I graduated from high school back then, I moved away from home, I was seventeen years of age, went up to the San Jose area. That was the same year, during that time that I observed a Billy Graham crusade and gave my life to Jesus Christ. And it was 1973 that I learned the meaning of worship. When I moved back down to southern California, I learned worship first of all during the week at a Christian commune of all places. And secondly on weekends at a mortuary where we held Sunday morning services, I know that sounds like an unusual place and it was. In fact, we used to say, "For a dead place it came alive on Sunday." I felt like Jacob who said, "The Lord is in this place and I knew it not." But see I was raised in a very traditionally religious atmosphere and I was used to looking at worship and worship service as a certain kind of a ritual. The worship that I learned was fresh and spontaneous, it came from the heart. Later that year I went to Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, California, which at that time met in a tent. So you can follow my worship from a commune to a morgue to a tent, it's getting better but still very unconventional. Since that time I've had the opportunity to visit lots of different churches in different parts of the world, all the way from the high church of England with all of its structure and austere atmosphere to dirt floor churches in India where people sit and beat a drum for an hour and sing from their hearts. And I've learned something, that people's definition of worship is very very different. It varies greatly as what we consider something that is meaningful.
Let me read what Peter Gilquist wrote in one of his writings, he said, "A common complaint that I hear over and over again is, 'I just don't get anything out of worship.' Often that statement is accompanied by another, 'Our pastor is the best Bible teacher I've ever heard. When the man opens the scriptures I really learn but our church has no sense of worship.' There almost appears to be a pattern: the churches that are the strongest on preaching of the scriptures are often the weakest when it comes to worshipping and giving praise to God. People say that they feel like bystanders." When I read that I was troubled but I have to say I disagree with him, though I agree in part. I disagree with the idea that it's the music or the church or the worship band that's supposed to get us into a mood. I think that reason that people often feel this way is because of a condition of their individual heart. Let me followup what Peter Gilquist said with what Charles Spurgeon before him once wrote, he asks, "Why is it that some people are often in a place of worship and yet they are not holy? It is because they neglect their prayer closets, they love wheat but they do not grind it, the water flows right at their feet but they do not stoop to drink of it." When we speak of worship and drawing near to God, we're speaking of the highest form of communication with God I believe. We need intercession, we need to confess our sins before the Lord, we need thanksgiving. But worship is the top of the mountain, it doesn't get any higher. It's the ultimate form or drawing near to God. And worship does not just consist of this, gathering together in a building. It's corporate but it's also individual. And it needs to be said that the meaning and the satisfaction that we receive from a corporate worship service is determined by what goes on inside this temple of my heart during the week. If my times with God are vibrant, fresh and meaningful, they can't help but be that way when I gather together with you. But if my individual worship time during the week is stale and stagnant and has no meaning, it's going to follow that when I get together in a church, I don't care what kind of music they have, the same will also be true.
A. W. Tozer said that worship was the missing jewel of the evangelical church, that the farther we progress in history, the more and more we're moving away from that missing jewel. One person noted that we have become a generation that worships its work, works at its play, and plays at its worship.
