From Pastor Matt
How Do We Worship?
Last week we looked at the different categories of worship that are found within Scripture. We remember that all of life is worship and that everything that we do is really an act of worship – either to God or to something else, worship of God’s creation. But, it is necessary for us to understand that there are very purposeful ways that we should worship God in order to receive the benefits of the means of grace that He has given to us for the purpose of enjoying Him and knowing Him.
It is so easy to turn the commands in Scripture into lists of rules and to wear ourselves out trying to keep all of these rules. That is not freedom. The reality is that when we place our faith in Christ and give him control of our lives we are set free! God has not given us these commands to burden us or make us weary. He has given us ways to worship Him because he knows it is what we need most. God teaches us how to worship Him, because if we were left to figure it out on our own we would inevitably end up worshiping something else in an attempt to try and worship God.
Worship in the Old Testament and the New Testament
With the above in mind, let’s take a look at what God says about how we should worship Him.
As we look at the Old Testament it is very clear that worship was different then than it is in the New Testament. In the Old Testament there are VERY specific instructions on how God’s people should worship Him. Take a look at the book of Leviticus! However, we know that the fundamental nature of worship has shifted in the New Testament because of Christ.
In John 4:21-24 Jesus says that worship is no longer about a place (i.e. the temple) but rather about “spirit and truth.” Because of Jesus, we no longer need a High Priest to enter the temple and sacrifice animals on an altar once a year on our behalf. Jesus has become the Great High Priest AND the perfect, spotless Lamb and His sacrifice was once for all! Because of Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins and His resurrection we can now have uninhibited access to the Father through the Son and by the power of the Spirit. Even more, when we accept this gift, by faith, we are no longer dead to sin, but instead we are alive to God and the Spirit of Christ now lives inside of us! Galatians 2:20 says it this way: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
So, we no longer have to go to the temple in Jerusalem to worship God, but we, collectively as the church – the Bride of Christ, are the temple! Peter even tells us that we are now to be priests – “a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 3:5). That’s amazing! God still requires sacrifices in worship, but now those sacrifices are spiritual and we can be assured that they are accepted. It’s not that God has changed, but rather our access to God has changed because of Christ! Therefore, the way we worship him has changed!
Worship in Spirit and Truth
So, what exactly does it mean to worship God in spirit and truth? This is how Jesus says it in John 4:23-24:
”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.”
The first thing that we should realize is that the idea of worshiping in spirit and truth is one idea. The proper translation of the original Greek does not have a separate preposition for each word, but rather one preposition, in, for both spirit and truth. Therefore, it is one idea that is inseparable. In other words, it is not possible to be truly worshiping God in just spirit or just truth.
Notice in verse 24 Johns says, “God is spirit.” What does this mean? We need to understand this before we can understand what verse 23 means. Essentially, it means that God is unlike us in the fact that he is not contained by having a physical body. He is present everywhere. That He is spirit means that he is life-giving and other than us. This is in contrast to flesh, which is what we as human beings are like. We can only be in one place at one point in time. It also means that God is completely unknowable apart from Him choosing to reveal himself to us. This is all related to the transcendent, eternal nature of God.
In Christ, the Word made flesh, God has revealed Himself to us. This is where we understand the truth part. The truth of who God is has been revealed to us in the person and work of Christ. Now in order for us to understand and accept the truth of Christ, we must be born of the Spirit – that is what Jesus is explaining to Nicodemus in the chapter right before this. It is the revealing of the truth of God through Christ and the Holy Spirit causing us to be born again and unveiling our eyes to accept that truth, which in turn causes us to fall down before God in worship.
In other words, as we accept the free gift of grace through the gospel of Jesus Christ, our spirits respond in worship. Spirit and truth are gifts from God that he gives us to worship and enjoy fellowship with Him.
In Jesus telling us that true worshipers worship God in spirit and truth he is not telling us that the essence of worship is changing, but rather the means of worship has changed. There is a shifting from the primarily physical aspect of worship in the Old Testament – going to the temple, sacrificing animals – to a focus now on spiritual worship in response to truth.
As we gather each week to worship God we are reminding one another of the truth of God as revealed through Jesus Christ and our desperate need for Him. Will we let that truth sink into our hearts and respond in spirit, with our whole being, devoting ourselves to Him and to each other?
As we look forward to this Sunday let’s try to keep in mind what it means to worship God because of what Christ has done for us. Pray that we would continue to understand what it means to worship God in response to this truth. As before, you can view the order of worship HERE. Pastor Mark will be starting a short series on conflict and we will begin by looking at our call to holiness and love as Christians. You can read and pray through Hebrews 12 as you prepare for corporate worship. As a reminder, it’s always best to plan ahead and arrive early for the service so that you have time to quiet your heart before the service. The prelude music, which starts just a few minutes before the service, is a great time to do this. In fact, that is the reason why we have a prelude every Sunday!
See you Sunday!