Emotions. They aren’t my thing. Don’t believe me? Ask my wife. I have two things going against me: I’m a guy and I have a Type A personality (with a little bit of C mixed in). That means my natural tendency is to seek control and to understand the details of how things work. I have a degree in Mechanical Engineering and am a Certified Public Accountant. I worked for several years as a compliance officer at a bank. I like to tell people that I see the world in black and white with straight lines and square corners. I understand lists, and I enjoy seeing things get checked off. Not following rules causes me anxiety (seriously). Curves and chaos don’t process well. I’ve never understood the mushy side of life. It just doesn’t make sense to me.
Now…before you go and send my wife a card expressing your sympathy for having to live with such a monster, know that it’s something I have to consciously work on. I have gotten better over the years, especially as the kids are getting older. However, it’s a daily chore. In certain situations, I have to make myself stop for a moment and try to look at someone else’s point of view and understand that they don’t care if the numbers don’t perfectly add up.
This has made certain parts of Christianity especially hard for me. There is one verse that seems like it should be extremely simple, but it’s one of the hardest for me to get right, and I must remind myself of it routinely:
“God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” ~ John 4:24
Now a verse like that should be simple. It’s only fourteen words. Unfortunately, in my opinion, it’s one verse that causes more problems in the Christian world than any other. I believe it’s the reason that on the Day of Judgment, many people will say, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast our demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” (Matthew 7:22).
Everyone who claims the name Christian wants to worship God in some way. However, God won’t accept just any form of worship, and that’s where the world gets it wrong. Unfortunately, that’s where I struggle as well. John 4:24 gives two criteria to the form of worship that God will accept. It states that the worship must be in “spirit and truth.” So what does that mean?
Let’s start with Truth first. That one’s easier for me. Like I said, I’m a rules-kind-of-guy. I like the black and white side of life. Things that are absolute put me at ease. That’s exactly what truth is. Truth is absolute. There is no wavering on that. It’s either right or it’s wrong. Something can’t be both right and wrong at the same time. It’s either true or false. That makes sense to me. God says that he wants worship to Him to be in “truth”. That means there is a right way to do it. God doesn’t just accept any form of worship. He spells out in His Word how He wants it done, by both command and example.
This next part is what’s hard for me. Worshiping God in truth is only part of the equation. He also commands that we worship Him in Spirit. That means that my worship to Him must be full of passion, desire, and love. I must long to worship Him, not only because He told me to, but because He loves me and I love Him. There must be a zeal to my worship that is unwavering. It means that my emotions have to be involved.
Though I may sing to God during worship using words and a message that are truthful, without spirit it is unacceptable to God. On the other side, I may sing with more passion and fire than anyone you’ve ever met, but singing a message that is not truthful is also not acceptable to God. So, how do you find a balance between the two? Here’s the weird thing, and what my brain has a hard time with. You can’t find a balance. There’s not one. Finding a balance implies that you must sacrifice some of one to make room for part of the other. That doesn’t work with God. It can’t be 75% spirit and 25% truth. It’s not even 50% truth and 50% spirit. The sum total of my worship to God must be 100% truth and 100% spirit. There is no balance. It’s either all or nothing.
If I worship God with intense passion and fervor, yet claim that the commands of the Bible are old fashioned and need to be adjusted to our current culture, I am not worshiping God in truth. If I worship God while following every command, unwilling to waver in the slightest, yet do so without love and passion, I am not worshiping God in spirit. In both instances, on the Day of Judgment, the Lord will say “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” (Matthew 7:23)
I encourage you to take an honest assessment of your worship to God. Do you worship in truth? Do you worship in the way He has commanded you to do, or have you allowed the teachings of men to get in the way? Do you worship in spirit? Do you pour your heart and soul into worshiping God, or do you resist it for the fear that someone would consider you too liberal?
It’s not always easy, especially if you are like me and emotions don’t come easily. However, work on it. Practice it. Talk about it with your spouse, preacher, elder, friend, etc. Use someone as an accountability partner to keep you in check. The eternal destination of our souls depends on it.