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Worship in Spirit and in Truth part 1 (week 2)

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Worship In Spirit and in Truth part 1

(Week 2 in a 4 week study)

Lesson Text: John 4:19-24

Preached in Quabbin Valley on 6-7-09


            Psalm 96:9 Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth! (Psa 96:9 ESV)


We started a series last week on worship. We asked the question, and I hope answered in a small way what worship is. We are continuing this week by looking at John chapter four specifically looking at verses 19-24 where we have Jesus talking with a Samaritan woman about worship among other issues that both Jesus and the woman raised. Our focus is what Jesus said about worship. Let’s read verses 19-24.

John 4:19 The woman said to him, "Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship." 21 Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." (Joh 4:19 ESV)


Background: Here is a Jewish man and a Samaritan woman who have met at Jacob’s well and are discussing worship that is acceptable to God. Judaism of the first century A.D. has been said to be a worship of the letter and not of the spirit. It was very much an outward thing. They took great pride in doing the outward religious duties but there was missing the spiritual side for many, not for all but for many. Think of the Pharisees.

Samaritanism was said to be a worship dominated by falsehood (you see they rejected the truth in most of the Old Testament, they rejected a good portion of the Old Testament scriptures), the time was coming and Jesus said was already here when acceptable worshipers will employ all of God’s truth that is available and that it would be sincere, heartfelt, spiritual worship. The Samaritans may have had the spiritual aspect right. They might have been motivated to worship in spirit with a right heart but they didn’t know the truth. Jesus said in John 4:22 You worship what you do not know;… (Joh 4:22 ESV). He recognized that they did worship and it might have been very spiritual in nature but they worshipped what they did not know.

The Samaritans had greatly shortened their knowledge of God by restricting their canon to the Pentateuch or the first five books of the Old Testament. Their bible only included the Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. They didn’t accept anything else as being scripture.

One man said: “Proper worship in any age is seriously predicated upon sufficient and accurate knowledge of the God worshiped. No matter how ceremonially elaborate, emotionally rousing, or sermonically articulate, worship that is not offered from a proper understanding of who God is (and of course what God requires MY NOTE) falls short.”

Some say, a humble, spiritual attitude means very little. The spiritual aspect is not as important as the truth of the doctrine. Others say truth or doctrinal soundness is of little or no importance. What they say is that the spiritual and emotional side is what is important. To worship God from your spirit is what is important. Both are one-sided, unbalanced, and wrong. Genuine worshipers worship in spirit and truth.

And that is what we will look at today.

1)    In Spirit

a.    Our spirit

a.    When human beings worship in spirit, they use the part of their nature that is already nearest to God their spirit. Remember we were made in the image of God now there is a lot in that idea but we are spiritual beings. There is something that is beyond our physical. We are both physical and spiritual but we most certainly are spiritual we have a spirit that is fused somehow with our physical bodies and so in this way since God is spirit and we are spiritual creatures we must worship in spirit. That is from our inner being.

b.    Right heart

a.    Sincere

                                                  i.    This idea of worshipping in spirit includes our hearts and our emotions. It’s not purely emotional but our emotions will be involved.

                                                ii.    It is sincere worship. The idea is of a person worshipping because they want to worship. Their heart is in it we might say.

                                               iii.    Some people get up and come to a worship service and are doing it just because they think it’s expected but when they leave they are not changed they live their lives far from God. They smoke and drink and swear and are gossips and all the rest. They might go to a service but they are going for all the wrong reasons. Their worship, if you can call it that is not true devotion to God but an empty, meaningless ritual they perform.

1.    God rebukes his people for such emptiness in: Isaiah 29:13 … "…this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me,..(Isa 29:13 ESV)

2.    Jesus quotes this in: Matthew 15:8 "'This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 9 in vain do they worship me,..'" (Mat 15:8 ESV) Their worship is in useless.

3.     Listen to this: Isaiah 1:11-21 "What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. 12 "When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? 13 Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations-- I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. 14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. 15 When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. 16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, 17 learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause. 18 "Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. 19 If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; 20 but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken." 21 How the faithful city has become a whore, she who was full of justice! Righteousness lodged in her, but now murderers. (Isa 1:11 ESV)

4.    Ultimately what was wrong in all of this? Their hearts. They were worshipping God and keeping the feasts that God commanded. God was the one who told them to offer bulls and goats and all of that and they were doing that. They were lifting up their hands to God and were saying all kinds of prayers but their hearts were far from him and it was seen in their day to day lives. It showed in how they lived their lives.

