God has been revealing a lot about this topic to me, by His Spirit and Word and through theologians, so I wanted to share what He has been showing me.
“For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).
These famous words of Jesus implore us to worship “in spirit and in truth”. What does this mean? Well, it means that we’re worshipping Him with true words, also living IN the truth and living IN the spirit. When the Holy Spirit guides our worship, and when we know Truth Himself, we will praise and worship Him in this way.
Let’s look at other types of worship to better understand what worship really is.
Are there things or people in your life that you worship more than you worship Jesus? Not just more often, but with more passion/obsession/affection? For example, for me, diets/the “ideal” body/food have been the “thing” I worship. I have often scrounged the internet for diets and recipes, spent a lot of time thinking about these things, put a ton of daily energy and effort into getting the “perfect” body. I “worshipped” the perfect body.
But what if ALL of that energy and time and devotion and affection was poured out on Jesus? What would that look like? That same kind of passion and vigour and obsession that you pour out over [insert that thing you worship here]…what if it all went to Jesus?
We were made to worship. And while worship isn’t ABOUT me or TO me, I should ENJOY it…because I ENJOY HIM! When we worship false gods, like the example I mentioned, we do it because our flesh/the devil distort us to make us think these things are worthy of our attention and affection. The devil wants to take our minds off of Jesus.
But what if He was truly that One Thing? What if your adoration of Him completely outshone the sports or food or sex or money or clothes or shopping or alcohol or or or?
No, it’s not about us, but…is God honoured and glorified and pleased by “worship” that is just singing without the affection? Of course not. “They worship me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.” (Matthew 15:8). Here, Jesus is speaking to some pharisees who tried to catch Him and His disciples in sin. He calls them hypocrites.
Oh, my oh my, how rebuking.
Jesus Himself said it. The pharisees cared about what their “worship” looked like and sounded like…all the while, their hearts weren’t actually seeing, yearning for, honouring God. It doesn’t matter what it looks or sounds like. Worship isn’t just singing; it’s your whole life. Your WHOLE LIFE can be worship to God.
Whether corporate worship or worship in your prayer closet, maybe you’re so in awe of Jesus that you fall to your knees. Maybe His presence is causing you to tremble. To be completely silent and still, bowing your head in reverence. Maybe the joy of His presence is causing you to dance, clap, shout. Maybe you’re moved to lift your hands in praise, or place your palms upward as an act of surrender or as He ministers to your heart (because, by His grace, even as we worship HIM He speaks to us). That’s not what matters; are your heart and mind and body and soul praising Jesus? Or are you distracted? Where is the affection of your heart?
So, yes, worship isn’t about you. But, as John Piper says, God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him; when we ENJOY Him; when our worship is true and pure and authentic, because “worship” is just that: an overflow of true love and adoration, not a militant religious duty.