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Spirit and Truth and Reverence

If we are made to do anything at all, it is to worship. Ironically, in modern Christianity we have developed the inadequate notion that worship is just about singing and music. This inadequacy lessens our ability to express worship in its fullness. It is an inadequate notion because worship encompasses a great many things — most of which are not music. If we think that worship is music and singing when it is many other things as well, then for most of us worship will be limited to a structured and scripted 20 to 30 minute period of time on a Sunday morning. And that would be a shame since such a limitation would be missing the mark of your purpose. Jesus, after all, is our mark, and his example is a life fully marked by complete worship.

Worship is such a profound element of who we are supposed to be that Paul appeals to us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, which he argues is a form of spiritual worship (Romans 12:1). Paul is not referencing either music or singing in that verse at all. He is referencing our lives. In fact, in the following verses, he tells us how to be transformed into the kind of person that can offer his or her body as a living sacrifice. We do that by being transformed from a person who is self-centered and world-centered into a person who is spiritually centered and God-centered, by renewing our minds and conforming them to the teachings of Jesus. So according to Paul, worship requires a changing of the mind. This makes perfect sense because Jesus said that true worshipers will worship him in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24). Someone without a transformed mind will not have a mind set on truth, but instead on the lies of the world. The spirit of such a person will be kept from union with God by worldly desires.

What, then, does worship really mean? The concept is simple. It means to show reverence. We should show reverence all throughout the week in everything we do. When we pray properly, we are setting our minds and spirits on God, and putting him in the highest place in our mind. This should happen often. It shows reverence, and develops in us a reverential attitude. When we love others according to God’s commands, we are demonstrating reverence and developing a reverential life of action. When we participate in a faith community – not just on Sunday mornings but in our daily lives – we can then be part of a larger body that communes with God. All of this makes worship about willing behaviors and attitudes, and not about reactionary feelings. And when we get to the place where everyday willing worship is natural, then our Sunday morning worship and praise will be in spirit and truth, and we’ll be rewarded with a genuine and delightful worship experience that won’t depend on music, or lights, or other external influences!

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