Sermon #30 John’s Gospel
Title: WHO WORSHIPS GOD?
Text: John 4:24
Subject: True Worship
Date: Sunday Morning — November 23, 2008
Tape # John #30
Readings: Philippians 3:1-21
John 4:24 “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”
In the light of that statement, I have a question, a question which must be answered from the Word of God alone. It cannot be answered upon the basis of our feelings, sentiments, or emotions. It cannot be answered by creeds, confessions of faith, or religious customs. Who Worships God? Only the Word of God can tell us who truly worships God.
This much is clear. — If we would worship God, we must worship him in spirit and in truth. If we would worship God, we must “we must worship him in spirit.” That is to say, we must worship him by his Spirit, in our spirits, in a spiritual manner. And we must worship him “in truth.”
Worshipping God in truth means that we must worship him truthfully, with sincerity, honesty, and uprightness. To worship in truth is to worship without duplicity. We cannot worship God until we open our hearts before him, take off all our masks and do away with all pretense. Whether in the public assembly of God’s saints or in the still and darkness of the night watches upon our beds, if we would worship God, we must be deliberately naked before him (Matthew 15:8-9).
(Matthew 15:8-9) “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. 9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”
But there is more. If we would truly worship God, we must worship him in accordance with revealed truth, as he is revealed in Christ, who is the Truth. And we must worship him according to the Word of Truth. — “Thy Word is Truth” (John 17:17).
What does that mean? Without question, it means much, much more than I can tell you now. But it certainly means this: If we worship God, we must worship him…
Š Confessing our sins, like the publican (Total Depravity). – 1 John 1:9
Š Trusting Christ’s blood and righteousness as our Substitute (Effectual Atonement). — In Christ’s name. — “Call upon the name of the Lord.”
Š Upon an altar of earth, without steps – Free grace alone (Exodus 20:24-26).
(Exodus 20:24-26) “An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen: in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee. 25 And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it. 26 Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon.”
The Lord Jesus declares, “The Father seeketh such to worship him” (John 4:23). What a wondrous declaration of grace! God Almighty is seeking sinners to worship him in spirit, sincerely, and in truth…
Our text declares, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). But it is ever the nature and tendency of fallen man to pervert the worship of God.
Š We have been blessed with ordinances of divine worship. But rather than using the ordinances to worship God in spirit and in truth, we pervert them into carnal ceremonies, services and rituals, without regard to God.
Š We content ourselves with the bodily exercise of outward worship and neglect the inward reality of spiritual worship.
Š All men by nature prefer gaudiness to godliness!
Paul said, “Bodily exercise” (the mere outward motions of divine worship) “profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come” (1 Timothy 4:8).
You and I are impressed by, pleased with, and dedicated to outward religion. “But the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). And “that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God” — (Luke 16:15).
Understand what I am saying. — Outward public worship and the outward service of God must never be neglected. But if outward worship is all we have our worship is vain worship! The absence of a true heart, the absence of heart faith in Christ and heart devotion to the glory of God, makes all outward acts of religion vain worship. Read Isaiah 29:13-14.
Isaiah 29:13-14 “Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: (14) Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.”
In Matthew 15:1-9 our Lord applies this text to the Pharisees of his day and to all in our day who pervert the worship of God into nothing but hypocritical, outward religious service. Read Matthew 15:1-9.
Matthew 15:1-9 “Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, (2) Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. (3) But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? (4) For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. (5) But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; (6) And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. (7) Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, (8) This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. (9) But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”
Š The Pharisees added to the Word of God the traditions of men, and insisted upon obedience to their traditions (Matthew 15:3).
Š And they perverted the commandment of God to suit heir own self-serving, self-righteous, hypocritical religion (Matthew 15:5-6; Mark 7:6-13).
Mark 7:6-13 “He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. (7) Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. (8) For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. (9) And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. (10) For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: (11) But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. (12) And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; (13) Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.”
Š The Lord Jesus declares that all such religion is both vain and hypocritical — an utter abomination to God!
1. All merely outward religion, that which does not involve heart worship, is vain worship. — “This people draw near to me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me.”
Š They prayed and called upon the name of God.
Š They professed to be the people of God.
Š They said they believed the doctrine of God.
Š They practiced the ordinances of God.
Š But their hearts were far removed from God; and God regarded their vain worship as an abomination, a mere form of godliness! (Isaiah 1:10-18; 66:1-3).
Isaiah 66:1-3 “Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? (2) For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word. (3) He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog’s neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine’s blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol. Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations.”
