“These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:8-9 NKJV).
It is not the will of God that anyone would worship, seek or serve Him in vain. God delights in rewarding those who diligently worship, seek and serve Him. The Scripture refers to God as “a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Heb. 11:6 NKJV).
God clearly said in His Word, “I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth; I did not say to the seed of Jacob, ‘Seek Me in vain’; I, the LORD, speak righteousness, I declare things that are right.” (Isa. 45:19 NKJV).
“You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jer. 29:13 RSV).
The Scripture furnishes us with ample testimonies of God’s faithfulness towards those who seek and worship Him as He has commanded them. Unfortunately, many believers today are seeking and worshipping God in vain because they are still seeking and worshipping God according to the oldness of the letter, the Old Testament.
Paul writes, “But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.” (Rom. 7:6 NKJV).
By His death on the cross, the Lord Jesus has consecrated for us a new and living way to seek, serve and worship God (Heb. 10:20). The coming of Jesus into the world and His perfect finished work on the cross has brought a significant shift in mode of worship. Sadly, many believers today don’t realize or appreciate the remarkable paradigm shift in worship in the New Testament.
How should the New Testament believers worship God?
Certainly not with animal sacrifices and food offerings associated with the Old Testament worship, nor according to the Jewish rites and ceremonies!
The Lord Jesus clearly pointed out how to worship God acceptably under the New Covenant in His response to the Samaritan woman’s question about worship. It certainly worth examining!
21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.
22 “You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.
23 “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.
24 “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”(NKJV).
From the Lord’s brief exposition on the New Testament mode of worship to the Samaritan woman, the following truths are clearly presented to us.
First, the New Testament worship is not place-bound:
Under the Law, worship which chiefly involves offering animal sacrifices to God was highly restricted to a designated place (Deut. 12:5-6).
Then, it was a sin punishable by death for any worshipper to offer his sacrifices to God at any place other than where God had chosen (Lev. 17:3-4). Consequently, the Jews highly esteemed and revered where they worship more than the God they sought to worship.
However, under the New Covenant, the place of worship is inconsequential. God no longer dwells in a physical temple but in a human temple, in the hearts of the believers. Therefore, the New Testament saints are no longer under any restrictions in relation to the place of worship.
You are free to worship God anywhere, for God now dwells in you, not in any physical place of worship. Paul queries, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16 NKJV).
The Jews and the Samaritans were at loggerheads over the issue of the right place to worship God according to the Law. That was why the Samaritan woman confronted Jesus, saying, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” (John 4:19-20 NKJV).
Like many believers today, the woman was only concerned about the place of worship and not about the “person” to worship. But, the Lord Jesus pointed out to her that the place of worship was no longer significant.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.” (John 4:21 NKJV).
Apparently, Jesus was not implying that people would no longer worship God in Samaria or in Jerusalem; He was only saying the place where they worship is no longer of any great importance as it was under the Old Covenant.
Unfortunately, many believers today are yet to realize this truth. Consequently, they are still bound to a place of worship, religious organization, or denomination, and so cannot worship God freely at other places.
Second, the New Testament worship is purely spiritual:
Worship under the Old Covenant is purely a physical monotonous service of “offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.” (Heb. 10:11 NKJV).
Under the Law, the worshippers could only worship God according to some types and shadows of Jesus Christ, but not according to the true revelation of Jesus Christ, who is the brightness of God’s glory and the express image of God’s person (Heb. 1:1-3, 10:1).
The New Testament saints, unlike the Old Testament saints, are not expected to worship God in the flesh, according to some types or shadows, or according to some Jewish rites and ceremonies, but in spirit and truth, according to the revelation of God in the person of Jesus Christ.
This is why Paul admonishes, “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.” (Col. 2:16-17 NKJV).
The Lord Jesus clearly pointed out to the Samaritan woman that “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24 NKJV).
God wants us to worship Him in spirit, not in the flesh, and in truth, not according to any form or image of God; for God is a Spirit. God is without a physical body. He is not material. He is not an abstract force. He is absolutely free from all limitations of time and space, and cannot be confined, contained or localized in any temple, church or denomination (Acts 7:48, 17:25).
Like the Samaritans and the Athenians, many people today are worshipping the God they do not really know (John 4:22, Acts 17:22-23). The revelation of God’s person, nature or character is very crucial to your worship of God.
The quality of your worship or service to God is determined by your depth of revelation of God. You cannot worship God acceptably without knowing, accepting or believing Jesus’ revelation and teaching about the true person, nature and character of God.
Unfortunately, many believers today are still seeking to worship God according to the incomplete revelation of God given to the prophets of Old.
The Lord Jesus Christ did not come into the world just to teach us some truths about God, or to give us some new revelations about God. He was God in the flesh – the brightness of God’s glory and the express image of God’s person (Heb. 1:3).
Therefore, anyone who is not worshipping God according to what Jesus revealed about God is not worshipping God acceptably.
John writes, “No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known. (John 1:18 RSV).
In these perilous times, when many carnal men parading themselves as God’s servants are misrepresenting God to people in order to manipulate, exploit and defraud them, it is better for you to seek to know God personally, as revealed in the person and teaching of Jesus Christ.
God’s people today are being defrauded and swindled out of their financial resources and material possessions in the name of all sorts of Old Testament offerings as a mode of worship simply because they don’t know the truth that Jesus Christ is the end, perfection or fulfillment of all the Old Testament laws, offerings, sacrifices, ceremonies, or rites (Rom. 10:4).
While you are supposed to worship God with your substances or material possessions, yet don’t let anyone defraud you in the name of any Old Testament offerings.
Lastly, the New Testament worship must originate in the regenerated heart:
Under the Old Covenant, the worshippers mostly drew near to God only with their mouth, but their heart was far from God. Though they honoured God with their sacrifices, yet their heart was not right with God.
Jesus said concerning them, “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matt. 15:8-9 NKJV).
Beloved, it is vain to seek to worship God from an unregenerated spirit or heart. It is a vain worship to offer God your money or any physical or material offering without you first offering God a throne in your soul.
Stop paying a mere lip service to God without a willing mind to obey God. God wants you to draw near to Him and worship Him not just with your mouth, but with your heart.
Prayer: My Dear Holy Spirit, teach and help me to begin to worship God in spirit and truth, from a regenerated heart and according to God’s revelation in the person of Jesus Christ, in Jesus’ name. Amen.