The True Worshippers

The True Worshippers
Robert Wurtz II

Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:21-25)

A few times this week I have had to deal with an issue with folks trying to find a place of worship. Those two experiences, coupled with many thoughts and experiences of the last month have served as the impetus for the thoughts I wish to present in this blog. I mention the situations in passing to protect the parties involved. In our passage above I find it interesting that throughout the ages there has always been concern about outward aspects of worship. This woman was concerned with the ‘where’ of worship, while today many are concerned with the ‘how’ of worship. Yet Jesus slips a truth in that often goes undetected, “… But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth.” Here we have our Lord dividing up worshippers into two categories: 1) true 2) false. John uses the Greek word alethine (ἀληθινὴ) which we translate as ‘true’ or ‘genuine’. We might call it, ‘the real one.’ He uses the word when he speaks of the true light (John 1:9), the true bread (John 6:32), the true vine (John 15:1), the only true God (John 17:3), the true witness (Revelation 3:14), and the true sayings of God (Revelation 19:9). True worshippers, says John, worship in spirit and in truth. “Spirit or pneuma (πνεῦμα) is the highest, deepest, noblest part of our humanity, the point of contact between God and man (Romans 1:9); while soul (ψυχή) is the principle of individuality, the seat of personal impressions, having a side in contact with the material element of humanity as well as with the spiritual element, and being thus the mediating element between the spirit and the body. The phrase in spirit and in truth describes the two essential characteristics of true worship: in spirit, as distinguished from place or form or other sensual limitations (ver. 21); in truth, as distinguished from the false conceptions resulting from imperfect knowledge (ver. 22). To worship in truth is not merely to worship in sincerity, but with a worship corresponding to the nature of its object.” (Vincent) 

You will recall that ancient Israel under the direction of Aaron made a golden calf for the people to worship. They wanted a god made after their own hands with their own input and concepts; but Jehovah cannot be molded into man’s concepts. (Exodus 32:1ff) He is who He is and cannot be changed. To change God into something other than who He is is to make an idol. We need to ask ourselves; “Am I worshipping the God revealed in scripture or am I worshipping my own golden calf- a fabrication of my own imaginations of how I wish God was.” This event is very instructive. Israel rejected the God of the Fire on the mountain (Hebrews 12:18) and desired one after their own thoughts and purposes. They fabricated it at the foot of the mountain where the one true God was manifesting Himself. Very sobering. They didn’t want the real God, they wanted to remake Him after their own lusts. This leaves one question; what constitutes false worshippers? Obviously they are not worshipping in spirit or truth. We have a responsibility to God to learn of Him and understand His ways so that we can do those things that please Him. What folly is it that we would seek to please ourselves in the worship of God? It is a God-centered proposition from beginning to end.

Regulative and Normative Principals of Worship

The regulative principle of worship is a doctrine regarding worship that teaches that God institutes in the Scriptures everything He requires for worship in the churches and that everything else is prohibited. In this view there can be no innovations. This doctrine is often found among those with a strict view of the principle of sola scriptura. The regulative principle is often contrasted with the normative principle of worship which teaches that whatever is not prohibited in Scripture is permitted in worship, as long as it is agreeable in the churches. Charles Finney in the early to mid 1800’s argued for innovations in the churches sighting that God allows for the churches to innovate as means and necessity were in view. Not to push the blame to Finney, but certainly there was a shift in the churches from that time and we have been heading fastly beyond even a normative principal approach to worship. I can only describe what is happening in some Christian circles as ‘anything goes.’ 

Maintaining the Boundaries

In many Christian circles the influence of popular culture has been so great that hymns that were sung in the churches of God for some 200-250 years have been fastly discarded as ‘old’ and ‘out of touch’ with the times. This is a very strange thing to consider even for the most ardent proponent of modern worship techniques. It is as if there is a conspiracy to totally break ties with the past so that there is no continuity between the Christianity of the 1900’s and before and the Christianity of today. It’s as if many want a clean break. What is even more disturbing is that some churches are now adopting full-on secular music into their services. I heard recently of a church that used a popular 70’s hard rock song that was once considered one of the most satanic of it’s time as sermon material. As shocking as that may be, what is more shocking is that there is not a revolt against such things. What has happened is that we have totally lost sight of the boundaries. I have to ask, is this true worship and are these true worshippers? Is this being done in Spirit and in Truth? It is a tough question, but we need to ask it sincerely. In Finney’s day it was pitch pipes that were controversial. In later times it was choirs and musical instruments. Then the question became whether or not accompaniment tapes were valid. But then we turned a corner and various musical genres (rock, country, classical, blues, etc.) were singled out as controversial. In the last 5 years the boundaries have been challenged even more and full on country and rock songs have been made into ‘Christian’ by changing a few words around and directing them at God instead of a man or a woman. But before we can even address that controversy, now we have the satanic music of the 70’s in full-dress making it into the meetings. Now what are we going to do? 

A Look Back

The photo above was taken at the British Museum and stands as one of the oldest depictions of Christian worship known in the world, dating to the 300’s AD. If you could see their faces they are looking up to heaven with their hands open and raised. This was found in an ancient house church south of London and restored one piece at a time. It is insightful. It tells me that no more than 200-250 years from the time of the Apostles that this was the pattern of worship to God within this local church. If we are to maintain our way as the churches of God we need to keep asking how things used to be done rather than seeking the latest innovations. We need to take a more Bible based approach to all that we do when it comes to the worship of God. 

