Spiritual and Religious
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What does it mean to worship in spirit and in truth? How do we practice that sort of worship in our daily lives?
Good morning and welcome to all of you who are gathered here together with us in person and to those who are gathering with us online. Last week we had the joy to celebrate both the death and then the resurrection of our lord and savior. And what an appropriate time, I believe, for us to begin this new series, a new part of our series that we're going to be looking at: the hands of worship. And if you've been with us for a time, you notice that we've we've begun to do this longer term series, looking at three aspects
Of discipleship, our head, what we know about God, our heart, how that changes us or how we feel about God and our hands, what we do about that. And so I'm excited to see where God takes us in the next couple of weeks as we look at what it means to be active worshipers of our God. Today, we're going to begin this series by looking at this story that was just read for us, the woman at the well.
And, you know, it's a popular passage, one many of you probably already know pretty well. And as you think of that story, what is it that comes to mind?
You know, do you do you think of Samaritans mixing with Jews or racial issues?
Do you think about water coming from wells?
Do you think about the humanity displayed by Jesus? Do you think about marriage?
I think about my own marriage and I think about the place of worth that I've put my marriage in in my life. And my wife Kate is so important to me. And I've spent time reading books like The Five Love Languages and time talking to her and asking her, How can I help you to feel more loved? How can I show you the value that you have in my life?
And as we look at this particular story, we're going to see that that Jesus is drawing this woman to an idea of something of more importance that she's not placing on in her life. And so we're going to look at this conversation where Jesus shows this woman ultimately her need for him and the worship that must follow.
So to me, true worship that God seeks is about more than time. It's about more than a place or a worship service or a song, but rather, it's about a total devotion of our lives to our God.
And on the story, Jesus leaves Judea and he goes back to Galilee and it says that he had to go through Samaria. For those of you that don't know the story, this is actually historically and geographically untrue. In fact, most of the Jews of the day would take this long route around adding days to their journey so they could avoid going through Samaria.
And yet here we see John saying Jesus had to go through. And so here is our God who knows he has this important appointment to meet this woman where she is and to show her how her life can change.
So he arrives at Sychar is tired, so he sits down by the well and his disciples go into town to buy food.
And the Samaritan woman comes out in the middle of the heat of the day to draw her water. A time when no one else would come out to draw water; it was hot. They would usually draw it at a much cooler time of day and they would they would go together. And here she is all by herself.
And Jesus is sitting here and he says to her and he asks her for help. He says, Can you draw me some water? Can you give me something to drink? And immediately, this woman is shocked. She said, How can you ask me for a drink? Don't you know that you're a Jew and I'm a Samaritan woman? We don't mix. And in fact, if Jesus had drinking water that was drawn by her and had been touched by her, he would have been considered unclean by his own people. So she thinks this is shocking. And then Jesus goes on to tell her something even more shocking. He says, if you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water. So these words suggest that there's something more at work going on here than what she is focused on. Instead of a racial or religious divide, Jesus says this is more about a gift from God and the one sitting in front of you, the man here, Jesus, has access to this gift. All you need to do is ask for it. Now, of course, the woman being practical immediately spots a problem with this. Sir, you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father, Jacob, who gave us this well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock. So here's Jesus sitting here. And not only does he not have a water jar or anything to draw water with; a moment ago he had just asked her for water himself. So how can he now offer me something that it seemed a moment ago like he didn't even have, so she seems to start to gather this idea. There's something going on here. If you can really offer me water that you a moment ago didn't have, then you must be greater than Jacob who gave us this well. And Jesus says everyone who drinks this water, the well, will be thirsty again. But whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of waterwelling up to eternal life.
The woman immediately says, Sir, give me this water so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming back here again and again to draw water.
