In the 4th chapter of John, Jesus was talking to the Samaritan woman about worship. The Samaritan woman pointed out the traditional worship the Samaritans engaged in versus the worship of the Jews.
However, through the course of the conversation Jesus revealed two key elements of worship.
John 4:20-24 "...Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 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.”
Jesus emphasized twice that those who worship God must do so in spirit and in truth.
The word "truth" in this context refers to the correct doctrine for worship that we can find in the Biblical pattern. This could be a whole series of lessons itself!
However, I want to focus in particular on what it means to worship God "in spirit".
To a certain extent, worshiping in spirit refers to worshiping with the correct attitude. We simply must come to worship God in the right frame of mind and for the right reasons.
I would like to examine some incorrect attitudes we could have toward worship as well the attitudes we need to have.
Incorrect Attitudes to have Toward Worship
Attending in order to "punch one's ticket."
There are many who believe that as long as they show up on Sunday mornings they are faithful Christians. To these individuals, Christianity is merely a one-day-a-week think.
Others may simply come to assembly only partake in the Lord's Supper; not realizing that communion is just as important as any of the other acts of worship.
These people forget that Christianity is a way of life.
Acts 1:1 The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach...
Notice in the introduction of Acts that Jesus both did and taught. Jesus practiced what He preached, He talked the talk, but - more importantly - He walked the walk.
Likewise, we are commanded to do the same.
James 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
Our attitude should be like that of the Psalmists. He loved the Word of God so much that it became part of him.
Psalm 119:11, 97 Thy Word I hid in my heart ; O how I love thy law!
Notice that following the foundation of the church that the early Christians continued steadfastly in their work. This was not just a one time thing!
Acts 2:41-42 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
We need to realize that a person merely attending every church service does not make one a faithful Christian...
Being a Christian is a full-time job! We must be fully committed at all times, not just one day a week.
If we come to worship just to punch our ticket; we come for the wrong reason.
Attending worship for one's own personal gain
There is a dangerous doctrine being taught by various denominations which can be damaging. This doctrine, sometimes called the "prosperity gospel" says that if you worship God you will be blessed with great physical wealth. (As the basis for their beliefs they use passages such as Mark 10:29-30 and 3 John 2.)
Is this the right reason to worship God? Should our only motivation in loving God be a hope in gaining some kind of material reward?
We should love God because he first loved us.
1 John 4:19 We love Him because He first loved us.
To further debunk this idea, if all saints are supposed to be wealthy then what about Jesus Himself?
Matthew 8:19-20 Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”
What about the Apostles?
Acts 3:2-6 And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple; who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms. And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, “Look at us.” So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”
Surely none are more dedicated to God than Jesus and the Apostles, and yet these faithful followers lived in poverty. This is completely the opposite of what is being taught by those that preach the "prosperity gospel"!
Jesus taught that we would be blessed with what we need and that a love of riches is detrimental to spiritual growth.
Matthew 6:24 No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
It is obvious that if we are coming to worship just to obtain physical wealth that we are coming for the wrong reason!
Attending worship to be entertained
In today's world we are used to being entertained. It's to the point that we come to expect it constantly!
As a result many congregations have given in to gimmickry in order to bring in visitors. It is difficult to differentiate worship services from a rock concert.
Should this be the reason that we come to worship God, just to escape boredom?
Should the preacher try to entertain us?
Notice that the men present on the day of Pentecost were not entertained but cut to the heart!
Acts 2:36-37 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
When we allow the Gospel to stand on its own it yields lasting, life-altering results. While gimmickry may attract crowds, when that gimmickry disappears so do the crowds! The Word of God is powerful enough on its own to attract true followers.
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
What about singing? I'll admit that this is one of my favorite parts of worship. I love to sing! But should the singing merely be a source of entertainment?
Ephesians 5:19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,
Singing, like the other acts of worship, are to be dedicated to the Lord. While we may derive pleasure from participation in singing we should not forget its true purpose.
Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
Additionally, as we sing we need to pay attention to the words rather than focusing solely on melody. Singing in worship is not only pleasing to God, but also a method of teaching and admonishment.
Ultimately it should be Christ that draws us to worship, not entertainment.
John 12:12 The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem...
It wasn't free donuts or a game of softball that attracted the multitude to Jerusalem, it was the Son of God! We need to remember that when we attend worship that Christ is among us! That should be more than enough reason for excitement!
Matthew 18:20 For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.
Again, if we come to worship just to be entertained, we come for the wrong reason.
Attending worship because of family tradition
Some attend church services merely because that's what their family has always done. Maybe they've worshiped with the same congregation in the same building for decades. They don't love God, want to study His word, or worship Him. They've simply taken on their family's religion.
We must realize that your family is not going to get you to Heaven. Notice the singular language used in the following passage.
2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
Salvation is an individual thing. Again, notice the singular language.
Mark 16:16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.
If we attend simply because our family has always attended, we are not attending for the right reason.
Let us switch our focus at this time to the correct attitudes we should strive to have when it comes to worship...
The Correct Attitudes to have Toward Worship
Reverence is a deep respect. This is a perfect description of the attitude we ought to have when it comes to worship.
Ecclesiastes 12:13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all.
It sounds strange to unbelievers, but our respect toward God is so deep that is akin to fear. We would not dare disrespect our Creator!
Indeed, we ought to have this degree of respect for Him; His power is so awesome that we can’t even begin to understand!
Job 38:4 Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding.
If we have the proper degree of deep respect for God we will not fall asleep during the service, not talk or otherwise cause disruptions (cell phones, etc...). God is to be the primary focus during our worship.
God has little patience for show-offs in His church.
The Bible tells us that we should humble ourselves before the Lord.
James 4:10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.
We should strive to be like the Tax Collector, certainly not like the Pharisee!
Luke 18:9-14 Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
I mentioned the idea of reverence earlier in the lesson, which is a word that we usually associate with solemn events such as funerals. In a sense, worship is like a funeral.
After all, we come together to remember Christ and all He did for us.
1 Corinthians 11:24-25 ...And when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
We remember His death, burial, and resurrection.
1 Corinthians 15:1-4 Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures...
We must worship God according to His divine instructions in order to please Him. If we do not, we are not showing him respect we previously discussed.
When we fail to worship God according to His own instructions for worship, we are basically saying that we know better than Him concerning how we should serve Him.
This is one of the hardest ideas for the denominational world to understand, but all must recognize that man-made worship is not according to God's will. Such worship is described as vain.
Matthew 15:9 And in vain they worship Me. Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.
Surely, if anyone know how we ought to worship God it would have to be God Himself!
1 John 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.
John14:6, 15 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me..." ; If you love Me, keep My commandments.
Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
The bottom line is essentially this: We must attend worship because we love God and want to please him and not for any other reason.
We must not forget that we must attend worship in order to please God.
Hebrews 10:25 ...Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
However, if your coming for the wrong reason; you might as well stay home.
We simply must worship God in spirit and in truth.
Are you worshiping for the right reason?
Note: This is based a sermon by Ralph Price with some added thoughts of my own.