The Lord Jesus said, “When the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeks such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23–24). The Lord requires that we worship God in spirit and in truth, for only in that way can we win His approval. But what exactly does worshiping God in spirit and in truth entail? Some brothers and sisters believe that diligently praying and reading the Bible every day is worshiping God, and some people believe that attending meetings on time and going to church every week is worshiping God, there are still others who believe that toiling, working, forsaking, and expending for the Lord is worshiping God, and so on. There are many ways to practice worship of God, but are we worshiping Him in spirit and in truth? Does God praise this kind of practice? Let’s fellowship on this together.
1. Are We Practicing the Truth, or Clinging to Rules and Rituals?
From the moment we start believing in the Lord, although we may pray, read the Bible and sing hymns every day, and go to church, praise the Lord, and listen to sermons every week, does worshiping God in spirit and in truth involve only these external practices? We can recall that when the Samaritan woman asked the Lord Jesus where she should worship God, and the Lord Jesus replied: “The hour comes, when you shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. … when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeks such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:21, 23–24). The Lord Jesus clearly told people God’s will and requirements: It doesn’t matter where one worships God, nor should one follow any rule or ceremony, but rather one must worship God in spirit and in truth. This is also our principle of practice for worshiping God. But most of the time we only focus our effort on our external practices; we are careful to pray a little longer and say a little more; we read verses in the Bible over and over, trying to memorize them; we attend church in all weather, wind or rain, hot or cold; we organize all kinds of activities or put on various shows to praise the Lord, and we always take part with a positive attitude; and so on. From the outside, we appear to be expending much effort and paying a high price to praise the Lord, and that we suffer greatly, but how many times do we speak what’s in our hearts when we pray to God? How many times during the course of reading the Bible, singing hymns or attending church and listening to sermons do we make efforts to be close to God and contemplate the Lord’s words? How many times as we worship God do we seek the Lord’s will and understanding of the Lord’s words? Some brothers and sisters have practiced in this way for many years, yet they still don’t understand the truth, they have no knowledge of the Lord, and when things happen to them, they still sin frequently and live within the bondage and constraints of sin. In this we are faced with a serious problem, which is that most of the time we spend praying, reading the Bible, going to church and listening to sermons, we are merely going through the motions. We are not actually worshiping God in spirit and in truth, nor are we practicing the truth to satisfy God. No matter how well we may keep to these external practices, God does not approve.
So, how can we worship God in spirit and in truth as we pray or read the Bible? Let’s read a passage of God’s words together. God’s words say, “A normal spiritual life is to live a life before God. When praying one can quiet one’s heart before God, and through prayer one can seek for enlightenment by the Holy Spirit, know God’s words, and can understand the will of God. When eating and drinking the words of God one can be clearer and more lucid on what God wants to do right now, and one can have a new path of practice and not be conservative, so that all one’s practice is for the purpose of achieving progress in life. For example, one’s prayer is not for the purpose of saying some nice words, or to bawl before God to express one’s debt, but rather it is to practice exercising one’s spirit, to quiet one’s heart before God, to practice searching for guidance in all things, to make one’s heart a heart that is drawn toward new light every day, to neither be passive nor lazy, and to enter onto the right track of practicing God’s words” (“Regarding a Normal Spiritual Life”).
God’s words show us the path of practice. When we pray, we should take heed to speak to God from the heart, to speak honestly, and to confide in God our practical difficulties and real state. And, when we read the Bible, sing hymns, go to church, or listen to sermons, our hearts must always focus on seeking the truth, seeking the enlightenment and illumination of the Holy Spirit, contemplating God’s words, so that we can understand God’s will through His words, know God, and have a path of practice and entry. Only this is to worship God in spirit and in truth. If we practice often in this way, we will experience continuous growth in life.
