What is Worship?
The Father is seeking worshippers.
What is worship? That is a profound question that has caused many conflicts in churches throughout church history. When we gather to worship, I have noticed that, as a pastor, very few people actually worship. As I contemplated this issue I came to the conclusion that the reason people have no idea what worship is, is because they have not been taught and or equipped.
In John 4 Jesus has a conversation with a Samaritan woman and somehow it gravitates towards worship not sure what her motive was but if it wasn’t Jesus, it would have resulted into a conflict. But Jesus instead introduced to her what God is looking for, what kind of worshippers He is searching for.
Scripture: John 4:20-25 says,
Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and yet you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one must worship.” Jesus said to her, “Believe Me, woman, that a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, because salvation is from the Jews. But a time is coming, and even now has arrived, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people, the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
The word “worship” appears several times in these 4 verses. In English, worship simply means something that shows or possesses a state of worth. God possesses infinite worth but this definition won’t help you understand biblical worship.
Theologically, worship can be defined as response to God’s revelation. God’s original desire is connection with us; an intimate connection with you and me. We lost this in Genesis 3 when sin entered the world.
What does connection with God look like? What does it look like when we gather together, or in our quiet time?
Jesus says in spirit and in truth (vs23-24).
In order to connect with God we must consider what God is. Jesus says, God is spirit and those who worship - who want to response and connect with Him must do so in spirit. Richard Averbeck comments that, “Worship must match the nature of God.” He continues to say, “The human spirit is a primary concern in authentic worship because God Himself is spirit and true worshippers worship ‘in spirit.’”
The human spirit here refers to heart and the will. How often do you engage your feelings, moods, passions and attitude of the will when you respond to God in worship. Many of us do not. Jesus alluded to this when He said, “This people honor me with their lips but their heart is fat from me” (Matt 15:8).
Worship in truth in this passage points to sincerity in worship which begins with accepting the ultimate expression of truth which is Jesus. In Psalm 51, David writes that God desires truth in our inward parts. He is talking about integrity, sincerity authenticity. When we come before God in worship whether privately or in corporate worship, God desires a honest heart - mean what you sing, give with joy, come honestly ready for heart change, come with a longing to hear Him speak and connect with you. Be sincere.
Worship in spirit and truth are tied together. You cannot have one without the other. And that’s how God designed it. He is spirit and we connect with Him in spirit and truth.
He tells or reveals to us something about Himself, and we respond. Its a dialogue. If there is no response, there is no worship.
A great example of this is found in Luke 5. Jesus asked Peter to lower his fishing nets in to the water after Peter had been fishing all night with his brother Andrew and had caught nothing. Peter very reluctantly agrees to obey. When their nets are overwhelmed with fish and their boats are overflowing, Peter turned around and fell at Jesus’ feet and said, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man, o Lord.”
Peter realizes there is something divine about this person and responds with acts of homage (shachah) but in spirit (emotions and will ) and truth (he is sincere about who he is). We see this pattern again, God reveals something, we respond- that is worship.
Another action of worship follows in verse, 10-11, Peter leaves everything to follow Jesus. He responds with acts of service (Leitourgia) as another layer in worship. We enter into service because we have encountered God.
When was the last time you really worshipped God?
When you and I can internalize this and pursue God the way He intended, we will enjoy our quiet times and worship services because we will be connecting with God at a deeper level. It will be different.