What happens during worship (Part 3)

When it comes to the topic of worship, there is one very familiar verse in the Bible where Jesus is calling us not to just singing songs, but to go further than just that.

Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 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. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
John 4:21-24

Here Jesus is calling us to worship the Father in spirit and in truth. But is He is telling us more than that. I always love it when Jesus gives away the secrets of the Kingdom of our God. Here are several keys that Jesus is handing us:

  • God shall not just be worshiped on a physical place;
  • Worship will lead us to knowing the Father, through Jesus Christ;
  • Worship is a spiritual thing, God is Spirit, so we must worship Him in spirit and in truth.

To some it may sound a bit cryptically what Jesus said. First of all, He said something remarkable for that time, by saying that God will not be worshiped in Jerusalem, nor at any other physical place. Yet that was the way people were always used to worship God, by going to Jerusalem, to worship God. So you can imagine that Jesus had the attention of the people that heard Him say that. To them it must have been a weird thing to hear. Until that moment the presence of God always was in the temple, where He dwelled. There was no other way for people to come into His presence, then by going to the temple. But it was never God’s aim to dwell in a building. He wanted to dwell amongst His people. Therefore He choose us, our bodies, to be His temple, the place where His presence can dwell. That was so beautifully expressed when Jesus died at the cross. At that moment the veil, the doorway to the temple, was torn in two and the presence of God left that place. In a way it was like God broke free from one place, to exchange that place for a new temple: our body. It was and is just as Jesus promised, that He would live in us and reside in us, by His Holy Spirit. God doesn’t only live in our bodies, He also resides at the Mount Zion, His holy place. That place is no longer a physical place, but a spiritual place. That Holy place became accessible for us as well. I will go further into that in a moment. 

As for the second point, we must understand that until that moment, God only had revealed Himself to the Jews. They were and are His chosen people. As we know, we – as believers – are added to that people. But we must never forget that we are the ones that were added, not the other way around. As Jesus said, the salvation is of the Jews. However, the really interesting thing is that He said that we worship what we know. So our worship seems to be connected with knowledge, wisdom, insight and revelation. But most of all, worship is about knowing the Father. That makes sense, because in John 1 it says that Jesus is the Word, which equals knowledge, wisdom and insight to those who understand it. Am I saying that worship is the way to the Father? No. Then we’re missing one very important thing. Jesus added that the Father is seeking people who worship Him in spirit and in truth. The spirit part is easy to understand. When we became born again, He gave us a new spirit. It is that spirit that we should use to worship Him. It is also the reason why it says spirit (no capital) instead of Spirit. But what is the truth then? A better question would be: Who is the Truth? That question is answered by Jesus Himself, when He said: 

I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
John 14:6

Do you start to see it already? We use our spirit to worship the Father in and through Jesus Christ, in the Truth. When we do that, Jesus will lead the way to the Father. He will take our hand and lead us to the throne of God. But wait a minute. We’re not dead yet. We’re living on this earth, in our physical body. How is it possible to go to the Father, even through Jesus Christ, when we’re still alive on this earth? 

One of the most familiar worshipers in the Bible is of course king David. That was in the Old Testament. In those times the outpouring of the Holy Spirit didn’t happen yet as it happened during Pentecost. Yet the Holy Spirit was already present and active in the Old Testament. Although He was not available yet for all people, He was available and active in the lives of the kings and priests of Israel, who were all anointed and appointed by God. That is the reason why king David could be so familiar with the presence of God, by His Holy Spirit. He knew the keys to enter into His presence, which he described in Psalm 100.

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
Psalm 100:4

Isaiah 58 described the acts of worship in everything we do, while David specifically describes the roadmap to Gods presence. Basically he gives us three steps:

  • Thanksgiving
  • Praise
  • Worship

The first step describes a thankful attitude of the heart, expressed by words or songs. David also gives a few reasons why we should be thankful: “For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.” There is always a reason to be thankful. Personally I believe every person is able to think of several reasons to be thankful. It is with that attitude that we can enter through the gates of heaven. After we’ve entered the gates, we’re coming into His courts, the way to the throne room. That is where we praise Him. Our praises are our acknowledgement of the Lordship of Jesus and of His authority. Psalm 22:3 says that He thrones on the praises of His people. So by our praises we are offering Him His rightful place among and over us. By doing that we are bringing ourselves in alignment with His perfect will and authority. 

The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tents of the righteous; The right hand of the Lord does valiantly. The right hand of the Lord is exalted; The right hand of the Lord does valiantly. I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord. The Lord has chastened me severely, but He has not given me over to death. Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go through them, and I will praise the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord, through which the righteous shall enter. I will praise You, for You have answered me, and have become my salvation.
Psalm 118:15-21

When we’ve praised Him, and offered Him a throne to reign on, then we come at the destination: the throne room of the Father, where Jesus is seated at His right hand. That is the moment where the praises are fading and are turning into worship. Worship is that what has your full attention, devotion and focus. That can be expressed through songs, words and deeds as well. It is giving worth and honor to a person or object. Most of the time we have a picture in mind of kneeling down for something or someone, as the definition of worship, but it is more than that. That’s why we say that it is so easy to worship money, cars, material stuff, people etc. It doesn’t only mean we bow down for it, it means that those things get all our attention, devotion and focus. Basically they are taking the first place in our lives then. In this case, the case of worshiping our God, it means that we are giving Him all our attention, devotion and focus, that we are giving worth and honor to Him. It also means that we put aside all other things that (may) have taken the first place, which is the rightful place of Jesus in our lives. This is the moment where the atmosphere starts to change and where the anointing of God is being released over our lives. 

Now let’s answer the question how it is possible to enter the gates, the courts and the throne room of heaven, while we’re still alive on this earth. That’s a very interesting part. When someone becomes a born again Christian, something special is happening. At that moment God is replacing our spirit with a brand new spirit. Our old spirit will be removed and replaced with a new Godly spirit. That can be found in Ezekiel 36:26. That new spirit has the ability not to only reside in our bodies, but also to connect with His Spirit. While we worship, our spirit isn’t leaving our body, but you can say it is extending to the heavens. Our earthly physical body has limits, such as time and place. We can only be at one place at a time. However, in the spirit there are no limits such as time and place. So it is possible to still be alive on earth, while our spirit connects with His Spirit and joins us while we enter His gates, courts and throne room in the spirit, by thanksgiving, praise and worship.