The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. —Westminster Catechism
Over the last few weeks, we have been gaining an imagination for an inner life of intimacy. It is a house built upon the foundation of grace—sola gratia. From this foundation, in partnership with the energies of God himself, we build an inner life that slowly but surely grows into the inner life of Christ. Upon grace is silence and solitude—we rest in the awareness of his love and our belovedness; these two truths are the secret to joy in all circumstances. Silence and solitude can be thought of as clearing away the clutter and focusing on essentials. From a quiet soul, we “transform our mind” by thinking his thoughts about Him, us and others; we do this by memorizing Scripture. By living and trusting in the scriptures moment by moment, we enter into the reality they speak about. Like a good shower after a hard day’s work, we don’t just dribble a little bit of scripture onto our life. We allow torrents of his life to wash over us. It changes us from the inside out. Grounded in the reality and goodness of God as we find in the Bible, we talk with him and he talks to us. We build an eternal friendship. We really do grow to know him (John 10:17).
Finally, this week’s essay is the bloom of such an intimate, interior life. The bloom is a life of worship.
“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” John 4:24.
We must worship in spirit. Spirit is, according to Dallas Willard, “unembodied personal power”. It is the component of a person by which he or she can act upon the world. It is will. It is the ability to choose one action over another. When Jesus says that God is Spirit, he is declaring that God is complete, eternal, self-sufficient unhindered, all-powerful will. His being is unlimited, personal agency. By his will, he can do whatever pleases him. Or as he declares to Moses, “I AM who I AM.” Or as Douglas Stuart rightly translates, ““I cause to be because I cause to be.” When the Scriptures say we are made in the image of God, it is saying at least in part that we have the ability to act like God. We can with profound limits choose and create. We are unlike other creatures who are driven by impulse and nature. We have spirit.
We worship by using our spirit to choose him. Worship then is worship when we choose him from that place of our being where we are free to do what we want. This reality places worship at the center of life. We worship when we choose him by serving the poor, our spouse or neighbor. We worship when we take a hard but biblical stand because his word says it is right. Any time we act in response to him, this is worshipping God in spirit.
Worship must also happen in truth. The word ἀλήθεια is the word for truth in Greek. It means conforming to reality because it is dependable. The reality that Jesus is speaking of is that God fills our world, he is good and he is constantly moving on our behalf. To worship God in truth is to experience and rely on him in your life and to experience his goodness. It is to immerse ourselves into his life and encounter him, really. The clearer we see, the more we experience, the more radical will be our worship.
This reveals the indispensable gift of studying scriptures as a spiritual discipline. Reading the Bible is the primary way to learn about God. Learning about God has one goal: a heart aflame in worship. We read stories of his exploits, his faithfulness, his goodness and his mercy. We then rely upon this truth in our lives and find it to be true for us. We see God! The automatic, gut response to such learning is a heart filled with affection and love towards God. When this is happening in the human heart, we are in the most secure place we can be in life.
Every Sunday morning worship service is both an opportunity and a thermometer. It is an opportunity to worship with the gathered people of God. It is good to come to the house of the Lord and to remember together all that he has done on our behalf. It is also a thermometer. If the songs play, the sermon is preached, prayers prayed and my heart is cold, it is not the pastor or worship leader’s fault. It is mine. My life is not one of worshipping in spirit and truth and my worship shows it. But it can be the worst musician, the most-off-key singer, a preacher who can’t preach or pray and if my life is one of spirit-and-truth worship then my voice, body and mind will be filled with affection. Even a ‘bad’ church service will be filled with glorious, God-drenched joy.
I want more of this. I want you to have more of this. So,
let’s us hear the words of Jesus and take them to heart. Let us be people who
worship in spirit and in truth.