But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. (John 4:23 ESV)
As a worship pastor, I absolutely love to see people singing praises to God, who is worthy of our highest praise and adoration. I love a good upbeat song sung by the choir or a solo that reminds me of the hope we have in Jesus. We might call this spirited worship. But is this what it means to worship in "spirit?"
Henry Blackaby and Ron Owens posed this question in their study on worship; Worship Believers Experiencing God. You can purchase it here. What does it mean to worship God in Spirit? It's a question worth asking. For a more detailed answer you really should buy the study book. But I'll try to convey a couple of Blackaby and Owens' points.
When Jesus says the Father is seeking "worshipers" who will worship in spirit and in truth, I don't think he means that God is seeking a "spirited" display of music and singing. In fact, it has little or nothing at all to do with music. Rather, we become true worshipers of God by being born of his spirit.
Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (John 3:5-6 ESV)
It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. (John 6:63 ESV)
The Father is seeking true worshipers. He desires worshipers whose hearts are filled with His Spirit.
- Worshipers who worship in spirit have come alive in Christ. They have been born of the spirit into the kingdom of God.
- Worshipers who worship in spirit have hearts responsive to the conviction of the Holy Spirit. They confess and repent, and offer worship from hearts that have been cleansed, forgiven and restored by Christ.
- Worshipers who worship in spirit maintain a spirit of honesty with God. When they disobey or otherwise fail to obey God, they confess it before Him and offer a broken and contrite heart. (Psalm 51)
- Worshipers who worship in spirit focus on God with and without the use of music. Music is only one vehicle of expressing their worship. Their love is also expressed to the Father through obedience, service, loving others, and living out a testimony of grace that woes they lost friends to the Savior.
Father, I long to be the kind of worshiper You seek. My heart is Yours. Forgive me when I have sought to offer You worship through a heart of pride. I repent and bend my heart toward You that I may know Your joy and worship You in the way You desire. May I worship You in a spirit of obedience and love that goes beyond an hour on Sunday and saturates my everyday life.