So Jesus says to her, Yes, I am greater. What I offer is greater. So much so that what I'm offering you now will fill all the need that you have in your life, not just now, but into eternity. So Jesus coming to this appointment already knows all about this woman. He knows who she is. He knows about her life. He knows the ways that she's trying to fill the empty void in that life and the ways that that attempt is not working. Even now, she is still thinking of this physical result. She's thinking of not having to come to the well in the heat of the day, not having to lug this heavy water. But the emptiness that Jesus is offering to fill is not a physical emptiness. It's one that nothing in this whole world can fill. I don't know about you, but as humans, I think we often try to fill emptiness in our lives and we try to fill it with all of this stuff that we think is going to finally make us happy is going to finally make us feel complete. And so we we fill it with good food and with entertainment. And, you know, I think about the the time that I spend reading books and going out to restaurants and watching Netflix and keep thinking that at some point, is it going to be enough as some point? Is that going to make me feel full? But even if those things do make us feel good or fill us temporarily, they're never going to satisfy. They're never going to bring us to a point where we can say, I don't need anything more than this. It's all temporary.
I like the way poet and priests from the Church of England, George Herbert, born in the late 1500s, says it. He says the whole wide world is not enough to fill the heart's three corners. But yet it craveth still.
Only the trinity that made it can suffice the vast triangled heart of man.
In other words, you and I can search this whole world over. We can experience every single thing that this world has to offer us and it will not be enough. In fact, Solomon tries this being the man known for wisdom given to him by God, he he tries every pleasure and tries rulership and authority tries all of these different things. And when he gets to the end of it, he says, meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless. And this then is the conclusion that he comes to. Now, all has been heard.
Here is the conclusion of the matter. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of mankind.
For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. So out of all the earthly things we might seek after every single thing we do is wide open before our God
And only our relationship with God, the things used to glorify him and the life lived for him and through him is going to mean anything to us in the end. So if we choose him to be the one to fill our need, then he promises here to well up in us a wellspring of water that will satisfy us not just for this life, but forever. This is what we need. It is the only thing that can fulfill us completely. Yet before we can seek it, we must realize our need. We are all sinners seeking after what is meaningless until we encounter our God, who shows us our need and offers us the only gift that can satisfy. And Jesus does this for this woman at the well, gently, but clearly he points out the need in this woman's life. Go call your husband and come back. I have no husband, she replied.
And Jesus says to her you are right when you say you have no husband, the fact is you have had five husbands and the man you have now is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.
I don't know about you if you've ever done this, but sometimes when I'm ashamed about something and somebody asks me,
I'll tell a bit of the truth. That kind of hides the fact of the full shame of what it is that I've said or done. And this woman tries this here.
And our God immediately says, no, we need to bring the whole thing out into the light. The whole of it must be exposed. And there, exposed is where I can wash it away.
Jesus knows that the only way you and I can move forward is if we can let go of our own attempts to fill our lives and if we can let go of the shame that's holding us back.
And so he brings this all out into the light. And yet, even so does not take away his offer of living water that can well up in her.
Instead of the judgment this woman fears, he continues to love her and to listen to her, even knowing what he does about her. He has offered her this living water. And with this, she begins to see maybe there's something more going on with this man than meets the eye. So she gives him the place in her mind that makes sense. Sir, I can see that you are a prophet. Now, if I have believed that a man that I was talking to was a prophet,
I have to be honest with you. I would probably ask him about my future. I would probably ask him how I could be successful, how I could be happy, how it could be any of those things. But I love the woman's response here. Her first thought is to question now that I believe this, how can I worship? Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain Mount Gerizim. But you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem. I read a deeper question here than which place do I go?
I read a question of how do I get to this God that you're talking about?
Can I meet him here or must I go there? Where do I go? Where is the right place? And Jesus says, woman, believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the father, neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. It's not the place. Neither place is exclusively where you will worship God. And the places of worship are not the path to get to God any more. I think this is a trap that many of us churches often fall into. We can feel like because we go to a certain denomination, because we go to a certain church or kind of worship service, that we are more saved or that we have a better connection to God. It can be tempting to feel like that it's our place and that's what's most important. But while the Jews offered one temple and the Samaritans offered another, Jesus is saying that neither is what the worship God desires is about.
