Sermon #1388 Miscellaneous Notes
Text: John 4:23-24
Reading: 1 Chronicles 13:1-12 and 15:1-29
Subject: True Worship
Date: Sunday Morning – January 9, 2000
Tape # V-64a
The Lord Jesus had exposed this woman’s sin. Now her conscience was aroused. She was not yet converted. But she was concerned. What a hopeful thing it is when men and women suddenly are concerned about their sin, about their souls, about God, and judgment, and eternity. That is where we find this Samaritan woman. Before this, she thought little of these things. Now, she is troubled.
The Master probed matters of the most vital importance. She was disturbed by them; but her depraved heart naturally shrank from the Savior’s barbed arrow. She fled from the penetrating truth of God. It was too probing, too personal, too troubling, too humbling. But look were she tries to hide.
This old hussy flew to the best refuge she knew. She sought refuge in religion! That is the natural refuge of the carnal mind. When the Word of God first pricks the conscience, man’s first, most instinctive reaction is to run to his religious den, like a frightened rat runs to its nest in the garbage dump.
This crusty old gal tried to take the sharp edge off the Master’s words by discussing points religious debate, denominational questions, and historical religious traditions! Imagine that! Such behavior should not surprise us. It is so natural, so common. Yet, it is still surprising, because it is so foolish.
Instead of confessing her sin, and asking how she might be forgiven, she said, “Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship” (v. 20).
“The carnal mind is enmity against God.” There is nothing so adverse to human flesh as spiritual truth. The natural mind finds the most convenient way possible of avoiding it the claims of Christ in the gospel. Instead of stopping to weigh the Word of God, depraved hearts run to questions about holy places, holy times, holy days, holy deeds, and holy customs, church dogma, and prophetic schemes. Men and women are willing to talk about and discuss almost any religious subject, as long as they can avoid having to deal honestly and pointedly with their own personal depravity, sin and rebellion before God.
To her utter astonishment, the Lord Jesus informed this woman that the question she raised was irrelevant. The debate between the Jews and the Samaritans about where men ought to worship, now that Christ had come, was no longer significant. In effect, he said to her, “Woman, believe me that question is of no importance now, for the hour cometh, yea and now is, when all the externals of religion, all the holy days, sabbath days, sacrifices, priests, laws, and ceremonies of Israel, and the temple itself, must be completely abolished, and replaced by true, spiritual worship.” What a shocker that was. What a shocker it still is!
Proposition: All true worship is spiritual. All carnal, legal, ceremonial worship is idolatry.
In the two verses before us this morning, our Lord Jesus Christ gave a very brief, but thoroughly instructive, description of the necessity and nature of true worship.
This message is important for two reasons.
1. First, and foremost, it is important because worship is essential.
Where there is no worship of God, there is no spiritual life, no knowledge of God, and no salvation. All who are born of God are worshippers of God (Phil. 3:3).
Look at verse 23 again. “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." This is not an optional thing. There is no choice in this matter. There are three “musts” in this context. All three refer to matters that are absolutely imperative. In John 3:7, our Lord said, “Ye must be born again.” In verse 14 of chapter 3, he said, “The Son of Man must be lifted up.” Here in says, God “must” be worshipped “in spirit and in truth.” The order in which these three things is given is significant. It is only those who are born again by God the Spirit who were redeemed by God the Son. And only those who are redeemed and justified by Christ’s blood and called by his Spirit can and will worship God the Father in spirit and in truth. It is written, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord” (Pro. 15:8).
2. This message is also important because there is very little true worship in this age.
Without question, the worship of God is the most important, most urgent, and most glorious action of humanity. Worship is the creature ascribing greatness and praise to the Creator. Yet, the sad fact is, most of what passes for worship these days is anything but worship. That which men call worship today is designed for the pleasure, entertainment, indulgence, and gratification of the flesh, rather than for the celebration of God’s excellence and praise. Most churches these days have a service even more odious than the religious exercises of previous generations. It is called “contemporary” worship. It is well named; for in the dictionary, “contemporary” comes right before “contemptible.”
Because true worship is essential to true Christianity, and because that which passes for worship in our day is a display of man’s contempt for God, rather than a display of reverence for God, we very much need to know what true worship is. The only place we can find out what worship is is in the Book of God. No one can define and describe true worship except the One we must worship. If we would worship God, we must worship him “after the due order” he has prescribed.
Here in John 4:23-24, our Lord Jesus Christ tells us five things about this business of worship. May God himself be our Teacher, as we seek to understand his doctrine in these two verses.
I. As I have already indicated, our Lord Jesus Christ here tells us that there is a true worship and a false worship.
When the Samaritan woman began to talk about worship, our Lord quickly told her that she did not know anything about the matter. He said, “Ye worship ye know not what.” In other words, he said, “You don’t have any idea what worship is.” He was, at the same time, also asserting that even the worship of the Jews, in all their outward ceremonies and rituals, was no worship at all.
The worship of God in the Old Testament employed many carnal, typical, outward ordinances of divine service; but it was never merely outward and carnal, but inward and spiritual (Isa. 1:2-18).
