Spirit and Truth: Worshiping the Real Jesus
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. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24).
It’s a worthy goal. An extraordinary aspiration. A joy-filled pursuit. To be a “true worshiper” should be a desire, even longing, of every person who claims Christ as Lord.
Worship is at the very core of who we are as followers of Jesus. Our new lives in Christ are to be lived as a response of worship to the grace that has been poured out on us (Romans 12:1-2). Every day that we’ve been given the gift of breath on this planet, we are called to proclaim the excellencies of our King who has rescued us from darkness and called us into his light (1 Pet. 2:9).
Our hearts pursue our King when our minds engage in the truth that we have been redeemed and that our Savior has defeated sin and death.
Worship is the very pulse of God’s grace rushing through the bloodlines of his redeemed people. It’s the overflow of his mercy in our hearts that explodes in joyful response to the One who exudes perfect love. It is embedded in the very fabric of who we are as image-bearers of God. Worship is not only central to our existence now, it will be our primary function throughout eternity (Psalm 145:1).
Jesus, in his encounter with the Samaritan woman (John 4), outlines what “true” worship should look like. His words are as pertinent today as they were a couple thousand years ago: God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.
From the outset, we see that worship itself is “theocentric” — God centered. Jesus starts with “who” we are worshiping in order to teach us “how to worship him. Worship is primarily concerned with God and him being glorified. The beautiful and glorious object of our worship is none other than the Creator in whom we live, move, and have our being (Acts 17:28). We extend our response of worship to the highest possible being in existence. There is no other name worthy of true worship. The goal of our corporate and individual worship is the glory of God. Our hearts long to see his fame and his glory increased across the expanse of the universe. We find our purpose and our greatest joy in pursuit of this goal.
Jesus teaches that both spirit AND truth are necessary for true worship. Throughout the course of church history, there has been a peculiar contrast drawn between these two concepts. However, in this passage, Jesus teaches that it’s not a case of “either/or,” but of “both/and.” We are to passionately uphold and defend truth while also zealously pursuing the Spirit. The two ideas complement each other. They are not opposites but two components that comprise what is true worship. The heart and the head are both essential to fully enjoying the worship that God has designed for those that have tasted and seen that He is good (Psalm 34:8). Our hearts burn with zeal and pursue our King when our minds engage in the truth that we have been redeemed and that our Savior has defeated sin and death. Our passion for the glory of God is fueled by the revealed truth of his Word. The great theologian and pastor, Jonathan Edwards, described this spirit and truth correlation like this:
For there to be heat in the heart, there must first be light in the mind.
At Grace, this passage of Jesus’ teaching defines how we approach our time together on Sunday mornings. Using the language of Edwards, we aim to wholeheartedly pursue and balance both “light” and “heat” in our Sunday gatherings. “Light” refers to the rich truth of the Gospel of Christ that saturates the Scripture and stokes the fire of our hearts with a holy zeal for the glory of God. “Heat” refers to the full reliance on the Holy Spirit to guide and manifest Himself in our Sunday gatherings by stirring our affections for the God who saves us.
Our Sunday liturgy (the way we conduct our service) at Grace is first and foremost centered on the person and work of Jesus. We read and research, pray and plan, and arrange and rehearse everything before the weekend services in order to faithfully present and declare the truth of the gospel of Jesus to each of our campuses. From there, our full reliance and dependence is on the Holy Spirit to kindle a fire within each of us to respond to his grace in our lives and in our church. We recognize that without the work of the Spirit in our midst, all of our songs, prayers, creeds, confessions, and sermons will simply fall short of their intended purpose. The Spirit of God is vital to open our minds and our hearts to fully worship our God and ascribe to him the glory that he is due.
Our fervent prayer is that in our gatherings on Sundays, as well as in the daily activities of our lives, our hearts would burn with the zeal of King David, as he writes this Psalm of worship:
I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.
One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness.
They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.
The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.
All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord, and all your saints shall bless you!
They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom and tell of your power, to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations.
This story, written by Worship Pastor Mike Price, originally appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of Grace Magazine. Download the issue here.