Worshipping in spirit dealt with the internal world of the worshipper – being a new creation, being filled with the Holy Spirit, living in Jesus. Worshipping in truth is more concerned with the external world of the worshipper. Truth means more than intellectual veracity. Truth involves living a life of faithfulness and fidelity. Consider the difference between saying “two plus two equals four is a true statement” and “he is a true friend.” The latter deals more with a way of living life than an intellectual agreement.
True Sacrifice (Psalm 51:16-19; Isaiah 58:5-7)
He had a problem. Every night he would slip up to his roof telling himself he was just going to do a little star gazing. Unfortunately, stars weren’t the only thing he gazed upon. As his eyes fell upon her beautiful form he found his thoughts keeping him longer than he wanted to stay, taking him farther than he wanted to go, and costing him more than he wanted to pay. King David committed adultery. He was a broken man. He could try to make up for it by fasting more. Or, perhaps he could give more of his time to the local soup kitchen. But that wouldn’t work. He needed work done on the inside before he could worship on the outside.
“You don’t want sacrifices. If I gave an entirely burned offering, you wouldn’t be pleased. A broken spirit is my sacrifice, God. You won’t despise a heart, God, that is broken and crushed. Do good things for Zion by your favor. Rebuild Jerusalem’s walls. Then you will again want sacrifices of righteousness— entirely burned offerings and complete offerings. Then bulls will again be sacrificed on your altar.”
The psalmist tells us that God is not more interested in burnt sacrifices than he is in us living in reality. We are broken people and when worship as if we are not broken then our worship is not true. A broken spirit and crushed heart are what God desires. Why? Because he specializes in healing such brokenness. Once we have confessed the true state of our being God will then delight in our sacrifices. To worship God in truth requires offering true sacrifices from the inside out.
True Religion (James 1:27; Matthew 25:31-46; Romans 12:1)
Worship involves religion. Leviticus describes the care in which God prescribes the ritual worship life of Israel. The danger with religion is that it can too easily replace life. True religion, worshipping in truth, looks more like caring for widows and orphans than saying the correct liturgical phrase.
True religion also involves keeping oneself from being polluted by the world. Religion, by definition, is a binding of God to humanity, humanity to God and humanity to one another. This binding must take place or we will bind ourselves to the world. Just look at what happened to Israel while they waited for Moses to come down the mountain.
The prophet Isaiah records God rebuking Israel’s fasting and mourning. Instead, God desires truth in action. True sacrifice looks like releasing the slave, feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, and not hiding from one’s family.
“Is this the kind of fast I choose, a day of self-affliction, of bending one’s head like a reed and of lying down in mourning clothing and ashes? Is this what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?
Isn’t this the fast I choose: releasing wicked restraints, untying the ropes of a yoke, setting free the mistreated, and breaking every yoke? Isn’t it sharing your bread with the hungry and bringing the homeless poor into your house, covering the naked when you see them, and not hiding from your own family?”
This is what Paul describes in Romans 12:1. Present your bodies as a living sacrifice – broken and invested in the broken. In so doing, we fulfill our ten logikein latreian – our logical priestly service. (This is far different from most contemporary translations that read, your “act of spiritual worship”.) This service is visible. Truth looks like something.
True Words (Romans 1:21)
Not only does our worship manifest itself in true outward works of righteousness it manifests itself in true words spoken of God. In fact, Jesus taught his disciples to pray by having them begin with hallowing God’s name – reciting the nature and actions of God. The Psalms are full of writers telling God what God already knows. When we fail to acknowledge God and give thanks to God – with our words, in reality – then our reasoning becomes pointless and our foolish hearts darkened.
This is why we must always be aware of the content of the songs we sing and prayers we pray. What may feel true may not always be true. We may “feel” the movement of the Spirit and be completely off the mark. On the other hand, we may not “feel” the move of the Spirit, but be worshipping in truth nonetheless.
Worshipping God in truth means to worship within reality. Real worship does not spiritualize away our sinfulness, nor does it downplay the reality of holiness. Real worship is more about loving our neighbor than loving our own style of worshipping. Real worship focuses on God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – and proclaiming the good news of all that the Father has done, is doing and is going to do through Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.