“But 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
Jesus clearly states that those who worship God must
worship Him both in spirit and truth. Previously, I have discussed aspects of
each individually. Today, I would like to begin to look at how these two work
together because I believe that if both are not present, our worship is not
what God has intended for us.
There will always be a struggle of leaning too
heavily in one direction or another. People who know me are aware that I place
a very heavy emphasis on truth in worship. This is true. Both Scripture and
personal experience have taught me that this is essential. However, as I look
closely at my life, I find that I vacillate back and forth between two
extremes, with occasional stops in some sort of balanced area.
It is very easy for me to get lost in the details. I
know what I need to do, most of the time. I know what my obligations are as
follower of Christ, husband, father, pastor, employee, etc. I have certain
things that I know I need to do every day. And I do them. This includes my
spiritual life. I read the Word. I try to pray. I listen to music that focuses
on the gospel. I try to live in obedience to what I think is God’s will.
However, I find that there is, at times, little devotion or delight in the
process of carrying out these daily duties. I am attempting to live out God’s
truth, but something is missing.
Then, maybe I swing to the other extreme. I am
looking for something that shows me the purpose in what I am doing. Or maybe I
am looking for some demonstration of God’s love or purpose for me. Am I
following God’s path for my life? Why do I feel so far away from You God? How
long will this situation go on? Why will you not give me some sign that shows
me I am not drifting in a boat without a sail or paddle? Why can’t I hear Your
voice? Why do other people seem to hear You and know exactly where You are
taking them? Why can’t I have what they have? Oh God, please empower me
to be the man I need to be! Give me Your strength and wisdom! Show me You are
there! As so the conversation goes.
Two different ways of living. Both include aspects
that can be present in a godly, balanced Christian life. Living in obedience
and wanting to experience the presence of God are great pursuits. However,
lived in exclusion of each other, we become unbalanced and I think we miss
God’s best for our lives. The first can lead to a life of obligation or
duty. The second, can lead to a life of infatuation and disenchantment.
A life lived solely out of obligation and duty has
little or no devotion. It does not move beyond the task or principles to the
Person behind the principles. We live our lives, fulfilling our
responsibilities, and our relationship with God gets lost in the details. The
law of God and the works He has called us to do were not meant to exist apart
from our relationship to Him. The coming of Christ, our Immanuel, was for the
purpose of uniting us with our Creator, breaking forever the curse of sin. Our
God is with us.
The life of infatuation rarely goes below the surface
or the immediate. We are looking for experiences or signs that make us feel
close to God or prove that He is with us. When the fruit and direction from God
are apparent and overflowing, we are on a roll. We are running with God. When
things don’t go well or God seems to have gone on vacation, we become
disheartened or bored with spiritual things. Even worse, we can feel that God
has abandoned us. We don’t move beyond the gifts or benefits to the Giver of
the gifts. God wants to grow and build our lives and show us the depth of Who
He is and what He has done, but we are grasping for temporary things. Again,
Christ is lost in our pursuit.
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear
fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you
abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in
him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:4-5).” “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,
teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns
and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God (Colossians 3:16).”
Truth is foundational to worship that is in spirit
and truth. As we learn from the Word of God, that truth produces wisdom and
knowledge in our lives of Who God really is. We better understand ourselves and
our utter hopelessness apart from Christ. The Holy Spirit enlightens our heart
and minds to understand the wonders of Who God is and what He has done for us
in Christ. As we fill our minds with the Word of God, He works in us to
transform our minds and lives into the image of His Son.
As God’s truth sinks down into our hearts, the flame
of worship is ignited by the Holy Spirit. The expression of our hearts,
in response to the wonders of God and His works, is an essential part of
biblical worship. We worship God in spirit, and this response is grounded
on the truth of God as revealed in His Word. As our relationship with God grows
and deepens, we respond to Him in love, rather than mere duty or obligation. We
are no longer trying to produce fruit through our own good works. God is
producing the fruit in us, by the power of His Spirit.
The binding together of worship in spirit and truth
together produces a treasuring of Christ. As we seek to know God better through
His Word, our knowledge of Him increases, and so we grow in love for Him. This
in turn, should propel us to seek to know Him more, and so the journey
continues. We sink our roots deeper and deeper into Christ and our lives become
saturated with Him. He truly becomes our treasure, our First Love. God works in
and through us to do His will and to spread the gospel of Christ. Our worship
is not based on obligation or pursuing experiences, but it is rooted in truth
and producing a life that pursues after Him. What a glorious gift God has given
to us. We may come to Him and know Him through Christ.
What greater aspiration could we have? Though this
life will be filled with struggles and our relationship with God will have its
ups and downs, God will not forsake us. He calls us to draw near to Him, in
Christ. It is this life’s great pursuit. Through it, God will transform our
lives and use us for the great glory of His holy name.
Together for His glory…