The Heart of Worship
Jesus said he needs to go through Samaria when He departs with His disciples on the way to Galilee, and we study in John, chapter 4, He has an appointment with a particular Samaritan woman. So He arrives at a well outside the town of Sychar, Jacob's well it is called. He sits there and He waits for her to come.
He sends His disciples on into town to find some food, and He waits and here comes this Samaritan woman, unbeknownst to her, with a divine appointment to meet the Messiah, to meet the Savior, He speaks to her. That in itself is a shock. It was a shock to her. It's a shock to us. It certainly was shock to the disciples as well; that He is speaking to a woman…that He is speaking to a Samaritan woman.
And for any resident of Sychar, that He would be speaking to that Samaritan woman, given her reputation, given her label as a harlot, given the fact she had been married so many times and was now living with a man she was not married to, probably the reason why she came at noon to the well rather than in the morning with the rest of the crowd. And Jesus is there because He wants to find a woman there, that Samaritan woman, to sit with His hands folded, to speak to her with His razor eyes and to teach you and me something about worship.
The first thing we learn about worship in looking at the story of the Samaritan woman is worship has to do with real life. It's not an artificial thing. It's not a mythical interlude during a week of reality, but in fact it is something we have to incorporate into our real life. Worship has to do with adultery and hunger and racial conflict.
Jesus is bone-weary from His journey. He's hot. He's sweaty. He's thirsty, and yet He decides, "Yes, even just now, I'm going to seek someone to worship God. I'm going to find it in a harlot, a Samaritan adulteress. I'll seek someone even at that rank to teach my disciples. I want to show my disciples the worship My Father seeks, and how He seeks it is in the midst of real life, and from the least worthy of candidates."
She is a Samaritan. She is a harlot. And Jesus says, "Yes, I will even show them a thing or two about how to make true worshippers out of the white harvest of harlots in Samaria." So He approaches this woman and He tells her, "I have living water," He says. "I have a living water that if you will drink from you'll not thirst again."
What does Jesus mean by that living water comment He makes? Well there are a couple of possibilities, and both very good possibilities. One we find in Proverbs 13, in verse 14, and I want to begin there this morning as we move toward our text in John 4. But in Proverbs 13, in verse 14, it tells us, "The law of the wise is a fountain of life." It could be Jesus is saying the living water He offers is His words. It's His teaching. It's the truths of the Scripture. It's the proper interpretation of the laws of God, the teaching Jesus was able to provide as a Rabbi might be the living water He speaks of.
But John tells us in this same gospel in John over in John, chapter 7, beginning in verse 37 through 39, it tells us, "On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, 'If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'" Now here is the closest analogy we have to what Jesus is saying in just a few chapters earlier in John 4, given to us by the same author, John, and so it's going to be right on target for us.
He says in the thirty-ninth verse, the very next verse, "But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified." So John makes it plain Jesus is speaking that living water is the Holy Spirit. It's the presence of God's spirit in your life that takes away that frustrated soul thirsting that you have and it takes it away forever. It's the Holy Spirit that turns you into someone who becomes a fountain of living water, someone who overflows with life for others instead of sucking up the life out of other people. The Holy Spirit in you is what does that.
Probably both of these are true. It is very true Jesus' teachings satisfy your thirst, and it makes you a fountain of life. It is also true the work of the Holy Spirit satisfies your thirst and makes you a fountain of life. When you think about it, the work of the Spirit of Christ is to make the Word of Christ clear and satisfying to the soul. When we come to Christ to drink, what we drink is truth, but not dead powerless facts, instead the Spirit and the Word unite and come together to take our thirst and to shake it and to make us a fountain of life. We don't just learn dead truths, in other words, but truths that are infused with the living power of the Holy Spirit, truths that make us into a fountain of life. The Word of promise and the power of the Holy Spirit are the living water offered to that Samaritan harlot on that day.
I hope that reality encourages you as much as really it encourages me to think Jesus waited until He could find a Samaritan harlot to teach us about how to worship God. I hope that encourages you because sometimes I feel so dead and so sinful, I don't even see how I can be of any use to this church any more. At those times God always comes to me. He has always come to me.
When I have those feelings of worthlessness and He graciously shows me something like this, like this Samaritan woman, the hope that a worldly, sensually-minded unspiritual harlot from Samaria can become not just saved, which would be wonderful enough, but a fountain of life. She can give life. She can be a source of living water.
