Jesus tells us—in his encounter commonly referred to as “The Woman at the Well”—we are to worship God in spirit and in truth. But what does that mean, and how do we do it? Sometimes spirit is translated with an uppercase “S” which refers to the Holy Spirit who is given to us to reveal truth. However, sometimes it is translated with a lowercase “s”—the idea of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, which is how we are commanded to love the Lord.
Regardless of the translation, the word most often used in the New Testament tells us that worship is a posture before God as much as it is a declaration to God. We are to worship with our hearts and bodies bowed in reverence to his holiness, otherness, and sovereignty. Worship begins with recognizing our position in relation to God’s. We are not equals, but we are loved as children. We are not peers, even though we are friends of God. We are not holy, yet we have been declared righteous because of what Jesus did for us. God was, is, and will always be, solely worthy of worship.
How do we worship in truth? We are to worship God for who he is, not who we want him to be. Our worship should be guided by the truth of the Gospel, the Word of God, and what he tells us about himself. We are loved, forgiven, made right before God through grace alone, and we should worship him for all of those things and more. But we are also sinners and called to take up our cross, to endure suffering in the Lord, to be humble, and to live a life worthy of the calling of our faith. Whether we worship with song or silence, it is to be from a posture of reverence and echo words of truth from the very Word of God.
Confession plays a big part in this posture. Understanding that all we bring to the throne of God is our own sin, we need to confess it … admit weaknesses, failures, shortcomings, habits, addictions, and hang-ups. We need to own up to our unique humanness and confess and repent, vow to change our mind and direction, humble ourselves before the Lord for our worship to be received as authentic. True worship is offered from a heart turned toward God, a mind guided by the Spirit of truth, a soul submitted to the holiness of the Lord, and the strength made possible through faith.