“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (John 4: 23-24, NIV)
Jesus spoke these words to a woman at a well after she attempted to draw Jesus into a debate about the proper place of worship. For centuries, Jews and Samaritans disagreed about the location of the proper place to truly worship God. Perhaps these were the first of many “worship wars” that would follow even into our present age.
The response of Jesus is not meant to imply that worship is merely a personal preference, though our consumer-driven culture may prefer that interpretation. Instead, as we see from the rest of the answer Jesus gives, the kind of worshipers that God “seeks” (4:23) are those who worship from the context of an authentic relationship with God through the Messiah.
Our geographic locations are secondary to our relational location to Jesus Christ, who the Father has sent in order to reveal Himself and His ways to us most clearly. Methods and styles of worship are not unimportant, but they are far less significant than our authentic desire to focus our lives upon the ways of God. Worship is expressed to God, through Jesus Christ and is led by the Holy Spirit.
This is where holiness informs worship. We worship God for the same reasons that Samaritans and Jews and Christians throughout history have done so: because God is uniquely good, holy, and loving.
We exalt God and recognize His worth, thereby recognizing the worthiness of His ways even over our own. The holiness that we are called to as followers of God is derivative: it flows from a relationship with this uniquely holy God.
So, as we use the various tools provided in worship settings to devote our focus toward Him, the ways of Jesus Christ become more and more normative in our lives. This is a classic description of what it means to be “sanctified holy.”
Let us examine our lives in light of God’s holiness. Let us also examine how we worship together, to make sure that our worship is authentic – “in spirit and in truth” – and allows us to truly encounter Jesus and His ways, so that we may be transformed more and more into His likeness.
Prayer for the week:
Here we are Lord,
filled with life and breath,
citizens in the land of the living,
by your grace.
You know our paths,
and the help we will need
to keep our feet firm.
In this time of worship,
equip us to be your upright followers,
In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen. (A Mennonite Call to Worship by Carol Penner)
Charles W. Christian is managing editor of Holiness Today.
Written for Coffee Break with Holiness Today.