“But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth,” (John 4:23-24, New Living Translation). Who are the “true worshipers” Jesus refers to? It seems one need only two qualifications in order to become a true worshiper of the Father, to worship Him in spirit, and in truth. This passage speaks to our dual nature as Human Beings. When we are called to worship in spirit and in truth, we are called to worship in both our spirit which is unseen, and in our flesh which is seen. The Greek word for truth in the original text is Aletheia, which means “the state of not being hidden; the state of being evident.” When something is evident, it implies the presence of visible signs that lead one to a definite conclusion (Miriam-Webster). We must ask then, what are people to conclude when they look at us while we worship? What visible signs do we give that we are worshiping the one true God?
To fully worship God we must engage both our spirit and our bodies. I grew up in a church that, while not officially discouraging displays of emotion, certainly did not encourage them. We stood to our feet when the choir director motioned, sang our hymns, and then sat back down. Yes, God was honored by the beautiful words we sang (although not always sung beautifully), and singing certainly is a physical action. There are those whose bodies are limited to praising God with their lips only, and so I do not mean to imply this form of worship is inadequate. What I am trying to say, however, is that worship is not merely a state of mind. Simply singing and focusing on the words and trying to mean them with all of our hearts isn’t all there is to worship. This is why many people choose to sing and dance and wave their hands while praising His Name, but it also goes well beyond that. Romans 12:1 calls us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is our spiritual worship. Again, this speaks to our dual nature. When we offer our bodies to God and worship Him in the natural, this worship automatically engages our spirits and our spirits worship as well.
In the old Testament, kneeling and prostration were common, not merely as signs of respect and reverence toward a holy and fearsome God, but because we are of a dual nature – when the physical moves, so does the spirit, and vice versa. In fact, the bible teaches us to worship in many ways: kneeling (Psalm 95:6, Luke 22:41)), lifting up hands (Psalm 134:2, I Timothy 2:8), dancing (Psalm 149:3, 150:4), singing (Psalm 30:4, 95:1), standing (Psalm 134:1, 135:2), clapping hands (Psalm 47:1, 98:8), shouting (Psalm 35:27, 47:1), musical instruments (Psalm 150:3-5, II Samuel 6:5), and prophetic song (Psalm 40:3, 96:1, 98:1). For centuries it has been the practice of believers to kneel down at their bedside for prayer. The physical act of contrition puts our spirits in alignment with God. Too often we feel we must wait for our spirit to be prompted before we act, when we have merely to engage in the natural and our spirit will automatically follow! This is why faith is the evidence of things unseen (Hebrews 11:1). When we step out in faith and begin to move in the things of God, it is the visible sign that our spirit is one with God, otherwise we would not have taken the step! That step is our offering to God, our living sacrifice, because we are stepping out ahead of our spirits, putting our bodies on the line and our faith in God’s promise to meet us there. Sacrifice gets the attention of God. Some would argue and quote I Samuel 15:22, “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” In the story, Saul had been ordered by God to kill the Amalekites, down to the last man, woman, sheep, and cow. And that is what Saul did… almost. He spared the king, and kept the best livestock. Not for himself, mind you, but in order to sacrifice them to God. But God sees this and tears the kingdom of Israel away from Saul just as Saul tears the hem of Samuel’s garment! What did God want more; the sacrifice of sheep and cows, or the sacrifice of obedience against opposition? Saul tells Samuel that he was afraid of the people and gave in when they wanted to keep some spoils. Instead of stepping out and offering his body as a living sacrifice and leading his people in obedience to God, Saul did the more cowardly thing and offered a scape-goat sacrifice instead. Sacrifice does indeed get the attention of God, especially when it is our very bodies and lives that we offer. Even so small a thing as stepping out and asking a stranger if they need prayer is a sacrifice of our body, and God honors and loves it!
