Our own deeply-rooted spirituality leads to genuine worship of God and proper expression of our love and respect for Him. However, if our worship is not propelled by what is in our heart (mind, soul, spirit), it is empty and useless; it does not recognize God for Who He is nor does it honor His holiness and righteousness. Furthermore, if our worship is not moored by the truth of God’s word, it is sinful. In Leviticus 10:1 we read that Nadab and Abihu offered what was deemed strange or unauthorized fire before the Lord. They perished because of their sins. In response, God said worshipers must sanctify Him and glorify Him in worship.
Only when the heart is spiritually prepared can one properly and pleasingly worship God. Worship directed toward anyone or anything other than God is considered idolatry (Rom. 1:18-25). Worship that is not done in spirit is hypocritical, empty and nothing more than a simple ritual (Mat. 15:7-9). If our worship is not done according to what the bible says, then it is false worship and only satisfies and glorifies the self.
Since the first century, men have misused worship assemblies to suit their individual preferences and agendas. The apostle Paul wrote his epistle to the Corinthian church to address such problems. The purpose of his letter was designed in part to correct various errors in their assemblies for worship. The problems involved such things as mixing common meals with the Lord’s Supper and failing to properly perceive the body and blood of Jesus while observing the memorial (1 Cor. 11:21-34). With respect to miraculous gifts used within the assemblies, Paul addressed problems of pride and jealousy (1 Cor. 12:12-31). To sum up his thoughts about error in the worship assemblies, Paul wrote, “All things should be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40). Today, churches are abandoning the authorized means and methods of worship by offering “contemporary” worship services which involve musical accompaniment, drama skits and theatrical productions, and even rock bands. Just like the first century Christians in Corinth, their motivation seems to be self-love, self-esteem, self-glorification and self-fulfillment.
Worship that is acceptable to God is an intensely personal and deliberate act of our will and spirit. It can be done collectively (in an assembly of the church) or in private. True worship involves the inner emotion and intellect. It reaches our innermost parts and strikes us with the awe and wonder of our Creator. Worship that pleases God does not need, nor does it require some type of alteration of what He authorized in the New Testament. Furthermore, we need no manipulation of outside circumstances for it to be spiritual worship.
Jesus said, “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24). In His statement, Jesus gives specific and precise instructions on what is acceptable and pleasing worship to God. Our responsibility is to take what He said and follow it exactly.
Worshiping in spirit. In Matthew 15 we read an account of some Pharisees and scribes criticizing Jesus’ disciples for not observing the tradition of hand-washing before eating their meal. Jesus responded by quoting the prophet Isaiah when He said, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me; in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Mat 15:8-9). This passage indicates our acts of worship may contradict what is truly in our heart. We must reflect and really think about the very personal and deliberate act which is worship. The inner man should be filled with thought, wonder, awe, praise and desire to glorify God. When we gather around the Lord’s Table, we should contemplate the sacrifice and the matchless love expressed by God. When we hear the word preached accurately, we should hear the voice of God. When we make our offering, we should praise God for the good that will be done in furthering His kingdom. When we participate in the singing, we ought to express intense feelings of gratitude, love, praise and trust in Him.
Worshiping in truth. After completion of the temple, Zechariah’s call to repentance had grown cold in the hearts of the Israelites. The prophet Malachi once again implored the Israelites to repent of their vain worship. He said, “Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand” (Mal. 1:10). The actions and attitudes portrayed in this passage teach us that not all worship is good because not all worship is done in truth. Great care should be taken to follow God’s instructions and not man’s ideas. Whether we speak about assembled worship or private devotional worship, the answer is the same; we look to God’s standard of truth. To find the truth about pleasing worship to God, we simply look to the New Testament and apostolic times to find our examples and commands. Then, we follow them to the letter. Nothing more and nothing less is acceptable to God.
Considering these characteristics of acceptable worship leads us to recognize there are numerous benefits to engaging in such. Spiritual worship gives the worshiper great joy in drawing near and coming into the presence of God. The sons of Korah expressed this joy when they sang, “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” (Ps 42:1-2). Spiritual worship gives us the opportunity to express our thanksgiving to God for all He has done for us. When we gather on Sunday to participate in spiritual worship, we set aside time to commemorate the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the matchless love expressed by God offering Him. The memorial service reminds us of what our sins have done, what had to be done to satisfy the penalty of sin, and the mercy and grace of God as He offered Jesus as a redemptive offering. Spiritual worship gives us opportunity to join together to spur one another on, teach one another and encourage one another (Heb. 10:25). Finally, spiritual worship provides us a glimpse of what awaits the child of God in the hereafter (see Rev. 21:1-4, 22-27).
by Lance Bowman