It’s been said that everyone worships, and everyone is a worshiper. Some worship pleasures. Some worship popularity. But everyone worships something.
In His encounter with the woman at the well in John 4, Jesus declared that God the Father was seeking a special kind of worshiper — a “true” worshiper who would worship Him “in spirit and truth” (John 4:23).
As the rest of John’s Gospel would reveal, this kind of worshiper would be equipped with the truth and empowered by the Spirit to worship God rightly.
Where might we find such a worshiper? And how can we recognize a “true worshiper” when we see one?
Why not look to the Bible for an example? Long before Jesus the Messiah declared the nature of true worship, the anointed king of God’s people and the “sweet psalmist of Israel” (2 Samuel 23:1) recorded the acts and attitudes of his worship in a psalm. Let’s observe King David’s worship in Psalm 63:1-8, from the English Standard Version (ESV).
- O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
- So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
- Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
- So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands.
- My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
- when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
- for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
- My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.
How can we recognize a “true worshiper” when we see one?
King David’s words in Psalm 63 teach us a lot about true worship. From his example, we learn that a true worshiper is one that earnestly and eagerly seeks God (v. 1). A true worshiper intently focuses on seeing God in His “power and glory” (v. 2), recognizing that God’s “steadfast love is better than life” (v. 3). A true worshiper anticipates the opportunity to respond to God with words and actions of praise (vv. 3–5), including joyful singing (v. 7). This worshiper anticipates the satisfaction found only in God, and through remembrance and meditation depends on God for help (vv. 6–8).
David’s example in Psalm 63 prefigures the true worshiper that Jesus refers to in John 4:23, one that worships in “spirit and truth.” This worshiper will seek God earnestly, not in a place (John 4:21), but in a person — Jesus Christ. This worshiper will see God’s glory revealed in the Son, “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). This worshiper will celebrate the coming of the Messiah — as confirmed in John 4:25-26 and detailed in the rest of the New Testament — singing praise of His miraculous birth, perfect life, sacrificial death, and glorious resurrection. This worshiper will trust in Christ alone, depending on Him for peace (John 14:27, 16:33) and salvation (Acts 4:12).
This summer, here in North Carolina, we are looking for the next generation of true worshipers. In particular, we are looking for student worshipers willing to be equipped and empowered to engage the church in Christ-centered worship.
At the Student Worship Academy, these worshipers will be encouraged to seek God, see Christ and express their worship through music and the arts. Current and graduating high school students will be equipped in one of three tracks — music, digital arts or AV technology – and be encouraged to grow as worshipers of Christ.
by Joshua Waggener / Assistant Professor of Music and Christian Worship / Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary