God has been leading me to explore what it means to worship Him, and I know I am far from over, but I had to pause and collect my thoughts on John 4:23-24. It is the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. When she realizes that Jesus is a rabbi, a teacher, she ask him about the big dispute between Jews and Samaritans, “Where do we worship?” If I were to paraphrase Jesus, he replied, “Let’s not discredit the Jews, for from them will come the Messiah, but it isn’t about where you worship but how you worship. The Father is looking and demanding that those who worship Him do so with all that they are, with the very depths of their spirit because God is Spirit, and they do so with sincerity of mind and integrity of character, being open and honest in their expression of worship.”
The Message paraphrases it this way:
“God’s way of salvation so made available through the Jews. But the time is coming—it has, in fact, come—when what you’re called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter. It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.”
There were a few things that really stood out to me and felt so profound as I studied the Greek text for this verse, the words for worship, spirit, and truth.
Since this passage is all about our worship, let’s start with the Greek word for it. It is the word proskyneo, and it means “to kiss the hand toward one in reverence.” Imagine for a moment that you are entering the throne of a mighty emperor or a magnificent king. You have been invited into his inner court, you only a peasant. You are not a wise advisor to the king, nor are you a world famous entertainer. You are simply a person who was invited to an intimate place of friendship with the ruler. When you arrive, do you throw your hands up saying, “‘Sup?” No, you would bow down in complete honor and respect for the king. You would kiss his hand, his ring, or his scepter. That is the image of what worship is. It is honoring God as your king, even though He is inviting you to a place of intimacy with Him.
It is no secret that God wants all of us. He doesn’t want to be second, and He doesn’t want to receive only part of our heart. Jesus said to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” When Jesus says to worship the Father in spirit, he is referring to this concept of giving your all to God. The word here is pneuma and refers to the human spirit, the power by which we feel, think, and decide, the soul. But as I studied this word, I was reminded of Genesis when God formed Adam out of the dust of the Earth and breathed the breath of life into him, having made mankind in His own image. Pneuma not only means our spirit, but it also means Holy Spirit and breath. When God created mankind, he breathed His spirit into us, and because of Jesus, that spirit can be in us again. It is out of that spirit, the breath of God in us, that we are able to worship God. It isn’t just meant to be a body act of lifting hands and singing, but it is an outcry of the heart and soul that says, “I choose to honor you in everything I do.” (Romans 12:1-2)
This then brings us to the word truth, which in Greek is aletheia. There is an objective definition which talks about absolute truth, things that will always be true. It also has a subjective meaning, in other words a meaning that varies from person to person. it is out of this that Jesus is talking about. This definition of truth is being open and honest in expression, free from artificial, imitation, falsehood, deceit, or the appearance of truth when it is really false; it is being sincere and true to your character. Worshipping in truth is both worshipping in a way that declares truth (i.e. declaring “God has not given me a spirit of fear” even though you may be afraid, for this kind of worship activates that truth) and in a way that flows out of the abundance of who you are, out of the abundance of your heart. it is being genuine and vulnerable before God.
From the beginning of time, we were created for worship. We’ll always worship something—God, money, ourselves, our dreams, our accomplishment, the devil, Facebook. If it isn’t God, it is something. That is why the Father is seeking, yearning, longing, craving our worship; He desires to be close to us, his creation. His goodness, his majesty, his holiness demands that we do exactly that, bow in worship, kissing His hand in reverence and giving our most sincere and genuine praise and adoration of His eternal worth.