2. All acts of divine worship, precepts of righteousness, and doctrines imposed upon the church by the traditions and customs of men are but vain worship. — God says, in Isaiah 29:13, “Their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men!” (Creeds, Confessions, Liturgies).
Š Infant Baptism!
Š Religious Activities!
Š Religious Ceremonies, Programs, etc.!
Š Sabbath Days, Holy Days, Solemn Seasons!
3. All true worship is a work of the heart (John 4:23-24; Philippians 3:3; Romans 10:9-10).
John 4:23-24 “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. (24) God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”
Romans 10:9-10 “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. (10) For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
Philippians 3:3 “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.”
Š Faith is a Heart Work.
Š Repentance is a Heart Work.
Š Singing is a Heart Work.
Š Praying is a Heart Work.
Š Preaching is a Heart Work.
Š Hearing is a Heart Work.
Š Baptism is a Heart Work.
Š Communion — (The Lord’s Supper) — is a Heart Work.
It is not the bodily exercise of religious service that God requires, but godliness. God wants our hearts! — “My Son, give me thine heart.” If he has our hearts he will accept our services of divine worship for Christ’s sake. But if he does not have our hearts, God will never accept our services!
4. If we attempt to fool God with the hypocrisy of vain worship, God will leave us to the folly of vain religion (Isaiah 29:14). — “Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.”
Joel 2:12-14 “Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: (13) And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. (14) Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat offering and a drink offering unto the LORD your God?”
In this day of spiritual darkness, idolatry, paganism, and superstition, let us return to our God, and return to the worship of our God, in spirit and in truth.
5. The Holy Spirit gives us a striking example of true worship in the apostle Paul (Philippians 3:1-14).
Turn with me to Philippians chapter three, and I will wrap this message up by showing you from the Word of God an example of true worship. The Apostle Paul is held before us in the Word of God as an example of what we ought to be. — His conversion, we are told, is the pattern of true conversion. His preaching is the standard of all true gospel preaching. And his worship is here held before us upon the pages of Inspiration by the Spirit of God as an example of what it is to worship God in spirit and in truth.
A Delightful Exhortation
This chapter begins with a sweet, delightful exhortation (v. 1). — Paul says, “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord.” He used this word, rejoice, ten times in the four chapters of this short Epistle. We ought to always, in the depths of our hearts and souls, rejoice in the Lord. No matter what our providential experiences and circumstances are, we always have reason to rejoice in the Lord. Here is an exhortation to joy. What a blessed command! — “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say rejoice” (4:4). As we rejoice in him, we worship him. Rejoice in…
Š the greatness of his person as our all-sufficient Substitute.
Š the power of his blood, which cleanses us from all sin.
Š the perfection of his righteousness, which is imputed to us for justification and imparted to us in sanctification.
Š the abundance of his grace, which is always sufficient for us.
Š the immutability of his love, which never fails.
Š the rule of his providence, which works all things together for our good.
Š the fact of his intercession, which is continual and effectual on our behalf.
Š the fact that your names are written in heaven.
This is the exhortation with which Paul opens this chapter — “Rejoice in the Lord!” May God give me grace ever to do so for the glory of Christ and the good of his people.
A Serious Warning
In verse 2, the apostle gives us a serious warning. — “Beware of dogs.” — He warns us to beware of false prophets. He calls them dogs because that is what the Word of God calls male prostitutes. False prophets are men who have for their own sakes prostituted the gospel of Christ and the glory of God.
Deuteronomy 23:18 “Thou shalt not bring the hire of a whore, or the price of a dog, into the house of the LORD thy God for any vow: for even both these are abomination unto the LORD thy God.”
Isaiah 56:10-11 “His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber. Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter.”
“Beware of evil workers.” — This is a warning against those who teach, preach, and promote any system of man centered, works based, free will religion (Matthew 7:22-23).
Matthew 7:22-23 “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? (23) And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
Man centered, works based, free will religion is the single greatest evil and the single greatest cause of evil in this world. The “good works” of religion without Christ are the most abominably evil works done in this world. Throughout the Scriptures of the Old Testament and of the New, they are compared to prostitution, harlotry, sodomy and drunkenness.
(Romans 1:25-31) “Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. (26) For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: (27) And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet. (28) And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; (29) Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, (30) Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, (31) Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful.”
“Evil workers,” as Paul uses the term in this context, are will-worshipping Arminians, free-willers, and legalists, people who teach that God’s salvation depends upon and is determined by man.
