Do You Worship God in Spirit?
Worship has always been a vital part of the life of a follower of God. The Old Testament lists many examples and instructions regarding worshiping God during the days of what we know as the Old Testament. For example, in Genesis 22:5, Abraham took Isaac to worship God. In another example, God forbade the Israelites from worshiping other gods. In Exodus 34:14, we read, “(F)or you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” Moses warned, “Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them, lest the LORD’s anger be aroused against you, and He shut up the heavens so that there be no rain, and the land yield no produce, and you perish quickly from the good land which the LORD is giving you” (Deuteronomy 11:16,17). Continuing to the days of Jesus, we find Jesus saying to the woman at the well, “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” (John 4:23-24). When the devil tempted Jesus in the wilderness, Jesus rebuked the devil, saying, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve’” (Matthew 4:10). A person cannot be a true follower of God without truly worshiping God.
Worship in Spirit and in Truth
According to Jesus’ statement to the woman at the well, God is seeking those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23). If anyone is going to worship God, he must worship God in spirit and in truth. Jesus’ statement rules out any other type of worship. Any worship that is not “in spirit” and “in truth” will be vain worship, worship which God rejects. In rebuking the Pharisess, Jesus said, “. . . Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: ‘These people draw near to me with their mouth, and honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men’” (Matthew 15:3-9) Observe from this passage Jesus identifies two problems with the Pharisees. First, we see their “heart” was far from God. While the Pharisees would go through the motions of worship (“draw near to me with their mouth, and honor me with their lips”), their heart was to be found elsewhere, not centered upon God and service to God. It is very likely their worship was simply out of duty, not stemming from love, admiration, respect, appreciation, adoration, etc.
The problem of the Pharisees’ worship not stemming from their heart led to the second problem: The Pharisees were “teaching as doctrines the commandments of me.” Through the years, the Jewish leaders had developed many oral traditions. Through the course of time, these Jewish leaders treated these oral traditions as being equal with God’s commands. Jesus’ charge was very direct: Teaching for doctrine the commands of men yielded their worship vain. In other words, just as God would not accept a sacrifice that was not according to His standard (cf. Malachi 1:7-8), God did not find the Pharisees’ worship acceptable.
According to the New Covenant of Jesus Christ, when saints worship God, their worship must be in spirit and in truth (cf. John 4:23-24). Quite often the thought of worshiping God “in spirit” can be somewhat confusing. Many people believe the phrase “in spirit” refers to the Holy Spirit. However, when you consider how the Pharisee’s heart was far from God in their worship and consider passages such as Colossians 3:16, you begin to see worshiping God “in spirit” essentially refers to a person focusing their heart and their mind upon worshiping God, showing forth his admiration, praise, and thankfulness. In discussing singing during the worship services, the apostle Paul wrote, “. . . singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16) and “singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19). Consider also Paul’s instructions regarding the proper mindset which God requires when a person partakes of the Lord’s Supper: “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself” (1 Corinthians 11:28-29, ESV).
Another passage we should consider is Mark 12:29-30. While in this passage Jesus is not addressing one’s worship of God, consider what Jesus said is the greatest command. “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment” (Mark 12:29-30). God requires from every follower a love which encompasses their whole being, both in thought and action.
Seeing God requires a love from the heart, songs and melody from the heart, as well as a mental contemplation while we partake of the Lord’s body, we should be able to better understand how we are to worship God in spirit. Our hearts and our minds must be focused upon what we do as we offer up acceptable worship unto our heavenly Father.