True Worshipers

Pastor Shelton Markham   -  


In John 4 Jesus has a conversation with a Samaritan woman in which he indicates the massive change his ministry will cause in how people worship God.

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

The significance of what Jesus is saying cannot be overstated.  First, He is indicating that His ministry as the Messiah will change everything about how people connect with God. No longer will worship be centered around a place (the Temple), but around a person (the Messiah).   As the New Testament progresses, we learn the fullness of this truth.  Instead of being housed in the Holy of Holies within the Temple, God will put his presence within His people in the form of the Holy Spirit.  Secondly, because God’s Spirit will dwell within people and not a building, the very nature of worship will change.  True worshipers will worship “in the Spirit and in truth,” no matter where in the world they are.  Jesus goes on to explain, “God is spirit, and His worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”  In fact, God is seeking such worshipers. This is what God is after!  

How do we worship God in the Spirit and in Truth?

The truth side of this equation is rather self-explanatory.   As worshipers we must long for truth because to worship God as anything else besides what He has revealed Himself to be through Christ as captured in scripture is to practice idolatry.  Our worship must grow out of Biblical revelation. Christ as revealed in the Bible must be the bedrock of our worship.  As Jesus proclaims to His disciples, He is the Truth (John 14.6).  We do not have to guess at what God is like.  We can clearly see Him through the life of Jesus in whom “the fullness of deity dwelt” (Colossians 2:9).  Scripture reveals Jesus to us and as true worshipers we must long to know Jesus accurately and fully.

But what about the Spirit side of the equation?  What does it mean to worship God in the Spirit?  Well, as Jesus reminds us, God is not ink on white pages.  “God is Spirit.”  He is real.  He exists.  So we must also long to connect with the God of the Bible spiritually.   As Sam Storms puts it, “It’s the Holy Spirit who awakens in us an understanding of God’s beauty and splendor and power. It’s the Holy Spirit who stirs us to celebrate and rejoice and give thanks. It’s the Holy Spirit who opens our eyes to see and savor all that God is for us in Jesus.”  So how do we worship God in the Spirit?  Scripture is not silent on this.  The Christian must learn to set their mind on what the Spirit desires (Romans 8) and to keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5).  As such, the Christian is to offer their bodies as living sacrifices to know and follow God, “which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12).  Worshiping God in truth is about connecting with God as He truly is as revealed through Christ.  Worshiping God in the Spirit is about knowing and following God throughout one’s life.

So how do we know God truthfully?  We study Scripture.  How do we follow God spiritually?  Well this can be a little more difficult.  We can touch Scripture, study it, and objectively grow in our understanding.  But how do we touch the Spirit and grow in it?  Jesus modeled for us a life that was deeply connected to God through spiritual practices like fasting, solitude, prayer, etc.  Over the past two thousand years, the church has come to call these practices spiritual disciplines.  In recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in the spiritual disciplines amongst protestant believers.  Richard Foster’s classic work, The Celebration of Discipline, and Dallas Willard’s The Spirit of Disciplines, amongst others, have helped protestants reconnect with spiritual practices that Christians have long used to connect with God through the Holy Spirit within them as demonstrated by Christ himself.  As the church’s worship has become more led by technology and as the pace of life has become more fast-paced, the need for spiritual formation within the life of the believer has become apparent.  People are leaving the church in America at an alarming rate, many finding the entire worship experience to be spiritually empty.  Perhaps it is because we have lost sight on what it means to worship “in the Spirit and in the truth” as the Bible really defines those elements.  While I love a good worship service and think they are vital to the life of the church, biblically speaking, spiritual worship is about whole-life yielding to the Holy Spirit, which is something that we must grow in and learn over time.  

Currently, our church is walking verse by verse through the book of Matthew to better understand the life and ministry of Jesus so that we may follow Him more accurately.  Our desire is that we would be worshipers who worship and follow Jesus in truth.  But it is also important as we embark on this endeavor to worship God in the Spirit as well.  So we have elected to have our Growth Groups practice the Spiritual Disciplines in order to connect with God spiritually, like Jesus did.  Like any practice, these disciplines will prove to be difficult, and at times uncomfortable because many of them are new to us.  But they are all tried and true ways in which Jesus himself and Christians throughout history have connected with God. 

The practices our Growth Groups will be trying are: 

  • Sabbath (completed)
  • Prayer (current Growth Group session)
  • Fasting (summer 2024)
  • Solitude (fall 2024)
  • Generosity (winter 2025)
  • Scripture (spring 2025)
  • Community (summer 2025)
  • Service (fall 2025)
  • Witness (winter 2026)

Each of the practices are an invitation, not a mandate.   They are an invitation to disconnect from the world in order to connect with our God.  They are an invitation to allow God to form us Spiritually as we learn to connect with Him.  They are an invitation to grow as we practice new (to us) disciplines and reflect on them with others.  They are an invitation to slow down and live life with Spiritual purpose. 

I encourage you, if you are not in a Growth Group, to consider joining one in order to learn spiritual disciplines.  The Christian journey of the born again believer is never meant to be lived alone, but in deep connection with fellow believers who are also being formed by God.  We simply cannot be who God has called us to be in isolation, we must be in community.  

If you are in a Growth Group, then I encourage you to approach these practices with an open mind and open heart.  I often ask myself, “if Jesus felt the need to do this, shouldn’t I?”  We will have other times and places for Bible Study (Sunday Morning, Discipleship Classes, and Equip Sessions) but our Growth Groups will be focused on spiritual formation.  As we said above, the Spirit and Truth go hand in hand, and each practice will be rooted in scripture.  But the point is to learn and grow by actually practicing a spiritual discipline and reflecting on our experience with others in our group.  Some groups will be led by video while others will be facilitated by the group leader.  

Jesus died to give us spiritual birth (John 3) and desires to transform us from the inside out to become more like him (Romans 8:29), this is the truth of scripture.  May we take that truth and live it out in reality!  God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.