Bible Study

Message given on July 13, 2008
audio version

Worshipping in Spirit and in Truth

Genesis 4:1 And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bore Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD.
2 And she again bore his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.
3 And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD.
4 And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering:
5 But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.
6 And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?
7 If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.
8 And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.

Back in the book of Genesis we see the very first incidence of God’s created beings attempting to worship God. One worship was accepted and one was not. When Cain’s sacrifice was rejected, God tells him that if he does well, he will be accepted and if he does not well, sin lies at his very door.

Some scholars think that the offering should have been a blood sacrifice instead of the fruit of the ground because without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin. Others say that Cain’s heart was not right and he was not coming to God with faith and a heart of obedience. He did not have a heart that repented of sin and a desire to be right with God. All through the ages we see false and true worship side by side. I want to examine today true worship in spirit and in truth.

John 4:23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

God spoke to Cain warning him that sin was within him so we see a hint of why his offering was rejected. It would seem that faith and repentance was lacking. Cain believed in God or he would not have attempted any worship. The devil believes in God but he does not worship God. True saving faith and true worship is always accompanied by obedience and repentance if one has sinned. All worship is not accepted by God. When we come to God, we must come His way. We know that both Cain and Abel believed in the existence of God. So both had faith that God existed but only one had the kind of faith that was accepted by God.

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
2 For by it the elders obtained a good report.
3 Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
4 By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.
5 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.
9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:
10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

We see that true faith involves obedience. Noah could have said he believed in God but if he did not act on the word of God and build the ark, his faith would not have saved him. True faith will produce the obedience. If Abraham had not have left his former home and obeyed God by leaving that place and going to another, he could have said that he believed in God all he wanted but his actions would prove that he did not.

So we know that true worship that God accepts is from those who first believe in Him but believe to the point that they are willing to obey His word and walk in His ways.

Luke 6:46 And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?

If a mother tells a child that if he runs out into the street, he will get a spanking and he does it anyway, we see an example of unbelief. The child believes in his mother, most probably loves his mother but does not really believe that he will be spanked if he disobeys his mother.

Samuel told Saul once that to obey is better than sacrifice. True worship and true faith involves obedience.

1Samuel 15:22 And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.
24 And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice.
25 Now therefore, I pray thee, pardon my sin, and turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD.
26 And Samuel said unto Saul, I will not return with thee: for thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD hath rejected thee from being king over Israel.

If we study the life of king Saul, we see that he started out good. At one time he prophesied by the spirit and worshipped God in the right way. Later though, we see a man full of disobedience and jealousy. His fear of losing the right to be king of Israel caused him to allow roots of bitterness and evil to enter his heart.

When he went out to battle against the Amalekites, he was told by the word of God not to keep any of the spoils of war. These people were so wicked that God wanted everything they owned destroyed. When they saw all the goods left from the war though, they wanted what they saw and took what they saw. They excused themselves by saying that they would use these things to worship God and do sacrifice to God.

1 Samuel 15:21 says that the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in Gilgal.

Samuel said, "Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. Rebellion is the same as witchcraft and idolatry."

If they had of sacrificed to God all these things and tried to worship God by those sacrifices, it would have been false worship because disobedience and sin would have been in their hearts. Saul was removed from being king of Israel because of disobedience. We can’t worship God and have a heart full of idolatry at the same time.

Deuteronomy 4:15–19
Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the LORD spoke unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire:
Lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female,
The likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flieth in the air,
The likeness of any thing that creepeth on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth:
And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the LORD thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven.

The children of Israel were not allowed to see the image of God because God in His wisdom knew that they would make an image of His likeness and worship that instead of the real God. There is no way that we can make an image good enough to represent God. God is so holy and pure that our efforts to make His likeness would fall short of His real likeness. Making images is something God has always hated.

It is deep in the heart of each one of us to worship. It has been a big temptation among all people from creation to make images to worship. We have a hard time living by faith. People seem to need to see something but that is exactly what God forbids. He wants us to live by faith and believe in Him without looking at His image.

