There’s a saying among (right handed) guitar players: “Your left hand is what you know, but your right hand is what you feel.” The left hand is used to form actual chords which had to be learned over time, and the right hand is simply used to play the strumming or picking pattern. While the right hand is instrumental, it’s secondary to what the left hand is doing as it forms chords. The left hand had to learn information about the chords, develop hand strength, take time to toughen up the fingertips, and to change chords not only quickly, but smoothly as muscle memory is developed with every hour of practice. In comparison, the right hand simply strums, incorporating different patterns and styles to create the feel, the emotion, if you will, of the song. There are many songs with the same chords played in the same sequence, but they feel drastically different because of the various strumming patterns of those songs.
The chord hand is objective. That hand is truth. The other hand is feeling. But both are vital play well. Someone may know every chord under the sun, but if their right hand only knows one strumming pattern, then it will dramatically take away from the feel of the song even if the correct chord or note is being played. On the other hand (pun intended), if someone has a knack for using strumming patterns effectively, but can’t play the chords correctly, it will sound like noise, not music. They are both important sides of the same coin, but the chord hand is the one that’s foundational. Anyone can bang away on guitar strings and it will sound awful; there has to be some knowledge of the objective truth of guitar chords to make the instrument do what it was designed to do.
In a similar way, Jesus tells us our worship must be in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). Jesus wasn’t so much defining worship as He was describing how to worship. The Woman at the Well whom Jesus was addressing in John chapter 4, knew what worship was, but He had to remove the cultural limits that had been placed on worship in their society as well as cut straight to the sin issues in her personal life of which she needed to repent. He was saying that worship is not bound to a specific time or place, instead, genuine worship is about the posture of the heart, rather than the body (John 4:21-23).
Essentially, Jesus corrected her assumptions regarding worship and explained principles vital for you and I to understand as well. Jesus described how we must worship the Father by using two words: spirit and truth. The spirit referred to is not the Holy Spirit, but rather our rational soul, mental disposition, will, attitude, etc. The truth Jesus speaks of is the word of God (John 17:17). The Bible is the source of ultimate truth and therefore the standard against which all other truth claims should be measured.
Understanding how these two are related is fundamental to our understanding of how to worship: it ought to be an enthusiastic, vibrant, grateful outpouring of our spirit. But those emotions rightly understood are in response to the truth revealed to us in the Scriptures. Emotion that’s not anchored by the truth results in little more than a fleeting, pseudo-spiritual experience. At the same time, worship that’s theologically sound yet devoid of emotion lands you in the other ditch. Both have to be rightly understood in their respective roles to maintain balance. When our focus is so much on the emotional aspect of our worship that we neglect the truth, we are like a guitar that’s being strummed without engaging the strings on the fretboard–just noise. But when our minds are engaged by the truth of who God has revealed Himself to be and our emotions overflow into song as we ponder and meditate on the truth, we, like a guitar properly played, sing the way our Father created us to sing.
“God is king of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding.” Ps. 47:7