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Well, what kind of tree are you? Great thoughts from my good friend, Don.


**** This is an excerpt from Captivated by Christ: Focusing on Him published in 2008.

I’ve always been amazed by John 4:23: “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” Here Jesus indicates that true worship of all that God is necessitates worshipping with all that we are. This is the type of worship that God desires. Just as intriguing as the subject of this passage is its audience, an adulterous Samaritan woman who sought spiritual sustenance. Christ could have revealed His advice on worship to His disciples or the religious folks of the day, but He chose a commoner with deep rooted sin issues (See John 4:18). 

Worship, Jesus says, is a well-spring of spiritual vitality. But, like the Samaritan woman to whom He spoke, I have not always understood what it means to worship in a way pleasing to God. Part of my confusion was a misinterpretation of John 4:23. Growing up, I was led to believe that truth must be combined with the activity of the Holy Spirit in order for true worship to happen. Although there is truth in this point, I’ve since come to realize that the word translated “Spirit” to me as a child is actually “spirit” with a small “s.” That suggests something that many of us miss. While worship must be centered on an intellectual understanding of the truth of who Jesus is, it must also be done with the involvement of our emotions or affections. 

You see, true worship is both intellectual and emotive. I believed my worship was doctrinally orthodox, but I often felt my heart was unmoved as I attempted to come into God’s presence. I had the “worship the Father in truth” part down, but I wasn’t doing so well on the “in spirit” part. Since I have always struggled with suppressing my emotions, I had allowed the “in spirit” aspect of my worship to pale in comparison to my intellectual worship. Thankfully, God prompted me to ask Him for help in worshipping Him with my affections as well as my head. He graciously responded to my request. 

Suddenly, emotion began to play a new and amazing role in my worship experiences. I began to acknowledge God’s incredibleness with my whole heart. As I did, I found myself spiritually moved in much deeper ways. I discovered a new appreciation of God’s worthiness (from which the word worship comes), developed a sense of reverent awe, increased in thankfulness for all of His gifts, felt an utter dependence on Him, and established a greater and more intense vision of all of His divine attributes such as holiness, justice, wrath, love, and sovereignty. In short, I found myself falling more in love with Christ than ever before. 

This process of learning to worship with my heart came to a head at a typical baptismal service at the church I was attending. As water cascaded from the face of one who had just dedicated his life to the Lord, I became overwhelmed. Suddenly, all the truth packaged into the act of baptism swept over my heart. I felt as if I was ushered into the throne room of grace! I began to weep as my intellectual understanding of the sacrament crashed into and then merged with the core of my affections, Christ Himself. I was emotionally transported. My vision of God and His grace captured my spirit. I believe I have softly cried at every subsequent baptism. 

Emotion is not the most important aspect of worshipping God. I have come to believe, however, that it is an integral part of fully acknowledging who Christ is and what He has done. I have found that as I ponder God’s truth I am increasingly moved in my spirit. As my spirit is moved by His awesome presence, I seek more knowledge of God and His Word. I believe this dynamic is God-pleasing. He seeks worship based not just on head-knowledge but on heart application. 

Like the Samaritan woman, I desire nourishment that only comes from the total experience of worshipping God in “spirit and in truth.” May God increase in both my heart and my mind the desire for more of Him.


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