Essay / Misc.

Worship in Truth

“Devotional book” is not usually a term of approval, even among those of us who use them. “Devotionals” can connote fairly lightweight religious reading, a thought for the day, a little something that fits on one page and reminds you to keep the right attitude. But the Dutch Reformed pastor Andrew Murray wrote almost nothing but devotional books, and he wrote them like his hair was on fire. Muscular, searching, and shot through with the numinous, Andrew Murray’s books all tend to be 31 chapters long so you can take them one day at a time for a whole month. And unlike most devotionals, with Murray’s you actually need to stop after one day’s worth, because your mind is full to bursting. In the future, all devotionals will be by Andrew Murray, with Oswald Chambers and Mrs. Cowman thrown in to lighten the mood occasionally.

In the second chapter of With Christ in the School of Prayer: Thoughts on our Training in the Ministry of Intercession, Murray looks at Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus teaches the woman that there are three kinds of worship:

There is first, the ignorant worship of the Samaritans: ‘Ye worship that which ye know not.’ The second, the intelligent worship of the Jew, having the true knowledge of God: ‘We worship that which we know; for salvation is of the Jews.’ And then the new, the spiritual worship which He Himself has come to introduce: ‘The hour is coming, and is now, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth.’

Interesting observation, but then Murray brings it home: “Among Christians one still finds the three classes of worshippers.”

Some who in their ignorance hardly know what they ask: they pray earnestly, and yet receive but little. Others there are, who have more correct knowledge, who try to pray with all their mind and heart, and often pray most earnestly, and yet do not attain to the full blessedness of worship in spirit and truth. It is into this third class we must ask our Lord Jesus to take us; we must be taught of Him how to worship in spirit and truth. This alone is spiritual worship; this makes us worshippers such as the Father seeks.

The fundamental thing, for Murray, is that a new era has dawned with the coming of Christ: he has brought the new kind of worship, making it possible for worshipers to come to God on a new basis. We should take care not to lag behind the times, continuing in a worship appropriate to a previous dispensation but superseded in Christ. In this age of the Spirit, we should worship in spirit.

Murray is at his best when urging Christians to move on to deeper things in their life with God. He knows how to make you feel unsatisfied with your (in fact unsatisfactory) experience of God. But he never makes the error of presenting this call as a task which it is up to you to undertake. Watch how he handles the next part of the phrase, “worship him in spirit and in truth.”

“And in truth” does not just mean “sincerely.” “Worship God in truth” doesn’t just mean “in accordance with the truth of God’s Word.” No, Murray says, “the expression is one of deep and Divine meaning” that goes beyond sincerity and keeping to revealed standards. “Truth” is a name for Jesus: he is the unique Son of God, full of (grace and) truth. He declares, “I am the truth and the life.”

In the Old Testament all was shadow and promise; Jesus brought and gives the reality, the substance, of things hoped for. In Him the blessings and powers of the eternal life are our actual possession and experience. Jesus is full of grace and truth; the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth; through Him the grace that is in Jesus is ours in deed and truth, a positive communication out of the Divine life. And so worship in spirit is worship in truth; actual living fellowship with God, a real correspondence and harmony between the Father, who is a Spirit, and the child praying in the spirit.

“Worship in truth” means “worship in Christ,” which is where the new worship takes place: not in Samaria or Jerusalem or anywhere except within the sphere of this one who is “a positive communication out of the Divine life” making possible “actual living fellowship with God.” This is not a task to be achieved, but a gift to be accepted.

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