                                               iv.    A person who is worshipping in Spirit is worshipping from a sincere heart that loves God. It’s not just lip service or doing a few religious activates and it can be seen in their day to day lives. Those who worship God in spirit have changed lives that reflect their devotion to God.

b.    Longing to worship the Lord

                                                  i.    The Lord is looking for those who are longing to worship him.

1.    You know if I came to visit you and I were grumpy, not in a good mood and not really wanting to come over. I didn’t really want to visit you and I told you that I had to force the kids to get up and get dressed and I really didn’t feel like visiting you but felt like I just had to do it, kind of like going to the dentist. I don’t like going to the dentist. I really don’t like going to the dentist. They always want to poke me and pick me and drill and use those things that make you gage and want to vomit but I just have to go.

2.     Or like paying taxes. I don’t like paying them and I don’t know many who do but we have to.

3.    How would you feel if I told you that? You probably would say don’t bother coming over, your heart, your spirit is not in it so don’t bother coming over. I don’t want people visiting me who don’t like me or want to visit me. I don’t think anyone does.

                                                ii.    Many people wake up on Sunday morning with that kind of heart. They are not prepared, they don’t care if their late or not, they don’t care if they show up or not and yet they are supposed to be coming to worship the God of the universe. Some people are more prepared and excited about a birthday party than they are about worshipping God. Some people would rather sit home and watch sports than worship God.

1.    I was talking to some regulars at Friendly’s where I work part-time as a cook and they were telling me that there are a bunch of priests as well as ministers from different denominations trying to have sports ban from being played or televised on Sunday so that more people would go to service and not stay home on those days. You know what I said? Don’t bother; if a person would rather watch sports than worship God in the assembly of the saints they have deeper issues. They have a heart problem.

                                               iii.    Know listen some people show up late and they have a legitimate reason and sometimes we just have bad days, don’t we? We have days when were off but we need to remember who we are coming to be with, why we are coming on Sunday.

                                               iv.    I am not here saying that if you’re late coming here you’re going to be in trouble because I am going to reprimand you, or we are all going to think how terrible you are, no, in fact if someone is thinking that they probably have a heart issue. This has nothing to do with me but with God and he knows your heart and the circumstances. But let’s not fool ourselves because we’re not fooling God.

                                                v.    We ought to take the time to prepare ourselves to come and worship God on Sunday morning, preparing our hearts just like we might prepare for a football game or a birthday party.

c.    Right attitude

a.    Humble

                                                  i.    Not only sincere hearts are involved in worshipping in spirit but humble hearts. We talked about this last week. Giving God the throne and not yourself. Placing God as the head of your life and doing as he has commanded you. Remember that one of the words for worship means to bow down which is an act of humility.

                                                ii.    Worshiping in spirit can only mean rendering such reverence to God that the entire heart, our very essence enters into the act. As Jesus said, love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.


            To truly worship God involves the sprit, the heart. Listen to these scriptures:

Psalm 51:15 O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. 16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Psa 51:15 ESV)

The Lord says in Isaiah 66:2 … "This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word. (Isa 66:2 NIV)

Remember the quote from last week as one man wrote: Worship is to feel in your heart and express in some appropriate manner a humbling but delightful sense of admiring awe and astonished wonder and overpowering love in the presence of … Our Father Which Are in Heaven. A. W. Tozer, quoted in D. J. Fant, A. W. Tozer, Christian Publications, 964, p. 90

To worship in spirit has to do with worshipping from our spiritual nature, it has to do with having the right heart, the right attitude, a humble attitude and it has to do with a person wanting to worship God, or longing to worship him.

Next week we will finish up our look at John chapter four with a look at worshipping in truth. But as we do each week we will take this time now to partake of the Lord’s Supper. I want to ask that you prepare your hearts. To remember that this is an act of worship and our hearts should be involved we should be partaking in a manner that is pleasing to God.

Remember, Christians, why we are eating this meal and who it is to which we owe our lives.

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