Spirit and Truth
Published May 31, 2012 @ 6 a.m.
In last week’s article we spoke about how we Christians need worship like plants need rain. I thought it would be good to continue on worship this week. Worship is the central attitude out of which a Christian leads their life. How we worship determines what we do in every other area of our lives. This is so because worship determines our attitude towards God.
Everyone has faith. Everyone worships. That doesn’t mean everyone has faith towards God but every act of our lives is based upon who or what we have faith in. Likewise, everyone worships but the object of our worship is not always God. We worship what matters most to us; we worship where our greatest passion lies. Common objects of worship in America are fame, money, children, alcohol and drugs, sex, and our own self. There are many who worship science and others who worship celebrities. The problems with making these things the object of our worship are numerous. These objects are all temporary and they are, as Jesus said, “building your house upon the sand.” None of these things are wrong in their rightful place. But when they are made the place where you worship not only are you harmed but in the case of your children you are setting them up for failure in life just like you have set yourself up for failure in life. There is only one place that a human’s true worship belongs; on God. “Seek first the Kingdom of God and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)
John 4 tells the story of Jesus’ encounter with a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. A goodly part of this conversation is all about worship. The woman is concerned about the correct ritual and place of worship seeking to show herself (or at least her people) approved. She sees Jesus (who as a Jew has a different ritual and place of worship) as a threat. She is taken aback by Jesus’ reply. Jesus says, “… the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth …” (John 4:23)
There are many rituals, forms, and places for worshipping God. If these are not enough for you wait a week and someone will come up with a new one. But the Christian who seeks God with all their hearts are at a significant advantage. For it is the Christian whose faith is experimental and not just mental assent whose soul is born of the Holy Spirit and who has the ability therefore, to worship in spirit and in truth. Such a Christian cannot help but seek God with all their hearts and God promises that those who seek God will find God.
A person willing to allow God to fill their lives in this way will find that all of life changes. An example comes from the early Methodist movement. Many of the people who formed early Methodism were economically poor and disenfranchised. But as they gave themselves to God they began to improve economically. Looking back, historians discovered that the reason for this improvement in economic status had everything to do with the people’s attitude. They stopped making decisions based on what will make me happiest in this moment because they had taken on an eternal point of view. Their self-discipline became a greater good to them. They even began to be willing to spend their money on others instead of themselves. All of these attitudes began to lead them to greater wealth even though becoming rich in things was never their goal. Their worship of God in spirit and in truth had changed how they dealt with everything else in life and, just as Jesus had promised, the other things humans desire in life were added to them.
Psychology is seldom a pure science but their studies do shine light on the human condition. Psychologists find that Christians who attend worship together on a regular basis lead longer lives (by almost the same number of years on average as a non-smoker leads a longer life than a smoker), report their lives to be happier and more satisfying, and that they are slightly more likely to survive a serious illness than those who do not worship on a regular basis. My guess is that continuing study in this area will discover even greater benefits for those who worship on a regular basis.
So you see, worship really does set up your attitude towards the rest of life. Who you worship and what you worship makes a huge difference. The ritual is not of so much consequence or the place but rather do you worship God in spirit and in truth? Before you answer “yes, I do that” remember that such worship requires God’s Holy Spirit giving birth to a new way of thinking and doing (soul) within you. Prior to being “born from above” (John 3:3) the only thing we can do is seek and even that is a gift from God.