In Spirit and In Truth
The last time that I preached, I let you know that Charlie had asked me to fill in for him as the coach of McKay’s basketball team. At first it was just a couple of practices. However, last week Tuesday night, Charlie had to tap me on the shoulder to fill in for him again: this time for a game. Pastor Charlie had reassured me that this game would be no big deal. They had scrimmaged against this team before and had won going away. He told me who to play and when and what to focus attention on. I had it all written down, and I was ready to go. Everything was fine until the game started. The other team was running a different defense than the one I was prepared for. At that point, I started to get nervous. Then other team scored first, and then I started to sweat. Eventually, our team settled down, started making a couple of baskets, and I started to relax. The score was close the whole game, but our team pulled it out in the end. It wasn’t a blowout like I was anticipating, but a win is a win, right?
Over the last several weeks, God has been teaching us about worship. He has been teaching us some important truths like worship is not what you get out of it but what you put in. When you’re leaving church, you shouldn’t ask, what did I get from that, but did I glorify God? This morning, we have the privilege of learning about the how God wants to be worshipped, because how you do something is very important. In marriage, one of the things that I have learned is that people receive love in different ways. If you have ever read Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages, you will know what I mean. I love my wife and desire for her to be loved, but how I show that love is important. My wife needs to be loved with Quality Time. If I hug her and kiss her and do the dishes and the laundry and take care of Elliot, she’ll appreciate that, but if I’m not talking with her while I’m doing those things, she won’t feel loved. How I show her love is extremely important. The same is true with God. How we worship him is extremely important.
Because God is seeking true worshippers, we need to worship God in Spirit and in Truth.
God is in the business of seeking worshippers. Don’t get confused by what John is saying in our passage here this morning. God is not stumbling around, going back and forth on the earth, hoping to find people who will join him like some sort of cult leader trying to find people to join him. God knows who is a worshipper and who is not. He already knows, and he is seeking those people out from the far reaches of the world to worship him.
God created people to worship him. ‘God is seeking’ means that God desires people who will worship him. That is why he created us. We were made in the God’s image to reflect his glory back to him. We were created not for our benefit, but for God’s benefit, that he might be honored and praised and glorified for who he is and what he does.
The first question and answer of the Westminster Catechism makes it clear why we were made: what is the chief end of man? What is the reason that we were created? What is our purpose? To glorify God and to enjoy him forever. If you have read anything by John Piper, you would know that he believes that the way that we glorify God is by enjoying him forever. The way that we worship our Great God and Father is to enjoy him. How do you enjoy God? It’s not as hard as it sounds.
My junior and senior year of college, I had a best friend named Mark. Whenever Mark and I needed to spend some time together or to just talk, we would call each other up and say, Hey mark. Wanna go play catch? We’d spend an hour or so throwing the baseball back and forth, talking, and enjoying each other. How do you enjoy someone? By spending time with that person. When you spend time with them, you are acknowledging that person is important. When I hang out with students or sit with them at lunch at their schools, it’s because they are important to me. By spending time with God, we are acknowledging that he is important to us. This is glorifying to him.
Over this past fall, I was working on a vision statement for our Youth Program. I wanted something simple yet profound to accurately describe why we do what we do. Our new vision statement goes a little something like this: RYM (Redeemer Youth Ministry) exists to glorify God by sharing the gospel, connecting with fellow believers, deepening our relationship with God, and serving others. Our main purpose is to glorify God. Everything else that we do--connecting, deepening, sharing and serving—all fall under glorifying God. The way that we as youth glorify God is by doing all these other things.
Knowing that we were created to worship God—to glorify him and to enjoy him forever—raises a natural question: how? The Samaritan woman in our passage this morning is asking that question. Jesus is on his way from Judah to Galilee. In order to get there, he has to go through Samaria. He and his disciples could have gone around Samaria like many other Jews were in the habit of doing, but Jesus knew that he had a divine appointment with this woman at the well. After asking her for a drink and telling her about the living water that he has to offer, he instructs her to go and get her husband. Seeing as she had been divorced multiple times and was now living with her boyfriend, she got embarrassed and said “I have no husband.” Jesus responded by saying “I know you don’t have a husband” and proceeded to go over her whole relational history. After recovering from the shock of having her dirty laundry just hung out there, she realizes that this man talking to her is special, so she asks a question that has been on her mind: “my ancestors used to worship here on this mountain, but the Jews say that you have to worship in Jerusalem. Who is right?” Basically, she is asking “is where you worship important?”
Jesus responds profoundly, as only the Son of God can. Where you worship doesn’t matter. What matters is who you worship and how you worship! Jesus says that true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth.
When you think of worshipping God in spirit, it is natural to think of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit—the second person of the Trinity—enables worship. Without the Holy Spirit, worship is not possible. Because of the influence of sin in our lives, worship of God can’t come from ourselves. Without the Holy Spirit, our hearts are dead to all things involving God. The Holy Spirit must enter into and transform our hearts. Our naturally tendency is to worship anything but God. We need the Holy Spirit in our lives; otherwise worship of God is impossible.
For worship to be done in Truth, it has to be done according to the Bible. The Bible contains God’s truth, and the Bible is our guide as to how we are to worship God correctly. God has simply and plainly laid out in the Bible what he desires from worship. True worship of God comes through the power of the Holy Spirit and is guided by what the Bible says.