Jesus said to Thomas in John 20: 29, Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed: blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed.

The Holy Spirit is given to us to aid in true worship. We do not need images. One day we will see Him but for now we are to live and walk by faith. True faith though as we see by the study of God’s word will involve repentance from sin and obedience to His word. There is no way to have true saving faith and not desire to obey God’s words.

Any image worship will have along with it a spirit of deception that will make the worshipper feel religious and even have a good feeling but it would not be true worship because it is a direct violation of the 2nd commandment.

Exodus 20:4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
6 And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

We know not to worship other gods and images that represent other gods other than the true God but we are told also not to even worship images representing the true God or His Son, Jesus Christ. Since Jesus is God that came into the flesh, was crucified for our sins and raised up to sit at the right hand or God, we are not permitted to make anything to represent Him also to bow down to and worship. It is a direct violation of the 2nd commandment.

Now I want to go to the book of Joshua.

Joshua 5:13 And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?
14 And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant?
15 And the captain of the LORD's host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so.

Joshua was worshipping by bowing down and asking the Lord what he should do and he was told to remove his shoes because he was standing on holy ground.

When we worship God and invite His presence in our midst, the place where He is becomes holy ground. Jesus said that where two or three are gathered in His name, He comes into their midst. So it becomes a holy place if God is there. Respect and honor should be shown in the house of worship. Taking the presence of God lightly and showing disrespect to the sanctuary that is built and dedicated to the worship of God is showing disrespect and dishonor to God. If we see someone praying and seeking God in the sanctuary or even anywhere where people are gathered to worship, we should not be talking and joking with our friends while seekers are trying to pray. I’ve probably been guilty of this myself. I know there are cases of emergencies and unforeseen events that may cause us to interrupt worship but in most cases we should be careful to show respect and reverence when we are among those worshipping God. We can walk out or away from people who are praying if we desire to talk to our friends.

This is not the main thrust of this message, I say this only in passing.

Suppose someone comes to the altar at the end of the service and tries to pray while I think of a joke that I want to share with my daughter and it causes her to laugh. The person praying is just beginning to get victory over a besetting sin in his life but hears laughter and immediately is distracted and stops praying. I know I’m easily distracted even if someone starts to sing a gospel song because I like to sing and I will stop praying and join in the singing every time. Some of us are easily distracted.

Getting back to King Saul. He was smart enough to know that he had sinned and tried to repent but most probably God knew His heart was not stable and his repentance was only temporary and would not produce the fruits of obedience so he was removed from being king. Any worship he did was false and was not true worship.

Saul did not follow God’s instructions. He wanted to do things his way and worship his way, not God’s way. God gave us a blueprint and a pattern. He did not leave us in the dark. This book is our blueprint, our roadmap and shows us the way to God, the way to worship God and how to get victory over sin that separates us from God.

The Old Testament is the map that leads us to the New Testament. The Old Testament contains the New Testament concealed and the New Testament contains the Old Testament revealed. The Old Testament tells of the one to come, the supreme sacrifice that would remove the sin that was separating us from God. The New Testament tells of the one that did come to take away sin and cause His believers to worship Him in spirit and in truth.

Saul deceived himself. He tried to justify his disobedience by saying that he would use the spoils of the battle to sacrifice to God. This polluted his worship. Without obedience to the word of God, his worship would have been in vain.

This type of worship is false worship and idolatry. We can commit idolatry with or without images. Disobedience and stubbornness is the same as idolatry for we love things and we love our own ways more than we love God. It causes us to worship God in error and not with all our hearts. Half hearted worship is also idolatry because something else is robbing us away from our first love which is supposed to be God.

