For my money, it’s one of the strangest conversations in the Bible. Jesus is in a Samaritan village—a place most Jews avoided like the plague—and seeing a well, He asks a local woman for a drink. Now, respectable Jews in the first century didn’t fraternize with Samaritans at all, and Jewish men certainly didn’t socialize with women who weren’t close relatives. But Jesus, being Jesus, begins to make small talk with this Samaritan woman at the well. Except it isn’t exactly small talk. It quickly moves from a drink request, to a discussion about living water, to the woman’s five ex-husbands and her current relationship to, of all things, the nature of worship.
What does worship have to do with anything? I once thought. But the truth is, worship is at the heart of everything we do. It’s central to who we are as human beings. In fact, as people made to worship we can’t help it. Our worship may not always look like singing with hands spread toward heaven. In fact, most of our worship looks fairly ordinary and mundane. But we are a worshiping species all the same.
If our worship isn’t directed toward the one true God, it’s directed toward whatever has captured our heart’s attention. It might be the god of a false religion or the gods of money, sex, power, comfort, or a million other things besides. John Calvin was right when he said, “Man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols.”
Worship that is good and right and healthy, on the other hand, is always directed toward the God who made the heavens and the earth. He is the God of the Bible, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. “‘To whom will you compare me, or who is my equal?’ asks the Holy One” (Isaiah 40:25).
Worship, pure and simple, is our response to who God is and what He has done. And most worship isn’t accompanied by a certain physical posture or music and lyrics. It has more to do with the posture of the heart. Jesus told the Samaritan woman, “An hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth. Yes, the Father wants such people to worship him” (John 4:23).
To worship in Spirit is to worship God wherever we are and whatever we’re doing. Gone are the days of seeking God’s presence at a temple in Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit now indwells all believers, inviting us to give everything we have and everything we are to God at every moment. To worship in truth is to worship the God who has revealed Himself in the Bible and in the Person of Jesus Christ. We are to praise Him with our lives for who He actually is, not who we imagine Him to be or who we think He ought to be.
Taken together, these two elements of worship are an invitation to intimacy with the Father. With the “Spirit” part of the equation, God says, I want to be a part of everything you do, every day. With the “truth” part, He says, I want you to draw closer, to know the real Me. True worship is a gift we bring to God, but in living a life of worship, we soon find that it is also a gift God gives to us.
“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”
—Augustine of Hippo
Written by John Greco