Because true worship is done in spirit and in truth, the ‘where’ of worship doesn’t matter greatly. The Holy Spirit transforms our hearts and turns us into worshippers of God. True worship happens when our hearts are engaged by the Spirit of God according to the truth of God. When worship comes from our hearts, where we are isn’t as important, as Jesus states in these verses. This should mean a great deal for us as a church. Our location is far from traditional. Here we sit between a gym and the Department of Driver’s Services. Before moving to this location, Redeemer met in a school. And now we are moving to a building out on William Few. In the almost 28 years that I have been alive, I’ve had the privilege of worshipping in many different places around the globe: from Chicago to Orlando, Indiana to Israel, Colorado to Kenya. I’ve worshipped in churches, in monasteries and in cathedrals. I’ve worshipped in national parks, on top of mountains, and at the lowest point on earth. Just because I may have sung songs or read the Bible in these places, that doesn’t mean that I have worshipped there. For worship to happen, it must come from the heart. Worship is not merely external. Worship is internal. It is the condition of the heart.
We have done everything that we can possibly do to get worship wrong. Ever since the Fall, we have been worshipping the wrong things and in the wrong way. Instead of worshipping the creator, we worship creation. We worship everything from the sun to the trees to animals to other human beings. We worship our jobs. We worship our status. Our cars. Our bank accounts. Everything and anything can be the object of our worship, and more often than not, these things take the God’s rightful place of worship. Only he is worthy to be worshipped.
Not only do we worship the wrong things, but we often fall into the trap of worshipping God in the wrong way. Jesus tells us that God is to be worshipped in Spirit and in Truth. Spirit and Truth must go together like Milk and Cookies. Peanut Butter and Jelly. Love and Marriage. T
Worship with all Spirit and no truth becomes frenzied charismania. No one seems to know what is going on or why they are doing what they are doing. Worship flows freely from heart, but without really knowing who God is and what is happening. All truth with no Spirit leads to dead orthodoxy. Worship flows freely from the mind, but the heart is not engaged. Life is not affected and there is no joy.
As Presbyterians, we lean towards the end of the spectrum of more truth and less spirit. We pride ourselves on our doctrine—as we should—but we often don’t let the truths of the Bible sink much below our heads. God longs for our hearts to be engaged in worship. He longs for our entire beings—our heads and our hearts—to be active in worship. Not one or the other. Both.
Jesus says that “a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” Jesus has said that God will be worshipped rightly—in Spirit and in truth—and it is happening right now. Despite all that human beings have done to worship the wrong things and in the wrong ways, God made it possible so that he would be worshipped and he would be worshipped correctly. God went to great lengths to make that possible. The woman—at the end of our passage—says that she knows that the Messiah is coming and when he does, he will explain everything. Jesus responds: “I who am speaking to you am he.”
John 3:16 states that God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. God also gave his one and only Son so that the world could be redeemed from sin and worship God and in the correct manner. Without Jesus paying the penalty for sin, we could not worship God and we could not worship him in the right way.
As we wrap this up, we head back to the beginning. God is seeking worshippers. God desires for his people to worship him in spirit and in truth. The where of worship is not as important as the who and the how. God longs to be worshipped in Spirit and in Truth. For us, that means that worship needs come from our spirits through the power of the Holy Spirit according to truth. Our worship needs to originate in our hearts. Worshipping God is not possible without a love for God. To worship God rightly—in Spirit and in truth—we need to fall in love with God. I remember falling in love with my wife Stephanie. Today marks the three year anniversary of when I realized that I was falling in love with her. It was Super Bowl Sunday in 2006. Ironically, the Steelers were playing in the Super Bowl that year as well. Long story short, I had a conversation with Stephanie that opened my eyes to see what an amazing woman she is. We went on our first date less than a week later, and 8 months after that, we were married.
Worshipping God can’t happen if you don’t love God. God is calling people to himself who love him so deeply that they worship him with all that they have, in spirit and in truth. When we love God so deeply that we worship him with all that we have, our desire is to share that love with others. Worship of God leads to missions.
As you may or may not know, our annual mission’s conference is coming up at the end of this month. Missions and worship are inseparably linked. As Piper says, Missions exists because worship doesn’t. The reason that we have missions is because there are people in the world who are not currently worshippers of God. Our love for God leads us to worship. Our love for God also leads us to missions because when we tell others about the good news of the gospel, God is glorified. God is worshipped through missions. Worship and missions are inseparable, but missions will end at some point. When Christ returns, missions will cease, but worship will not. Worship will continue forever.
If worship is going to continue on for eternity, it is important for us to worship correctly. Our call this morning is to examine our hearts. We need to ask ourselves the question: Do I love God and do I worship him only? If you are unsure of the answer, the first step is to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. Your sins will be forgiven, and you will be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. As we said before, without the power of the Holy Spirit, our hearts are dead because of sin. But with the Holy Spirit, our hearts come alive for God!
When we believe in Jesus, true worship—in spirit and in truth—is possible. Our whole bodies—our head and our heart—everything that we have—will be engaged in worship. This is what the Lord seeks from us. This is why he created us, and this is why he redeemed us through Jesus. Don’t be afraid to engage your heart in worship, and don’t be afraid to show your heart in worship.
No matter where you are—true worship is possible when it flows from your spirit, enabled by the Holy Spirit, according to God’s truth. This is the true worship that God seeks.
So as we wrap up our sermaon series on worship and as we leave church this morning, we should leave asking ourselves questions. The questions we need to ask ourselves are not what did I get from the service this morning, but what did I give to God? We need to ask ourselves if what we know about God in our head has made its way down into our hearts. And we need to ask if we are falling more and more in love with Jesus everyday. That is the type of worshipper that God seeks.