The church in the middle ages wanted the pagans to accept Christianity. They wanted numbers and wanted to include all people. It is good to want everyone to be saved and come to Christ but they wanted them to come and add to the numbers without any repentance from sin or a changed life. They stopped preaching repentance and being born again by the spirit and just wanted them to join the church or be baptized into the church. They allowed the pagan worshippers to keep their idols and feast days so they just made the images and idols into Christian images and the pagan feasts became Christian feasts. The 2nd commandment was ignored and the conversions were not those that turned their lives over to Jesus but just accepted a religion called Christianity.
They still remained in their sins. This is why they could burn people to the stake that disagreed with them. They were not saved themselves and did not know God; they just had a religion and a false worship. I’m not saying that every last one of them was like this because God always has a remnant that stays true to His word. There will always be those that still worship God in spirit and in truth.

We today have to be careful in this that when we come to worship, that we worship in spirit and in truth. We can come to church, shout praises, sing songs and get worked up by a good worship leader but if we do not have respect to God’s word and we ignore what God has to say, all worship is in vain. True faith is to act on what we believe.

If I say that I’m going to give 100 dollars to someone who will stop by my house and pick it up, the person would have to come and stop by to get the money. If he really didn’t believe I was a person who meant what I said, he might not show up. If he really believed in me and believed that I was a person who spoke truth, he would come and receive what I offered.

To believe in God is to believe in what He stands for and what He says. I’m not putting down praise and worship but true worship will produce obedience and respect for God’s word. When we begin to worship in truth, we will see results. If we have sin in our lives and have no intention of repenting or giving up that sin, coming to church and hearing great entertaining music productions will not do any good.

Saul was also a king who would get into these bad moods because his heart was not right with God and he would call David to play music that would make him feel better and cause the evil spirit to temporarily depart from him. This was not true worship because the sin was still there. Having church with David made him feel better but his heart was unchanged and he did not totally follow the Lord. In the end he lost his right to be the king.

In Psalms 29:2
Give unto the Lord glory due unto his name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.

Holiness is part of worship. We worship Him in the beauty of holiness. If we are not willing to walk in holiness our worship is tainted. We cannot have fellowship with God if our life is full of disobedience and sin.

In the Old Testament they had to worship God afar off because the perfect way to be cleansed from sin had not yet come. They usually had to worship through someone who God had called and dedicated to be an intercessor, like a prophet or a priest. The sacrifices in the Old Testament pointed toward the sacrifice of His own Son that was to come to remove sin and make it possible for every individual to be able to seek God without a human intercessor. Before Jesus died and rose again this was not possible because sin separated us from God. Now we can all worship God in spirit and in truth but we have to come by way of the blood of Jesus. Our sins have to be cleansed in order for us to come to God and worship in spirit and in truth.

If we still find ourselves continually going to a priest, prophet or a pastor to try to get rid of guilt and sin, then we probably have not truly repented of sin and found peace with God ourselves. If we have to use images or idols and worship something we can see with our eyes, then we have not really come to the place where we are walking and living by faith. If we find ourselves wanting to live for God but not willing to forsake the sin that is separating us from God, then that too is idolatry. This is sin that is keeping us from God and from worshipping God in spirit and in truth.

When we are born again by God’s spirit, we are cleansed from sin. We can worship God when we are alone or when we are with other believers. We do not need someone to do our praying for us. We do not need to call King David to play his harp before we can feel better. We can go to God ourselves by the way He has provided and that is faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ to take away our sin and our desire to sin.

If we feel unclean, we can come before His presence with repentance first and then we can worship in spirit and in truth. We should never let failure and even sin cause us not to come to worship but we must come with a willingness to obey God and turn away from sin.

Psalms 66:4
All the earth shall worship thee, and shall sing unto thee; they shall sing to thy name.

Now we can see clearly that singing is included in worship. I believe God wants to hear us sing as well as praise Him. Yet even when we sing, our hearts must be reaching out to God in spirit and in truth. Special singing has its place when it is used as a testimony in the heart of the singer but there is something about the whole congregation singing in one accord that I believe reaches the heart of God if those that are singing are reaching out to Him in spirit and in truth.

