Written for the CU Worship Arts Blog. www.cuworshiparts.com
A thirsty Jesus. A Samaritan woman. A hot afternoon. A deep well. And a conversation about worship. Which part of this picture does not fit?
John chapter 4 has always perplexed me. Despite the cultural issues of a Jewish man talking to a Samaritan woman. Despite the woman’s romantic affairs (multiple failed marriages and currently shaking up) talking privately to a single, handsome stranger. Despite the fact that Jesus, who is really thirsty (display of his humanity), asks a woman for water, another cultural indiscretion, does so in broad daylight without any hesitation. Despite all these things, how in the world could the conversation turn to worship? Of all things…worship.
That makes absolutely no sense to me. I say it again, I am perplexed. But in that conversation Jesus explains that true worship, the kind of worship God’s seeks and accepts, must contain two elements. It must include both the spirit and the truth. Since God is spirit, those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24).
Did you get that? Worship MUST contain both SPIRIT and TRUTH. There must be a balanced inclusion of both elements. Neither can be neglected. Both are essential. Both are required elements for true worship.
When I look at the church landscape of America, I find most churches focus on one or the other. Either they are spirit-led or they are truth-filled. Going to extremes in either element is dangerous; neglect of either is regrettable.
If worshippers focus entirely on the spirit, they are led toward hyper emotionalism and a hysterical frenzy. Likewise, if all they seek is worship filled with unadulterated truth, the outcome is intellectual head knowledge and Bible trivia facts.
Conversely, too little spirit in worship results in cold, passionless, dry worship which is neither transformational nor inspiring. Yet too little truth in worship leads to ignorance and harmful damage to the glorious Gospel revealed in Christ Jesus, the incarnate Word.
Jesus instructed the woman, and us, to find a proper balance between the spirit and truth. You got to have both. If either is element is missing, you don’t have worship God approves. You have something terribly wrong.
Reflect on the last worship service you attended. How would you rate it on a spirit scale? How would you rate it on a truth scale? My guess is that you probably have a high score in one and a low score in the other. Friends, that was not biblical worship. Unless you have high marks on BOTH scales, you didn’t worship, you had a service.