by Mike Ratliff
The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:19-24 ESV)
Nearly two years ago my wife and I left our old church because the leadership there began the processes to change it to the Purpose Driven Church model. There were warning signs that something was not quite right well over a year earlier. For instance, some couples had left the church because they wanted less “frivolous worship” and more Biblical preaching. About that time the Pastor created care groups. Each of the Deacons was given families to care for.
There is nothing wrong with that, but when I began calling those in my group I came across some of those families which had left. They were nice to me when I called, but firmly told me that they weren’t coming back. I asked the Pastor what was going on. He told me that those folks wanted “only Hymns” and no “Contemporary” music. I looked at him and suggested that perhaps we could have both. He just shook his head and said that nothing could be done and that I should just cross them off my list.
This took place during that 8 month restoration that God used to change everything in my heart’s association with everything. By the end of that 8th month I was in worship of God nearly all the time. I prayed and dug into the Word. This was also the time that I began to see the complete waste of time of many of the “programs” and “initiatives” that were being pushed onto our congregation by the leadership. It was during this period that I tried to share with our Pastor and others in our church leadership that God had a much better “plan” for worship and service than any of these man-made things that always fizzled out. We were doing it all backwards. This reminded me of our Lord’s conflict with the Scribes and Pharisees when they complained about Him breaking their rules about the Sabbath to heal people.
And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. (Mark 2:27 ESV)
It occurred to me that many churches seemed to view flocks as a resource for their programs in a continual “Crusade” push. The more I worshiped, prayed, and studied the Word the more I began to see that a church’s role is to be a place of spiritual healing, spiritual worship, discipleship, and hearing the Word preached. The focus should be on feeding the sheep, healing the sheep, and making real disciples who live for Jesus in all parts of their lives including sharing their faith in evangelism. However, the focus was backwards at our old church and the conflict grew with these things until the time of decision came to get on board the PDC band wagon or leave. We left.
Our Lord is after those who worship Him in Spirit and truth. (John 4:19-24) What does that mean. Many often say that it is a form of music that causes believers to become joyful, tear up, and have some spiritual experience. Is that what “in Spirit and truth” means?
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2 ESV)
According to this passage, what is “your spiritual worship?” The apostle Paul tells us that it is “by the mercies of God, to present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God.” My brethren, this is how Christians are to worship their God. Yes, we are to sing and pray in group worship when we gather as a church, but what about the rest of the time? What Paul is telling us here is that the calling is for each Christian is to live within spiritual worship 100% of the time. This is defined for us in v2. We present our bodies as living sacrifices. We do this by living by faith instead of the flesh. This is how we move from being conformed to this world. The engine of this process is to be transformed by continual mind renewal. I learned about this during the 8 months of restoration I shared earlier.
Around the end of the 7th month I was continually hungry and thirsty for God and His Word. The more I partook of the Lord, the deeper the hunger became. Of course, I thought I had hit some gold mine of spiritual wisdom, but reality set in a few months later. Yes, I was still walking more close with my Lord and learning, but I also went through a lot of cleansing of things that had never bothered me before. This is still going on my brethren. In any case, I learned that we must never stop the mind renewal process. God will take us through trials and tests as we grow more mature. God is working in each of us as He desires. We are all unique. However, the narrow way is the same. It begins with Christ and leads to God in glory.
Now, let’s consider the “worship” in many churches in our time which are about little more than entertainment. “Worship” songs are used that are designed to please people rather than create an atmosphere of spiritual worship in which God is the center. When worship style is all about people rather than God it is backwards. After we left our old church one couple contacted me to tell me why they stayed. It was because they wanted only “Contemporary Worship” music. I asked why. They told me that they “felt closer” to the other people in the church with that music, but not with Hymns. Is that what worship is supposed to be about? I thought it was for God’s glory alone. I am not defending all Hymns because I know of many that are based upon some very questionable theology. Others are actually very popular because they generate such positive “feelings.” This is just another form of “entertainment.” Corporate worship should be about God’s glory alone.
Another way Christians worship God is to obey His commandments. I know some “Christians” don’t want to abide by it, but that does not change the fact that our Lord said, “If you love Me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) The sanctification process that God puts all of His children through takes us through cleansing, repentance, tests, trials, and putting us in position to choose to obey Him in our circumstances regardless of the cost. This is continual my brethren. It is that we must understand that God is teaching us to obey Him with a worshipful, grateful heart. When we obey Him even when it is costly, we are worshiping our God. We are putting Him first as we die to self.
This article just scratches the surface, however, this is the core of Spiritual worship. God’s desire is that we live for Him in all parts of our lives. The fact that many professing Christians don’t do this proves that their profession of faith is false because they have no works. ( James 2:14-18 ) Those who do live for God in all parts of their lives (in process) will exhibit good works because they are obedient. They keep God’s commands of mercy and sharing and giving. Let us seek the Lord and apply Romans 12 by being living sacrifices. This is the only way to live within Spiritual worship.