The Expository Files

Worship “in spirit and in truth,” Or, “any way?”

John 4:24


“Tommy Kyllonen, also known as Urban D, the Christian hip-hop artist pastor behind Tampa’s Crossover Church, is down with the new music. ‘We have a big world
and a big God. As long as people are worshiping in spirit and in truth, we can worship in any way that reaches our hearts,’ he says. After all, the Bible
calls for believers to ‘sing a new song to the Lord’.”
USA Today, Nov., 17th, 2011

Here is the problem folks. The popular assumption about worship is stated in bold terms here, so we can give this man credit for clarity of expression, but
not clarity in his concept of Bible authority. He is saying that “worshiping in spirit and in truth” means “any way that reaches our hearts.”

First, worship is not primarily about reaching our hearts. It is about reaching up to God, expressing to Him our adoration and praise. Our hearts are
involved to the extent they are filled with love for Him and His will, desiring to express that love to Him.

Second, the passage alluded to by Kyllonen is John 4:24. “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” If you want to know
what this means, just keep reading! Read the rest of John, then pay good attention in the book of Acts. Christians engaged in worship under the direction of
the apostles of Christ. A good read of those accounts will show exactly what it means to worship “in spirit and truth.” The early Christians – when acting by
apostolic instruction – focused on God and did what the apostles directed. The worship instructed in the New Testament was from the heart, but not directed
to human hearts. God was the audience. And His instructions guided them.

To worship “in spirit” means, the spirit (inner self) of the worshipper is centered on God, who is Spirit. It is the affection of the human spirit focused on
the power and perfection of the divine Spirit, God. It is not about ordinary excitement, being worked into an emotional state by music, or being “reached” by
the charisma of a “praise leader.” It is the inner human spirit in communion with and devotion to the divine Spirit, God.

To worship “in truth” means the worshipper thoughts and acts are real and in keeping with truth in every way. God has revealed truth. He has given
instructions through the apostles, guiding them into “all the truth,” (see Jno. 16:13). I cannot claim to be a true worshipper when I put my preferences
about God’s revelation. This is why I’m interested in my worship following the pattern of the Christians in Acts, who steadfastly continued in the teachings
of the apostles (Acts 2:42).

So, for Christians, worship is not about us (though we benefit). It is about God. It is our spirit directed to Him, according to all He has revealed about
worship. It matters how we worship Him. And we are fortunate to have the instructions given in the New Testament to guide us.

By Warren E. Berkley
The Front Page
From Expository Files 18.12; December 2011