After each of our visits, I like to take a little time to ponder what we have been talking about so that I can try to decide where we should go in our next discussion. As a goal-oriented person, I usually have a very good idea of where that is and just how to go about getting there; but, as is so often the case in my life, that isn’t the way it usually works out. All too frequently in my estimation, what I consider to be my good plans are side-lined by God, and replaced by ones that He thinks are far better (imagine that!). And this is exactly what happened as I was preparing for our visit today. While I was all set on devoting more time to the subject of overcoming, the Lord made it clear that He wanted me to use this visit to focus on worship. How did He do that? Well, each time I thought about my proposed agenda, He would interrupt those thoughts with a particular song, “The Majesty and Glory of Your Name.” Having been down this road more than once, it wasn’t long before I got the point that He was trying to make—which was, if we don’t worship first, there will be no overcoming!
Well, if worship is so important, it goes without saying that we should all have a clear understanding as to what it is. We certainly hear the term tossed about often enough; so often, in fact, that it tends to leave us with the impression that everyone who uses it must know what it is, or that they are all referring to the same thing. Unfortunately, that isn’t really the case. That’s because worship has too often become something so subjective and soulish that we no longer have a correct concept of its meaning, but are left, instead, to devise our own interpretations of what we think it should be.
I would be willing to wager a guess that if we did a survey of people as they were leaving their respective churches, asking them for their definitions of worship, we would get some or all of the following answers:
- Worship is the meeting together of believers for fellowship, prayer, and the preaching of God’s Word;
- Worship is the regular practice of prayer and Bible study;
- Worship is the giving of tithes and offerings for the support of the church;
- Worship is the giving of time and talents to do works of service and/or charity;
- Worship is the singing of songs of praise to God; and,
- Worship is the experience by some of being transported to other realms in moments of ecstasy.
On the surface, each of these definitions has merit, for each one represents a form that worship can take; however, if we could look below the surface—that is, to the motives of some of those engaged in these activities, we would probably find that much of what passes today as worship is more emotional than spiritual, and more about us than it is about God. That’s because, all too often:
- When we come together, instead of doing so to exalt God, we are looking to be entertained;
- When we pray or study the Bible, we are doing so with the intention of getting something from God rather than learning about Him and His will for us;
- When we give of our money, instead of giving joyfully and sacrificially, we do so out of obligation or with the expectation of being rewarded by God with material prosperity;
- When we give of ourselves to the service of others, oftentimes, we are more interested in scoring points with God, or in impressing others with our piety; and,
- When we sing our songs of praise, or revel in the ecstasy of those mountain top experiences, we quite often do so for our own temporary pleasure, instead of allowing God to use these experiences to bring about lasting changes in our lives.
Now, knowing what we know about God, can we honestly say that this is really the kind of worship that He desires from us; or, is it the kind that Jesus was describing when He said to the woman at the well, 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”? Obviously, the answer to this question is “no,” but how are we to know what it really means when Jesus tells us that true worship must be in spirit and in truth?
In our effort to answer that, let’s start with the truth part first. You see, before any of us can come to God in worship, the truth that we must acknowledge is this:
- That God is God, and we are not;
- That, as God, He created everything, He owns everything, and He established all the rules by which His creation operates;
- That, as God, He knows everything, is everywhere, and has all the power;
- That, as God, He is holy and always does what is right; and,
- Because of all of this, God’s thoughts or ideas, and His ways of doing things are better than ours;
- Meaning, that when we come to Him, we can always trust Him to do what is right, not only for us but for everyone else, as well.
As for the spirit part, what Jesus is telling us is that when we come to God in worship, we must do so through a meeting of our spirits with the Spirit of God, and not through any fleshly means. You see, here is the way this spiritual connection is supposed to work: when God decides that He wants to tell us something, He has His Spirit speak to our spirits, and then our spirits deliver those messages to our souls. Our souls—or, our minds, emotions, and wills—are then supposed to communicate God’s directions to our bodies for their implementation. Our bodies and souls are, in fact, what constitutes the flesh, or that which is perishing; while our spirits are the parts of our beings which are like God and which will live on forever. So, if we attempt to come to God through our flesh, He will not accept us or our worship—for, as Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:6, “…that which born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit,” indicating a separation existing between the two which cannot be eliminated.
What this means is, that when we come to God in worship, we open our spirits to His Spirit, we acknowledge His superiority and authority over us, and we bring our wills into alignment with His will, for the ultimate purpose of establishing His Kingdom, or His rule and His reign of righteousness, here on the earth, even as it already exists in heaven. This, in fact, is what we see Jesus doing in the Garden of Gethsemane when, in the face of the Cross and in spite of His own human desires, He surrenders His will to that of His Father, so that His Father’s will would be done on the earth. What we learn, then, from His example, is that worshiping God simply means living surrendered, and that anything less is not true worship. And why did He, and why should we, worship in this way? For no other reason than the majesty and glory of His name, hallelujah!
The Metro Singers and their rendition of, “The Majesty and Glory of Your Name.”