Summary: Worship flows out of our revelation of God, our experiences in God, and our gratitude for His goodness. These matters must be addressed when we seek to enhance our worship experience. Otherwise the experience can become artificial and contrived.
How do we move into a higher level of worship—in our personal lives and corporately as a church? Answering that question is more complex that you might think. But it is extremely important to find answers to the question. If I were to ask for a show of hands this morning, how many would like to go to a higher level of worship, I suspect we would have 100% uplifted hands. There are enormous benefits of entering into depths of worship. But what does it take to get there? We will begin to address that question today. We will do that by identifying some key foundations of genuine worship. I have seen many well-meaning Pentecostals and others get into trouble by seeking quick, easy answers to the question. The real thing is a costly thing. It’s not cosmetic. It’s not superficial. It speaks to the very core of who we are.
So we will start with Jesus statement to the Woman at the Well in John 4:23. She has brought up the subject of worship. Her approach is typical. She wants to address external issues. Specifically, she wants to know who is right about where worship is to take place. Are the Samaritans right? They say Mt. Gerizim is the proper place for public worship. Understand that she and Jesus at the foot of that mountains during this conversation. Conversely, the Jew took the position that Jerusalem is the place that God had designated for worship. From an Old Testament perspective, the Jews were right.1 However, Jesus took the conversation deeper. The real issue with worship is not an external issue. The real issue is heart condition. So in John 4:23 Jesus gives perhaps the most essential principle of worship. He said to her, “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."2 Lady, if you don’t get this one right, all the other conversations about worship will not matter much. Worship springs from the heart. Worship must happen between an individual’s spirit and the Spirit of God. Otherwise it just becomes an empty form—a form of godliness without the power of the Holy Spirit in it (sounding brass and clanging cymbals).
“God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” The Amplified adds in “reality.” This is perhaps the most profound, essential statement that could be made about worship. It’s not just a matter of doing it in the right location or having all the right methods. First and foremost –if you skip this you will go astray-- worship must flow out of a heart of worship. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day had gone to great lengths to orchestrate worship at the temple. Hundreds of people attended their services. Yet Jesus (quoting Isaiah) said of them, "These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. 9 And in vain they worship Me….” (Matt 15:8-9). It’s vain; it’s empty; it’s useless. They are doing the right moves; they are doing the right things physically—but I’m looking on the heart and (in reality) worship is not happening!
So the crucial mistake we must avoid is majoring on externals and missing the most fundamental issue of all. What is the heart condition? Are people really honoring God from the heart, or are they just mouthing the right words?
That’s why I want to begin with the foundations of worship that go on in the heart. This will not be exhaustive; but it should address the issue. Two foundations of worship:
I. Worship flows out of one’s REVELATION of who God is.
Jesus confronted the Woman at the Well with this statement. John 4:22 “You worship what you do not know….” The fundamental problem in your worship is not an external thing like location. The fundamental problem is that you don’t know God for who He is. Of course, this is the ultimate statement for a person who is dead in trespasses and sin. A person who does not know God at all is not going to be able to worship “in spirit and in truth.” But we are all limited in our worship by our revelation of God. We can only appreciate Him for what we know of Him. We can only adore His attributes to the extent we spiritually perceive those attributes. Have you been a partaker of His grace? Then you can praise Him for the grace you have experienced. Head knowledge may be a good beginning; but worship from the heart comes out of experience. You see David worshipping God out of his experiences with God. Let me give a couple of examples from the Psalms.