In the Bible, Jesus specifies that God is looking for real worshippers. By hearing these words we deduct that there are two types of worship: one is real worship, and the other is fake, or false.
Let’s look at the characteristics of both of these ways of approaching God. What does the Bible actually say? Let’s discover the character of God by understanding what our Beloved is looking for, and how He likes to relate to us.
Worship that is true
It’s always good to look at the context of a passage in scripture. I have covered the subject of the nature of worship and worshipping in this article — to read about how to worship in spirit and truth, click here.
In John 4, Jesus tells the Samaritan woman that up to that moment she has worshipped what she doesn’t know: “You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews”. (John 4:22 NKJV) Jesus is making a point here. He explains to the woman that she must know the one she worships. If we want our worship to be real we need to know who we worship.
Up to that moment, very few people had the privilege to know God personally, but from that moment on, Jesus reveals His heart to relate to us. The sense of belonging to something bigger that has always been a part of us finally has an answer. Jesus is taking worship to another level. He is taking it to a relationship!
In verse 23 of John 4, we see the famous verses where Jesus says that God is looking for true worshippers who will worship Him in spirit and in truth. This underlines that there is a connection between our spirit and the Spirit of God.
If we look at the meaning of the original text where it talks about the true worshippers, the word true in the old Greek is:
- “Aletheia” which means genuine, authentic, true.
From the meaning of this word, we understand that real worship must be authentic, honest and sincere. If our worship doesn’t
reflect our heart, then it’s not authentic, and therefore will
not be accepted by God.
If we aren’t genuine
The opposite of being genuine is being a hypocrite. We can see an example of God not appreciating worship in the Gospel of Matthew when Jesus calls the Pharisees hypocrites:
7 Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:
8 ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth,
And honor Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.
9 And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”
(Mattew 15:7-9 NKJV)
Why would Jesus use such strong words? As we just saw, God looks at the heart behind the action. No matter what our offerings are, if they don’t match the sentiment of our hearts, they will not be accepted.
After the exile, the Jewish people became very strict with their observation of the Law. They allowed the rules to become more important than the people and the purpose of the Law, which was not only to point out the sin but also to reveal God’s love, now overshadowed by merely observing the rules. Many times Jesus pointed out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees who observed the law without understanding it.
These are some other scriptures where we see God refusing the offerings of His people when they became pure rituals.
- Amos 5:21-23 (NKJV)
21 “I hate, I despise your feast days,
And I do not savor your sacred assemblies.
22 Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings,
I will not accept them,
Nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings.
23 Take away from Me the noise of your songs,
For I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments.
- Isaiah 29:13 (NKJV)
Therefore the Lord said:
“Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths
And honor Me with their lips,
But have removed their hearts far from Me,
And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men…”
In these passages, it’s quite obvious how God feels about false worship, especially when we read about the people’s hearts being distant from the One whom they worshipped. If we have a distant heart we can’t pretend that real worship will flow out of it.
God is looking for a connection between our spirit and His. Having a distant heart is a rejection of God’s invitation to engage in His love. It’s so easy to allow this to happen in our lives, and some, or many times, we can easily end up having the same attitude of the Pharisees.
Are we like the Pharisees?
When reading scripture, it is often easy to fall into the trap of judging and thinking that we would never do the same wicked things that people in the Bible did. How could we be hypocrites like the Pharisees? How could they have done such things? Etc.
Reflecting on these simple questions, we may see that sometimes we also have been hypocrites and that real worship is not always present in our lives.
- Do the words we speak or sing always reflect our actions?
- When we say or sing: “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders.
Let me walk upon the waters wherever You would call me.
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander…,” (from the popular song Oceans by Hillsong). Do we really mean it?
- Do we understand what we are saying?
- Who are we looking for approval from? Men or God?
- Do we believe in Him 100% and trust Him 100%?
These questions are not meant to make us feel bad. God knows our efforts to obey Him, but at the same time, it’s good to ask ourselves these questions. I would call it a spiritual check-up that allows us to weigh our words and take them seriously. We need to know if what we are offering to God is false or real worship.
Real worship vs false worship
Real worship is genuine, authentic and honest. This way of approaching God not only pleases Him but also makes us grow. When we trust God and experience His faithfulness, our love and faith grow, but most of all our love for Him is fed because we will realize the love He has for us.
On the other side, false worship is hypocritical, distant, fake, and religious. This way of approaching God not only saddens Him but also distances our hearts from Him. If we go down this road we will end up not hearing His voice and we will need to repent in order to reestablish the lost relationship.
Like any relationship, living a real relationship with God requires love, interest in the other person, trust, respect, and passion. These are the keys to real worship. If we are passionate and full of love for God, we will be willing to give up anything that would hinder our relationship, just like we would for anybody who we really love. After all, what Jesus did on the cross was for us, right? He gave everything for love!
Cultivating our love allows us to be sincere with God, and in the times when we can’t make it, His grace will be enough for us. Take David for example; he may have sinned a lot, but he was always seeking after God’s heart.
God is looking for real relationships. Just imagine if we told our spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend, “I love you so much.” Then, at the first opportunity, we run after the next person we meet. How would our spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend feel?
All we need to do is to be ourselves and allow Him to love us. The rest will come naturally. It may cost us a lot, but this love is worthy of it all. 😉
May the Lord bless us and help us to become better worshippers.
I hope you have enjoyed this article. Let me know what you think about this article and your opinions on real and false worship. Please leave a comment below.
Wish you the best,
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