Losing Our Sense of Sacred

In Isaiah 6:1ff God gave the Prophet a foretaste of Heaven. He shuttered and cried out ‘woe is me!’ He learned real fast why God judged his friend king Uzziah with leprosy when he went into the Temple to offer incense to the Lord as a king. (2 Chronicles 26:19) God is to be reverenced (feared). What about Nadab and Abihu who offered strange (common and unapproved) fire to the Lord? Did you know they were burned to death with the Fire of God and Aaron was not allowed to mourn their death and it was his own sons? (Leviticus 10:6) Their judgment was warranted, therefore God forbade any hint that what He had done in judging them was undue severity. What about when Uzzah reached up and touched the Ark of God and was smitten dead? (2 Samuel 6:7) What about Hophni and Phinaes and the way they disregarded God and the sacred things of God. What about Eli that just stood by waiting for God to judge him because he would not put an end to it? (1 Samuel 3:14) He would rather defend his sons than defend what was right. All this led the people terribly astray. (1 Samuel 2:17) What was God teaching us through these things? After all, they were written for our example and for our learning upon on whom the ends of the earth have come. (1 Corinthians 10:11) Anytime you or I see someone being smitten dead in scripture we should stop and have a ‘therefore’ moment. This is God’s estimate of a particular behavior we are seeing played out. God may not smite a person dead every time they do something high-handed, but once He has reacted to a behavior it has become our example of how He feels about it. We shouldn’t need more examples. How many people would have to be smitten dead after the record we already have for us to get the message and believe God? (Revelation 9:20, 21)

Modern Day Will-Worship

Does anyone ever wonder why so-called worship services are more like the rock concerts of the 70’s and 80’s with all the fixens including loudness and pyrotechnics? Just asking. Not trying to be divisive. Since when do guitar contests have any place in the churches of God? Does that not draw the attention to men and divide the worship? Just trying to be honest. It seems almost like another generation that knew not the Lord nor the works He had done in Israel have been raised up. (Judges 2:10) As soon as the older folks fall ill or have to step aside it’s like the bursting of a dam when the worldliness and often satanic behaviors begin to pour forth. Is there a generation chomping at the bit hoping to have a chance to take this on to the next level until all that the churches of God were ever designed to be is lost in the chaos and compromise? I think of the kings of Israel and Judah that seemed to wait for their fathers to pass so they could plunge Israel into utter worldliness and ruin. (1 Kings 15:26, 16:30, 2 Kings 21:7, etc.) Has the Bible been put so far down on the list of influences within these circles that nobody even bothers to ask if some of these things are even Biblical or Godly? (2 Timothy 4:3) When God got ready to teach us about Himself and His service in the Old Covenant He ordered almost every detail. The clothing, the Tabernacle, the recipe for the incense, the Fire, were all sacred things. He taught us and commanded us to discern between the holy and the profane. (Ezekiel 22:26, 2 Corinthians 6:17, Hebrews 5:14) 

A Weeks Worth of Living

We bring a weeks worth of living into any worship gathering. (G.W. North) It is a strange belief that one can live like the unsaved all week long and then God will come a running to inhabit their praises. If we strike up the band and get our favorite songs going we will start to feel ‘better’ or feel ‘something’. Remember, Jesus said that the true worshippers will worship in Spirit and in truth. I have heard people say, “I need to go get some worship” as if they were going to get a fix of some kind. That is not a criticism, but a sobering reality. Do we even realize what worship is? Throughout the Bible the concept of worship is linked with Total Surrender.  This is not a 30-60 minute exercise in song, but a life of total devotion. When Abraham went up on the mountain to ‘worship’ he was planning on slaying his promised son in an offering to God. This is our first real picture of worship in the Bible. Worship implies unwavering obedience to the one we are worshipping. It implies a desire to serve Him all week long, 24/7/365. Oddly enough, the same people that typically baulk at holy living and Bible based Christianity also baulk at what I am saying here. The two almost always go together. No matter how many teachings are put out like this one that seeks to turn our attention back to the Bible they go largely ignored. The people are simply not interested. They are doing their thing and don’t want to be bothered. They would rather see it as an attack on them rather than an admonition to turn back to scripture and ask if we are on a right path. Yet we read in Proverbs 1:7, The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction. One of the saddest things about this subject is that so many refuse to accept any instruction, but rather vaunt themselves as experts and unteachable. Isaiah learned that the situation in Heaven is very different than here on Earth. Have you ever stopped to think that when you draw your last breath you will never be able to disobey God again? Jesus told us to pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” In Heaven everything is done in accordance with God’s will. No one is doing things to be seen of men or to divide the worship between them and God. 

An Example

At the New Life Conference at Rora, Devon in 2012 I was able to see first hand that a balance can be brought to all of these issues and God be glorified. I heard new hymns and I heard old ones. As Jesus said, Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old. (Matthew 13:52) I heard worship where the voices of the people carried the song, not the instruments. They had guitars, a bass, drums and an electric piano like any other place I have been, yet they were there to accompany the worship of God not to drive the worship. Noone complained as to how loud the music was because the peoples voices drowned out everything. They sang with all their hearts unto God. As a worship musician for some 18 years and a drummer for over 30 years this was quite an experience for me. People from all over the world and all over England came together in unity and sang as it were a celestial choir prodding my mind to wonder what Heaven will be like. No one got mad if their song was not sung and no man or woman was being glorified. It was an awesome sight. The people sang and I believed them. It was in Spirit and in Truth. Not in a 10 million dollar building, but in a large tent and in a blinding rainstorm. 



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