It has been said that worship was designed for God’s glory and not for our entertainment. Oh that it were so among the religious culture we live in today! I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that the divine-design for worship has been taken and twisted to satisfy the flesh and our evil desires since we do it with everything else. Yet, this is not by any means an excuse or grounds for which we should refuse to honor and worship our Lord. Scriptures warned that such twisted thoughts would creep in among God’s holy pattern:
"I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your ownselves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them”(Acts 20:29-30).
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths”(2 Tim. 4:3-4).
So where does that leave us? Well, we need to ensure we don’t corrupt that pattern and we maintain in unity a spirit of true worship for only with such is God pleased. Jesus gives us a very clear idea of how we ought to do this when He spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. He highlighted 3 important aspects concerning worship that we must incorporate lest we taint the way the Creator would like us to honor Him.
1. True worship involves knowledge- Jn. 4:22; Acts 17:23
First of all, what exactly is worship? Easton’s bible dictionary defines worship as: “Homage rendered to God which it is sinful (idolatry) to render to any created being.” But why even talk about worship? Well, God has given man the responsibility of worshipping Him. We were created for a relationship with God and such a relationship demands that God be worshipped (Isa. 43:7, 21; Acts 17:24-28; Eph. 1:3-12; 2:10; Col. 1:16, 18). The conversational exchange between Jesus and the Samaritan woman denoted several key highlights pertinent to how one should worship. One such essential quality is having knowledge about the worship itself (both of who/what is being worshipped and how it is to be done). It is evident from the conversation that the woman lacked knowledge about the kind of worship she and her ancestors were involved in (cf. Jn. 4:20, 22). Such worship was not uncommon during these days (Acts 14:11-15; 17:22-23; Rom. 1:20-23; 1 Thess. 1:9). And so we need to ensure that we are only worshipping the one true, living God. Doing such reflects that we have knowledge about worship and the kind of worship we are doing. We must understand what we are doing and why we are doing it.
2. True worship is not limited or confined to an edifice or geographical location- Jn. 4:21
I’m afraid that disciples of Christ put too much stock and emphasis on a building or a geographical location when it comes to worshipping God. That was the case in the Old Testament and where did that get them (Amos 5:4-6)? We might often remark, “I’m going to worship on Sunday morning.” I have found that most people in using this are referring to the services being held at the particular location rather than the act of actually engaging in worship. While voicing such a statement is not wrong, it does indicate our increased tendency to speak about the geographical occasion and building more so than the actions taking place. We need to understand that worship of God is not limited or confined to a building or location. Worship of God should and must continue even after one leaves that said building or location. And that’s exactly the point Jesus is making. True worship emanates from the heart for such is what God looks at and observes when anyone worships Him. Location and shelter have nothing to do with it.
3. True worship involves spirit and truth- Jn. 4:23-24
Jesus now answers the question of “how” one is to appropriately worship the Almighty. This ties in to point number 1 about having knowledge. We know that God is to be worshipped and it is to be done in “spirit” and “truth.” This is a radical change from what many were accustomed to. Worship would have included special ceremonies, rites, sacrifices etc. Jesus does not specify either of these but says God desires worship in spirit for He Himself is spirit (Jn. 4:24; Phil. 3:3).
To say one should worship in spirit is to say we should give our heart, soul and mind to God (cf. Matt. 15:7-9; 22:37). There is no rocket science behind Jesus’ statement but that our hearts draw near to Him (Mic. 6:8; Jam. 4:8). The “spirit” principle is paired with “truth.” With an open-heart willing to obey God, we must cling to His pattern for worship and our lives. Jesus tells us plainly what truth is (Jn. 17:17) and we know that Jesus was the truth, the very word of God (Jn. 1:1, 14).
From such pattern we obtain the principles of praying (Matt. 6:9-15), giving (1 Cor. 16:1-2; 2 Cor. 8:1-5; 9:7), remembering Jesus’ death (1 Cor. 11:23-26), singing (Eph. 5:19), preaching and teaching (2 Tim. 4:1-2) and living a holy life acceptable to God (Acts 2:42; Rom. 12:1-2). Worshipping God is as important today as it was 2,000 years ago. More importantly, God has given us all the tools we need to worship Him appropriately and we have no excuse for failure. His pattern is simple but profound and we can either choose to do it or accept the consequences if we don’t? Are you involved in true worship of God?