Worshipping the God of heaven, the great I Am, is the greatest privilege and most solemn responsibility that any human being has. A careful Bible student quickly learns that this privilege/responsibility is a tremendous challenge.
As early in the Bible in the fourth chapter of Genesis, one reads of two brothers – Cain and Abel – who sought to worship God. Because he was prompted by an obedient faith (Hebrews 11:4), Abel and his worship was respected and accepted by God; Cain and his worship were not.
This account introduces several significant truths about worshipping God found repeatedly in Scripture:
Since he is God, Jehovah can accept or reject one’s worship.
God alone determines whether one’s worship is acceptable to him. (Just because I find my worship acceptable does not mean God does.)
To worship God acceptably, one must faithfully follow God’s instructions; good intentions or personal preferences are not adequate substitutes for obedience.
When one’s worship is rejected by God, the wise course of action is not the way of Cain – getting angry to the point of murder and stubbornly refusing to comply with God’s requirements.
Add to these sobering truths, the solemn words of Jesus himself in John 4:24: God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. Consider the significance of those last seven words:
First, acceptable worship is focused upon him – God, not self. Cain found his worship acceptable because, ultimately, Cain’s focus was on pleasing himself, not God. In far too many religious bodies today what people do in worship is what they like, what they prefer, what they desire. Like Cain’s worship, theirs is not focused on God and pleasing him.
The next word is must. It indicates a moral obligation. Worshipping God in spirit and truth is not an optional matter or a matter of convenience. It is something that must be true of one’s worship or, like Cain’s worship, it is sinful and rejected by God.
The third word of these seven is worship. Worship is a verb; it is an action verb. Its meaning has nothing to do with the idea of entertainment, theatrics, or showmanship. This English word comes from the combination of worth and ship. Worship is an action every person has an obligation to perform properly. It is a genuine reflection of the value or worth one has in his heart and mind for God. Reverence, respect and propriety will be found in one’s worship when they are first found in one’s heart.
In spirit indicates that acceptable worship involves one’s inner person, as well as one’s outward acts. Going through the motions is anathema to one who desires to follow Abel’s example of worshipping God so that it pleases him.
Truth is what enables a person to worship by faith like Abel did. Faith comes by hearing God’s word (Romans 10:17). Since God and God alone knows what he desires in worship to him, his word (the truth – John 17:17) and his word alone is the only place one can look to find what must be in our worship. From reading the verses prior to John 4:24, one can readily learn that what will be required in New Testament worship will be different than what was required in Old Testament worship. Because he is God, Jehovah does have this right.
When you reflect on your attitude and thinking about worship, is it like Cain’s or Abel’s?