Wanted: True Worshipers
One Sunday night, a little boy was being tucked in to bed when he shocked his parents by praying, "Dear God, thank You for church today. We had such a great time, but, boy, I wish You could've been there!" Now, why would he say that? Truth be told, some churches have become so obsessed with being relevant that they seem to worship their culture rather than God. But for the believer, there is no higher calling and no greater activity than the worship of God Himself. So what exactly is worship? And how can we make sure we're doing it right?
In John 4, Jesus talked to a Samaritan woman about what true worship is. She told him,
"Our fathers worshiped on this mountain [Mount Gerizim], and you Jews say that in Jerusalem [Mount Zion, where the temple stood] is the place where one ought to worship." Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." (vv. 20-24)
There are five quick truths about worship I want you to take away from this passage. The first truth is that worship can be confusing when it's clouded by your sin and preconceptions. This woman was confused about where the right place to worship was, partly because her own sinful past obscured her view of God and partly because of her background. Without going into too much detail, the Samaritans and the Jews had a very rocky history that included the Samaritans building a rival temple on Mount Gerizim in which to practice their flawed form of worship.
But here's the second truth to note: though worship can be confusing, it cannot be confined to a single place or activity. Jesus basically told the woman that worship is not about the place; it's about the person. Worship also can't be confined to a single experience. This woman's understanding of worship was going to the temple, sacrificing an animal, and saying some prayers. But true worship is more than an event; it has to affect your life. You can sing and raise your hands, but if you don't live your life submitted to Jesus Christ, are you really a true worshiper?
The third truth is that worship must be candid—truthful, honest, and wholehearted. Jesus said true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit, which means worshiping from the core of your being, not just with your body or emotions. You can sing and go through the motions, but if your heart isn't in it, that doesn't fulfill what Jesus said.
Not only that, but the fourth thing about worship is that it must be credible—well-grounded in the truth. This simply means your worship must be based on the truth God has revealed about Himself in His Word. The most sincere, heartfelt worship without scriptural truth is not worship at all. That's why theology and Bible exposition are so important.
Here's the fifth and final truth this passage reveals: worship is a consequence or a result of coming into a relationship with God. It's not that you're seeking God—it's that God is seeking you to transform you into a true worshiper. Do you know why you were redeemed? It wasn't to make you happy or just to keep you from eternal punishment. The Lord saved you for His glory, to give Him glory—to worship Him. That means that to the extent we worship, we are fulfilling the purpose for our existence.
To sum it up, worship is not about the place; it's about the person. It's not about the external; it's about the internal. And it's not about feeling; it's about spirit and truth. Remember this: you become like the god you worship. If your god is false, you become false. If your God is true and living, you will be transformed into somebody who is full of truth and life.
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