Superstition and ignorance have always formed part of man's worship from earliest times and the only things that have changed are the fervour, form and depth of that very same superstition and ignorance. The consequences however have not changed, they have merely intensified and in many ways become more widespread. To examine what pertains today in the name of worship is to see a clear reflection of what pertained in years of old when people worshipped the moon and stars and thunder and lightning and an assortment of animals and events. However honest and sincere false worship may be entered into, for it is certain that not all false worshippers are rogues and tricksters, at the end of the day it is still vanity.
People worship God differently in different religions and it acceptable that this is so. In Christianity we worship God differently in the different denominations and this too is acceptable. God does not require uniformity from worshippers, for that is nowhere stated in the Bible, but he requires something from all worshippers on earth. Regardless of the different religions or denominations God's requirement for worship of him for all humanity are encapsulated in the profound and moving words given here, " God is a Spirit; and they that worship him must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4:24)
Note the truth flowing from John 4:24.
God is a Spirit; always has been always will be.
He is not a cow, a snake or some adorable animal
He is not a priest, a prophet or a king.
He is not your pastor, father or physician.
He is not a medicine man, a seer or mystic.
If it can be seen or touched then it is not God and should not be worshipped. Period.
Alas this should not need to be said but wretched humanity has fallen so far so fast that inanities need to be repeated and highlighted and broadcast time and again otherwise pure foolishness takes root, spring up and become part of the spiritual architecture to the detriment of us all.
The other powerful lesson from John 4:24 is that God requires a certain kind of worship not just any worship and the type is here specified. Worshipping Almighty God requires that the worship be "... in spirit and truth." This tells us that there will be worshippers worshipping God but in truth they are wasting their time because their worship does not conform to God's requirements and are therefore rejected by him.
Take for example the five foolish virgins who did all the physical things, followed all the procedures and ceremonies as the others and yet when they wanted to go in to be with the others were spoken to like this, "Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not." (Matthew 25:11-12) These are symbolic of worshippers who did not conform to God's requirements. Let us take another example from Matthew, "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." (Matthew 7:22-23) The same thing applies here for these worshippers did many things in God's name but they did not conform to God's requirements and so were decisively rejected.
In case anyone is still not convinced that worshipping God not in the way he requires is a waste of time then let one more scripture suffice. Talking to the hypocritical Scribes and Pharisees Jesus said this, "Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." (Mark 7:7)
It is very clear that people are worshipping God but because they are worshipping God in a way that does not meet God's requirements then their worship is in vain, without meaning and as described in the dictionary is a fruitless, pointless, disrespectful, blasphemous exercise.
Now comes the really big question. What is true worship?
Everyone knows what worship is. Whether you do it at home or at church or you regard your whole life as worship then it will involve awareness of God, unworthiness of self, consciousness of sin, redemption and sanctification, obedience to God and general servant-hood. All of these elements are part of worship whether true worship or false worship and we need to be sure that our worship is not false. So how do we do that? How do we distinguish between true worship and false worship?
It is true that the early Church in their worship service did certain things like offered prayers to God through Christ; participated in verbal thanksgiving; observed the Lord's supper; gave of their means; taught the sacred Scriptures and sang certain kinds of songs. But doing these things do not mean the worshippers were doing so in spirit and in truth. Ananias and Sapphire did these things and were false. Paul spoke of those who were taking the Lord's Supper falsely and even one leader of the early church who worshipped regularly was a tyrant.
True worship is the unconditional love for God as the soul luxuriates in the unconditional love from God as it walks in continuous harmony with God. No one can worship God in spirit and truth without these conditions being met and everywhere in the Bible this is confirmed. The full liturgy of the early Church was to enable true worship to take place, to empower believers to open up to the full power of the Holy Spirit and to allow sincerity to flow and truth to wash over his inner man. In this state the soul responds to the compassion of God by dedicating himself, his desires, appetites, affections and passions to God and submits himself to serve God and obey his Holy Word.
Let us put our definition to the test and see if it is worthy of retention. Remember the three components of true worship; love for God (component 1), God's love (component 2) and harmony with God (component 3). You can go back to the previous paragraph and read it again for yourself.
A true worshipper CANNOT hate his brother because that contradicts component 1.
" He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now" (1 John2:9)
A true worshipper CANNOT do bad things during the week and on Sundays or Worship day go to church and confess and thinks everything is okay because that contradicts component 2.
"The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity" (Psalm 5:5)
"No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon." (Matthew 6:24)
A true worshipper CANNOT ignore biblical truths, despise the doctrines, and Jesus' commands and the instructions of the Bible and do his own thing as it suits him because that contradicts component 3.
"If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him" (John 14:23).
"He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father" (John 14:21)
"Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you" (John 15:1415)
Everything that is not spiritual and true worship can be tested on the anvil of these three components and be found wanting. Nobody can be worshipping God in spirit and truth and at the same time be terrorizing his fellow men, or be stealing their property, or be fornicating with church members, or misappropriating the church funds or indulging in drunken orgies or evading paying their lawful taxes, or swindling their colleagues or cheating their spouse or abusing little children or committing homosexual acts or engaging in conduct unbecoming a true worshipper.
Because someone may be termed religious, or goes to church or prays so many times each day does not in any shape or form denote that person as a true worshipper. When one worships God in Spirit and in Truth, regardless of his specific religion, he walks circumspectly, righteously, lovingly and always in harmony with God and true believers. This is because the person walks in God's light; not in his traditions, not in the teachings of his church and not in his ideology or theology. The Bible puts it like this, "If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." (1 John 1 6-7)
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Dr. Henderson Ward received his Doctor of Divinity in theology, with distinction, from Masters International School of Divinity, USA, where he is currently a post-doctoral fellow. Dr. Ward's career involved pastoring, evangelism, and teaching. Copyright 2013