands of the Spirit. (Real Worship)
Third, singing completes our enjoyment of God. CS Lewis in his reflections on the Psalms wrote,
We delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete until it is expressed… [So] commanding us to [praise] Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.