“Beware of the concision.” — Those who are of the concision are men and women who cut, mutilate, and torture their bodies in hope of winning God’s favor.
Š Doing Penance
Š Observing Lent
Š Monasticism, Flagellation
Š Religious Taboos, Asceticism
In essence, Paul is saying, Beware of Christless religion. Beware of any religious custom, doctrine, or service that is centered in yourself and encourages you to focus attention on yourself.
True Religion Described
Now look at verse 3. Here we are given a description of true religion. Here the Holy Spirit tells us who truly worships God. This is what it is to worship God in Spirit and in truth.
Philippians 3:3 “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.”
True religion is not man centered, but Christ centered. — True religion is not ceremonial, but spiritual. — True religion is not a matter of creed, but of conviction. — True religion is not outward, but inward. — “For we are the circumcision” — We are God’s true, covenant people, the Israel of God, Abraham’s true children, which…
“Worship God in the Spirit” — We worship God as he is revealed in the Scriptures, by the power of his Holy Spirit, in our spirits, and in a spiritual manner. True worship is spiritual worship, not carnal, ceremonial ritualism (John 4:23-24).
“And rejoice in Christ Jesus” — We trust the Lord Jesus Christ alone, placing all our confidence in him as our Savior. We are complete in him.
1 Corinthians 1:30-31 “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: (31) That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”
Colossians 2:9-10 “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. (10) And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:”
“And have no confidence in the flesh” — We place absolutely no confidence in our flesh, the experiences, emotions, or (imaginary) excellencies of our flesh. The privileges of the flesh, the feelings of the flesh, and the works of the flesh are no basis of confidence before God.
In verses 4-8, Paul is set before us as an example of true self-denial. True worship involves a deliberate denial of self before God, a complete denial of any claim, any rights, or any worth before the Holy Lord God.
Philippians 3:4-8 “Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: (5) Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; (6) Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. (7) But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. (8) Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung.”
Self-denial is an essential aspect of saving faith. Though it increasingly comprehends all aspects of life as we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, self-denial begins with a denial of all personal worth and merit as a grounds of hope before God.
Here is a legalist of highest order laying aside the filthy rags of his self-righteousness for the blessed, pure, perfect righteousness of Christ. Paul counted all his fleshly, carnal, natural privileges, religious distinctiveness, and educational advantages as nothing but dung before God. He placed no confidence in his flesh. He found that one Pearl of Great Price, and sold everything he had to get it (Matthew 13:45-46).
NOTE: This was done on the Damascus Road when the Lord saved him (v. 7). And this was a decision he made everyday, with increasing, growing commitment and consecration to Christ. He counted all things but dung for Christ.
Four Great Ambitions
Why? What was the cause of this man’s self-denial, consecration, and commitment? What made this man willing to forsake everything and follow Christ? Paul was inspired, motivated, and driven to the point of utter obsession by four great ambitions of faith. — He gives us those four great ambitions in verses 8-11. Look at the last line of verse 8.
“That I may win Christ!” – To worship God in the Spirit is to seek Christ. What an ambition! The life of faith is the lifelong pursuit of Christ. Faith looks upon Christ as the most precious, most desirable, most lovely, most valuable Person and Object in the world. The more he is known, the more he is wanted. Therefore true faith willingly forsakes all to follow him.
Christ is the Treasure hidden in the field, for which we would gladly spend all. He is the Pearl of Great Price, for which we must sell all. Jesus Christ is the “one thing needful” who must be chosen. Christ is the one thing we must have.
Š I am thankful for the many comforts of life with which I am blessed; but I must have Christ.
Š I am thankful for my friends; but I must have Christ.
Š I am thankful for health; but I must have Christ.
Š I am thankful for my family; but I must have Christ.
Š “Yea doubtless, and I count all things loss that I may win Christ.”
“And be found in him!” (v. 9) — To worship God in the Spirit is to seek to be found in Christ.
Philippians 3:9 “And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:”
This is the believer’s standing. We are in Christ. This is Christianity. This is salvation — to be in Christ, nothing less, nothing lower, nothing different. It is not partly in Christ and partly in the law, or partly in the ordinances, or partly in the church. To be saved is to be in Christ.
Š Religion is knowing doctrines and facts. — Salvation is knowing God (John 17:3; 1 John 5:20).
Š Religion is knowing what I believe. — Christianity is knowing whom I believe (2 Timothy 2:12).
Š Religion is being reformed. — Salvation is being regenerated (John 3:3).
