Picture this: it’s a hectic Sunday morning, you’re rushing out the door making sure all the kids are dressed and the dog has eaten, you were already late for church and now the traffic is terrible. When you finally make it into the worship center you’re three minutes late and completely frazzled. With the rushed and downright frustrating morning, you may settle into worship and think “how am I supposed to let go of my mood and truly worship now?” This is the struggle of circumstantial versus sacrificial worship.
John 4:23-24 says “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.”
Before we explore the idea of sacrificial worship, I think it’s important to understand what the Bible is talking about when it asks us to worship in spirit and truth. The idea of worshiping in truth isn’t one that is too difficult to grasp: we know and understand the gospel, and we worship from a place of belief in our sovereign God. But what about this idea of worshiping in spirit? How does that just happen? As humans we are in an inherent struggle between our heart and our head, and I believe the Lord is reminding us of that here. Not only are we asked to worship from a sold-out place of belief in what God has done, but our heart has to be in it, our emotions engaged. It’s not a one or the other situation, but rather a beautiful marriage of worshiping with our head and our heart, in spirit and in truth.
Now that we understand the type of worship God has called us to, we must wrestle with the question that every believer experiences at some point or another in their walk with Christ: “what if I just don’t want to?” What happens when that hectic morning is just too much? Or the argument with your spouse in the car just too frustrating? How do you enter worship in spirit and in truth if you’re just not feeling it?
This is where the idea of sacrificial worship has to come into play. Hebrews 13:15 says “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” Let’s face it, there are going to be times that you may find yourself simply not wanting to worship. You’re tired, you don’t like the song being sung, or you can’t stop thinking about your to-do list. But let me encourage you with this: it is so easy to fully surrender in worship when life is good, or you’re in a happy mood.
But how much more fruitful will your worship be if you come to the Lord in any mood, with any feeling? When we sacrifice ourselves in worship, God has so much room to work in our hearts. Do we only talk to our spouse when the conditions are just right and we’re in a great mood? Absolutely not! We bring to them the full range of feelings and emotions, trusting that it is a safe place. Why do we not bring the same to the Lord in our time of worship?
Sacrifice has been an integral part of worship since the Old Testament, and we see clearly that sacrifice of something valuable was at the center of worshiping God. Now, obviously, worship looks a lot different in the 21st Century, but that element of sacrifice needs to remain. We often take for granted how “easy” worship can be nowadays, but it is so important to remember that we must lay down a part of ourselves to worship in spirit and in truth. When we move away from getting caught in a routine of circumstantial worship, and only “feeling” it when things are good, our relationship with Christ becomes so much deeper and so much more dimensional.
The difference between sacrificial worship and circumstantial worship is the understanding that God is so much more sovereign than anything that happens in our lives. To bring our feelings of frustration and our bad mornings to Him, putting aside our own comfort, and worshiping in spirit and truth is when we see the most beautiful worship.
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