Let's read this text and then expound on it as we go along. First of all, look at verse 20, the woman of Samaria in a conversation with Jesus says, "Our fathers worshipped on this mountain and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place wahere one ought to worship." Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain or in Jerusalem worship the Father. You worship what you do not know, we know what we worship for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming and now is when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth for the Father is seeking such to worship him. God is spirit and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth." I think we should begin this morning by giving a definition of worship. You probably didn't count but between verses 20 and 24, those five verses, worship is mentioned ten times. The woman at the well mentions it a couple times, Jesus mentions worship the rest of the times. But the definitions between worship of this woman and Jesus very differently. Oftentimes you'll hear a person say, "Oh he worships money or he worships his work, she worships her children, he worships the ground she walks on. And the term is used very loosely. Or if you asked an average Christian define worship service. In many churches they would say, "oh that's Sunday morning as opposed to Sunday night or the midweek prayer meeting. The worship service is the Sunday morning gathering that we have once a week." I have found that if you ask two Christians the meaning of a meaningful worship service they'll give you varied answers. I've said this before but the very first two weeks that we met as a church, the first week somebody came up afterwards and said, "Well I liked your service this morning but I don't think I'll come back." I said, "Why?" And they said, "Well it's too charismatic." I said, "What do you mean?" "Well somebody was raising their hands this morning. The kind of music that you have, the guitar and it's just too charismatic. The next week somebody approached me and said, "Liked your service but I don't think we'll be coming back, it's not charismatic enough. It wasn't real true live worship.a" Some people feel cheated if during their worship aexperience, there wasn't stained glass, Gregorian chants and an austere kind of an atmosphere, the burning of incense and the robes. AThey're just, they feel close to God in that kind of an environment. That's just how they've been raised or that's what they like, that's what they prefer. Others feel if the worship wasn't loud and emotional or if people didn't fall over or speak in another tongue that worship was dead. And I've had people say, "It's dead here." They feel cheated because that emotional part was missing. I've even noticed that some people worship worship. That becomes almost the god upon the altar, that is critiqued and examined and that's lifted up higher than the Lord sometimes. It is evident that our definitions of worship are often shallow. We're standing in ankle deep water calling it worship when in reality it should be a vast oceana that is before us. Jesus uses this word about seven or eight times in this chapter or these verses, verses 20 through 24. If you were to take the English word worship and look it up in the dictionary they would tell you that it comes from two Old English words put together: worth W-O-R-T-H and scipe S-C-I-P-E. That's how they used to call it worthscipe. We've shortened it to worship, which simply means to declare the value or worth of a person or a thing. The same word is worthy and they fit together. We worship or ascribe value to what we consider is worthy. And so if you say, "You know he worships his money." If he puts high value upon his money, as a supreme desire of his life, then indeed he does worhip it. He's ascribing value and worth supremely to that object. The Greek word that is used in this chapter for worship is the word proscuneo, which is often rendered as a person who would bow down or protrate himself before a dignitary to show reverence. In fact, today the Muslims will face Mecca placing their forehead, touching the ground as a profound act of reverence. But the original word proscuneo, in fact in Greek it literally means to (smack!) kiss, to kiss toward. Many times a gentleman would meet a dignitary who was a woman and grab her hand and kiss the hand, proscuneo, to kiss toward, to show reverence, in an affectionate way. So it's more than, "Wow, God is awesome and distant." But a drawing near in an affectionate way. I had this definition demonstrated to me at a wedding, a few years ago married a couple, one of which worked at the church, and she came up to me and said, "Now at our wedding I've got a little surprise planned for the groom. He doesn't know it but right before the vows I'm going to turn to him and I'm going to sing him a song that I have written." I said, "Can you do that?" She said, "I'll practice, I think I can do it." So they went through the wedding rehearsal, didn't miss a beat, he had no idea this was coming but on the day of the wedding as she was holding his hand, about a foot from each other, eyeball to eyeball, she looked at him and the music started playing and she sang him a love song that she had written. There wasn't a dry eye in the house, especially him, he just lost it. I think that's the idea when we come together to sing worship to the Lord, we're kissing toward him. Oftentimes I will picture that wedding in my mind as I sing unto the Lord. Here I am, the bride of Christ or part of it, singing praises, kissing toward my bridegroom, "I love you." That affectionate intimate kind of a relationship. So worship means to revered, to declare worth or value in an affectionate kind of a way. Now that's what we do when we gather here every Sunday. We're not here to honor the pastor, we're not here to honor the worship band, we're not here to appease our wife who made us come or our friends who begged us every day, "Come, come." "All right." The purpose of Christians gathering together is that God is top billing, we're here for him, to honor and to praise and to worship him. If we are attending church for what we can get out of it, we've missed it. "Well I go because it makes me feel good." That's not the purpose of worship. The purpose is he's the audience, when the worship band comes out and they tune up their guitars or their whatever that they're playing, that's our cue, man. We're on. And at that point a transition occurs, you are not the audience, I am not the audience, the audience becomes one sitting on the throne in heaven, God himself. It's our cue, it's our turn, we respond to God for who he is. He is worthy, he is valuable and we demonstrate and ascribe worth and value to him in a corporate worship service. Our focus should never be, "Hey, what can I get out of it?" But, "What can I give unto the Lord?" That's why A. W. Tozer said, "Whoever seeks God as a means toward a desired end will not find God, for God will not be used." It should also be stated that worship is a response based on a choice. You can do it if you choose to do it. It is not based upon a feeling. "I just don't feel like worshipping." You know what? When the alarm went off early this morning I didn't feel like getting up. But I made a choice to do it, just like you make a choice to do it when it rings Monday through Friday as well, "Hey I've got to get up, got to go to work. I don't feel like it but I choose to do it." Worship is a response based on a choice not a feeling. That is not to say we shouldn't feel during worship. Oftentimes we do feel close to God, we feel a sense of peace and joy and satisfaction, but that's the result of worship, not the reason for worship. The reason is to ascribe worth, to heed who is worthy.
