Summary: We worship God in truth when we understand something of the majesty of God, the misery of sin, the mercy of Christ, and the magnificence of praise.
First Presbyterian Church
Wichita Falls, Texas
February 20, 2011
WORSHIPING GOD IN TRUTH
The Glory Due His Name: Part 2
John 4:21a, 23-24 (NIV)
‘Jesus declared..., “...A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”’
Many of you know that I did not grow up in the church. My family was not religious, and so, we seldom spoke of God. Still in all, even as a child, I had some conception of God. I don’t know where I got it or how I picked it up, but I had an undeveloped, primitive theology. I mean even as young as five or six.
I remember playing at the window of our second story apartment, overlooking the street in front of our building. I had a small plastic figure -- a toy soldier, perhaps, or maybe a cowboy, I don’t remember. But this I do remember. I positioned the tiny replica of a man on top of the lower sash near the lock just over my head. ‘Now, you be god,’ I said, and I imagined this being -- human in appearance -- situated above me. That was my notion of God: ‘the man upstairs’ model of the deity, I guess you might say. I really knew nothing about God. I just thought I did.
Most of us are beyond thinking about God as a being who looks like Michelangelo's painting in the Sistine Chapel or even William Blake’s ‘Ancient of Days,’ both of them bearded and old, with white hair and the body of a man. We are sophisticated enough to know better than that. But the truth is: many people in our world today have a less than adequate view of God. What was it Jesus said to the Samaritan woman? ‘You...worship what you do not know.’ And that is the way it is among many in our day.
Now, if that is true, and, if what else Jesus said to the woman is true -- if authentic worship requires some degree of understanding, so that ‘we worship what we do know,’ if, as Jesus said, ‘True worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth,’ then we must affirm that there is such a thing as worshiping God ‘in truth.’ But what does that mean -- to worship God ‘in truth’? It means, at the very least, that we must have a sufficient understanding of reality, that we must grasp something of the nature of things, especially as they relate to God and to us.
I. THE MAJESTY OF GOD
And the first thing we must grasp is this. If we are to worship God in truth, we must apprehend something of the majesty of God. Now, please notice what I am not saying. I am not saying that we will, or even may, comprehend God in his fullness. We could never do that. The great Charles Spurgeon once said, ‘I could imagine that all the stars and constellations of stars might be put together and threaded into a string—made into a bracelet for the arm, or a ring for the finger of [God]—but I cannot conceive what God is himself.’ Nor can we. What we must know about the majesty of God is what he has chosen to reveal to us.
When Moses was in the wilderness with the fugitive Israelites, overwhelmed by the hardship and responsibility of being their leader, he asked to see God’s face. But God wouldn’t allow it. He would not do that for Moses. ‘You cannot see my face,’ God said, ‘for no one may see me and live’ (Exodus 33:20). But what God did do for Moses is this. He hid him in the cleft of a rock and covered him with his hand until he had passed by. Then, when God was all but out of sight, he removed his hand, and Moses saw his back.
But why just his back? Why not his face? Michael Horton writes: ‘God’s majesty is not benign.’ Reflect on that a bit. Were we to see God in all his glory, what we would see is not some ‘beatific vision.’ What we would see is a revelation of God’s law and his wrath against those who break his law, and ‘in our fallen condition,’ Horton says, ‘the glorious righteousness of God can only condemn us’ (The Christian Faith, p. 50).
If we would worship God in truth, we must start with humility. We must submit ourselves to being addressed by God on his own terms. God does not invite us to ascend to him; rather, he descends to us and reveals himself to us by grace alone in Christ alone.