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“But while God wants us to worship Him, we cannot worship Him just any way we will. The One who made us to worship Him has decreed how we shall worship Him. He accepts only the worship that He Himself has decreed.”

A.W. Tozer, Whatever Happened to Worship? A Call to True Worship, p. 133

God has set forth in his Word how we are to worship him. Jesus told the Samaritan woman what consists of true worship, in which he said, “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24).

So what does it mean to worship God in spirit in truth? Worshiping God in spirit means engaging your heart in worship. If I worship God in spirit, I humble myself before him and employ my affections in worship.

Worshiping God in truth means engaging your mind in worship. When I worship God in truth, I stand in accordance with the inerrancy of Scripture and believe that God is everything He says He is in His Word. I do not reserve the right to worship only the attributes of God that I find appealing. Worshiping in truth means worshiping the God of the Old Testament, which is the same God in the New Testament.

In the worship model in Isaiah 6, we see that Isaiah describes his vision of God governing His people from His throne. Throughout the reading of this chapter, the overarching posture of worship from Isaiah is that of humility.

Isaiah begins his understanding of true worship through God’s revelation to him, and this revelation was completely different from anything Isaiah had ever witnessed. Our God is powerful and omnipotent, and in the space of a second of time, He revealed himself to Isaiah, rendering Isaiah dumbfounded in how to express the glory of his Uncreated God.

Only through the work of the Holy Spirit can we worship God the way He requires. Tozer describes the worship cycle as, “Worship starts with God, pierces the heart of man (through the Holy Spirit) and then returns to the God who started it all. True worship maintains this divine cycle” (My Daily Pursuit: Devotions for Every Day, p. 49).

Worshiping God in spirit and truth also includes an important and often overlooked element in worship, which is beauty. In society today, the term “beauty” is viewed as subjective, meaning anyone can determine what is beautiful. If I say that a garbage can overflowing with trash is beautiful, who are you to tell me that it is not? Does this line of thinking sound familiar?

However, God tells us what is beautiful in His Word, and then commands us to “think about such things” (Phil. 4:8). When we read in Isaiah and Revelation about glimpses of worship around God’s throne, God is surrounded with beauty. Rev. 4:2-4 says, “At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne.

We do not determine what is beautiful. God sets the standard for beauty, which is rooted in the very nature and character of who He is.

Our responsibility comes in discerning what is truly beautiful, based on God’s standards. His beauty resides above creation, whereas our definition of beauty is diluted by sin. Humility is required to determine what is truly beautiful in worship, and only through surrender of our conceptions and desires can we see the beauty of God.

In summation, to worship God in spirit and truth (which is the true definition of authentic worship), worshipers must humble themselves before God, engage their hearts and minds in worship and submit freely to God’s authority.

Tozer said it best when he said, “I will say that when we adore God, all of the beautiful ingredients of worship are brought to white, incandescent heat with the fire of the Holy Spirit. To adore God means we love Him with all the powers within us. We love Him with fear and wonder and yearning and awe” (Worship: The Reason We Were Created, p. 93-94).

Oh, that we would all make this the goal of our worship.

For further reading:

Worship in Song: A Biblical Philosophy of Music and Worship by Scott Aniol

A Catechism on Judgment in Worship” by David de Bruyn