Worship requires a right heart for God. But in a postmodern and relativistic society where absolute truth is rejected and morals, values and beliefs are validated by individual opinions, a right heart for God may be harder to define.
But there is such a thing as proper worship. No matter how well intended and honest and pure we think our worship is, if we do not accurately know God, there will be trouble when trying to worship God properly. In the end, the question we need to ask ourselves is, who or what is defining what is proper worship?
In Spirit and Truth
The right knowledge of God must ultimately come through the Word of God. God hasn’t left us to come up with defining himself and the heart with which we ought to worship him. He gave us His Word and directs us by it. Jesus himself speaks of this in John 4:24 when he says, “For God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” It wasn’t a specific place and it wasn’t a specific style or formula. Worship that God is seeking is simply worship in spirit and truth.
It’s debatable whether Jesus meant the Holy Spirit or just spirit in terms to the heart of a person, but regardless, I believe the right spirit or the right heart can only come by the Holy Spirit. And because it is only those who have salvation who are given the Holy Spirit, proper worship to God can only be given by those who are saved, by those who confess their sins and believe that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Savior.
But it’s not just the spirit. Worship must be in truth. To have the right heart for God, we need the right knowledge of God which comes by studying God through the primary method of God’s revelation which is God’s Word. God does speak through visions. God does speak through signs and feelings and situations. But for most of the time, it is through His Word. It would be foolish to seek His signs and visions when we are not being led already by His Word.
The heart can change and our emotions can change. Under different circumstances, our hearts can be hardened and in the next become wide open. Equating these moments as a sign from God is dangerously foolish. The same goes for our worship. The reactions may be dry and the atmosphere may seem hindered, but what must ground us is the Word of God and on who He is. Yes, to worship, you need love for God. But we need the right knowledge of God to love God or else we might not be loving God but actually just our own ideas of God.
If our understanding of God is not based upon His Word, we end up fooling ourselves and limiting God to move only by a certain setting, mood, or sound when in fact, the sacred can never be hindered by our proficiency or effort to worship. God may not be honored to the same degree in different settings but God is not less present or working less based on how we worship. So our aim in worshipping God is not to do something amazing to validate our worship to God, but simply to behold God who is amazing and good and faithful and perfect. The focus is not in us doing the worship but on God who we worship. That’s what it means to glorify God. That’s what it means to worship.
True worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth. Bob Kauflin gives a very helpful explanation in his book “Worship Matters” in this way:
“Mind and heart belong together. Strong, passionate desires for God flow from and encourage the faithful, thoughtful study of God – his nature, character, and works. We’re deceived when we think we can have one without the other. God intends us to have both.
If our doctrine is accurate but our hearts are cold toward God himself, our worship will be true but lifeless. Or if we express fervent love for God but present vague, inaccurate, or incomplete ideas of him, our worship will be emotional but misleading – and possibly idolatrous. Neither option brings glory to God.”
To grow your heart of worship, grow in your knowledge of God. If you are not in the habit yet, begin reading the Bible every day. Utilize weekly, monthly, yearly plans and read through the entire Bible multiple times. Study in depth, memorize, meditate, pray and sing the Bible. This is the most obvious application and yet also the most neglected by Christians, especially by those who have grown up in the church.
A few thoughts to consider as you dive into God’s Word:
- It is by God’s Word dwelling in us richly that leads us to true spiritual worship. (Colossians 3:16)
- Being filled with the Holy Spirit and being filled with God’s Word is uniquely tied together in our true spiritual worship. (Ephesians 5:18-19)
- True spiritual worship requires us to be transformed by renewing our minds, which requires our minds to be filled with God’s Word and the Holy Spirit. (Romans 12:1-2)
- It is God’s Word that makes us wise for salvation but not just a moment of salvation. We must work out our salvation, which is the process of sanctification. (2 Timothy 3:15-17)
- Sanctification, the processing of becoming more like Jesus is through God’s Word. (John 17:17)
- We work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, not because we’re trying to earn it, but it is God who is doing it. (Philippians 2:12-13)
Christian books are also a great resource to grow in spirit and truth. Below are a few books I recommend you begin with.