Posted by Youth Pastor, Erich Wimberly. Notes from InsideOut/Youth discussions.
23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth. (John 4:23-24)
First observation: God is seeking those that worship in spirit in truth. That’s what God is looking for! I don’t know about you, but this sounds like a hint to me! This is really important. So what does worship in spirit and truth mean?
There is a saying: “we need light for the mind and heat for the heart.” In the John 4 context, Jesus was alluding to the fact that the Samaritans had their theology mixed up. There is a need for right thinking about God, thus “truth.” Light for the mind is biblical truth and sound doctrine.
However, this is not all that is required. We also need to worship in spirit. This is where heat for the heart comes from. God is not the sum of our thoughts. He transcends our thinking. He also demands that we worship him with more than just our minds, but also with all of our hearts, soul, and strength (Matthew 22:37-39). Therefore, to worship God in spirit is to love Him with our hearts. He wants us to have holy affections for Him. What does it matter to God if we are brilliant Christians, but our hearts are far from Him (Isaiah 29:13)?
Furthermore, it is essential that we do not divorce these two forms of worship. Holy affections and fuzzy feelings about God will spiral off into the never-never land of weirdness and even heresy if there is no anchor in Biblical Truth. On the same note, if we pursue God through our mental faculties as though worship were merely an academic endeavor, and spiritual experience were a dangerous deception, then we risk becoming like the Pharisees who knew the scriptures yet couldn’t recognize the one about whom they testified (John 5:39-40).
On the contrary, spirit and truth must be married. We cannot divorce the two. Divorces are nasty. The kids only get to live with one parent, and see the other parent only occasionally. This is a crisis that the western church is in the midst of reconciling, yet we still have a long way to go.
Here are some of the symptoms of a divorced experience of spirit (heat for the heart) and truth (light for the mind):
- The Bible says I am forgiven because Jesus’ blood was shed for my sins. I believe that this is true. I can quote several scriptures to this effect. Yet I feel guilty and unforgiven. At the end of the day my heart has not heard the gospel.
- The Bible promises joy and peace. Yet I am weary and heavy laden, without rest (Matt 11:28-30). My mind knows the promises. But my experience is deficient.
- The Bible says that I am a child of God. Yet I feel like an orphan, forsaken and left to figure this life out on my own. My mind knows this isn’t true. But when the pain of life slips around my mental defensive line, I am sacked once again by a cold heart’s perception of reality.
We need light for the mind and heat for the heart. We need a worship experience grounded in both spirit and truth. Romans 5:5 tells that we don’t lose hope because God has shed the love of Christ abroad in our hearts. I Corinthians 2:9 says that no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.” If we were left with this statement, then it would explain why mental worship as an end in itself will leave us in the dark. The inconceivable cannot be known by the mind. But thank God we are not left there to be disappointed. Verse 10 says: “but God has revealed it to us by the Spirit.” Jesus said: “God is spirit and his worshippers must worship him in spirit and truth.”