I want you to stop and imagine something with me. Imagine that feeling you get during corporate worship. You are in church. The music is amazing. The choir is singing your favorite song, the one that gets you every time. The energy inside of you is bubbling up. You feel wave upon wave of gratitude and love and grace flood over you. The world washes away and you are surrounded by the love of Christ. You forget all your shortcomings and distractions and focus solely on Christ. That feeling, that state is like a good drug and it can carry us into the next day, but you don’t have to wait until your weekly church gatherings to feel that flood of love towards Christ.
John Piper defines worship as “strong affections for God rooted in truth.” And like abiding, it is more a state of mind and heart than it is any outward actions. While, yes, corporate worship is all about outward actions, those actions are really just designed to encourage our inward affections toward Christ. And those inward affections should be a continuous state of mind, not a meeting we attend once a week. We miss out on living the abiding lifestyle when we are not continually worshiping. I think of the scripture, “Pray without ceasing.” Worshiping without ceasing should also a goal in our Christian walk.
Isaiah 29:13 says, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.”
Does that sound like us as Christians? Sadly, too many times I think it does. When our hearts are aligned with Christ, worship has no rules, it has no walls, it has no time limit. But do we really think about, focus on, our strong affections for God outside of the church building? Do we think about it as often as we should? Do we worship God in all the moments He has presented us with? Unfortunately,I know my answer and I bet you do too.
If we can figure out how to worship God without ceasing, in the midst of our crazy everyday life, then we will take our abiding to the next level. We will have one more piece of the puzzle. You see abiding in Christ is not fitting our “Jesus” times into nice slots on the calendar. It is not our two hour time of worship on Sunday and our 15 minute Bible study each morning and then our five minute prayer before bed. All those are good. But to abide in Christ, our “Jesus” time becomes nearly every moment. It becomes the skin we are in and the air that we breath. When we abide in Christ, we view every moment and situation through the Vine. And to do that, we must have a continuous heart for worship.
Worship is recognizing and admiring that the Lord is God – no matter the situation. Not just when we have that flood of emotions wash over us during a great song. Not just when someone tells her testimony and you relate on a down right scary level. Not just when a scripture comes across your feed and it is exactly what you needed. Those are all great moments, but they are moments when our emotions have been satisfied. We sometimes worship like we treat people. We are so moody with our worship. God, you have made me happy. I am satisfied right now. I don’t have too much stress in my life right now, so yeah, I am good to worship. And sometimes we say, “Oh God, did you see what I just went through?? I can’t worship now. I just don’t feel it right now.”
John 4:25 says “…Those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” Not in circumstance and mood. So what does that mean “in spirit and truth?” Well we already stated that it was a state of mind and a state of heart and that is spirit and truth. Spirit is our state of heart and truth is our state of mind. So how do we ensure we are worshiping him in spirit and truth?
State of Heart – Spirit
Our state of heart refers to our emotional state. And yes, worship should not just be about emotions, but we do have to have our heart in the right place in order to worship. Our heart has to be in the presence of the Spirit. We have to give total control to the Holy Spirit. I know, I know… That is a scary thought. No telling what the Spirit may have you doing. I get it. But let’s face it. How many times have you steered you wrong because you made decisions based on emotions? Now, I bet the Spirit has never led you to do something you regret. And giving up that control is a gradual thing. While I wish we just sprang out of that baptismal pool with our flesh all washed away, that is not really the way it works. We are both flesh and Spirit once we are saved and whatever we feed will be what grows. The more we heed the Holy Spirit, the more we are sensitive to his direction. The more we will see opportunities to worship. The more we will feel like worshiping…not because our emotional state is that much better but because we have given the Spirit more control. We begin to view situations, not through our emotional lens, but through a spiritual lens, a lens that allows us to see God’s hand in many situations and then we are able to admire his work through worshiping.
For instance, over Thanksgiving break, my three year old was battling a nasty cold. She didn’t feel good. She was whiney and we had snot everywhere. I could have worried over her health. I could have fussed over her whininess (okay, maybe I did that a little). I could have moaned and groaned over the fact that she had me up before the sun everyday of the break. But there were many, many sweet moments in that week of sickness that I will treasure. Moments where she would still cuddle up with me on the couch. Moments where she relied on me to give her medicine and help her feel better. Moments where she thought she was grown because I let her take hot showers by herself. Sweet moments that only sickness could have given me. Thankfully, the Spirit showed me that all those moments were moments to stop and admire God at work, moments to worship.
State of Mind – Truth
I know worshiping in spirit may seem like a tough one, but I think worshiping in truth is a greater struggle. Worshiping in truth requires us to use our faith. Worshiping in truth is worshiping with our head knowledge, with our state of mind, and sometimes our head knowledge and God’s promises do not align. Our head knowledge sees are the deficits in our checkbook, not the promise of God’s provision. Our head knowledge sees the lab report from the doctor, not the promise of God’s care. Our head knowledge sees the overbooked calendar, not the promise of God’s strength. When we find ourselves in these difficult situations, it is easy to let that head knowledge take over. It is easy to forget we serve an all-powerful God who is our rock in times of trouble. It’s so much easier to focus on that black and white trouble that is staring us in the face.
But that is where we have to change our state of mind. Instead of letting our head knowledge focus on the reality placed in front of us, we need to focus on the truth that Jesus shows us. When Jesus is being questioned by Pilate before his crucifixion, Jesus explains that He came “to bear witness to the truth” (John 18:37). It is interesting that He chose truth as his purpose and not other things. He didn’t come to bear righteousness, or grace, or even love. He came to bear truth and He goes on to say that “everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” So if we hear the truth and focus on the truth of each situation and of each promise that God has given, then we hear the voice of Jesus. The voice of Jesus will enable us to worship. It is not the black numbers in the checkbook or blank spaces in our calendars that enable us to worship. It is Jesus and the truth that He offers.
His truth says that He came to save our souls and be the love in our lives. His truth says He is raised from the grave and has victory over death and hell. His truth says that he offers us an eternal home in heaven. His truth says He can make a virgin His mother. His truth says he can heal the sick. His truth says he can provide with very little. His truth says He can use a murderer for his purpose. The Bible tells us all these truths. But what truths are proven in your life?
In my life, Jesus has many truths: that He has a plan for me and I need to trust and watch it unfold, that He will provide for my needs and is concerned about my wants, even when it feels like no one else is, that He will give me the energy and time when both feel like they are in short supply, that He will allow me to focus on what matters when I am so easily distracted by other things, that He will care for me in times of sickness and worry, that He will provide healing when the time is right.
When I focus on the truths of the Bible and the truths Jesus has proven in my life, instead of on the reality in front of me, then I am able to worship. My state of mind becomes a place where Jesus and His truth take focus. And when my state of mind is focused on truth, then my state of heart is in a much better place to listen to the spirit. And then, and only then, am I able to worship in spirit and in truth.