I take heart if I just turn from my sin, and I keep drinking at the well of Jesus' words, I may still be of some use to this congregation. So can you if you continue to drink deep at the right well. This can be an encouragement for all of us, when it comes to worship, Jesus doesn't have to go to the high priest nor even go in front of the temple. He can go to a countryside setting with an unsavory character and show us what true worship can be all about.
So, He tells her He is the source of living water. Of course she responds in verse 15, if you'll remember from our previous study of that, she says, "Sir, give me this water that I may not thirst nor have to come here to draw again." We realize immediately that she is not getting it. She's not getting it spiritually. She's so carnal, so stuck on the physical level. But as I mentioned to you last week, beware of giving up on people too soon because this woman seems hopelessly carnal, can't see beyond her physical senses, can't see the spiritual truth in that, but Jesus aims to make her a worshipper of God. He's going to make her a worshipper in spirit and in truth.
So as she begins to divert the question of…where should we worship? On this mountain, or there in Jerusalem, and Jesus begins to respond to her there is coming a time when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will be the way you worship God, that way is now. He begins to unfold, not only for her, but for us as well, how we are to worship.
Join with me in John, chapter 4, verse 21, "Jesus said to her, 'Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor 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 the true worshipers 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.'"
Notice it says God is seeking such to worship Him. Later on the disciples would offer Jesus something to eat and He says, "I have food you know not of." They didn't understand what He said. Verse 34 of that chapter, He said, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work." We look back here in verse 23, He says, "The Father is seeking such to worship Him." We kind of come to understand a little bit more about what the mission of Christ is. He's seeking worshippers. He's seeking people to worship the Father in spirit and in truth.
There is worship temple, but they're not worshipping in spirit and truth. So too it is with this Samaritan woman, that is her question…where do I worship? Our fathers say, "Here on this mountain." You Jews say, "There in Jerusalem." Jesus says, "It's neither one because the real worship occurs in spirit, not in a place." It occurs spiritually, not physically.
The spirit He's talking about here, some people think He's talking about the Holy Spirit. I really rather take it He's talking about our spirit. Worshipping in the spirit is the opposite of worshipping in mere external ways. Worshipping in the spirit is the opposite of formalism and traditionalism. And worshipping in truth is the opposite of worship based on an inadequate view of God. Worshipping in truth means we worship with the correct view of who God is. Together the words spirit and truth mean real worship comes from the spirit, comes from your spirit within and is based on true views of who God is.
You see, when we think of worship, think of it in this analogy: Your spirit is the furnace for worship, not this room, not a temple, not a glorious sunset, but the furnace for worship is your spirit…your spirit. Now, it's true the Holy Spirit is involved in this, but I want to focus on the fact your worship depends on your spirit. The truth becomes the fuel for your worship. The spirit is the furnace and the truth is the fuel.
When we have a furnace and when we have fuel there is still one thing lacking and that's the fire. The fire is the Holy Spirit. In fact, when you think about this, if our spirit is the spirit that is to worship God, we have to go back to John, chapter 3, about verse 6 because when Jesus was talking to Nicodemus, He let us know without Christ our spirit is essentially dead. There is really nothing we can do.
Notice what He says. He says in John, chapter 3, and in verse 6, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." In other words, until the capital 'S' Spirit gives birth to your spirit, it's as though you don't even really have a spirit. It is so dead, it's so useless, and so it turns out genuine worship is reserved and is only made possible by those who have the Spirit of God, to those who have received Christ, to those for whom the Spirit has given birth to their spirit.
Without Christ in your life, without the declaration of Him as your Savior, your Messiah, your Lord, your Master, your worship is dead. It's formal. It's external. It's like this harlot. It's like many of the Pharisees. It's like the whole countryside in that day. They were doing the externals. They were feeling good. They were raising some emotional goose bumps, but there was no furnace in there. To genuinely worship God you have to be born from above. Your spirit must come to life.
Then God's Spirit and your spirit working together fueled by the truth of who God is, and the truth of God's teaching, produces the heat of genuine worship…the heat of how we are to pursue God. True worship comes from people who are deeply emotional and who love deep and sound truth as well. You know, worship must have heart and worship must have head. Worship must engage your emotions, and worship must engage your thought. Truth without emotion produces a dead church, a church full of unspiritual fighters. And emotion without truth simply produces empty frenzy. It cultivates flaky people who reject the discipline of rigorous thought.
