After I started working on this subject, I quickly realized it was going to be way too long for one post, and no one likes to read long blog posts, so I am going to break it down into as many segments as necessary to keep you awake and with me!
I discovered this beautiful phrase in a verse this morning in the NIV translation from 2 Peter 1:21. It is the verse about how Scripture came about, and the end of that verse says, “…but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” I love that picture. Something gentle, personal, continual, real, and I felt safe, protected, not alone, lead into one discovery after another, the best possible journey through life; carried along by the Holy Spirit.
The men who were inspired to write what became our Scripture were just ordinary men who made themselves available to what they didn’t even know how to name but they were being carried along by the Holy Spirit and on certain days here and there, they were inspired to write and to create and the words were living because they were from God. It wasn’t so much what they did; it was what they experienced.
And so, that phrase is part of what it means to me now to be spiritual. Not what I’m doing but what I’m experiencing with God.
What did Jesus mean when he said that “The true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:23-24
Why am I almost 60 years old and still trying to understand what those verses mean? Well, it’s partly because for over 50 years of my life I was told, first of all “we don’t believe in worship. We don’t have worship services” and they were right, we didn’t. I do remember a few times privately and once or twice in meetings when I actually felt like I was worshiping God and it was wonderful. It seems those verses were interpreted to mean, “The time is coming and now has come when the true people of God will gather on Sunday morning in homes and they will come there with a right spirit (a good attitude) and will honor the system. (The ‘truth’).
How or why I ever settled for that interpretation is beyond me. I think the answer is just that…I settled for that interpretation because I didn’t have a clue what else to do with those verses.
The woman of Samaria that Jesus was talking to was all caught up in “where” her people met and “where” the Jews met to worship. Sound familiar? Jesus dismissed the where altogether but shifted the attention to “how”. Jesus Himself did not care about the where but he was totally concerned about the how. I think that is a very significant point.
So, what does that mean then to a group of people who are basing half of their eternal destiny on where they meet? (Not to mention they’ve left out the worship part) They won’t take the emblems anywhere else but in a sanctified home because the where is the most important part of that ritual. (Yes, it’s a ritual but it is not an empty ritual) They won’t take communion at their other two highlights of their year; special meeting and convention because they aren’t in a home!! The two most important spiritual feasts in that group and yet they leave Jesus emblems out of it. Paul said, “Whenever you come together, do this in remembrance of Jesus…” Whenever means whenever in my opinion. I have sometimes tried to picture how incredibly powerful and meaningful it would have been to have taken communion corporately at convention. Folks would have talked about it for days.
Back to John 4; what did Jesus mean then to worship in spirit and in truth? Did He mean being full of the Holy Spirit? That must be part of it. But there’s more; worshiping God in spirit because He is spirit. I come back to that verse about “deep calling out to deep”. The depth of God and the depth in me coming together because God dwells in me. That kind of worship isn’t necessarily complicated but it is intentional. It’s not really something you do; it’s not works based. You don’t get extra points for it. But it’s somewhere you go. That is the part I’ve never realized consciously at least before. It’s being carried along by the Holy Spirit.