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Doing Justice in Spirit and in Truth

Recently my pastor based his sermon on John 4, focusing on the verses where Jesus teaches the Samaritan woman that God’s followers must worship Him in spirit and in truth. Since then I have been musing about how that applies when we think about our work as worship. Or consider how it applies to our volunteer hours, time spent promoting social justice issues, advocacy, and every aspect of our lives as we strive to live as socially aware individuals!

Worshipping in Spirit

What does it look like to “do justice” in spirit? God is Spirit (John 4:24); He is not a physical idol. God is not satisfied or even pleased with physical sacrifice that does not reach the spiritual heart of giving. Our good deeds need to acknowledge God’s rule in this world, and in our spirits (soul). Any act of justice, however great or small, should give glory to God, as His hands and feet here in our broken world.

It can be scary to examine my heart and determine if my desire to advocate for victims of human trafficking (or oppressed people in general) is coming from the right place. I do not always know the answer, but I believe that the organizations I am involved with are doing good work, and I desire to support that good work. However, there have certainly been times when I am just going through the motions, and probably even wishing I was not involved at all! I’m not saying that trying to live as God’s instrument should always be enjoyable. Absolutely not. But through the trial and struggle, God provides opportunities for us to mature and (eventually!) enriches our worshipping in spirit. Perhaps the real danger is apathy. Sometimes Christians are accused of giving “lip service”—saying the right things, but not allowing the truth of those words to permeate our soul. Maybe we could also be accused of “action service”—doing the right things, but for the wrong reasons. Some wrong reasons might include personal glory, guilt, peer pressure, or even financial gain.

It can be scary to examine my heart and determine if my desire to advocate for victims of human trafficking is coming from the right place.

Worshipping in Spirit also means that the Holy Spirit takes our efforts and makes them pleasing and acceptable to God. Here is how I hope this works: I decide to place the Lord Jesus at the centre of my life, and my actions reflect this decision to the best of my ability. When I am involved in fundraising, advocacy, et cetera my heart is sometimes grumpy and I don’t always feel very spiritual! But praise God! The Holy Spirit can still take my grumpy days and make them worship to a Holy God.

Worshipping in truth

What does it look like to “do justice” in truth? Worshipping in truth absolutely means turning to scripture. Only in God’s unfailing word can we find perfect truth. Devotionals, books, and even blog articles(!) can be helpful, but they are fallible. Spend time in God’s word. Allow the truth you find there to influence your thoughts and actions. This is worship that is pleasing and acceptable to God.

The truth of Jesus’ love, salvation, and reconciliation is a wonderful truth! But searching for truth does not always feel wonderful. I believe it means being accurate and accountable in everything we do. In other words, using our time and finances effectively. Finding truth in scripture might also mean rethinking a committee, organization, or personal ideology.

Spend time in God’s word. Allow the truth you find there to influence your thoughts and actions.

In Romans 12:1, Paul urges believers to “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” Let’s lift our hearts and bodies in worship to our God! Let the Holy Spirit lead us, as we search for truth. May our worship be pleasing and acceptable. And may our actions be our worship!

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