True Worship

A familiar story in the gospel of John is Jesus’s encounter with the woman at the well. What’s interesting is the topic she brings up once she perceives that Jesus is a prophet.

John 4:19-26 NKJV “The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem 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.””

When she perceived Jesus could answer her most pressing spiritual curiosity she asked Him about worship. We’re not much different. Ask most anybody going to a church for the first time, what did you think and their response will most likely have to do with the worship music. We were created to worship. Angels surround the throne singing holy, holy, holy. At the end of days every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Worship is a very important part of our lives and it is more than just singing. Even the preaching is worship because it declares who God is. The theme of Jesus response in the dialog with the woman at the well was truth. Jesus said true worshippers will worship in spirit and truth. What does it mean to worship in truth? To deal faithfully or truly (Vine’s Expository Dictionary). How do we deal faithfully with the worship of God?

Psalm 24 NKJV ““The earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein. For He has founded it upon the seas, And established it upon the waters. Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive blessing from the LORD, And righteousness from the God of his salvation. This is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Him, Who seek Your face. Selah Lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, The LORD mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O you gates! Lift up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, He is the King of glory. Selah”

Psalms, the song book given to us by God has plenty to say about worship. If you read five Psalms a day you can read through the book every month. Reading through Psalms each month will help us keep us focused on true worship by keeping our minds focused on God. When we read through the Psalms we see a range of emotions. We hear praise, worship, adoration, triumph, and more.

True worship is focused on God; His wonder, power, majesty, glory, marvelous deeds, the works of His hands and so much more. Worship is about exalting His name in all the earth. True worship is done in honor, through obedience and with a lifestyle of holiness. If we are living in a lifestyle of habitual sin we may sing in church but our worship is not true. Psalm 24 asks and answers the question, who can stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted his soul to another. God didn’t change between Old and New Testament, He didn’t lower His standard. David was a worshipper, a man after God’s own heart. Many like to point to the fact he committed adultery and murder as proof that God can use anyone. What is left out is the fact that we have David’s prayer of repentance recorded in Psalm 51. There is no record of David committing that sin again. David wanted to build a Temple but God said no because of the bloodshed on his hands. The holiness of God is a very serious thing, far more serious than we take it most of the time. We like to think God understands our struggles and He sympathizes. Jesus does sympathize with our weaknesses but He does not excuse sin.

Let’s look at a how seriously God takes worship in an example from Old Testament. Leviticus 10:1-8 NKJV ““Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. So fire went out from the LORD and devoured them, and they died before the LORD. And Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD spoke, saying: ‘By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified.’ ” So Aaron held his peace. Then Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel the uncle of Aaron, and said to them, “Come near, carry your brethren from before the sanctuary out of the camp.” So they went near and carried them by their tunics out of the camp, as Moses had said. And Moses said to Aaron, and to Eleazar and Ithamar, his sons, “Do not uncover your heads nor tear your clothes, lest you die, and wrath come upon all the people. But let your brethren, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning which the LORD has kindled. You shall not go out from the door of the tabernacle of meeting, lest you die, for the anointing oil of the LORD is upon you.” And they did according to the word of Moses.” God struck people dead for worshipping Him in a way that wasn’t true. Before you say, that’s Old Testament, remember, Acts chapter five is not and two people dropped dead for lying about an offering they gave. Giving is worship as well. We may see these things as an overreaction, there in lies the problem, we want to hold God to our standards, not rise to the standard of His holiness.

How we worship God is serious. Our character is serious. You may not see anyone dropping dead for worshipping with impure hearts but you can know this, a worship leader living a lifestyle of sin off the platform is a stench to God. They may be able to fool people but God sees all.

We hear lots of talk about feeling and wanting the presence of God in worship but look around at modern worship. It is virtually indistinguishable from a worldly concert; dark sanctuary, colored lights, smoke machines and lyrics that have nothing to do with God. Most modern songs are written from God to us, not us to God. Words like He is jealous for me, love like a hurricane and I am a tree. What about reckless love. God is not reckless and it is not over the top or religious to question the lyrics we sing in church. We talk about wanting God’s presence, if we look at how people responded in the Bible versus how we respond when we “feel the presence” it proves what we’re feeling isn’t God’s presence. Heaven is full of light and there are no shadows there. Are our sanctuaries full of white light? Most aren’t, all the lights are off and the only thing you can see is colored lights on a stage. How is worship about, for and to God when you can’t distinguish our worship atmosphere from a rock concert? How are preachers preaching the gospel when you can’t tell the difference between most sermons and a life coach pep rally or a Ted Talk?

We set at atmosphere for ourselves and the unsaved to feel comfortable, yet anything God could possibly require is set on the back burner. I’m not against colored lights. But I do want you to ask yourself a question, could it be that we need to turn the lights off, install colored lights, screens and smoke machines because something is actually missing in our services? We feel so many emotions during the music but a few minutes after it stops the feeling is gone, could it be that the feeling is fleeting because it isn’t the Holy Spirit you feel but simply the same goosebumps you could get being at the concert of your favorite band?

Jesus said that those who worship the Father must worship Him and Spirit and in truth. If all you could sing was the book of Psalms and that gives you a feeling of let down or church won’t be that good, it’s a sign that we’ve made worship about us and not God.

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