Dr. James Kennedy from Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church down in Florida said, "Most people think of the church as a drama with the minister as the chief actor, God as the prompter, and the laity as the critic. What is actually the case is the congregation is the chief actor, the minister is the prompter and God is the critic. God is the one that evaluates the worship. There's a lot of times that I feel down and out because of a circumstance, I don't feel like praying, I don't feel like worship, I don't feel like singing a thing. But then it becomes what the Bible calls a sacrifice of praise, "Lord, I don't feel like doing it but here goes. You are still worthy whether I feel like it or not. You are worthy." The object is God.
Notice with me the end of verse 21, Jesus said, "Nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father." In verse 23, "The hour is coming and now is when true worshippers will worship the Father." He's the object. And verse 24, "God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. So the definition of worship as used by Jesus is to show reverence, value and worth in an intimate affectionate way, to kiss toward because he is worthy of it.
Now I'd like to move from there to a couple of misconceptions about worship as shown by this woman. As you know, we went right in the middle of a conversation of the Samaritan woman at the well with Jesus Christ beginning in verse 20, and the Samaritan woman suffered from a religious and cultural misconception about worship. She has a conversation with Jesus and those misconceptions of worship are revealed in this conversation. One thing I can say about Jesus as I read chapter 4, he's unpredictable. You never know what he's going to say. And what he does with this girl is what we would call going for the jugular. He kind of plays the little game that she is playing, back from verse 7 all the way down until it gets to a certain place, pulls the rug out from under her feet, and gets down to business. He did not follow Robert's Rules of Order or tact when he would often share with people, he just shot straight to the heart. Something about this woman, she was promiscuous, sexually active, and yet very religious. She worshipped on Mount Gerazim right behind her as all the Samaritans did. In fact, she brings up the whole idea of worship. Now you might thing, "Wait a minute, promiscuous yet religious? Is that possible?" It happens all the time. Lots of people that frequent synagogues or churches call themselves whatever, living one way during the week and acting another way during their worship service. Jesus wants to reconcile that and get this woman to a real relationship with him. The strange thing to her she will find out is that Jesus knows all about her past and she finds out who Jesus is in the course of the conversation.
Let's go back to verse 7 and let's read down, quickly, "A woman of Samaria came to draw water and Jesus said, 'Give me a drink,' for the disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. Then the woman of Samaria said to him, 'How is it that you being a Jew ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman? For Jews have no dealing with Samaritans.' Jesus answered and said to her, 'If you knew the gift of God and who it is who says to you give me a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.' The woman said, 'Sir, you have nothing to draw with, the well is deep, where then do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob (Imagine asking God that question) who gave us this well and drank from it himself as well as his sons and livestock?' And Jesus answered and said, 'Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.'" Now so far in this conversation, sarcasm, pessimism emerges through every sentence that she has for Jesus. She's very cutesy, very terse. "Oh hey, the well's deep, how are you going to draw and get this living water?" Jesus is patient, he doesn't rebuke her, doesn't get down on her, he just sort of goes along with it. Until he hits the jugular. In verse 15, "The woman said to him, 'sir, give me this water that I may not thirst nor come here to draw.'" The well was a twenty-five minute walk from the city. "Living water, huh? I just walked twenty-five minutes, I'd like plumbing, I'd like if I didn't have to walk to this well and draw water." She's being very very cutesy with it.
