The question is not whether we will worship, but who and how we worship. Everyone worships something or someone. As we gather together in our worship, an important scripture for us to consider is John 4:23-24: “The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
True worship, according to Jesus, is in spirit and truth. The “truth” part is plain enough—it centers on the work and person of Jesus (John 14:6) and his message, which is “the truth of the gospel” (Col. 1:5) and “word of truth, the gospel of your salvation” (Eph. 1:3). It is this “word of truth” James 1:18 by which we are given new birth, this “word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15) is what anchors and saturates our worship.
But what about “spirit?” Is this our spirit or God’s spirit? Jesus says in John 3:6 “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit.” It’s not “either-or,” but “both-and.” When we obey the gospel, God’s spirit is placed within us. As we worship, God is with us in spirit and our spirit is engaged as well. Christian worship engages the heart and the head. It requires true doctrine and due emotion about that doctrine. It is an affair of the heart and the mind. Truth without emotion produces dead orthodoxy and a church full of artificial admirers. On the other hand, emotion without truth produces empty frenzy and cultivates shallow people who refuse the discipline of rigorous thought. True worship comes from people who are deeply emotional and who love deep and sound doctrine.
Too often we identify worship with the externals: how nice the building is, how many are in attendance, the music, the preacher’s eloquence, whether someone near us is on their phone, or whatever else may be the case. But while the external forms that our worship takes are not insignificant, they are not the essence. They don’t make it and they shouldn’t break it. True worship must flow from the heart.
In short, when our worship is according to scripture and flows from the heart, our worship can be pure in the dreariest of environments. We can find opportunity to worship God in every situation. Let’s always be looking to improve our worship—from the externals (environment) and especially from the internal (our heart) perspective.