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. ~John 4:23
This quote is from the passage from John where Jesus stops and talks to the Samaritan woman. When she asks him where the correct place is for worship, Jesus responds in an unexpected way: he says that true worshipers will worship God in spirit and truth.
At that time, Jews were to worship before God in the temple, where the tabernacle was. They were to travel to Jerusalem to make offerings for thanksgiving and sin, as prescribed by the law. When Jesus came to take care of our guilt for good, worship to God was no longer restricted to the temple law.
Some people take this as an argument against the need to go somewhere to worship with others, like church on Sundays or a fellowship group, but that’s not what he’s referring to. Corporate worship should still be very much a part of a believer’s life. Here, Jesus is talking about our attitudes when we worship.
When we worship in spirit, we bow down to our creator with reverence and humility, acknowledging who He is, and who we are because in Him, through Jesus. When we worship in truth, it simply means that there is only one valid way to the Father, and that is through Jesus Christ. “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” ~John 14:6. Only true believers can worship God correctly, in spirit AND truth; all other worship, however sincere, is ultimately futile.
That’s a big pill to swallow!
I used to think that God was content to accept my worship offering, as long as I showed up on time to church and stayed awake. Sometimes I’ll be at church, and they’ll play some of my favorite worship songs. I’m in a good mood and feeling the love from my friends. The announcements were short, and today they had a delicious pie with coffee after the service. “Church” in all its outward appearance and experiences, all feels good and right — but how much of that time was I actually focusing on Jesus? And how much of that time was I filling my satisfaction with earthly comforts?
Looking back, I realized that most of my life, my worship (even my most heart-felt, sincere worship) has been in vain. And that’s not just before now, it’s absolutely possible for me to keep on going to worship in vain.
When you worship, friends, how aware are you of what you are doing? My mind tends to wander a lot, so I have resolved to start with a prayer to keep focused. I encourage you to do the same! If you pray to him and ask for help (James 1:5), he will be pleased because he can see your heart’s desire to worship him correctly. Ask and trust that He will teach you to keep the right spirit, and the truth in mind.
You might even take a second to evaluate yourself. How did you do the last time you were praising God? Was your heart in it? How might you fight the temptations to focus on other things.
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. ~1 Corinthians 15:58