Until the next verse, "Jesus says, 'Go call your husband and come here.' The woman answered and said, 'I have no husband.' Jesus said to her, 'You have well said I have no husband for you've had five husbands and the one that you now have is not your husband. So in that you spoke truly.' And the woman said to him, 'Sir, I perceive that you are prophet.'" (No joke.) Jesus made her squirm a little bit by putting his finger on her problem, by putting his finger on her sin. "That's right, you don't have a husband. You are living unlawfully outside of the bounds of marriage after being divorced five times." He knows, how did he find out? "Sir I perceive that you're a prophet." Now notice how the conversation suddenly changes to a religious worship theme. Verse 20, she says, "Our fathers worshipped on this mountain." Wait, wait, wait. Where did that come from? She is diverting attention. And you know I find this still happens, when you share with a person about Jesus Christ, you can talk religion with them but say, "What's your personal relationship with Jesus Christ like? Have you repented of your sins? Do you have a whole new life based upon believing in Jesus?" They will often because of the convictions squirm a little bit, feel uncomfortable and switch the subject to issues that really aren't the point. Like, "How come Methodists don't get along with Baptists? How come you Christians can't get along together? What about Jim and Tammy Bakker? And all the other inconsistencies?" Wait, that's not the issue. Just like worshipping on Mount Gerazim or Jerusalem wasn't the issue but she brings it up, she diverts the attention to worship. Now when she said this she is revealing a couple of misconceptions. And it's a misconception some people still have today. Number one, that God can be confined to a place. "Hey we have this temple up here on Mount Gerazim but you Jews won't worship here, you have to go to Jerusalem to worship and you say that's the only place God will accept." There was a longstanding animosity between these two groups. Back in 722 BC the Assyrians came in, conquered Samaria, took the people who lived there out of the land, replaced it with their own people, foreigners; who intermarried with the remaining Israelites and they formed a group called Samaritans. In the meantime they established their own temple upon Mount Gerazim as a rival temple to the temple in Jerusalem so the people didn't have to walk so far. And from that point here was longstanding animosity and people said, "This is the true church to worship." And the Jews would say, "No, this is the only true place to worship." And the argument went on and on and on.
She made a mistake, she thought that God lives in buildings, God can be confined to a place. When Solomon built the temple and he got all of the people of Israel together and he worshipped the Lord, he said to the Lord, "The heaven of heavens cannot contain you, much less this temple which I have built." Stephen, when he stood before the Jewish high court said, "The Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands. As the prophet says, 'Heaven is my throne, earth is my footstool, what house will you build for me,' says the Lord, 'or what is the place of my rest? Has not my hand made all of these things?'" God does not have one address, folks. It's not as if God lives at one church but not another church, in fact God has no holy places, God has holy people.
I take a trip to Israel with a group from the church just about every year and I often see holy places. And when I go it reminds me actually of my upbringing. When I was a kid, when church was over, because being a little kid I was kind of bored with it, I would run through the church to see my brother or my parents. And my mom, every time she caught me would say this phrase, "Don't run in the house of God." So I grew up thinking the church building was the house of God. And I confess, I used to think, "This is it? God can't do better than this?" It is not the house of God, we his people are the temple of the Holy Spirit. God lives in here, the heaven of heavens cannot contain God but your heart can. Buildings are superfluous, they're nonessential. It's sort of like a lunch sack. What's important is the lunch, the sack is important in that it carries the lunch but that's about it. It's a comfortable kind of a sack, put the lunch in it, that's what's important.
