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Principles of True Worship

Jesus initiated true worship, but too many Christians are still bound up in the traditions of the past.

He said, from now on the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth (John 4:23). These are the kind of worshippers He seeks (Jn 4:23). Because God is spirit, those who worship Him MUST worship in spirit and truth (Jn 4:24).

Here are some principles to help you understand and truly worship Him.

An evangelist wrote to me recently. He told me of how God had spared his vehicle, and protected him from death or serious injury, along with those who were with him at the time.

He was travelling at speed when a tyre blew out. They changed the wheel and continued their journey on the spare tyre. Then, soon afterwards, THAT tyre also burst! Satan was certainly attacking them in their venture!

Satan always does attack God’s servants in whatever way God allows him to. We have to be vigilant about our lives, so that we do not leave the door ajar for the devil to come in and cause trouble.

Our evangelist friend and his party were saved from disaster, but the mishap was a setback to them which could have been avoided if they had been more vigilant spiritually. There are spiritual lessons to be learned from the incident.

The Devil’s Design

The blow-outs were not merely 'time and chance'. If it had happened once, then you could put that down to 'just one of those things'. But twice? God allowed that to occur as a sign that something was wrong. The devil was attacking them. He had got through their spiritual armoury to inflict damage. How?

In this particular instance, I believe the root of the problem had to do with accepting a religious spirit. In some cultures, Christians find it hard to divorce themselves from their past. They often equate religious activity, or religious organisation with doing the will of God. But it’s not. It’s nothing more than religious posturing – a self-righteous response, displayed in ‘works of the flesh’.

Jesus wasn't religious. Nor did He hold religious services or meetings. He just didn't. He was 'normal'.

Sometimes I have thought that perhaps the best thing that could happen to the churches is if everything were shut down and stopped, and everyone went to work in the fields. Work is humbling. Religious activity is self-elevating.

Ministers can easily get elevated and that is wrong when they seek it, or promote it – even if they do so unintentionally. When church policy or practice has the effect of causing the people to look to the minister, instead of to God, a blasphemy has occurred which will leave an entry point for the devil to come in.

But this situation is rife in churches. Wherever you look, wherever God’s people gather together to worship Him, you find men in the ministry taking Jesus’ place to one degree or another. Pastors end up being exalted or elevated and asserting themselves as overlords instead of shepherds caring for the flock. Spiritually, members find themselves put down, in a lower position, where they are looking up to the ministry. It is not uncommon to see ministers and church leaders being exalted as popes in their sphere of activity. When that occurs, they take the place of the Holy Spirit to a large extent, and activities become humanly organised instead of spiritually directed. This is the way to push the Holy Spirit out and let the devil in.

Hierarchy in the Church

It is very significant that Jesus gave no instructions to the disciples on how to govern the emerging Church other than these:

You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them [the ‘ordinary’ people], and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave (Matt 20:25-27).

...do not be called ‘Rabbi’ [an exalted status, a position of authority over those whom he taught]; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and YOU ARE ALL BRETHREN (Matt 23:8).

Equality of spiritual status is what Jesus promoted, not élitism or spiritual superiority of ministry over members. There’s no such thing promoted in the New Testament. It derives from Babylon and is little different from the system of government in this world.

Most Christians simply don’t realise that hierarchy in the Church is satanic!

The assuming of ministry titles furthers that hierarchic dominion. For example, in today’s society a Bishop or Elder is regarded as a figurehead OVER the church members. It wasn’t that way in the apostolic Church. [1]

The apostles considered themselves no more superior than other brethren. They regarded themselves as on the same level. They were truly humble after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Their position was not one of rank but of function. (There is an important but subtle difference!) They realised that they had a responsibility to spiritually care for the flock, but they did not abuse that, like so many ministers do today, and assert a human authority OVER them.

Their authority was spiritually given, not humanly asserted. You probably don’t know what I mean by that, because this truth is esoteric to the physical mind. It is a spiritual truth that is only spiritually discerned.

Quite simply the evidence of whether any man has spiritual authority – God-given authority to perform a function in building up the Church – is whether there is miraculous testimony of the presence of God in his life.

Paul was an apostle, and he testified that the evidence of his apostleship was in the signs and wonders God performed through him (2 Cor 12:12). Just because a minister may claim to have authority doesn’t mean he has. If he has been appointed by other men in an organisation called the Church of God... or Church of... something else, that authority he wields is merely human. It is a counterfeit of the divine authority God gives His true servants. And, as Paul said, it is evidenced by miraculous testimony.