2. Do We Expend for God for the Sake of Loving and Satisfying Him?
After they start believing in the Lord, many brothers and sisters forsake and expend for the Lord and they carry out their tasks amidst great adversity. Some make frequent donations, some busy themselves with spreading the gospel, some give sermons wherever they go, and some even abandon their marriages and serve the Lord for the rest of their lives…. Many brothers and sisters believe that this is to worship God in spirit and in truth. But have we ever considered whether we pay this price to love and satisfy the Lord? If we think about it carefully, although we work and preach the gospel for the Lord, sometimes we still show off and testify ourselves through propounding the Bible to win the esteem and support of others, and to establish our own position and image. Although some brothers and sisters forsake, expend, toil, and work, they possess many impurities, and they do these things for the sake of gaining rewards and crowns, and so that they may enjoy the blessings of the heavenly kingdom…. We can then see that we pay a price and expend ourselves not with an honest heart out of consideration for God’s burden and to satisfy God’s will, but rather we work, preach the gospel, give things up and expend ourselves in order to satisfy our own selfish desires, and we struggle for our own futures and positions. This is not worshiping God in spirit and in truth. Paying a price and expending in this way is bargaining with God, and it cannot win the Lord’s approval. The Lord Jesus said, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:22–23). The Lord condemned people who preached and worked for Him as people who worked iniquity. This was because they did not worship God in spirit and in truth, nor did they expend sincerely for God. Instead, they wished to work for the Lord in exchange for rewards and blessings. They struggled and toiled for the sake of their own final destinations, and for fame, fortune and status. Ultimately, not only did they not win the Lord’s approval for the price they paid, but on the contrary, they were condemned by the Lord. Take the Pharisees of that time, for example. For generations, they read the Scripture and attended the temple in all weathers to worship Jehovah God. They traveled over land and sea to spread the gospel of Jehovah, they expended by giving up their families and businesses, and they suffered much. But nothing they did was done for the sake of loving God or satisfying God, but rather was done for the sake of their own positions and livelihoods. When the Lord Jesus came to perform His work, they knew perfectly well that the works and words of the Lord Jesus possessed authority and power, and that it all came from God, yet they did not seek or investigate at all. Instead, they defined the Lord according to their own notions and imaginings, believing that a man who was not called Messiah could not possibly be God. In particular, when they saw the growing number of common people who followed the Lord Jesus, they became afraid that no one would follow them anymore, and that their positions and livelihoods were unsustainable. And so, they took every opportunity to attack, judge, condemn, and blaspheme Him, until finally they crucified the Lord Jesus. From this, we can see that the Pharisees did not worship God in spirit and in truth. They appeared pious on the outside, but their essence was hypocritical and deceitful, and therefore the Lord Jesus rebuked them, saying, “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” (Matthew 23:13).
The Lord Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). God requires that we pursue love of Him, and that when we expend for God and busy ourselves working for God, it should be done upon the foundation of loving God and satisfying God. We should sincerely be considerate of God’s burden and satisfy His will, free from any contamination or personal bargaining, and not do these things to gain blessings or crowns—only this is to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth. Take Peter, for example. After the Lord Jesus resurrected, He asked Peter three times: “Simon, son of Jonas, love you me? … Feed my sheep” (John 21:16). From His question, Peter understood the Lord’s requirements and the task the Lord had entrusted to him: to pursue becoming someone who loved and satisfied God, to do everything in his power to feed God’s sheep, and to complete God’s commission. Peter etched the task the Lord had entrusted him with in his heart, and in his later work, he sought even more to love and satisfy God with all his heart and soul. He spread the Lord’s gospel in every direction, and he testified the Lord’s words and will to even more people. In his work, he exalted and testified the Lord in every way, and he led his brothers and sisters using the truth he understood, he brought them all before the Lord, and taught them to respect the Lord above all. Furthermore, when Peter encountered persecution and adversity, he was able to swear loyalty to the Lord unto death, so that, in the end, he sacrificed all he had, even his life, for the Lord. He was crucified hanging upside down, thus bearing testimony to his extreme love for God and his willingness to obey till death. Peter worshiped God in spirit and in truth, he expended with a heart that loved God and, in the end, he became someone who delighted the Lord, and whom the Lord praised.
From the fellowship above, we can see that if we want to worship God in spirit and in truth, we should use our hearts to get closer to God, seek to understand God’s will and requirements from His words, practice God’s words in our daily lives, and not cling to rituals and rules. At the same time, we must be able to sincerely forsake and expend for God without asking for anything in return or laying down any conditions, but instead we should love and satisfy the Lord with all our heart and soul. In this way, we can worship God in spirit and in truth. Only by practicing in this way can we understand the truth and achieve growth in our lives, and only then will we win God’s approval through expending.