In Israel they have shrines and holy places, churches where they say this happened or that event happened. And you walk into the place and if you're used to being casual and kicked back like lots of you are here, you're going to be in for a surprise when you get over there, because the first thing they'll say is, "Shhh. Whisper. And don't use your flash when you take pictures. You must walk, you must not run, and if you are a woman you must cover your shoulders, your elbows and your knees because otherwise you will be immodest in this holy place. They're all over the land of Israel, I usually try not to go to any of them, unless we absolutely have to and somebody says, "I'll feel cheated if I don't go to Israel and see a church." "All right, let's go." But what's funny is you go to the Mount of Olives, there's three separate churches, all three of them claim to be the exact spot that Jesus ascended into heaven from. One of them on top of the Mount of Olives with its tall tower claims to have the footprint of Jesus embedded in stone where he took off from. Now if you read the scriptures however, you find that Jesus did not take off from any of those churches but that he went as far as Bethany on the other side of the Mount of Olives where he ascended so all three of those places are wrong. But they've become holy places. I felt cheated the first time I went to the Holy Land. I was waiting for a feeling, so I'd sit in the Garden of Gethsemane and wait. And it didn't work, so I tried another place. And waited, and it didn't work. I thought, "What's wrong? What's wrong with me?" I made the same mistake the Samaritan woman made, that God can be confined to some little place. When I went back from my trip, in my little apartment in Santa Ana, California, one evening with an open Bible and a guitar, I sat before the Lord, I experienced such a satisfaction, a peace, a closeness to God, moreso than I did over in Israel. God was showing me he is not confined to a place. And it's a mistake to think of nearness and farness in terms of geography.
The second mistake that she made is that God can be reduced to an image. The first mistake, God can be confined to a place, second misconception: God can be reduced to an image. When the Samaritans would worship on Mount Gerazim, though they claimed to worship the true God of Israel, they often had little shrines, little images on the high places of Samaria, where they incorporated worship of God with statues and images, because they confined God in their worship system to an image. But notice what Jesus says, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming (verse 21) when you will neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem worship the Father. (verse 23) The hour is coming and now is when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth for the Father is seeking such to worship him." Notice, God is spirit. God is not an image. You cannot capture the glory of God by reproducing him in a picture or an image, God is a spirit, meaning he transcends the physical domain. "And athose who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth."
Keep a marker in your Bible and turn backwards to Isaiah, the book of Isaiah for just a moment, chapter 40. Interesting question God brings up in Isaiah 40, let's look at it. Isaiah 40 verse 18, "To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare to him? The workman molds an image, the goldsmith overspreads it with gold. The silversmith casts silver chains. Whoever is too impoverished for such a contribution chooses a tree that will not rot, seeks for himself a skillful workman to prepare a carved image that will not totter. Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he who sits above the circle of the earth and its inhabitants are all like grasshoppers." Look at verse 25, "To whom then will you liken me? Or to whom shall I be equal? Says the holy one." The message that God is getting across is this, "Okay, if you people of Israel can't handle the idea that God is spirit, and you want to reproduce God as an image, what's it going to look like?" Think about it, transcendent God who sits above his creation and all of us are like grasshoppers, what is that image going to look like? How are you going to reproduce it?
God is always greater than an image, than a picture or even than our concept. Remember back to the second commandment, God said, "You will not make a carved image nor shall you bow down to it." The idea is you will not make a graven image for the purpose of looking at it as an aid to worship. You might say, "Why? What harm does a statue do? Or what harm does a picture of Jesus do? I like to look at a picture of Jesus," you might say, "when I pray and when I worship. What harm could it do?" Now keep in mind, my background, I grew up pandering to statues and pictures and things that would remind me. And my parents would often say, "Now Skip, it's not that we're worshipping these things but they are reminders to bring us into the presence of God." What's wrong with that thought in reducing God to an image is that an image will dishonor God because it's always less than God. You can never capture the glory, the effulgence and the character, the nature of God. You can't do it. John Calvin said, "A true image of God is not to be found in all of this world and hence his glory is defiled, his majesty is adulterated and he is figured to be other than he is." Not only does an image obscure who God is but it misleads us because we'll start thinking of God in a certain way by looking at that image and we'll neglect his whole character and nature. Example: when the children of Israel came out of Egypt, Moses went up on top of the mountain, he wouldn't come down, what did they build? A golden calf. It was originally meant to honor God, it was a visual representation of the strength, it was a bull, which spoke of the mighty deliverance from Egypt. In fact, Aaron said, "This is the God that delivered you from Egypt." It was this visible reminder of the strength of God. But it said nothing of the forgiveness of God, the love of God, the patience of God, the longsuffering of God, it obscured and mislead the people and God was not pleased with it. So it is with any image, be it a crucifix, which thougha it tells us of the atonement, it does not tell us of the deity of Christ, the power and the victory of the cross, but just one aspect of what he has done for us. Folks, if we habitually focus our thoughts upon an image, we will begin thinking of God in terms of that image, and it's always less than God really is.
