“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.”

John 4:23

Have you ever heard a child sing a familiar song, but they weren’t singing the correct lyrics?

They mindlessly sing a tune that they have heard before, but they don’t remember the actual words in which they tend to make up their own. This can be a funny and entertaining experience as a parent because you never know what kind of lyrics your child may add or replace in the random singing of familiar music.

I sometimes find myself doing the same thing as I mess up the lyrics to a worship song I recently heard on the radio. Why do we do this? Because we naturally pay attention to the melody of the music before even thinking about the lyrics.

My children were watching the Minions movie the other day, and I found that these little yellow cartoon characters had the same issue when it came to singing familiar tunes. I observed that a song doesn’t carry nearly as much weight when the listener can’t understand the lyrics. The Minions sang various silly songs throughout the movie yet all of it was in complete gibberish. Not a single song made any sense and yet my children loved the music all the more for its silliness. I pondered as I observed this movie and wondered, how often are we like children in the way we worship? Not so much in a positive “child-like” faith kind of way, but in a mindlessly just singing the same tunes over and over again without thinking about it kind of way.

Jesus points out this very issue to a Samaritan woman in John chapter 4

Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

John 4:21-26 ESV

I love this interaction between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. I love that Jesus was seeking this woman out despite her sin and her shame to show her the love of the father in this moment. But I also love the information Jesus is giving her (and us) in this text.

Samaritans were different from the Jews, but they believed in the same God. The Jewish people had the complete Old Testament at this time and studied it thoroughly, whereas the Samaritan people only had the first five books of Moses and were not as serious in studying the word of God. Jesus points this out when he tells the Samaritan woman, “You worship what you do not know; we (Jews) worship what we know.” He was basically saying that the Jewish people are better at worshiping the truth about God in deeper ways than the Samaritan people.

This is like the example of a child who is mindlessly singing a familiar song while messing up the lyrics. The Samaritan people knew the tune of worshiping God, but they didn’t know all the lyrics, nor did they fully understand what the lyrics meant. I have often found myself worshiping God like these Samaritan people, mindlessly doing all the things I need to do without paying attention to the truth of what or why I am doing it. I am simply going through the motions. Singing these worship songs without thinking about what they actually mean, going to church but not really listening to the message, doing my bible study homework but not allowing the truth to penetrate my heart or build my faith in God.

Have you ever found yourself in a season like this?

In my opinion, I believe Jesus then implies that the Samaritan people worship in spirit as he compares spirit vs truth and Samaritans vs Jews. I can see how the Samaritan people were better at worshiping God in spirit (or in their hearts) than the Jewish people. We see this all throughout the New Testament as Jewish leaders are well informed on what the scripture says, but they have a hard time loving God and loving others in a real and compassionate way. Jesus gives another example of this in Luke chapter 10.

“And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Luke 10:25-29 ESV

Jesus then responds to the lawyer by preaching about the Good Samaritan. I encourage you to read the parable in Luke 10:30-37

Do you see the connection here between the parable of the Good Samaritan and the Samaritan woman at the well? Both were Samaritan people and Jesus was honoring both. I think the parable of the good Samaritan shows us what it practically looks like to “worship in spirit.” The Good Samaritan had a compassionate and loving heart in ways the Jewish leaders didn’t. He was worshiping God by loving the least of these. He was worshiping God by loving others well. This reflected the culture of the Samaritan people. Samaritan people were good at worshiping God in spirit through loving God and loving others, but they lacked the truth of God as they did not take the time to truly study God’s word and apply it to their lives. Whereas the Jewish people were good at worshiping God in truth as they deeply studied the scriptures and the truth about God, but they lacked love and compassion for other people.

Jesus tells the Samaritan woman at the well that “the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24).

So, what does it mean to worship God in spirit and in truth?

What does this practically look like in our lives today?

To worship God in truth is to seek out the truth about God, reading and studying his word, really listening to the lyrics of the worship songs we sing and allowing the meaning behind the worship we proclaim to penetrate our hearts. To worship God in spirit is to truly love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. To show love to those in need, to be giving of our time and resources, to reflect the heart of God in the way we love one another just like the Good Samaritan. Our heavenly Father is seeking such people to worship him, and we are those people.

Just like Jesus was seeking out this Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus is also seeking you out. He is the creator of your heart, he knows what is best for your heart, he loves your heart deeper than anyone else and he wants you to bring the heart he created back to him in worship. When we give our hearts to Jesus, he fills us with his Holy Spirit. Like an eternal hug from Jesus, his heart is always right next to ours.

So, when we worship God in spirit and in truth, it is like we are choosing to embrace him back. The heart of God is already embracing us in a spiritual hug, and he always will be! Worship is our way of wrapping our arms around our Savior and hugging him right back and that is exactly what God is seeking; the love of his children.

I want to challenge you and encourage you to return the spiritual hug this week. The next time you find yourself mindlessly singing a worship song, stop and think about the meaning behind the very words you sing. When you’re listening to worship music or participating in worship on a Sunday morning, ask questions like;

What is this song saying about God?

And how is this song building my faith?

One worship song I really love is “Waymaker” by Sinach. I love this song because it proclaims that God is a way maker, a miracle worker, a promise keeper, and the light in the darkness. I know these things to be true about God, but when I sing these truths in worship, my belief and trust in God is strengthened as I focus on the meaning of these lyrics.

As I sing these words, I go from knowing the truth that God is a way maker to believing in my heart that God is making a way for me. He is not just a miracle worker, but he is working miracles in my own life. He is faithful to keep the promises he has made for me, and he is my light in the darkness I face. I know and believe all these things to be true about my Abba Father, even in seasons when I can’t physically see him working. Singing this song in worship is worshiping God in spirit and in truth as we take the truth we know about God and believe it in our own spirit.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends this week, I want to encourage you to look for ways to worship God in spirit and in truth, giving thanks to him.

“Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Ephesians 5:18-20

Worship the truth of who God is, dig into his word and thank him in prayer for how amazing he is. Worship God through giving to someone in need, find creative ways to be a Good Samaritan to someone else this holiday season and love like Christ.

Worship our heavenly Father in spirit and truth because our Abba Father is seeking you!    

One Comment

  1. Love your thoughts about worshipping in Spirit and in Truth. Not singing by rote, but from the heart is so important. I too love the song Waymaker by Sinach. Thank you for your good thoughts.

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