A closer look at Hebrews 11:1 reveals even more. We’ve seen how “[an act of] faith is the evidence of things unseen,” but lets examine the word “evidence.” The Greek word used in this instance is Elenchos, which means “a cross-examination for the purpose of refutation.” Evidence it seems is more than just visible signs, but a word of action, implying thought and reasoning. Elenchos is in fact the basis of what’s commonly known as the Socratic Method of teaching, in which a question is asked, only to be met by more questions in a sort of trial until only one plausible answer remains. This would have been a widely known concept at the time of the author’s writing, and the point was well made. Faith, the author says, is a test to reveal the level of trust and obedience a person has in what he or she cannot see. In his night-time discussion with Nicodemus, Jesus compares The Spirit of God with the wind, saying, “The wind blows (breathes) where it wills; and though you hear its sound, yet you neither know where it comes from nor where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit,” (John 3:8, Amplified) The wind is something we cannot see, although we can clearly see the effects of the wind. God is someone whom I cannot see, but when I see His children, born of the Spirit, acting in love towards others and giving of themselves as holy and acceptable sacrifices, I can see the fingerprints of God. It is this giving of ourselves that we are called to.
True worship is total life obedience, and our obedience is expressed outwardly in acts of faith. And not merely public acts where others can see us, but entering into our prayer closets and being alone with our Creator. The act of separating ourselves from everything and communing with The Spirit of God is an outward, physical act before it is a spiritual one. Going into the secret place and soaking in the presence of God is a physical act just as much as it is a spiritual act. When we see people “manifesting” the Holy Spirit, we are merely seeing their bodies following their spirits, the same way our spirits follow our bodies when we choose to physically worship the Lord in song and movement. We cannot escape the fact that we are of a dual nature, both spirit and body simultaneously. We are not a body with a spirit, nor are we a spirit with a body. We are body AND spirit. In the Hebrew language there is no word for “spiritual.” This is because, as pastor Rob Bell says, “To label one area [of life] spiritual, is to label other areas as not spiritual. It’s absolutely foreign to the world of the scriptures.” Every act, everything we do is a spiritual act. Eating, drinking, going to the gym, talking on the phone, shopping for groceries, doing laundry, the most mundane tasks in our lives are still spiritual acts because we are a combination of two existences, we are a fusion of spirit and body. Paul reminds the church in Philippians 4:8 to meditate on whatever is true, honorable, pure, just, etc. because he realizes that whatever we put into our minds in the physical sense translates into our spirit. It’s the same principle spoken of in 2 Corinthians 3:18, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” What we behold, whatever we put in front of our eyes, we become. Jesus also alluded to this in Matthew 6:22-23, “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” And speaking of Jesus, we can look to Him as our example. Hebrews 2:17 says that Jesus Christ was both fully God and fully man, and we are to be conformed into the image of Christ according to Romans 8:29. But more than just being conformed into the image of Christ, both body and spirit, we are created in the same image! If we look at the creation story in Genesis 1, we see God creating the physical realm, but it is man into whom He breathes His Spirit. At our very creation we are set apart from all other created things as wholly unique, both completely flesh and spirit. We are at the center of two realms, so to speak, bridging the space between the two. As such, we need to learn to function in both. We are all very acquainted with our physical surroundings and the laws that govern this world, but as spiritual beings, we need to become equally acquainted with our spiritual surroundings and the laws that govern that world, because we are living in both right now! And to become accustomed to that world, we have only to behold Jesus Christ who, according to Hebrews 1:3, “… Is the perfect imprint and very image of [God’s] nature, upholding and maintaining and guiding and propelling the universe by His mighty word of power,” (Amplified). All things were created through Jesus (John 1:3), and so all things can be found in Him.
I recently had a dream in which the Holy Spirit appeared to me and beckoned me to give chase. And as I pursued, running with all my might and speed, my body became more and more suited to the chase. I entered into an accelerated season as I ran after Him, and my body became that of an athlete’s. I was soon running faster than anyone had ever run. In my dream, the Holy Spirit moved out over a large lake, and without even thinking I ran out onto that water, determined as ever to chase after Him. At the far side of the lake I saw a vertical cliff. Right away I knew I could simply jump to the top. I took a few test strides and then leapt into the air, sailing easily up and over the edge of the cliff. The Holy Spirit continued on up a mountain, and I gave chase, taking huge strides and leaps up the mountain as if it was the easiest thing to do. Just before I reached the top of the mountain, I awoke. Right away I knew the Holy Spirit was courting me, asking me to go deeper, to enjoy the pursuit. But the point I want to stress here is that what we normally consider a strictly spiritual act, pressing into the things of God, is just as much a physical act. In the dream, there was no distinction made between spirit and flesh. We need to stop thinking in terms of one or the other, and remember that we are union of both. Let us come and worship God in spirit and in truth, and may we all become true worshipers of our Father.