“You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:22-24, NIV)
Did you ever notice how Jesus did not always speak “nice”, and by that I mean that He did not beat around the bush. By our standards He was not politically correct or careful with His words. He could be quite surgical in His words and targeted people and named names when it came to judgment on right and wrong. He’s blunt about who the Samaritans were and made no apologies for the one and only way to worship God: “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth."
Jesus did what He talked about—-He spoke truth. He did not deliberately offend this woman, but neither did He mince words: “Salvation for mankind came from the Jews”—not from the Samaritans or the Gentiles. Today I suppose Christ would have been called racist. Think about it! He told another Samaritan woman, who asked for His supernatural help: “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” “Yes, Lord,” she said, “even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” (Matthew 15:25-26) And as you know, He granted her petition. But it sure would be called racist today.
The boys and I went to see the new James Bond movie last night. All showings were slam packed. But Tommy noticed it was full of older men. Why? Well, we grew up on “Bond, James Bond”, and on the “vodka martinis, shaken, not stirred”. But the theatre was packed because James Bond represents a man—-a flawed, womanizer, yes. But a man that’s not been mastered by the idea that he has to have a feminine side to him or worried about his sexuality. He represents, warts and all, the truth about what a man wants to be as a man. We men want to rescue the princess from the bad guy that kidnapped her, fight the evil dragon, slay the enemy that murders for please, and wins the battle when victory or escape seem hopeless——all thing that Bond does in his movies. James Bond stands for good, Specter plots for evil. There’s a villain and a hero in the James Bond movies——and this is truth, a yearning, a dream that God has placed within our hearts.
So you’ve heard this story about the encounter between Jesus and this other Samaritan woman, but His answer about spirit and truth is important to us as we talk about worship, and as this church is in the process of looking for a worship leader. Jesus said that God expects us to worship Him “in spirit and truth”. I’d like to look at what that means——because it’s weighty.
First, is what we are doing this morning, i.e., worshipping “in spirit,” that is, engaging the whole heart? Is your heart into what we’re doing this morning as you sing, pray and listen to this short devotion? Unless there’s a real passion for God, there is no “worship in spirit”. Do you know Him? Are you in love with Him? Worship has to have passion. Let me tell you, for the past week Tommy and Tyler have been passionate about going to this movie! They did extra work for it and got into a fight Saturday morning because Tommy was petrified that we were going to be late because Tyler was talking to much time in the bathroom!
At the same time, worship must be “in truth,” that is, honestly and correctly informed. Unless the “thing” we are worshipping is God, we are not worshipping in truth. Worshipping in spirit but without truth to who God really is, leads to a shallow, overly emotional experience that could be compared to a being drunk or just a high from drugs—-and I’ve seen it and folks calling it what it is no. . As soon as the excitement and emotion is over, when the crowd calms down, you find that it was all self serving. But knowing all about God, and coming here with that knowledge and then having no passion, or spirit, results in a dry, passionless encounter that can easily lead to a form of joyless church attendance must a habit. Frankly, that’s how I see most church services that I have attended in the denominational churches. But the combination of truth and spirit results in a joyous appreciation of God.
The more we know about God, the more we appreciate Him and want to worship Him. The more we appreciate Him, the deeper becomes our worship. The deeper our worship, the more God is glorified. Is that happening in your life and is that what you are experiencing when you come here?
To worship God “in spirit” means that it must originate from within, from the heart; it must be sincere, motivated by our love for God and gratitude for all He is and has done. Again, let me say that no one should come here to be blessed or for good luck! Now if you come here for worship I believe you will be blessed and you might find that things go quite well for you next week. But the motivation for coming has got to our passion for Him that is overflowing and cannot be satiated. Worship has to be real—not merely rehearsed repeated out of habit or out of some sort of superstitious routine. Is our worship Spirit led here? Is that in my mind when I prepare these messages and is it in the mind of those of us that lead in song, pray or other means of worship here? When we allow a guest to speak here is it our determination that God receive the glory and that the invitation, challenge, the testimony give honor to Him? Sometimes we get too rapped up in organizations, liturgy and committees and we forget our focus. We are here to worship Him in Spirit and truth—-those things we add should be intended to help us maintain that purpose—not take away from it.
But what does “in Spirit” mean if not also led by the Holy Spirit? The apostle Paul said that Christians “must worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh” (Phil. 3:3). Is He, the Holy Spirit, leading me when I speak and you when you join in song or prayer or affirmation of what I am saying? Is God’s Hand, His Holy Spirit, upon us as we enter into worship and exit out for work each Sunday?
It’s the Holy Spirit who awakens in us an understanding of God’s beauty and splendor and power. It’s the Holy Spirit who stirs us to celebrate and rejoice and give thanks. It’s the Holy Spirit who opens our eyes to see and savor all that God is for us in Jesus. It’s the Holy Spirit who will, if we get out of the way, orchestrates our services and leads us in corporate praise of God.
