"True Worship" - The Christ Centered Mindset
I am sure that you have asked yourself many, many times as you’ve observed different religious groups, different churches, different denominations, just what is worship? Some churches have altars, they have candles, incense, holy water; other denominations have no symbols at all. You have certainly noticed so many variations that you have thought many times, “If that’s the way they worship, why does another group worship so differently?” Each group may have a kernel of truth, but such diversity of religious ritual among Christian believers cannot all be in alignment with what God declares in the Bible.
What is true worship? The verses that are critically important to understand are spoken by Jesus in John 4:22-24:
- Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.
- But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
- God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
Jesus said, “Ye worship ye know not what....” I believe that is true for most people. Everybody worships. The question is: Are we worshipping rightly? Do we know what, how or why we worship?
Jesus said about worship that “the hour cometh... when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit [The word “in” is the same Greek word translated “by,” “by spirit.”] and in truth.” Worship the Father how? You shall worship Him not by candles, not by altars, not by Bible reading, not by singing, not by jumping up and down with raised hands, but by the spirit. These words “...In spirit and in truth...” are the figure of speech hendiadys: two nouns used but one thing meant. “Spirit” is a noun and “truth” is a noun, the double noun being used to doubly emphasize that it is spiritually true, or truly spiritual. The Father seeketh a true worshipper to worship thus – in spirit and in truth. If we can find out what it is to worship God by the spirit, we know how to truly worship.
The question is not what anybody thinks, but what does God say? There have been so many ideas brought to Christianity that it is often difficult for even Biblical scholars to distinguish between that which is genuine and that which is counterfeit. In other words, it is hard to separate that which is truly Christianity from that which is religion. Religion is what man has introduced. There is much religion in so-called Christianity, but Christianity does not literally have one ounce of religion in it. Unless you know the difference between religion and Christianity, you will become very confused. Christianity, in a nut shell, is what God wrought in Christ. Christianity is about Jesus Christ, what he accomplished at Calvary and the results. Including who and what we are in Christ, our relationship with God and each other, and our declaration of God to the world as the body of Christ.
The Bible teaches that God is Spirit and that we are to worship Him in spirit and in truth. Jesus told this truth when He spoke to the Samaritan woman. In John 4:20 the woman said to Jesus, “Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” Jesus replied in verse 21, “...Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.” How then shall He be worshipped?
- For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
This is true worship. This is giving God due homage. The called-of-God are those who “worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus.”
To worship is to rejoice in Christ Jesus for what He did, not what we do. Do not judge men by the flesh. Have no confidence, trust, reliance nor believing in the flesh. The flesh is so weak that John 6:63 says, “...the flesh profiteth nothing....” When we have confidence in the flesh, we may assess one person to be better than another on the basis of appearance. Yet, if people are born again of God’s Spirit, whose children are they? God’s! In God’s sight they are equally precious.
There are many things going on under the guise of Christianity which are nothing more than having “confidence in the flesh.” But we truly have our confidence in what God wrought in Christ Jesus. Christ Jesus made us presentable to worship God.
- Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet [adequate] to be partakers [to share fully] of the inheritance of the saints in light.
Matthew 15:6-9 gives an account of worship, but again it is not true worship:
- Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.
- Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying,
- This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
- But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
Did their worship look genuine? Did they go through religious ritual? Judging by the flesh, we would have given them the stamp of approval. But what did the Lord say? “In vain they do worship me.” Why did they worship in vain? Because they were “...teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”
Another example of vain worship is recorded in Mark 7:5-9:
- Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?
- He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.
- Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
- For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.
- And he said unto them, Full well [with full knowledge] ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.
What kind of worship is this? Vain worship. Simply performing the traditions of men, a hollow act.
- Who [people] changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator.
They worshipped man more than they worshipped God. Vain worship has been going on for a long time.The children of Israel wandered from God and worshipped in vain. In Acts 7 and Revelation 9 the children of Israel rejecting the preaching of their man of God, Moses, and worshipping devil spirits is recorded.
- Saying unto Aaron, [the children of Israel said to Aaron], Make us gods to go before us: for as for this Moses, which brought us out of the land of Egypt, we wot [know] not what is become of him.
- And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.
- Then God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven [devil spirits]; as it is written in the book of the prophets, O ye house of Israel, have ye offered to me slain beasts and sacrifices by the space of forty years in the wilderness?
- Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, figures which ye made to worship them.
- Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as he had appointed, speaking unto Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen.
- Which also our fathers that came after brought in with Jesus into the possession of the Gentiles, whom God drave out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David;
- Who found favour before God, and desired to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob.
- But Solomon built him an house.
- And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk.
Worshipping the devil and devil spirits and everything related to them is worshipping in vain. Satan tried cajoling even Jesus Himself into worshipping in vain.
- Again, the devil taketh him [Jesus] up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;
- And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.
The greatest victory for the devil would have been to have Jesus worship him. As human beings, we have two, and only two, alternatives of worship – the true God and the devil. If we are worshipping the true God in spirit we are rejoicing in Christ Jesus, having no confidence in the flesh for being a means to please God.
As Christians we are called of God to accept those things which have been freely given to us in Christ ("Gospel Blessings" and "The Christian's True Identity"). The gift of holy spirit enables us to comprehend and appropriate these things.
- Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
It is God’s primary desire for us all that this good news (the gospel) is known, understood, believed, shared, remembered and cared about; that we literally stake our lives on what is true in Christ; that we trust the gospel as being the power of God for bringing us into Christ, both positionally (already done) and experientially (ongoing); that our entire relationship with God (our position, our walk and our stand) is built upon Christ alone.
- For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
It is impossible to please God without believing what He tells us (Hebrews 11:6). The gospel is what God is saying to those of us who are living in this age of grace; this is the message from God that we have been given to believe. There is no true worship [due homage] outside of knowing and believing what is true in Christ. There are already too many religious people doing their religious rituals who believe little more than Christ and him crucified. Paul addressed such as these in 1 Corinthians 2:2 and 3:1-3:
- For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
- And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.
- I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.
- For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?
God wants His Word, the gospel of Christ, believed and proclaimed. If people get emotional from believing the gospel that's one thing, but if people think they're doing God any favors by jumping up and down "for Jesus" or burning an incense for God that's another. Christians are a sweet smelling savour to God when they believe His Word.
- Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.
- For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish:
- To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?
- For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.
So beware, lest you fall into false worship:
Colossians 2:8 - 3:3:
- Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
- For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
- And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:
- In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:
- Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.
- And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
- Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
- And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
- Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holiday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath [special "holy"] days:
- Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
- Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels [messengers, by implication false ministers and devil spirits], intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,
- And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.
- Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances,
- (Touch not; taste not; handle not;
- Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?
- Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.
- If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
- Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
- For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
Jesus Christ IS the center-piece of creation and redemption, and indeed, of this passage from Colossians. God wants us to see that Christ is to be the center of everything! Knowing and accepting what God says is true in and of Christ is how we worship Him [due homage]. The entire book of Colossians (and all of Paul's letters for that matter) could be summed up as setting forth
- who Christ is,
- what Christ has done,
- who we are in Christ,
- and what that means for our lives.
Colossians 3:1-3 is not only the center of the book of Colossians, it reiterates the center for our Christian walk (in essence the same key for truly worshipping God that we read about in Philippians 3:3, "For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.").
This all comes together very nicely in Colossians 3:1-3:
- If [since] ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above [the things that are true in Christ, the "all spiritual blessings" of Ephesians 1:3: the Christian's unification and identification with Christ, their power and authority in representation of him, their hope of his return, etc.], where Christ sitteth ["it is finished"] on [in] the right hand of God [God's right hand is His hand of blessing].
- Set your affection [keep your attention focused] on things above [those things from verse 1] not on things on the earth.
- For ye are dead [our old life], and your life [our new life] is hid with Christ in God.
The key to worshiping God by spirit and truth is found in believing Him about what Jesus Christ accomplished for us. We have received power from on high (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:4, Ephesians 4:7). We are super conquerors (Romans 8:37). We are complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10). We can do all thing through Christ which strengthens us (Philippians 4:13). Jesus Christ paid the ultimate price for us to be walking with God's love and power. We honor them both by doing so. All Christians have been called and appointed by their loving Heavenly Father to believe the gospel and help others do the same, in representation of Christ, with his authority and dominion. There is no true worshipping of the One True God outside of believing truth in Christ. This comes more and more into our understanding and experience as we continue to hear the gospel. Therefore, let us listen for God's voice in His promised glad tidings of grace ("The Promised Good News")-- Hear the voice of truth and follow it into the heart of true worship.