The first calling and task of the church and its people is to worship God. How do we worship in spirit and truth? Some say that if we believe the right things about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, then somehow that makes us worshippers in spirit and truth. The answer, however, lies not in doctrine, method, or location, but in connection at the level of spirit.
3 Kinds of Worshippers
1. Spiritual self-pleasers
My father says that too much of the worship he has seen in the places where he has traveled to minister is little more than people working themselves up to produce a self-centered experience, a spiritual self-pleasuring.
Trying hard to make something happen, they strive to generate excitement and the supernatural by their own effort because their goal is to have an experience. Because it is focused on self, such worship begins and ends in the flesh.
You see this when worship leaders hype a crowd, working up excitement for excitement's sake, stirring up the flesh to produce something that outwardly looks like a move of God but really isn't. The flesh is good at that. You know that we've missed true worship at some level when you hear people saying things like, "I get so much out of worship," as if we did it for our own benefit.
True worship has never been about getting a personal blessing. It never focuses on the quest to get something from it. To be real and fully Christian at the level of spirit and truth, worship must be offered to please God for God's sake. Was it what He wanted? Was it about giving Him honor?
2. "Bored with it" worshippers
It's possible for boredom in worship to stem from another form of focus on self. Worship becomes lifeless and boring when it's for us and not for Him, when we begin to offer less than passion because it's all about whether or not He blesses us.
If the life has gone out of worship for you, don't blame the music, the worship leader or the sound system. Look to your own heart. Is worship for you or for Him? Is it for delighting and blessing Him, or it is for you so you can have an experience? If your answer is the wrong one, then worship will be boring because God won't show up for it.
Some of the most effective evangelism happens in the excellence, fire and passion of our worship. Why would the world care for our God when they see us so laid-back about Him that we exhibit no passion?
3. Worshippers in spirit and truth
According to Malachi, the answer to the question, "What is it to worship in spirit and truth?", is that worship is a sacrifice to God. Praise is the beginning of sacrifice. Sacrifice releases power. Make it a great sacrifice, and great power is released. As power is released, more voices join the ever-increasing volume while the power grows yet greater.
Worship reaches its most powerful stage and returns the greatest blessing when it's selfless, when we offer it not for the sake of obtaining a blessing for ourselves but rather to bless God alone for His sake with the first and the best of what we have to offer. Worship begins with our decision to praise, and in that sense, it is what we make it. It is the breakthrough that follows the sacrifice of praise pursued to its end.
One more piece needs to be added to this picture of deeper and renewed worship for the truly hungry:
"And I heard a sound from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of a great thunder. I heard the sound of harpists playing their harps. They sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn that song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth" (Rev. 14:2-3).
In these last days, a new anointing has come and is coming to worship that can flow only from the hearts of fully committed, laid-down lovers of God. It begins in heaven and it manifests on Earth. It can be truly entered into, or learned, only by those wholly given to the Lord.
Worship takes us more deeply into His presence—past the entertainment orientation, beyond the "feed me" attitude—to a place where the heavens open and we find ourselves in the throne room of the King, where tears are dried and suffering is washed away.
Loren Sandford is an author, musician and the founder and senior pastor of New Song Church and Ministries in Denver, Colorado. He has a bachelor's degree in music and a master of divinity degree from Fuller Theological Seminary. In addition to pastoring, Sandford has an international teaching and worship ministry. Married since 1972, he and his wife, Beth, have two daughters and one son. They live in Denver, Colorado. This passage is an excerpt from his book, Yes, There's More.
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