This should never be replaced with trained singers that do everything for us. It may sound better but it is really someone else doing the worship. We can have someone up here saying a prayer also but it is much better to have everyone praying and seeking God than to just sit and listen to one person doing the praying. Again, sometimes that has a place and it is not necessarily wrong unless no time is ever given to allow all to worship in prayer.

Psalm 95:6,7
O come let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker. For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today if ye will hear his voice.

Bowing the knee in prayer is part of worship but notice the last part of that verse, “If you will hear His voice.” Part of worship is hearing His words and walking in obedience.

Isaiah 66:22 For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain.
23 And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD.
24 And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.

Here is the Old Testament picture of an eternal hell. It is a place where the soul does not die but lives in a state of torment. Those that transgress or sin are those that do not repent even though they heard the word. These seen here are those that reject the word of God. Many will accept a religion that makes them feel good about themselves but yet keep their sin. Most people will accept a religion that does not require a changed life. Some will accept a strict religion that makes requirements though that God does not make but usually those requirements are outward and there is no change within the heart.

I love good worship music but even with that we have to be careful not to be like Saul. Music can make us feel better, feel like God accepts us and favors us. It is a temporary fix when we feel bad. But if our lives are not changing and if we are feeling comfortable in our sin without any conviction of sin or desire to obey the words of God, we may be just like old king Saul. I knew a person once who loved to come and hear good music. This person could sing like an angel but when it come to sitting down and hearing the sound teaching of the word, they wanted no part of it. This type of person will get saved and run to an altar to pray when they are hyped up by good music but without the word in their hearts they backslide the next time they are tempted to return to sin. Music will inspire us to worship but the word is what keeps us out of sin.

This is one reason why I believe the Lord caused me to return to singing the hymns. If you pick up the hymnal and begin to read some of the words, you will find the “word of God” within them. They are not empty repetition of generic words that just sound good with a enticing beat, but they contain messages that convict of sin and cause us to know God. It is still worship but it is worship that contains the written word.

Jeremiah 26:2 Thus saith the LORD; Stand in the court of the LORD's house, and speak unto all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in the LORD's house, all the words that I command thee to speak unto them; diminish not a word:
3 If so be they will hearken, and turn every man from his evil way, that I may repent me of the evil, which I purpose to do unto them because of the evil of their doings.

Again and again we see that part of true worship is to receive and keep the words of God. We cannot come to church with praise and worship and then ignore the word of God in our everyday life.

John 12:46 I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.
47 And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.
48 He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.
23 Jesus answered and said unto him, if a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him and we will come unto him and make our abode with him.

This shows us that if we worship with only our lips and we do not keep the true word of God or we can have a religion that substitutes the word of God with the commandments of men, it is not true worship. I don’t care how loud we shout, whether we confess to a priest, how good we sing, how much we go to church, how good we play an instrument, if we do not take heed to the word of God, it will not be true worship. Here is the good part. If a man loves Jesus, He will keep His words and the Father also will love him or her and they both come and make their abode with him. God comes to us and abides within us by the presence of the Holy Spirit. God with us. God within us. God becomes a part of us. Then and only then can we worship in spirit and in truth. Imagine that. God wants to live within us. God wants to abide with us. He never wanted to be separated from us. We can have as much of God in our life as we desire. We never have to be alone.

John 4: 23,24
But the hour comes and now is when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeks such to worship him. God is a spirit and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

Revelation 22: 7 Behold I come quickly: blessed is he that keeps the saying of the prophecy of this book.

To sum it up, we worship God yes and even more so as evil days approach. We should gather together to worship more and more, not less but we must worship with a heart that desires to obey not just have feel good worship services. He had this word given to us in written form so we can read and understand. Worship is more than loud praise or good singing. True worship is being obedient to God’s holy word.

Dorna J Chambers - July 13, 2008