So true worship has both, truth and emotion. It has deep emotion of people who love deeply and truth of people who love the truth. Both are required. Without both there can't be…if you don't have a true view of who God is, you cannot worship Him in truth. You're worshipping something else. You're worshipping a statue. You're worshipping perhaps yourself. You're worshipping an idea.
You're worshipping some kind of far cast off hope, but when you know more and more and more about who Jesus is, what He has done for you, how powerful God is, how just and holy and pure and chaste He is, how He cannot be in the same room with sin, how sinful you are, how you are unapproachable to God, and yet through Christ you have been given the boldness to enter in to the very presence of God. When you learn those truths, and until you learn those truths, your worship…your worship will never amount to what it can.
Jesus said, "Lady, it's not where…it's who and whom. It's spirit, that's you and it's truth and that's God. You have to know who and whom is involved in worship." When Jesus says, "The true worshippers worship in spirit," He means only true worship can come from spirits that are made alive, spirits that are able to worship Him.
So, to complete the analogy, the fuel of worship is the grand truth of a gracious and sovereign God. The fire that makes the fuel burn white hot is the quickening of the Holy Spirit. And the furnace that is made alive and warm by the flame of truth is our renewed spirit, our spirit given birth by Christ. And the resulting heat of our affections is worship, pushing its way out in tears, in confessions, in prayers, in praises, in acclamations, in lifting of hands, bowing of knees, in the obedience of life, in spirit and in truth.
The work of God is to seek real worshippers. That's what He's looking for. He's not just saving you because He feels sorry for you, having been born in sin, He wants you to worship Him. He wants to have a relationship with you. He wants you to bow before His holy presence and to worship Him in spirit and in truth. Since Jesus was sent to accomplish this work, really we should see this whole interchange with the Samaritan woman as the work of God in Jesus seeking a real worshipper, and that's really what He was doing.
He's instructing His disciples, "Look on the fields. They're white unto harvest." And the field is a Samaritan harlot and He tells us, "Look on the fields." And the field is that neighbor who has had nothing to do with church. The field is that family member who has had no interest in the things of God. The field is the coworker who has jumped from one relationship and sin to another. The field is that acquaintance who is caught up in whatever sinful activity of life. I tell you however deep to that well you want to go, however low in life, however disqualified you might think someone happens to be, Jesus desires they worship God.
He sends us now as His representative to see those fields are white unto harvest. Those people are there to worship God in spirit and in truth, not just those of us who know how to dress, how to sing, when to stand, when to sit. No, we must worship God. Make no doubt about it, but He sends us to those who don't know what worship is, whose view of God is some name you call out just before a car wreck, whose view of God is someone you yell at when you're in that hospital emergency room or facing that traumatic financial situation, someone who does not know God in truth. They only know God in the figment of their imagination. How can they worship Him?
You seek them so they might first of all be given a spirit that comes alive by salvation through Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who leads them to learn who God is, so they might worship Him more. The real model is it's not the young people ought to be the ones leading in worship, but the ones who have known God for 50 years ought to be the ones leading in worship, who know God, who've seen Him rescue, who have seen Him deliver…who have seen Him.
I feel more like worshipping God now than when I did when I was 20 and when I was 30. I may not have the voice. I may not have the knees to worship Him as I once did, but I love Him so much more because He's done so much more. I want to show that to others to lead them to worship Him in spirit and in truth…to worship from within here. That's our spirit based on the truth of who God is.
Every truth we learn, whether you were in a Sunday school class this morning and you learned a truth about God, or a Bible study or a home study, should increase your ability to know who God is, and that ought to increase your worship. That ought to increase your praise. That's what Jesus wants this Samaritan woman to do. He wants to lead her to the point where, yes she sees He's the Messiah, and for the first time in her life rather than going to that Samaritan temple like she used to do blindly without thinking which had no effect on her life and did nothing for one marriage after another after adulterous affair after another, now she sees the truth. And she learns to worship.
For the first time maybe in your life God is speaking to your heart today to say the real church, the real service is not what you've come and forced yourself to sit through, maybe since you were a small child, but God is seeking you. He wants to introduce you to real worship.
He wants to show you why that person next to you, I'm serious now, is crying during the simple verse of a song. Why it is they pray with such earnestness, why it is they respond so vocally to the truths of God. God wants to introduce you to Himself, to bring alive that spirit that is within you to create that furnace, so the truths of God can be put in there as fuel. And the Holy Spirit can ignite that to a white hot passion that changes your life. God wants to do that to your heart today.
Transcribed by Digital Sermon Transcription