God is seeking those who will truly worship Him. John 4:23-24 says, “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” Therefore, as we consider some things involved in living the life of a Christian, we need to consider the importance of worship and what it means to truly worship God.
What Is Worship?
As I understand it, the old English word for worship used to be pronounced as “worthship.” This is because worship is about the object of the worship. Certainly, the only proper object worthy of worship is God.
Whenever you study the various Hebrew and Greek words that are translated “worship,” you discover that they point to the idea of bowing before and kissing toward the object of worship. As the word is used in reference to God and the Christian’s responsibility under the New Testament, it has reference to the internal bowing of the heart before God. It is a direct and purpose act to express reverence and praise toward God.
However, a proper understanding of worship must include a couple of points about what worship isn’t. First, worship is not everything you do in your life. Some have reached the false conclusion that everything you do is worship. Therefore, according to some, you worship God by cutting the grass, by taking a shower, by cooking dinner, etc. Yet, while everything you do in your life must be done to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31), everything you do in your life is not worship. You glorify God in everything you do when you do everything according to the instructions of the Bible. But, worship is an act that is direct and purposeful (not indirect or accidental). Therefore, there are examples in the Bible that demonstrate worship as having a beginning point and an ending point. For instance, Genesis 22:5 records a statement made by Abraham: “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.” Similarly, Acts 24:11 records a statement made by Paul: “because you may ascertain that it is no more than twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem to worship.” Now, if worship was everything in life, these individuals would have been worshiping on the way to these locations, while they were at the places, and when they were returning from these places. Instead, these examples help us understand that worship is a purposeful act that takes place for a specific period of time.
It is also important to establish that worship is not something which can only be accomplished in the assemblies of the local church. John 4:23-24 helps to demonstrates that this is true. Worship is not dependent upon a certain location. While worship in the context of the local church is an important part of Christian life and it is true that there are certain acts which we only see being accomplished in the context of local church assemblies (i.e. the Lord’s Supper and the collection), Christians should also be taking advantage of opportunities to worship God individually. One example can be seen in Acts 16:25. In this passage, Paul and Silas were “praying and singing hymns to God” while they were in prison.
With these basic thoughts in mind concerning worship, we also have to recognize that God does not approve of just any attempt to worship Him. He is not seeking just any kind of worship. Instead, John 4:23-24 demonstrates that true worship involves the two elements of spirit and truth.
The Scriptures also plainly teach that it is possible to worship God in ways that are not acceptable to Him. For instance, Matthew 15:1-11 identifies a situation in which some of the Jews had claimed to worship God; but, the Bible says that they were worshiping Him in “vain.” Their worship was vain because although they were drawing near to and honoring God with their mouths, their hearts were actually far away from God. In addition, they were worshiping God in vain because they were teaching “as doctrines the commandments of men.”
Not only are there passages which plainly state the possibility of worshiping God in a way that is not pleasing to Him; but, the Bible also demonstrates that this is true. For instance, Cain and Abel both brought an offering to God in Genesis 4. However, only Abel’s offering was pleasing to God. God “did not respect Cain and his offering” (Genesis 4:5). Another example can be found in Leviticus 10:1-2. On this occasion, two priests (Nadab and Abihu) each took their censers and put fire and incense on them. However, the passage states that they offered “profane fire” (unauthorized fire), which God “had not commanded them.” As a result, God sent fire to devour them.
Since it is possible to worship God in ways that are not pleasing to Him, we need to consider how to worship Him in a way that He approves. Again, John 4:23-24 says that the Father is seeking those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth. Both of these are necessary elements to acceptable worship. Consider each one of these.
First, the Christian must worship God in spirit. The need to worship God in spirit begins by understanding that “God is Spirit” (John 4:24). He is a spiritual being. Therefore, our worship to Him must also have a spiritual element. This is possible because we have been made in the image of God. Therefore, our worship is from one spiritual being to the supreme spiritual Being. Worshiping God in spirit involves having your mind fully engaged in the worship. Recall, for instance, that the Jews in Matthew 15 had been drawing near to God with the mouths and honoring Him with their lips but their hearts were far away from Him. Therefore, as you engage in acts of worship, you must not just be going through the motions. For instance, when you sing praises to God, you must be focused on the words of the song. When you pray to God, you must be truly focused on the words of prayer.
Second, the Christian must worship in truth. True worship is not just something that happens when a person worships God in a heartfelt and sincere way. There are many people who attempt to worship God and are sincere in doing so, but, who do not worship God according to truth. You see, true worship requires that you worship God according to true ideas about who He is (not worshiping a perverted idea about who God is). And, worship must be according to God’s revealed standard of truth. For instance, one of the avenues of worship God approves is singing. However, there are many people who attempt to worship God with the use of the mechanical instrument (i.e. piano, guitar, etc.). This is not worship that pleases God – because God has never authorized Christians to use mechanical instruments in worship! Instead, He has only authorized the action of singing (i.e. Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16).
The Christian should be devoted to worshiping God. However, the Christian should not be interested in worshiping God in just any way. Instead, the Christian must realize that God is seeking those who are true worshipers. Therefore, the Christian will be determined to worship God according to the two elements involved in true worship – worshiping in spirit and in truth!