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)
When I read that verse, the question that first comes to mind is “what is a true worshiper?” What is it that separates a true worshiper from an “untrue” worshiper? To answer that question, we must first understand what worship really is.
In today’s culture, we often think of worship as being the songs that we sing to God on Sunday morning. We make it about the music. But if we were to define it based on what the Bible teaches, would we describe it in the same way, or would be begin to look at it differently?
Reading that same verse in The Message translation might begin to bring some clarity to that question. If we begin reading in the second half of verse 23 and on into verse 24, we begin to understand how Jesus is defining worship to the woman at the well:
It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.
Jesus makes it very clear that worship is about far more than music. In fact, in the context of this passage, he’s not talking about music at all when he defines true worship. He’s talking about a lifestyle. He’s talking about offering our lives to God , being eager to pursue truth and knowledge of the God we worship. In church today, we often dress up our music – our “worship” – in lights and performance as we try to create a certain atmosphere to elicit an emotional response. We often get caught up in how we do it, rather than who we worship. But without God, worship is pointless. Without God, the words that we sing have no meaning. But with God, worship is everything. God wants us to worship Him as a natural response to his supreme greatness, because he is the One worthy of all praise. That is true worship.