A hierarchic position over laity in some organisation calling itself a Church of God is not evidence of the man’s authenticity as a minister of Jesus Christ. False ministers are present, too! And they don’t have God’s authority. They act for Satan.

Do you know how to tell the difference between a true minister and one who is false? You need to discern and to test the spirits! (1 Jn 4:1.) [2]

Any ministry position is a position of service, not of lordship over others. When churches are established perpetuating a hierarchic system, they are doing the devil’s work. It is his design, formed to bring you into bondage to him!

Those who worship in spirit and truth are released from under the dominion of men. They come into the freedom of the sons of God, out from under oppressive, restrictive spiritual regimes that hold people down, that restrict the spread of the gospel, and prevent you moving on into greater union with God.

Worship in Spirit and in Truth

So, what is worship in spirit and in truth? It is simply this. You worship God by your heart response. “In truth” means in sincerity. And “in spirit” means you connect to His Spirit via your spirit. The result of that union – which transcends the physical realm of your five senses – is often evidenced by the manifestation of spiritual gifts.[3]

Jesus shows His presence by His participation in your meeting.

For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them (Matt 18:20).

A large number of believers meet together for what they call ‘worship’ which is not worship at all. It’s a social gathering. It’s to please themselves. Or it’s merely to perform a weekly ritual. Many gather out of habit or custom. They go to meet with others who have the same beliefs in their heads. But what is in their heart! What is their innermost motive? What is their driving desire? Is it something that revolves around themselves, or something that is centred on love toward God?

I have seen people totally deceived, going to church each week and psychologically bowing down to the minister who stands up in front of them and preaches to them. He’s not being moved by the Spirit of God in his preaching. He’s being moved by a motive of control. What he says is designed to keep his congregation under his dominion, and “in his church”. Where he thinks that his or his church’s control is threatened by someone else who might ‘steal his sheep’, he says things to maintain his influence over them.

His motive is not one of spiritually nourishing the flock. It’s one of selfish ambition and preservation of the human organisation, to prevent it disintegrating. He’s not intent on letting Jesus enter the building. And he certainly doesn’t want Jesus giving spiritual gifts to members of his congregation which would seem to ‘elevate’ them to a more spiritual plane than him!

But when you worship in spirit, Jesus DOES come in. You can’t keep Him out! He walks through walls. He walks through the walls of your building and through the walls of your mind, when you welcome Him in.

Those who sincerely love God, who want to fellowship with Him in worship meetings, have an instant union with Him in the spirit. And when those members are allowed to speak, to express what Jesus is conveying to them in the spirit (through the gifts of the Spirit), Jesus provides encouragement and uplift. He demonstrates that He IS present.

Sadly, most pastors of churches that do not accept the spiritual gifts – which Jesus gives to all in His Church who accept them – block Jesus’ entry by their preaching and practice. They bar Him at the door.

About one such church (the WCG) years ago, it was jokingly said that members left their brains at the door. It was true. And it’s probably not much different today. Members allowed their human masters (the WCG ministry) to think for them. They didn’t worship in spirit and in truth. They just didn’t worship!

This is how Jesus said we are to love and worship Him:

... with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37).

You certainly can’t do that if you leave your brains at the entrance of your church! Members are not to be totally subservient to ministers. They are entitled to an equal say in the spiritual activities of the church they belong to. If you are not permitted that right in your church, you are being denied true freedom to worship God in spirit and in truth. You are being coerced or manipulated into believing a lie and giving your homage to the human overlords who are usurping Jesus’ headship in the Church!

This is a serious matter. Some have lost their salvation by doing so!

You Could Lose Your Salvation!

The society we live in, with the customs and behaviour we have inherited from it, are all Babylonian in origin. Control, hierarchy, dominance, superiority, elevation, élitism are all of this wrong system. Yet, it is natural for people to follow, without thinking, down the path they have been used to treading. But it can lead to oblivion!

On 25th January 2001, God gave me a dream about this abuse of authority in the Church.

