By Jeff Arnette
"God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”" (ESV, John 4:24)
For years I have heard this passage used as justification for why we worship the way we do. We cite this verse and then talk about worshiping "in truth" with a focus on what we can or cannot do in worship to God and Christ.
Does God care about your worship? Does he care what you do? Of course he does but that still misses a bigger point. We are so concerned about the form of worship and what is being done that we seem to miss the point of why we worship in the first place. To focus on the truth of worship (form and action) without the spirit of worship (motivation and heart) still fails as worship in God's eyes. Not only that but it fails as worship for us too. Too many times our worship services fail to impress upon us the greatness of what we are doing. It fails to impress upon our hearts the joy and excitement that should come as a result of being in the presence of God and worshiping him. The end result of worship that is missing the heart, the spirit of worship, is everyone walks away not feeling like they have worshiped God.
I want you to notice what David said about what God really wants from us. "For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." Psalm 51:16-17 David reminds us that what God really wants is our hearts. If going through the motions of worship, if sacrifice and burnt offerings were all that God was concerned about that would be easy. God wants a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart. That is what God wants and he will not despise or reject that.
This problem is spoken about often in the New Testament. The problem is that we are really good at following rules but not so good at giving our hearts to God. In Matthew 15:7-9, Jesus says that people are good at lip service but their hearts are still far from God. In other words we are good at going through the motions and still not connecting our hearts to our worship of God. When our hearts are far from God our worship is vain, pointless, and ultimately unsatisfying to everyone involved.
So what should we do about this? How can we ensure that what we give God is our hearts and not just lip service? We must give him our entire heart and let that be the motivating force of all that we do. "And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good?" Deuteronomy 10:12–13
- Jeff Arnette preaches for the Central Haywood church of Christ, Clyde, NC. He may be contacted through the congregation's website.