Now what the Samaritan woman did, we often do in our minds. How many people have you met who have said, "Well I don't see God like you see God, I picture God as this wonderful benevolent accepter of everyone. He's not a judge, he's not even a savior. I picture him differently." Well so what? You may picture him differently but your concept of God, your image of God is less than who he really is. This book happens to give us all that pertains to life and godliness through the knowledge of him. It gives us an accurate picture and representation of who God is. A But we can often concoct an image and picture God in a certain way.
Let me go a step further. The Samaritan woman was concerned about secondary issues. She was concerned about outward stuff. Where, you worship rather than who you worship. You know that a lot of us can get caught up in the same kind of thing. What becomes important to us unfortunately is, "Do they sing hymns or choruses? Is it a piano, organ, or a guitar? Are they hymns or are they those fast songs? What do they dress like when they worship? Does the worship leader have a hat?" Who cares? "Woman, let me tell you something, the time is coming when this temple or that temple doesn't matter. Those who worship the Father in spirit and in truth, the Father is seeking such to worship him." God cannot be confined to an image, a style or a beat. He transcends that.
Now let's look in verse 22 once again, back in John chapter 4 where Jesus finally gives us corrections concerning true worship. He says, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming," verse 23 says, "it now is, when you will neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem worship the Father." Look at verse 22, "You worship what you do not know." Boy, that's an interesting statement. "We know what we worship for salvation is of the Jews." The first correction Jesus makes is this: God will not accept false worship. "You Samaritans worship, you have no idea what you're doing, you don't have the adequate information. You're worship what you don't know. We know what we worship, God has prescribed through the Jewish nation, the prophets, the scriptures and the Messiah to come, we know what we worship, salvation is of the Jews." The point being, God will not accept false worship. What a direct contrast to those people today who say, "it doesn't matter where you worship or who you worship or how you worship, man. All religions are the same, all roads lead to God." And they see life and all religions as one big freeway system, we're just traveling in different lanes, you've got the Christian lane, the Buddhist lane, the New Age lane, it doesn't matter, we're all going to the same place." Not according to Jesus. "You worship what you don't know, we know what we worship, salvation is of the Jews." There's a lot of people who try to broaden the path and cannot handle the exclusive claims of Jesus, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father except through me." They don't like that, "Let's broaden it out a little bit. Let's existentialize it a little bit. Every man will do what is right in his own eyes. But the Bible says, "There is a way that seems right unto a man but all the ways thereof are the ways of death." The worship that God accepts is the worship that God prescribes.
Just like a person can't say, "Well you know I picture God as whatever," a person cannot say, "I choose to worship God the way I feel." Now in America you can do that, but biblically God will not accept every form of worship. A person might say, "I don't believe in the church, I don't believe in gathering together with other Christians, I like to go to the woods by myself, or to the golfcourse on Sunday, have my own little worship service." That's fine and dandy, you have the right to do that but the Bible says, "Forsake not the fellowship of ourselves together as is the manner of some." The worship that God accepts is the worship that he prescribed. Do you know who found that out? David. He thought, "Hey that ark, Ark of the Covenant, let's take it to Jerusalem." So he found a cart, a cow cart, put it on top of the cart, started moving it up to Jerusalem. As soon as it hit the threshing floor of Nacon, the son of Abinidab, Uzah reaches out his hand to steady the Ark, God strikes him dead. David was angry at God but David should have seen in the scripture God prescribed, you don't move the ark that way buddy, you move it with priests and Levites under a covering in a prescribed fashion. The worship that God accepts is the worship that he prescribes.