I was shown many people all standing in tightly regimented rows and blocks. They were so regimented that not one was out of line. There was a woman over them who controlled them. This woman was in the WCG, our former church association. She was a 'good' woman (or so people thought!). She was always 'serving'. She made the tea after services. She was a Martha in that church. She was kind, friendly. She was submissive to her husband, to the church and to its ministry. She was never confrontational or argumentative. She seemed a paragon of virtue. But what God saw within was something totally different to what people saw on the outside!

When we were cast out of that church and falsely accused, she knew it was unjust treatment. She went to the pastor who did the dirty deed, and asked him why he had done it. He said little to really enlighten her. (He didn’t want to expose his evil motives.) He encouraged her to fall in line with his wishes. She did. She did nothing effectively to follow her conscience which was bothering her about our mistreatment. (That prompting in her spirit was coming from God.)

Some years later, we tried to contact her. We went to her home, and we got a hostile reception. She had allowed the devil to push the door of her mind open through the false minister who disfellowshipped us, and she had accepted obeisance to him (the false minister) instead of obeisance to God. She lost truth. She lost the Holy Spirit. She lost her salvation. God showed me in a dream that she was not saved and cannot be rescued because she chose to deny God by exalting the church and its human leadership.

Why did God show me her in this dream of 25th January 2001? Because she represents the religious spirit in people who 'play church'. She was religious. She was 'good'. She did 'good' things. She acted out the part. She was the 'God-fearing' lady. (Appearances can be very deceptive!) But she was subservient to satanic control in the church, and she furthered Satan's aims through hierarchic dominance, and through control. This sort of control is satanic!

Where there is hierarchic dominance over others, where there is a situation of "we are the ministry; you are the members", or the "us-and-them" mentality, of ecclesiastics and laity, you have the devil's system masquerading as God's.

In this dream, this lady was shown as taking my keys; my car key and the key to my house. Thus, she was effectively taking away my freedom to go where God wanted me to go, and to live how He had decreed. By doing this, she took God's place in my life (this was in the dream, not in actuality). And the one behind this was the devil. He was trying to get me to transfer my spiritual loyalties from worshipping God to worshipping him by following church leadership! Satan had succeeded with this woman, but he hadn’t got me. Don’t let him get you!

MANY of God’s people are not careful enough about this matter of spiritual loyalty. Many inadvertently take their rightful loyalty to God and transfer it to the devil through subservience to men. They don’t see it because it is subtle.

Principles of True Worship

A brief word about worship meetings. Three things will encourage the Spirit of God to guide and prevent human control dominating:

  • Sincerity,

  • Simplicity,

  • Spontaneity.

Sincerity is the basis of true religion. It is not “going through the motions” or sticking to some ritual or formula for ‘worship’. It’s not following church tradition. People say, “But we have done things this way for years!” And they don’t want to change. That’s the problem! It’s no wonder they have never experienced the wind of the Holy Spirit coming in and blowing out the cobwebs of neglect and the stuffiness of formalism!

Simplicity can go out the window when meetings become too organised, too erudite, or religious. Simplicity can also mean being plain, without affectation (not false), without put-on airs and graces.

Spontaneity is most important. The larger the meetings, the greater the problem. Meetings can end up so pre-programmed, so organised, that everyone is doing their bit and the Holy Spirit agenda is overlooked. Most churches are guilty of denying the moving of the Spirit because of this.

It is the spontaneous prophetic word, the spontaneous tongues interpretation, the spontaneous praise and worship song, or the spontaneous message that carries the anointing of God. But it is often too difficult for church leaders to allow this spontaneity, because it disrupts their plans, their schedule or undermines their sense of security or control. But no church leader is ever going to experience a greater fellowship with Jesus until he lets Him take control!

Beware church customs and church traditions; church organisation and regimentation. They frequently deny the working of the Spirit. Beware human domination by church leadership.

Any spiritual office should not be for elevation, but for service. But sadly, people's wrong approach, prevailing customs, and circumstances all undermine God's ideal and reduce it to a compromised level where Satan can infiltrate and ruin it.

God wants you to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. When that ideal is realised in the Church we will have a people revived and ready for the return of our Lord.

Malcolm B Heap

[1]   This truth is fully expounded in the book God’s Church – Whose Authority?

[2]   This important subject is covered in the books Apostasy in God’s Church and Testing The Spirits.

[3]   Explained in An Introduction to the Spiritual Gifts

Copyright: Midnight Ministries, PO Box 29, Aylesbury, HP17 8TL, UK