“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
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).
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.
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
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.
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.
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).
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?
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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).
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
I know you’ve been there. The moment when your child is telling a group of adults about something you said last week, something that was meant to stay within the walls of your home. When you said it, you did not even know your child was listening to you. Your words were uttered in frustration and you assumed that nobody was truly listening. But those little ears were tuned in and absorbing your words.
As parents, we know that we need to be guarded in relation to what we share with our children. But what are we teaching them with the words on our lips when we come home from church on Sundays? Are we speaking words of praise and affirmation regarding the corporate worship in which we just participated? Or are we condemning the church for using a style of music that we regard as inappropriate? Each of us needs to search our hearts for the answers to these questions and allow God to show us how to truly worship in a corporate setting.
Psalm 19:14 says, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart by pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Children need to see their parents worship God with no inhibitions. If my child observes me worshiping God while in a modern setting, but sees me using my phone to check email while in a traditional setting, he then begins to devalue traditional music through my actions. In every church service, there is reason to worship God. The style may be different from what you would choose, but that does not mean God is different. God is not concerned with the style of music you use in your service. God wants a heart full of praise and adoration, leading others to His throne.
If the meditation of my heart is based solely on musical style, then the words of my mouth will not be pleasing to God. Regardless of whether I’m singing the traditional hymn, “On Christ the Solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand,” or the modern hymn “Christ Alone, Cornerstone, weak made strong in the Savior’s love,” my heart needs to be worshiping God. I am praising God in both styles for being my Rock on which I build my faith. When these words are sung from a heart full of praise and adoration, God hears them the same.
Our children need to know that our hearts are focused on God, not our circumstances. As Americans we are easily swept away by entertainment outside of church, whether it’s the new movie being released or the anticipation of your favorite artist coming in concert. Slowly we begin to expect that same form of entertainment when we enter church on Sundays. We expect them to have the highest definition cameras, otherwise we are distracted. We expect our churches to have the highest quality sound systems, otherwise we become unfocused. Through all of this, our children are watching and observing. They are taking note that the adults in their lives aren’t satisfied with what they experience in corporate worship settings.
What would happen in our churches if we as church members took the focus off ourselves and put it on God? What if we came to church on Sunday anticipating worshiping God, no matter the form of music? A revolution would take place. There would be no more coming into the service after it has already started because you would be expecting to worship God. He is already there. He is already waiting for you to worship Him. But when we deem the music too loud or out of style, we are missing the blessed opportunity to worship God with fellow believers. This occasion that happens every week in corporate worship is something that is full of reverence and honor, but too often we miss the chance to pour out our praise with other believers because our preferences influence our worship.
We need to take the focus off of ourselves and put it back on God. We need to show our children that God is to be worshiped in every service we attend. Our children need to understand the value of worshiping God in one voice with other Christians. If we teach our children this truth, the church will become stronger. Unification will happen across generations, and boundaries will be destroyed. The goal of worship services should be worshiping God, not agreement on musical styles.
I encourage you to examine your heart. Are you showing your child, and other believers, that you only worship God when the music is right? Do you make snide comments about services with dissimilar forms of music? Or do you embrace every worship experience as a way to praise God?
God wants your heart, not your preferences. God wants you to lead others to His throne through worship. We have a responsibility to teach our children how to honor God and His church. Anticipate every opportunity to praise God in corporate worship. Let’s start a revolution by taking the emphasis off of our partiality in worship forms and adore God unreserved.