Summary: What does it mean when we worship Him in spirit and in truth?
The Essence of Worship
Open your Bibles to John 4 where Jesus is talking to the Samaritan woman at the well. While you’re turning there I’ll tell you the subject of this morning’s message - The Essence of Worship.
(John 4:21-24) Jesus said to her, “Woman believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall you worship the Father. You worship that which you do not know; we worship that which we know; for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit; and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
The phrase I’d like you to underline in your mind is toward the end of verse 23 where it says “for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.” Recently I was driving home from Houston with Nathanael - Nathanael was in the back seat sleeping, or reading - and I was praying and all of a sudden I was overwhelmed with gratefulness to God for my life. I was just filled with thankfulness to the point that I felt like I was going to burst. Have you ever had an experience like that? But something even stranger happened next, and this doesn’t happen to me very often, but I had a vision - or what approximated a vision - I think it really was a vision from the Lord because it was intense, it was sudden and unexpected and it has grown in intensity in my mind’s eye since that time. What I saw were two big hands reach deep into my chest, even into my heart, and open it up. What I saw there was something incredibly beautiful. I saw a concert of praise and worship going on in the inner room of my heart. That is so unusual, because probably like you, when I try to look into my heart with my natural eyes what I see is all the bad stuff. I see the anger, the selfishness, greed and lust and all this stuff. But this time, I believe what I saw is what God is doing in there. There is a sanctifying work going on in our hearts that we aren’t aware of. There is a consistent or continual work of praise and worship ascending to the Father in that deepest place of our hearts. I wonder if the reason we see all the junk is because God is pushing that to the outside, to the outer rim of our hearts as he is sanctifying that inner place. After all, maybe we should believe Him when he says, “I am at work in you both to will and to do my good pleasure.” And I am confident of this very thing that He who began a good work in us will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. I want you to be encouraged this morning as we start to talk about worship that God is doing a sanctifying work in you. You may be worshipping in that deepest place of your heart all the time and not even be aware of it. Doesn’t it make sense that we may not even be aware of 90% of what God is doing in us. We only see so little and in such a limited way.
I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about worship. Here’s Jesus with the Samaritan woman and he says to her, “You worship that which you do not know.” Now, a careful reading of that passage reveals something and what it reveals is this: He wasn’t just saying her concept of the Father was limited. He was saying more than that - He was saying her whole system of worship, her preconceived ideas, her patterns of worship are skewed, or just flat wrong. There is evidence of that because she tries to draw him into this Jewish/Samaritan argument that has been going on about where the holy place is to worship. And Jesus says all of that is wrong now with my coming - He didn’t add that at that point - but he was beginning to say all of that is wrong and those who worship in spirit and the truth can worship anywhere at any time. Even though I had this wonderful experience in the car I have to confess that when it comes to trying to think more deeply about worship I can relate somewhat to the Samaritan woman. I begin to ask myself questions like this: Do I really understand what it is to worship the Living God? Do I have certain misconceptions about worship? Am I missing some of the richness of communion that God intends for me because of some lack of understanding on my part? Perhaps the most daunting question of all is this: When God seeks me out, will he find a true worshiper? Will he assess me to be one of his true worshipers?