Read a Scripture.
Sing a hymn.
Sing a hymn.
Sing a chorus.
Sing another chorus (or two).
Read another Scripture.
Hear the special music.
Listen to the sermon.
Sing a hymn.
Beat the Methodists to the cafeteria.
For many that is the extent of their worship experience. It just all seems too routine and mechanical at times. Is it any wonder one writer asks the question: “Are evangelicals missing God at church?”
No doubt some (many?) are. Why? Because we miss the simple truth communicated by Christ to the woman at the well (John 4:24). God is spirit. And because He is spirit, the worship that is appropriate to Him must be from our spirits. Charnock says it well: “…being a Spirit, he cannot be gratified with carnal things; he demands something better and greater than all those, — that soul which he made, that soul, which he hath endowed, a spirit of a frame suitable to his nature.” [Existence and Attributes, 1: 179.]
So how do we come to him spiritually? How do we worship with our spirits?
We worship with our spirits by worshipping with sincerity (truthfulness). We worship Him by appraising truthfully His character and nature. This is another way of saying that our thoughts are centered on Him and His nature. Centuries ago, Richard Baxter said it well: we are to worship God as He is, according to the objective truth about God as He is revealed in Scripture, not as we wish Him to be or do for us. We also worship in truth by coming to him with a heart of sincerity that genuinely and actively seeks Him. We seek Him not for what we derive from Him, but because our hearts are inflamed by love with Him, and we can do nothing else (2 Cor. 5:14a)!
We worship with our spirits by submitting to the work of the Holy Spirit in every area of our lives. A man who is divided in his loyalties is called literally “double-souled” (Js. 1:8). And he cannot withstand the storms of life, nor can he worship God (Mt. 6:24). To worship in the spirit is to allow the Holy Spirit to root out and cleanse and transform those areas of sin that leave us prone to being double-souled.
We worship with our spirit when we value God above everything else in our lives. What is our worship of God? It is to say from the depths of our souls, “I love the Lord, my God, with all of my heart, and with all of my soul, and with all of my mind, and with all of my strength” (Mk. 12:30). Spurgeon well noted, “God does not regard our voices, he hears our hearts, and if our hearts do not sing we have not sung at all.”
So this Sunday as you worship corporately, or today as you worship privately, don’t just sing, or pray, or read or listen. Let your worship spring from your heart — from your spirit.
“Without the heart it is no worship: it is a stage play; an acting a part without being that person really which is acted by us: a hypocrite.…We may be truly said to worship God, though we [lack] perfection: but we cannot be said to worship him, if we [lack] sincerity.” [Charnock, Existence and Attributes, 1: 225-6.]