Š Religion makes men new converts. — Christianity makes us new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Š Religion is being in the church. — Salvation is being in Christ (John 15:1; Ephesians 5:30).
Believers are people who are in Christ, — By God’s Eternal Decree. — By The Holy Spirit’s Operations Of Grace. — By Personal Faith.
Illustration: Grafted into Christ
To be in Christ is to have perfect righteousness before God. — Our righteousness is not something we establish by performing good works, but something Christ established for us as our Representative before God. We do not make ourselves righteous by our obedience to God’s law. Christ made us righteous by his obedience to the law for us.
Romans 5:19 “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.”
Our righteousness before God is the righteousness of God in Christ imputed to us and imparted to us by God himself. We have been made the righteousness of God in Christ.
As I stand before the holy Lord God, I want to be found in Christ.
Š As I live in this world.
Š When I offer any service, prayer, or sacrifice to him.
Š When I leave this world.
Š When I stand before his great bar of judgment!
Now, look at Philippians 3:10. — “That I may know Him!” – To worship God in the Spirit is to seek to know Christ.
Philippians 3:10 “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;”
I know that Christ is mine and I am his. Yet, I count all things but loss and dung, that I might win Christ, that I might be found in Christ, that I might know Christ. I know him; but, oh, how I want to know him! I want constantly renewed, ever increasing knowledge of and communion with the Son of God. This is the ambition of my heart. — I want to know him, my God and my Savior, my Redeemer and my Lord!
1st I want to know him who is the great Benefactor of my soul.
Š The Mysteries and Glories of His Person
Š The Riches of His Grace
Š The Greatness of His Salvation
Š The Benefits of His Mercies
Š The Depth of His Love
May God give us grace never to take our eyes off of Christ! My soul, make Christ the all-consuming Object of your being! “That I may know him!”
2nd I want to “know him in the power of his resurrection.”
Š The power of his resurrection declares that I am justified (Romans 4:25).
Š The power of his resurrection gave me spiritual life (Ephesians 1:19).
Š The power of his resurrection guarantees my resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:47-49).
Š But I want to live everyday, experimentally, walking in the knowledge of the power of his resurrection. Walking with Christ in the newness of life, I want the power of his resurrection to dominate, control, and direct my life in all things. I want to be continually made new by him.
3rd I want “to know him in the fellowship of his sufferings.”
Š To Know My Personal Interest In His Sufferings
Š To Know What He Accomplished In His Sufferings
As his sufferings are his glory, I want his sufferings to be my glory (Galatians 6:14).
Galatians 6:14 “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”
4th I want to know Christ and the fellowship of his sufferings to such an extent that I am ever “being made conformable unto his death.” — This is what that means — I want to be conformed to Christ in his death.
Š Entirely Consecrated to the Glory of God.
Š Perfectly Submissive to the Will of God.
Š Motivated by Nothing but Love for My God and His People.
“If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” (vv. 11-14) – To worship God in the Spirit is to seek life in, by, and with Christ.
Philippians 3:11-14 “If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. (12) Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. (13) Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, (14) I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
Certainly, this includes a great desire for the resurrection of my body at the last day. But primarily, the yearning spoken of here is a yearning for that moral, spiritual resurrection of grace that lifts us out of the death and darkness of sin. The world, the flesh, and all human life is death. In Christ there is life, real life, eternal life, a life of righteousness, peace and joy in communion with God! This is what I want. I have not yet attained it; but I am reaching for it. — I want what God purposed for me in eternity and Christ purchased for me at Calvary (Ephesians 1:3-6). I want to be like Christ!
These are the ambitions of my heart, the goals I seek, the things for which I live. I pray that God will make them more and more real to me. And I pray that he will make them your hearts’ ambitions as well.
Š “That I may win him.”
Š “And be found in him.”
Š “That I may know him.”
Š “If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.”
Children of God, set your hearts upon these things, and by the grace of God you shall have them (vv. 20-21).
Philippians 3:20-21 “For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: (21) Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.”
Worship, true worship is not an act, or event, or ceremony. To worship God in spirit and in truth is to worship God in the totality of our lives. It is to live by faith in Christ, for the glory of God.
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 Note: “Corban” means a gift dedicated to God that cannot be used for any other purpose — Yet, they did! They used traditions, their pretentious religious taboos as an excuse for their hardness, but never fulfilled their claims. They would never give “Corban” (their vowed gift) to their needy parents; but they didn’t give it to God either!