Summary: This sermon seeks to lay a proper foundation for biblical worship that is wonderful to Jesus, not necessarily to us.
“The Vision of Wonderful Worship”
A paramedic was asked on a local Dallas TV talk-show program: “What was your most unusual and challenging 911 call?” “Recently,” the paramedic began, “we got a call from that big white church on 11th and Walnut. A frantic usher was very concerned that during their worship service an elderly man passed out in a pew and appeared to be dead. The usher could find no pulse and there was no noticeable breathing.” “What was so unusual and demanding about this particular call?” the interviewer asked. “Well,” the paramedic said, “we carried out four guys before we found the one who was dead.”
Folks, whether we realize it or not the church of the Lord Jesus Christ is on the “endangered species” list. In many churches the preaching is as dry and stale as a year-old piece of bread. The singing sounds like folks need a good dose of Geritol or Castor Oil or both. If someone were to shout, “Amen” they’re stared into silence. Heaven forbid they stand up and start praising Jesus for that’ll be grounds for calling the police for disturbing the peace. Too many churches have become mausoleums for the dead rather than a coliseum of praise for Jesus. Now, on the other side of the dead church is the delirious church. They’re so excited a tranquilizer couldn’t calm them down to a moment of meditation if fired from a high-powered rifle straight into their heart. They’ve got a band that sounds just like that hullabaloo down at Harry’s Honky Tonk on Saturday night. They think they’ve got the spirit of Pentecost but all they’ve got is the spirit of the age, prostituting themselves to the world’s flair and flim-flam. The preachers in the pulpits of these churches choose deliberately to read a text out of the Bible and never preach what it says. It is nothing less than Isaiah’s denunciation of prophesying smooth things from their Sunday morning stage show. But this condition is nothing new. Ecclesiastes 1:9 says, “there is no new thing under the sun.” The First Dry-Gulch Downtown Baptist Church and the Hootenanny and Horse Collar Community Fellowship were exactly what Jesus was talking about to this woman at the well. You had the Samaritans and the Jews. You had the mountain worship and the metropolis worship. Some worship in spirit - that’s the Pentecostals, the shoutin’ mountain Samaritans, and the community churches with their powerful crowd-drawing praise bands. Then some worship in truth - that’s the dry, orthodox, sterile, prideful, and icily cold Baptist churches that won’t let you raise more than one hand or be arrested by the deacons. You see, there really isn’t anything new. They had the same problems then as we do today and Jesus was and still is trying to get our worship right.
Folks, when worship isn’t right the church isn’t right. The church cannot please God one whit without her worship right. The Father seeketh such, the Father seeketh such to worship Him in spirit and in truth. I have been mandated today to give you four things Christ indicated in our text today that will get our worship right in the church.
The Essence of Worship
First of all, we never get our worship right until we understand the essence of worship. That word “essence” means whatever is the singlemost, significant individual feature of something. If you go to one of these fancy department stores like Peebles or Nieman Marcus, you can buy a perfume by Marc Jacobs called Essence, that is if you’ve got money to blow. The stuff costs $60.00 for 3 ounces. Why is it so expensive? Because they claim to have distilled from the gardenia flower the single significant aroma and made it into a perfume you can splash behind your ears and drive a man wild. Such is the hype of the advertising world to take your money. Marc Jacobs also has cucumber, daisy, orange, and grass perfumes which claim to have captured the essence of those natural products which God made in the first place. Why don’t they just rub a green cucumber behind their ear or orange peel instead. That would be cheaper. The point I’m trying to make here is that Jesus distills the essence of real wonderful worship in verse 21: “Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.”
I want to give it so plain to you today so you can take it home with you. You have not worshiped just because you have come to church. Plenty of people come to church and never worship even though they think they did. You have not worshiped even though you sung, prayed, or even preached. All of that could be a performance rather than a position. Jesus says it is not the performance, nor the place that matters. Worship is all about getting yourself in a position of being in the presence of Almighty God. Now, let me ask you this. When you come to worship on Sunday do you meet with God or do you just meet with the preacher and your friends? You can meet with the songbook, the hymn book and your pocketbook but if you haven’t been able to get into the presence of God you’ve missed having a worship experience altogether. You know, as I’ve studied for this week’s message, I’ve come to the conclusion that a lot of what we do in church is just as much a farce in the eyes of God as what this woman at the well was boasting of to the Lord Jesus Christ that day when she got corrected and changed.