Summary: The true worshippers that God the Father wants are those who worship Him in Spirit and in truth.
WORSHIPPING IN SPIRIT AND TRUTH
Live Sermon: http://www.mckeesfamily.com/?page_id=3567
John 4:1-26 is the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. We are all familiar with this story but have you ever stopped and reflected on what it means in relation to worshipping God? The first part of the story outlines three common pits we often fall into when trying to praise and worship His name. First, we tend to compare worship from one church to the next, seeking human approval. Second, we tend to exclude certain people from praising His name. And third, we worship God with the expectation of receiving something in return. The second part of the story outlines the proper way to worship God: in Spirit and in truth. Let’s begin by looking at the pitfalls of worship.
Pitfall 1: Comparison: Human Approval Dictates Success
4 Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that He was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John—2 although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but His disciples. 3 So He left Judea and went back once more to Galilee (John 4:1-3, NIV)
The first pitfall of praise and worship is our tendency to set standards or benchmarks based on what other churches are doing. There are many ways to praise and worship God but often we determine ministry success by quality of music and shear numbers alone. Watch the video done by Hillsong called “Oceans.” An amazing song with talent that goes beyond our expectations. The church affiliated with this group is a Pentecostal megachurch in Sydney, Australia. Hillsong is a multi-site church with campuses in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Newcastle, Gold Coast and Noosa. Average attendance per week is approximately 30,000 (source: Wikipedia).
After having watched a video of such high caliber with thousands of people singing along with the song, one can’t help but be left with the impression that this is worship at its very best! To see if this is true or not, let’s go back to the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus at the beginning of this story has to leave Judea because the Pharisees have compared His worship success to that of John in an attempt to paint both as rivals of each other. When questioned about Jesus’ ministry success, John (3:27) replies by stating “a person can receive only what is given them from heaven.” When it comes to worship God wants us to do our very best with the spiritual gifts He has given our congregation. We are not to compare our worship with that of other churches because it is not people we seek approval but of God Himself. To have God approve of our worship of Him is the only standard that our praise and worship is to be judged by.
Pitfall 2: Exclusion – Not all are Welcomed
5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. 7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” (John 4:5-10)
Let’s go back to the story of the woman at the well and hear of what happens next. In the first part of John 4 we are told that Jesus wanted to leave Judea and go back to Galilee so that the Pharisees would not paint Jesus and John as ministry rivals. In verse 4 we are told that Jesus went through Samaria because it was the faster route to Galilee. As you can see on the map Sychar is a town that is on direct route to Galilee so it is not surprising Jesus and His disciples stopped there to get food and water. While the disciples were out purchasing some food, Jesus goes to Jacob’s well to minister to a very special lady. It is important to note that Jesus arrives at noon, the hottest time of the day when the probability of seeing anyone at the well was very slim; and yet there is a woman alone at the well. Jesus asks her to give Him a drink.
This brings us to our next pitfall which is our tendency include some and exclude others from praising and worshipping God. In response to Jesus’ request the Samaritan woman states the obvious: Jesus was a Jew and her being a Samaritan meant there was a big pit between them that made shared ministry an impossibility. When the Northern kingdom of Israel and its capital Samaria (1 Kings 16:24) was defeated by the Assyrians in 733 BC, many Israelites were deported to Assyria and Israel was repopulated with foreigners (1 Kings 17:24-31). The poorest of Israelites were allowed to remain in Israel. They ended up intermarrying these Gentile foreigners and in doing so took on their foreign gods. This created a brand new mixed race called the Samaritans. The Jews despised this new race (Luke 10:33) because these ethnic half-breeds were in their minds far from holy.