“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. In previous weeks, I have discussed aspects of each individually. Today, I would like to begin to look at how these tie 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 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…