By Kurt Schneider
How do we do it? How do we worship God in Spirit and Truth? It is big question and one that very few people seem to have an answer for. In part, it’s because Christian worship actually engages both heart and head – the spirit and the mind, you might say. The problem is, many people can’t do both. And their head outweighs their heart and becomes filled with all kinds of wrong ideas concerning true worship.
A couple of decades ago, singer-songwriter Matt Redman acknowledged this dichotomy in his song “Heart of Worship.” His church in Waterford, England had succumbed to the “Head of Worship” mentality that is so prevalent in the church. The “church” expected a show every Sunday: Great music, great lights, great stage presence.
They began to worship by rote, by tradition, by the flesh. It was no longer about God, but about themselves, the band and the “sound.” If the sound wasn’t right, they grumbled; if the lights weren’t right, they grumbled; if the band wasn’t tight, they grumbled. Where was God; where was the spirit; where was the heart?
Redman made a decision: He took the instruments away – in essence, he took the “music” away.
“When the music fades
All is stripped away
And I simply come”
Jesus said it plain enough in chapter four of John’s gospel – it doesn’t matter where we worship, but who we worship; it doesn’t how we worship (preference), but what we worship.
“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 4:23-24
Jesus tells us that true worship is in Spirit and Truth. It is not about our traditions or our routines or our preferences. It is about God. The truth part of this statement is not difficult to understand. In John 14:6, Jesus calls Himself the Way, the Truth and the Life. He is the truth and we must worship “The Word of Truth.” The Word as far as Christ’s atonement; the Word as far as Salvation; the Word as far as the new creation we become; the Word as far as the power, presence and wisdom of God.
I think you get it: We worship the truth because it is “the truth that has set us free” from the law, the flesh, the sin, the filth. Is that worth worshipping? Jesus is the Truth and when we worship in Truth we are truly worshipping Him.
Can you wrap your head around that?
Do you believe that? The head has to be filled with the Truth, not with tradition or preference. The head has to be about belief, not routine.
Now, worship in the Spirit is a bit harder to define, to understand. Is it our spirit or the Holy Spirit? Perhaps both? As John Piper writes, “True worship comes only from a spirit (our spirit) made alive and sensitive by the quickening of the Spirit of God (Holy Spirit).” God’s Spirit, says Piper, ignites and energizes our spirit.
Jesus had this to say about the “spirit and the Spirit”: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” John 3:6
John Gill explains John 3:6 like this: “Man by his natural birth, and as he is born according to the flesh of his natural parents, is a mere natural man; that is, he is carnal and corrupt, and cannot discern spiritual things; nor can he, as such, enter into, and inherit the kingdom of God.”
In other words, to worship in the spirit you have to be born of the Spirit and that comes only by God’s grace through our faith. Indeed we worship with heart and head, but that is okay as long as we understand what heart and head means. It requires us to know (head) the true doctrine about the Father and his Son, and their partnership with the Spirit in rescuing we sinners, and it requires us to believe in true faith (heart) about that doctrine. Simply put, do you truly believe what you are singing? If you truly believe what you know, that is faith and understanding – heart and head.”
Piper again says this: “Worship must be vital and real in the heart, and worship must rest on a true perception of God. There must be spirit (heart) and there must be truth (head). . . . Truth without faith produces dead orthodoxy and a church full of artificial admirers . . . . On the other hand, faith without truth produces empty frenzy and cultivates shallow people who refuse the discipline of rigorous thought. But true worship comes from people who are deeply faithful and who love deep and sound doctrine. Strong affections for God rooted in truth are the bone and marrow of biblical worship.”
We need to believe who we worship, and we need to know who we worship, and we need to follow who we worship, and we need to be delighted in who we worship, and we need to be emotional and passionate about who we worship, and we need to be filled with who we worship. Redman’s church had their “head” in the wrong place and it broke their “heart”. We need to get our heart right and our head right: We need to worship with heart and head – in Spirit and Truth.