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Is emotion-led worship the same as Spirit-led worship?

Weekly Q&A

Is emotion-led worship the same as Spirit-led worship?
Posted on March 3, 2020  - By Rufus Simon Varghese

What does it mean to worship in ‘Spirit’ and in truth? Do we have conscious control over worship (to ensure that it is derived from the Spirit)? Is this the same as worship that flows from emotion? If not, how do we differentiate between the two?

We would do well to answer this set of questions in two parts.

In ‘Spirit’ and truth

One of the most frequently used texts to talk about worship is John 4:23-24, where it says those who worship the Father must do so in Spirit and in truth. We often look at this verse to talk about our worship in weekly meetings and the decorum found in such meetings. We need to ask if the speaker (Jesus Christ) had such an idea in mind when He spoke these words to the Samaritan woman. For the purpose of this question, we must define a few things:

  1. God seeks a spiritual relationship with physical beings because He is a spirit being. If we human beings want a relationship with the immortal, invisible God, we must relate to Him by the Holy Spirit. Our physical lineage, geography, credentials, nation, race or culture do not qualify us in any way to be in a relationship with God. We must be spiritually renewed and regenerated by the Holy Spirit. The Samaritan woman depended on her race, culture, and mode and place of worship to find her identity before God. Jesus, however, denies that such a qualification will satisfy God, as every person, irrespective of culture, has been stained by sin.
  2. God seeks a spiritual relationship with a person who acknowledges the truth of his status and record as a sinner. God will not enter into a relationship with one who justifies his sin and doesn’t admit his struggle with sin. God doesn’t enter into a relationship with anyone who epitomises falsehood. The Samaritan woman gave a technically true statement when she was asked about her husband. She was living in sin and wasn’t entirely truthful to Jesus in answering Him. Jesus displays His omniscience about her sin, which was violating the same laws that Jesus, who is God, had made for man.

In short, God seeks true worshippers, people who make it their aim to live lives that glorify God. Worship is defined as anything we do with our bodies in response to who God is and what He has done for us in a redemptive manner. Those who are true worshippers are those who relate to God through the Holy Spirit and are those who are truthful and sincere about their lack of qualification before God. Their reliance on the Holy Spirit to start the relationship with the Father and being truthful about themselves is not just at the beginning of their relationship with God; rather, it is an ongoing characteristic in their lives. True worshippers are not limited to geography, culture, nation, language and other barriers that are characteristic of man. They are characterised by the acknowledgment of their spiritual poverty and their dependence on Jesus to cleanse them from their sins.

True worshippers are characterised by the acknowledgment of their spiritual poverty and dependence on Jesus to cleanse from sin

Emotion vs Spirit

Now that we know what worshipping in Spirit and truth means, let’s try to understand how this works in the church setting as well as the individual setting.

Anyone who attends a meeting where children of God gather in the name of Jesus Christ are involved in a corporate worship, where the church gathers to honour and glorify Christ in their bodies. Such a person, who is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, will glorify Jesus through each of his actions and words. To engage in such worship by the Spirit means that we are in control of the Holy Spirit in a way that we are conscious of what we do in honour of Christ. We are not governed by mere emotions.

God, who has redeemed our entire being, expects that we use all of our faculties in glorifying his Son through the Spirit. The Spirit leads us in our minds and conscience to glorify Christ to the joy of the Father. Worship is a willful act made by choice. We cannot be forced to worship. It comes naturally out of a gratitude towards Jesus Christ for what He has done.

We must understand and acknowledge that God is a God of order, unlike the common perception of His preference for lack of order. As we involve in corporate and personal worship, there is a proper place for emotions, along with intellect and will. Worship involves all of our being, which includes intellect, emotion and will. An attempt to show raw emotions and spontaneous actions without a proper rationale or Scriptural basis would seem foolish in the eyes of God.

As we involve in corporate and personal worship, there is a proper place for emotions, along with intellect and will

One such example would be to grossly misinterpret a Scriptural passage to mean what it doesn’t say. Another example would be to try to share an exhortation during worship due to compulsion or for the sake of attention. In yet other cases, due to being carried away by emotions of immense gratitude, we often hear people give praise to the Father and thank Him for coming down to the world in incarnation (the truth is that the Son came down to take the form of a human being). Similarly, all attempts to intellectually think of theology while expressing no gratitude or reverence towards God is equally foolish. There are those who quote theology well in their prayer and praises with the intention of showing off their Bible knowledge to their listeners.

When there is a proper mix of intellect, emotion and will in their fullness that is brought about by the Holy Spirit, that is worship by the Spirit. By our dependence on the Holy Spirit, we use the right theology as we pray and praise, the right emotion that the Scriptures emphasise (nowhere in the Scriptures will we find things like holy barking or holy vomiting); and we do it willingly, not begrudgingly. When we witness any ‘worship’ contrary to these principles, such occurrences ought to give us warning that they are not from the Spirit, but rather masquerade as coming from the Spirit.

Let us be aware of what worshipping in the Spirit means so that we will not fall into the sin of blaspheming against the Holy Spirit.

Rufus Simon Varghese

About Rufus Simon Varghese

Born and raised in Dubai, UAE, Rufus completed his Masters in Theology at Asian Christian Academy in Hosur, India. He has since been involved in personal outreach ministries and teaching youngsters Scripture. Currently based in Ernakulam, India, he is teaching at a Bible school as well as ministering to the Hindi-speaking immigrant working population in Kerala.



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