But Jesus said that even if the Holy Spirit is there, we must join to worship “in truth.” Do you know the truth? Pontius Pilate could never have worshipped, properly speaking, because he did not know the truth. You recall that while he was examining Jesus, Jesus told him, “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to My voice.” And Pilate responded by saying, “What is truth?” (John 18:37-38, paraphrased). But the answer to Pilate’s question could have saved his soul. He did not know, or refused to admit, the single most important truth in the universe.
Truth means ultimately means “God”. There is nothing more elemental and basic to knowledge and truth than God. And no intellectual foundation is more frail, weak and foolish than the denial of God. He is the ultimate truth and the very definition or reality.. Worship is not meant to be formed by what feels good, but by the illustrious light of what’s true. That’s what we must find in a worship leader, that is what our songs, hymns, devotions and testimonies must prove. Do they speak of truth about God? There’s no place for anything but truth when we come to worship the King of Kings.
You might recall that Jesus criticized the worship leaders in his day by saying that whereas they honor God “with their lips,” their “heart is far from” Him (Matt. 15:7–9). True worship must engage the heart, the affections, the totality of our being. Is it, in this sanctuary?
Think, for a moment, about what Jesus said in reference to ‘truth”: “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32. Here’s the truth when we come together Sunday morning to worship:
Jesus is the one and only, the genuine, and not to be imitated or substituted, Son of God. That is the truth is absent from some worship in some churches, Christian camps, ministries, Children’s homes and other agencies that bear the name “Christian”. But at other times, it seems that the TRUTH is not being proclaimed because the members, leaders and officers do not know, or do not believe the truth. Do you know the truth? Do you believe it?
The first Christian martyr was Stephen. He merely spoke truth about God’s righteousness and Christ’s provision for salvation. In spiritual truth he simply said: 2 plus 2 equals 4. A truth that no one could deny. But those listening did not want to hear truth. He called his listeners to repentance and to admit the truth. We’re told that he had the face of an angel as he spoke truth!But the people killed Stephen anyway, so his angelic face did not sway them any more than Jesus’ face did—and Jesus displayed the very face of God! In fact, Jesus was murdered even though he had the most pure heart, the greatest humility, and was filled with total truth , perfect knowledge and had command of language that swayed thousands. But in the end an angry crowd wanted Him dead—just like they wanted Stephen dead. Dead for just speaking the truth?
But this is what God is telling us as pastors and disciples to do! SPEAK THE TRUTH——and from the persecution and blood spilled by those, like Stephen, that faithfully speak the truth, revival and renewal will come. The blood of Stephen precluded a wave of attacks against the church that resulted in an avalanche of growth within the church. The two almost always go hand in hand. The persecution today seems to not come from outside the church, but within it.
At this church, our worship must be Spirit led—not devised or orchestrated by committees or boards or egotistical speakers and singers. And the center of our worship—-and all that surrounds it— must be the truth of Jesus Christ—the One that God Himself sent to lead, teach, comfort and sustain us.
If that worship is full of the truth of Jesus Christ and lead by His Holy Spirit, we will hold fast and shine even everything around us appears to be failing apart of going to ruin and we will grow.
David Santistevan, the worship leader of a church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, asks three questions in reference to worship in any church:
- Are we chasing worship celebrities or Jesus? It’s not a talent show or concert.
- Are we singing to God or singing because it makes us feel good?
- Are we Spirit-led or sentimental-led?
Worship isn't worship if everyone if our focus is upon the gifts and beauty of those leading us in songs—that’s not the point. Our worship leader needs to be the coach—the one that coaches others to sing, or to lift their hands, bow to kneel or shout an amen! The problem is most of us are focused only on the performers—-not upon the One for whom we are singing.
And in all of this let me add that God’s Word is essential. We have to stop leaning so heavily on contemporary praise and worship of the authors promote themselves or those that offer no Bible to back it up their lyrics.
How can we keep our services anchored in truth and spirit? He has to led…
Depressed by the Civil War, a pastor, named Joseph H. Gilmore, wrote this song.
He leadeth me, O blessed thought!
O words with heav’nly comfort fraught!
Whate’er I do, where’er I be
Still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me.
He leadeth me, He leadeth me,
By His own hand He leadeth me;
His faithful foll’wer I would be,
For by His hand He leadeth me.
Sometimes ’mid scenes of deepest gloom, Sometimes where Eden’s bowers bloom,
By waters still, o’er troubled sea,
Still ’tis His hand that leadeth me.
Lord, I would place my hand in Thine,
Nor ever murmur nor repine;
Content, whatever lot I see,
Since ’tis my God that leadeth me.
And when my task on earth is done,
When by Thy grace the vict’ry’s won,
E’en death’s cold wave I will not flee,
Since God through Jordan leadeth me.