(Defining Authentic Christian Worship)
Worship is: Flying a plane into a tower. Pulling the pin in a crowded subway. Ecstatic whirling. Formal prayer 5 times daily. Exhaustive memorization of sacred text. In brief, a life inextricably woven to God. Liturgically and sacrificially, Muslims – particularly extremists – seem to exemplify every definition of living worship. Indeed, ‘Islam’ means “to submit.”
There’s only one problem… it’s false. It’s not so much that they worship the wrong God (‘Allah’ is actually a form of the Hebrew ‘Elohim’), but a false revelation of God, fatally demoting the Christ from Savior to prophet.
Amidst the religious tussle between Samaritans & Jews, a Samaritan woman inquires of Jesus as to whose worship was more correct. Shockingly, Jesus leveled BOTH groups with his answer. He said “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 23-24
Worshiping in Truth
Authentic worship is NOT born of sincerity alone. The premise of authenticity is truth! That is, worshiping God in the reality, and not the perception, of who He is. If Christ is not as the Word reveals Him – God in the flesh, the Word incarnate, the Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away sins, the Savior, one with the Father, Creator of all things (and more!) – our worship is a vast and utter travesty. But if He is, then the reality of His existence and attributes comprise the foundation of authentic Christian worship. All else – albeit sincere – is false.
Worshiping in Spirit
Like Samaritans & Jews, we Christians persist in debating worship as a correctness of form, as though we still suffer from limited revelation (“vain arguments,” as I believe Paul described them?). Jesus qualified worship beyond the notion of styles, traditions, and comparative nuance. We debase it when we return it to such – with ‘form’ serving no better a substitution for “in spirit” than ‘works’ do for grace. It is the idolatrous flesh which seeks to carve it to a perfected form.
Yet, as outlined in Part 2 of this installment, biblical worship encompasses many forms – work, sacrifice, obedience, fear, & reverence. We didn’t even cover the ceremonial… dancing, raising hands, singing, prayer, etc. Which of these forms are approved of God? Simple: ALL… and NONE!
Jesus did not negate form. He elevated it. Form is not the essence of worship – the “spirit” is. The word spirit is from the Greek ‘pneuma,’ literally meaning “breath” or “wind,” but usually translated “spirit” or “ghost.” Isn’t it ironic that we labor so over giving form to something which Christ epitomized in its formlessness?
Then how can man authentically worship God “in spirit & truth?” Apart from the Holy Spirit, who indwells us at faith, it is impossible for man to worship God as Jesus prescribed in John 4. Thus, it was precisely the coming of Himself and the Holy Spirit that Jesus alluded to when He stated “An hour is coming, and now is.” It is this reality that enables us to “spirit & truth” worship.
Just as temple sacrifices, though not false, were only substitutionary for the ultimate sacrifice of Christ, so temple worship – in all the glory of its many forms – was only substitutionary for the intimacy of spirit to Spirit fellowship and submission, attainable only through the indwelling.
The Holy Spirit is life to the believer (Romans 8:1-17). The man who has not the Spirit has not life. If apart from the Spirit we have not life, how can we have authentic worship?
I forward this: Authentic Christian worship
is our living response to the reality of God.
Here, the descriptors are imperative:
Authentic – to distinguish between the real and the false. Authentic worship must exist in perfect agreement with the truths of God and His Word. It also affirms the purity of our motives and the Spirit-led nature of our offering.
Living – because it is momentary. Though encompassing events, it empowers no distinction for the believer between an event of worship and a life lived in worship.
Reality – because worship is in response to His abiding and factual presence – the Holy Spirit – which indwells us, animates our life & purpose, and constitutes perpetual fellowship with the ever-present, eternal God.
Every act or attitude – whether eventful or momentary, historic or yet to be – can be folded into this definition. In short, worship is our very life – and that in momentary submission to God’s Holy Spirit.
This provides an excellent springboard for discussion of corporate worship. What is it, exactly, that we worship leaders are seeking to accomplish by doing what we do?
I would cherish your comments, perspectives, or clarifications in our Comments section, below… Stay tuned… & subscribe→
Michael Warner specializes in Worship Team building and ‘re-building.’ Email Michael about an issue on YOUR team at Michael@MichaelWarnerMinistries.com -OR- call (570) 285-5248 to book for seminar/consulting. www.MichaelWarnerMinistries.com