My fleshy self cannot worship God. Unless I am “in the spirit” my worship bounces off the ceiling or the lowest cloud. My flesh is selfish, focused on me. In my heart, I might even be applauding the “goodness” of what I am doing and not thinking about God at all, even as I sing hymns of praise or lift my hands toward the sky.
God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:24)
Worship is about God, not about me. My mind may desire to adore Him, for all of us love goodness. God is pure goodness, to be admired and exalted, but pure selfishness cannot do that without some sort of “what is in this for me” thinking. I’ve come to this conclusion as the Holy Spirit shows me my own heart.
Jesus said that God is spirit, which is packed with meaning and implications. That word is actually about a breath of wind. He used it to define the One who cannot be defined. Some translators say Holy Spirit, others say Holy Ghost, but ghost isn’t even close to describing God. He is not an apparition floating in the sky. He is a very real person, yet we cannot see Him.
This is one reason why He became a man. We need to see — and He honored that. The reality of God the Father can be seen in the face of Jesus Christ . . . who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. (Colossians 1:15)
But the invisibility of God is not the only issue. He revealed Himself in Jesus Christ, but our sinful minds cannot perceive God in Christ either. That requires two more acts of God. First, the Son of God must reveal God to us. On the road to Emmaus after His resurrection, Jesus walked with two of His disciples and they did not recognize Him. They needed a revelation . . .
All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. (Luke 10:22)
This is not the same kind of revealing as when a person opens a door and then you can see them. It is more like having a new understanding, a new ability to see, for us something like an ah-ha moment when “the lights come on” and now the identity of this person is plain reality. God has to do that.
The second need is another change in us so we can see what Jesus has revealed. This is like the first one, but a bit different in that it is an unveiling but the viewers are wearing blindfolds. Others can explain the vision, but until the blindfolds come off, they cannot see this unveiled thing.
(God) has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13–14)
Those who cannot see God are living in the wrong kingdom. I’ve recently heard it called the “second kingdom” or the kingdom of self. In that frame of mind, God is there, but we are not. We need to turn from that to Christ, and this is the work of God’s Spirit. He does it using His Word and people who share His Gospel. And as we hear and respond, we are moved from that dark place into a new place where He can be seen, just as the Lord told Paul . . .
But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me. (Acts 26:16–18)
This is the place of the Spirit, the spiritual realm. Once in that realm, I’m secure, saved by God and forever His child. However, I can wander. Whenever I am in disobedience to God, my sin is like a blanket thrown over my head. I may be in the kingdom of light, but my eyes are not able to see it as well. Sin dims my vision and also dims my ability to worship God. Because sin is always based on a lie believed, instead of worshiping God in spirit and truth, my spirit is hindered by those lies as well, and I cannot worship.
Everyone has a moral nature and appreciates goodness, even as uninvolved spectators. Most also long to see the goodness of God, but as Jesus said, that ability is tied to our spiritual state. I can worship only because He revealed Himself to me. I can keep that vision true only because of His grace as He keeps me in the spirit — walking in the truth and out from under that blanket.