He tells her 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 in me when the true worshipers will worship the father in spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the father seeks. God is spirit and his worshippers must worship in the Spirit and in truth. You know, there are some that say that all religions are good and lead to heaven. But here we see that's not the case in God's mind. He tells her that the Samaritan's way of worship is not authorized or approved by God or by scripture. And, instead of even though she's excited to worship, instead of just telling her, keep doing what you're doing, he says, no, I have I have a better way for you. I have the way that God seeks for people to worship him. And the Jews, they may worship what they know, but their worship falls short, too. They have parts of the truth. And in fact, up until that time, their temple was the place to get to God. That was the only place. But even so, their hearts aren't right. Neither one is worshipping in spirit. And in truth, both are focused on the place and the kind of worship. Both are convinced they have it right and yet that the other is wrong. And the the thing that ties them the most together is something that suddenly occurs to this woman. We're waiting for something both the Samaritans and the Jews were waiting for something. It begins to occur to this woman that maybe prophet isn't quite the right label for this man. The woman said, I know that Messiah called Christ is coming. And when he comes, he will explain everything to us.
And then Jesus declared, I, the one speaking to you, I am he.
In the face of this declaration and the fact that Jesus was right there, the time has now come. This woman must decide whether or not she wants the gift, whether or not she wants to be a true worshipper the way God seeks. She is confronted here with Jesus, who appears to be a man, and yet who told her everything she did and now claims to be both savior and by his words, I am, God. So Jesus goes through this whole conversation to ultimately declare who he is and to present the kind of worship and worshippers it is that he seeks, those who worship in spirit and in truth. So if you're listening to this and you haven't made that choice, if you haven't encountered Jesus and decided you want to be a worshipper of him, this message is for you. God knows you completely inside and out. Just as he knew this American woman. He knows every bit of your weakness and your sin and your shame. And he loves you any way. He wants you to bring all of that to him, to expose it to the light so that you can leave all of it behind and join him for eternity.
He wants to know you and wants you to know him. So if you want to be truly known in a way that no one on this earth has ever known you and you want to be truly loved in a way no human has ever loved you, there's no other name under heaven, no other person in all of existence who can provide that to you, accept Jesus. So whether you've been attending church your whole life or whether you're still seeking and this is your first visit, if you have questions, if you are seeking to be known and loved in this way, please don't hesitate to speak to me or to one of the pastors here. We'd love to talk with you. We'd love to help you begin that journey. But it's not just for those who have not said yes. This message is also for all of us who have said yes, it is a call for those of us who believe in Jesus to worship him truly in the way that he desires. And I believe Psalm 103 really gives us a
Beautiful glimpse of this. I love how David starts the song Praise the Lord, My Soul, all my inmost being.
Praise his holy name. For David here, worship just isn't about the words. It's about praise that flows out of his deepest, inmost being out of his heart. And it's about praising God not only for who he is, but for what he has done and what he continues to do in our lives. Most of the rest of the psalm goes on to describe some of these truths for us. He forgives all of our sins. He heals us. He redeems us from the pit that we deserve for our sins. He crowns us with love and compassion, works, righteousness and justice, he makes his way known to us and I love this part. He knows us even from the very dust that you and I are formed out of and to the brevity of the lives that we live here. His kingdom rules over all things, and he has established his throne forever.
And so when we choose to accept this living water, the name of Jesus and are born again by the spirit, the same spirit within our inmost being, within our hearts and the truth of who God is and what he has done should inspire in us worship that just flows out of us that we cannot help but to live and be in a way that demonstrates Jesus inside of us. And to not do that, I think, is foolish. To know who Jesus is and to know what it is that he's commanded and not to do it is foolishness. Listen, this is what James says. James 1:23-24. Anyone who listens to the word, to Jesus, but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. What is the point of going to worship, of singing songs of praise, of listening to the word if it's not going to change our lives, if it's not going to change who we are and how we respond. Now the Pharisees of Jesus' day fell into this trap. Jesus says they worshipped what they knew, but then goes on to say, yet more is coming. There's something that's missing here. They knew the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They knew the statutes he had commanded and followed these and made many more. But yet Isaiah still says this about them and Jesus quotes him. These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain. Their teachings are merely human rules. They had the right God and even said the right things many times. But knowing that truth did not change their hearts. They did not truly approach God or want in their lives what he wanted from them. They were worried about the ceremony, about the right song, about having the place of honor at feasts, about being recognized for being good worshippers. They presented the truth on the outside, but it did not penetrate into their hearts.
Religion was for them pride and a way to get what they wanted. There have been times in my own life when I've struggled with this.
I have behaved as though what I know about God makes me better than somebody else believed that it is in the knowing that makes me good, makes me better. But I have to face the truth that this is not worship that pleases God. This is not attitude that pleases God. What he wants from me is an inner heart that desires him, that desires to face him.
And a heart that desires to put him in his place of worth in our lives. You know, I think about how I worshipped in the past. There have been times in my life when I've given God an hour on Sunday morning and an hour of some kind of a discipleship group, and then the rest of my week have gone back to living my normal life the way I felt I wanted to live it.
And if you do the math on that an hour on Sunday morning and an hour for a discipleship group versus the rest of the hours in a week, that's barely giving God one percent of my week versus a God who has given me all of himself. And the opposite kind of worshiper is also not what God desires.
There are people who are devoted to what they believe about God and filled with zeal, people who are extremely spiritual and spend most of their time devoted to doing what they believe is right. But they don't seek out the truth. They don't come to know fully what it is, even that what they're worshipping or doing wants from them. I think Paul, when he was still Saul, is a wonderful example of this. He has so filled with zeal that in the name of his faith, went to the point of being willing to persecute and even kill Christians. And then one day, our lord and savior confronts him. And in that moment, he has to make a choice. Do I want to keep worshipping the way I want or do I move my life to be the way my savior wants?
And Paul makes the right choice. He keeps that zeal, but now follows it up with truth. And if we look at the life of Paul after this, we see a common theme. He's constantly praising the father and Jesus in song, in word and in action. He's found singing songs of praise, even in prison, sharing the word of truth with others and sacrificing his whole life to the king of his life. He goes across the known world, not really even knowing where he's going to end up or what's going to face him there, but even then puts his whole trust in what it is that Jesus has for him. Psalm 103 says from everlasting to everlasting, the Lord's love is with those who fear him and his righteousness with their children's children, with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts. So here we see wrapped up in an entire psalm about praising God for who he is. This passage shows that true worship must contain action. It must contain obedience just as much as it is about singing or about praise. James 1 continues a little further down, wording it in this way: to God, pure and undefiled religion is this to visit orphans to widows in their trouble and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. Jesus is saying to us that our faith and our worship must be both based in spirit and in truth, must both be based in who our God is and and in a reaction, a response to what he has done for us.
And I think the woman at the well takes this perfectly. Her immediate response after she hears who Jesus is, she immediately, leaving her water jar, went back to the town and said to the people, come, come and see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be, could this be the Messiah? And they came out of the town with her and made their way toward him. She rushes so quickly to live out this truth and this spirit that are now within her and from Jesus, that she leaves behind the entire purpose for which she was at the well in the first place, leaves behind her water jar and she leaves behind her shame. And in fact, not only does she leave it behind, she now raises it up as a reason for them to believe in Jesus, just as it was a reason for her to believe. I believe it's time for us to stop hiding, too. I believe it's time for us to stop waiting. It's time for us to worship our God in the way that he desires, not just with a small part, but with our whole being.
And our lord and savior, he is at the well right now waiting for each one of us. Please join me in prayer. Father, we're so grateful for the life that we have in your son, for the hopethat we have in you. Please help us to to draw near to you and to to be filled in a way that will last forever, not in a way that goes away temporarily.
Father, help us to be worshippers who worship you, not just with our lips, but with our whole hearts are in most being. Help us to praise and to live in a way that praises you. We thank you for this life that we can have. In your name we pray. Amen.