The second correction, and finally, God is looking for acceptable worship. Notice in verse 23, "The hour is coming and now is when true worshippers (or literally authentic worshippers) will worship the Father in spirit and truth for the Father is seeking such to worship him." Did you know that that word "Father is seeking" could be translated, my Father is striving to find, he is aiming with great desire to find people who will authentically worship him. Now what is an authentic worshipper? Twofold, he worships in spirit and he worships in truth. Let me explain that: to worship in spirit means from right here, from your inside. Not the formalism and the externalism of the outward but are you really worshipping him from your heart? Is it from your spirit? The word spirit is not capitalized, small s, which means from the deep core of your being, are you worshipping the Lord? Now the Pharisees thought that their worship was great but Jesus said to the Pharisees, "These people draw near to me with their mouths and they honor me with their lips but their heart is far from me." They weren't worshipping in spirit. When you sing or when you pray or when you gather together with Christians or on your own, is it really from the depths of your heart? Or are you saying, "Well I'm going through this motion, this outward ritual." What is the most important is that it is done in spirit. You might think, "Oh but I don't want to sing, I sing off key." Great. Then sing loud off key so that the people who sing on key next to you will want to sing louder to drown you out. God does not care about the beat or the beauty or how good it sounds, the angels aren't up there going, "Ugh, offkey." God's looking at the heart. In spirit.
Secondly, in spirit and truth. Jesus said, "Lord, sanctify them by your truth, your word is truth." Which means we worship God according to how he reveals himself in the Bible. Now I think there ought to be a balance. There are people who worship in spirit, like the Samaritans, they've got the zeal, but they don't do it according to truth. But there are people who worship according to truth, they know the Bible, but they don't do it in spirit, it's dead formalism like some of those in the Jewish nation. God wants there to be a balance. I must worship based upon the truth lest my worship is false and ignorant. But it must be from my heart lest I become like what Paul said, "Having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof."
John Bunyan who wrote Pilgrim's Progress, you ought to read that book if you have it. Written in the 1600s while he was in prison, he said, "It is far better to pray and let your heart be without words than to let your words be without heart." In spirit, in sincerity, and in truth.
There was a man who was elected to the Parliament in Britain, important man. He was proud of the fact that he was now a principal officer in the government of England and he took his family to London to give them a tour. As they walked around the city, they went into Westminster Abbey. If you've ever seen it, it's that awesome spiring cathedral. And as they walked in, his little eighty-year-old daughter just dropped her mouth and looked around awestruck. He wanted to find out what she was thinking and he said, "Now what are you thinking about young lady?" She said, "Daddy, I'm thinking about how big you are at home but how small you look inside here." Worship ought to do that to us. However big or important we think we are, when we get together before the Lord, like John the Baptist we should say, "He must increase, I must decrease." That's the purpose of worship, to ascribe him praise, him worth and value.
Let's learn worship in our devotional time. We're told to come into his gates with thanksgiving and praise, but then afterwards before you are too quick to jump to personal petition, spend some time lingering on how valuable and worthy God is to you.
Heavenly Father, I want to thank you that we've spent six weeks being able to cover some important touchstone truths from this book and we have seen your prescription for communication with heaven, talking to you. I pray Lord rather than relying completely on subjective thinking of what we would picture you as or what we would figure you would want, that we would take our cues from the word of God. And that we would worship in spirit and in truth. Lord, you are seeking this morning those to worship you and I pray Lord that as you seek, that some who you are seeking to bring to Jesus Christ would respond by coming and accepting the savior into their hearts perhaps for the first time. I pray that our worship would be alive, as aive as you are and that we would come to give to you, not to just receive from you. Though Lord, it's such a great feeling many times to gather together, that's just the result but the reason is because you're awesome. In Jesus' name.