LESSON 4: WORSHIP IN SPIRIT AND TRUTH
MAIN IDEA: True worship is expressed through spirit and truth — our spirit surrendered to God’s Truth.
In the last lesson we considered the importance of accepting God’s gift of grace in Jesus Christ. In this lesson we will see that having a relationship with Jesus is what makes it possible to worship in spirit and truth.
In the Gospel of John we read the story of a Samaritan woman who encountered Jesus, the Lamb of God. We know her as the woman at the well. Isn’t it interesting that when this woman realized she was in the presence of someone very special, she immediately turned the conversation to worship!
“Sir,” the woman replied, “I see that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, yet you Jews say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.” John 4:19-20
Jesus used this encounter to explain what God requires of us as we worship. The woman knew enough about worship to ask Jesus about the right location, but He responded with a message about the right relationship — the relationship between God and the worshiper. Jesus made it very clear that the condition of the worshiper’s heart is always God’s primary interest.
Jesus told her, “Believe Me, woman, an hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. But an hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. Yes, the Father wants such people to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:21,23-24
Jesus’ words to the Samaritan woman at the well ring loudly to all believers. He made it clear that the place of worship no longer had to be the temple in Jerusalem — or the cathedral or the sanctuary of First Church. No matter where our place of worship may be, we can offer the Father the worship He desires as long as it flows from deep within our surrendered hearts.
Worshiping in Spirit
God is not impressed with outward expressions of worship that do not come from our surrendered and grateful hearts, no matter how excellent we may think our expressions of worship are. True worship comes from within, as this verse implies:
“These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. They worship Me in vain.” Matthew 15:8-9
Worship that meets humanity’s “performance standard” is not the issue. God hears and receives only what is offered to Him in spirit. He is the One who sets the only standard of performance that matters. True worship is expressed through spirit and truth: our spirit surrendered to His Truth. Jesus made it clear that anything less is unacceptable.
I’m ashamed of the fact that in my earlier years in music ministry, there would not have been room for Seth in my choir. You see, Seth was a wonderful man — probably in his late 30s at the time — who loved God and loved to sing. But Seth was a victim of Down Syndrome. Seth could sing on pitch, but he couldn’t harmonize with the other tenors.
He simply would not have passed my “performance standard” as a music minister. But Seth passed the only standard that mattered: he was a worshiper of the Living God, who worshiped with all his heart — and God knew it!
Seth fit right in with our music team from the beginning. When he sang, he sang with joy on his face like no one else in the choir. Down Syndrome could not steal Seth’s revelation of who God is and what He had done in Seth’s life! Seth sang with joy on his face and tears streaming down his cheeks. His unashamed worship of His Savior challenged all of us to the core.
God used Seth in my life to secure this truth forever: people look at the outward expression of worship — what we see and hear — but God always looks at the inner heart of the worshiper:
The LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7, NKJV
Seth worshiped in spirit and in truth, and God chose to dwell there with him. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is what makes it possible for us to worship the Father in spirit. Although human beings can reproduce human life, it takes the Spirit of God to breathe divine life into the spirit of a man or a woman.
Worshiping the Father in spirit, then, begins with being born again. Salvation, a divine gift of grace, opens the doorway to the relationship that God deeply desires. The power and presence of the Spirit resides in every heart surrendered to the lordship of Jesus. And that Spirit of the Living God invites the spirit within each of us to worship from a pure heart.
“Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” John 3:6, NIV
Worshiping in Truth
True worshipers worship the Father not only in spirit, but also in truth. Jesus is the Truth. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). All who worship the Father must do so through Jesus. Worship under the New Covenant is always through Christ, in Christ, and for Christ. Therefore, as the writer of the Book of Hebrews encourages us,
Through Him let us continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of our lips that confess His name. Hebrews 13:15
The Truth is a person, and His name is Jesus. True worship is always our response to His revelation! God provided Jesus, the Living Word, to establish once and forever a secure foundation of true worship for us. You see, we must have a revelation of God — a correct view of God in relationship to who we are — if we are to worship the Father in truth, and His Word always provides such a view. God has never changed, and He never will.
Jesus is the perfect expression of the nature and character of God. God is fully revealed in Jesus, and Jesus is the one and only Truth:
God … has in these last days spoken to us by His Son … who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power … sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. Hebrews 1:1-3, NKJV
Worship that is Christ-centered and Christ-focused is true worship, and worship that comes from a heart filled with Jesus, the Living Word, will never be in vain.
What locations describe your regular place of worship
• Weekly church services
• Sunday School class
• Bible-study groups
• Special events
• Personal devotions
Location is never what matters most to God. What matters to God is that we worship in spirit and truth. And we can worship God in spirit and truth in all of these places! Jesus said that it is now time to worship the Father in spirit and truth.
Worship in spirit is defined by worship that comes from the innermost part of our hearts — hearts that are filled with awe and appreciation that can only come from our personal and intimate encounter with the Lord. Worship in truth occurs as we worship with an understanding of who God truly is and who we are by comparison. God and all His attributes are fully revealed in Jesus Christ, who is the Truth!
LESSON 4 REVIEW
• What statement or Scripture you read in this lesson was most meaningful?
• Reword the statement or Scripture into a prayer of response.
• What does God want you to do in response to this lesson?