This is the very first thing we must learn about worship. That worship which is no more than an outward religious work, ritual, ceremony, formality, or service is not worship. This was the essence of our Lord’s doctrine in the sermon on the mount. He told us plainly that we must carefully avoid being satisfied with or in any way making a show of religious service. I am running ahead of myself a little; but our Lord told us in Matthew 5, 6, and 7, that all true worship is primarily inward. All true service to God is and must be primarily inward, not outward.
· Humility, faith, and repentance are inward graces, not an outward show (Matt. 5:1-12).
· Prayer is done in secret, not before men.
· Giving is to be done privately, not ostentatiously.
· Fasting is to be conducted without anyone being aware of it, except you and the Lord.
In this house today, there are worshippers and there are worshippers. We stand together. We sing the same hymns. We bow our heads together in prayer. We read the Scriptures. We hear the same message. But there is a vast difference between us. Some of us are here, endeavoring to worship God. We want to…
· Know Him.
· Hear From Him.
· Know His Will.
· Honor Him.
Some of you have no interest in these things at all. You are here out of a sense of duty, to soothe and pacify your conscience, to please a friend or relative, or just to save face. But you have no real interest in knowing, worshipping, honoring, and serving God.
II. True worship involves a kinship with God.
In our text, the Lord Jesus speaks of something that was never spoken of in reference to divine worship in the Old Testament. He speaks of men and women on earth worshipping the living God as their Father in heaven!
In the Old Testament, the Lord God was honored as Adonai. He was reverenced as Jehovah. He was praised as El-Shaddai. But no one ever thought of bowing before his august throne and saying, “Our Father which art in heaven,” until the Lord Jesus taught us to pray in that manner.
A. The Lord Jesus Christ has given us a freedom of access to God by his blood which no one ever enjoyed before he came (Heb. 10:19-22).
B. God the Holy Spirit has given us the spirit of adoption as the sons of God in effectual calling (Rom. 8:14-17).
Believing on Christ, he has given us the power, the authority, and the right to be called and to call ourselves the sons of God. We worship the Lord God as our Sovereign, our Creator, our Law Giver, and our Judge, with utmost reverence. But we also worship him as our Father. What a privilege!
Sons we are through God’s election,
Who in Jesus Christ believe.
By eternal destination,
Sovereign grace we now receive!
Pause, my soul! Adore and wonder!
Ask, “Oh why such love to me?”
Grace hath put me in the number
Of the Savior’s family!
III. True worship is a work of grace.
Our text declares that those who worship God in spirit and in truth are those who have been sought out by God and caused to worship him by his grace. Our Lord’s words are, “For the Father seeketh such to worship him.” The implication is obvious. No man would ever truly worship God if he were not sought of God and taught by his grace to worship him in Spirit and in truth.
In other words, worship is not something man does for God. Rather, it is something God works in men by his grace. It is the work of God’s Spirit in us turning us to God. As one of the old hymn writers put it…
‘Prayer is the breath of God in man,
Returning whence it came.”
That is exactly what David said, “Therefore thy servant hath found in his heart to pray unto thee” (2 Sam. 7). Worship and prayer are not things which arise from the hearts of men, but things wrought in our hearts by grace. We have come here to worship God because he has put it in our hearts to worship him.
IV. True worship is spiritual worship.
How can I adequately say what needs to be said here? The word “worship” comes from two English words, “worth” and “ship”. Worship is “worth-ship.” It is assigning to God his true worth. If we do this, if we assign to God his true worth, we must do so in spirit, from our hearts.
The Greek word translated “worship” means “to kiss the hand, like dog licking his master’s hand. It means to fawn, couch, bow to, prostrate one’s self.” All these things imply an act and attitude of the heart, something inward and spiritual. Our Lord is telling us that there is no true worship, except that which takes place in the heart.
· Worship is not a physical, bodily function. – We must not mistake acts of the body for worship. -- “Bodily exercise profitteth little.”
· Worship is not an emotional, soulish thing. – It may involve weeping and laughing, but it is not a feeling.
· Worship is a spiritual, mental work of the heart thing.
A. NO IMAGES -- If we would worship God, we must not use any religious images, crosses, symbols, pictures, statues or physical representations of God. – Spiritual worship is simple, unadorned worship.
Illustration: The Brazen Serpent - “Nahustan!” (2 Kings 18)
B. NO HOLY THINGS -- If we would worship God, we must not honor any day as a holy day or any place as a holy place.
To the believer, every day is holy and every place is holy. We call every day “the Lord’s day,” and every place “Jehovah-Shammah.”
C. All true worship is inward, spiritual, heart worship. It is the worship of God by faith in Christ.
1. Christ is our Altar of Sacrifice.
2. Christ’s blood is the Laver in which we are cleansed.
3. Christ, the Bread of Life, is our Table of Shewbread.
4. Christ’s intercession is our Incense.
5. Christ is our Ark of Testimony.
6. Christ is our Paschal Lamb.
7. Christ is our great High Priest.
8. Christ is God present with us!
D. To worship God in the spirit is the worship of faith. -- It is calling upon him, trusting his dear Son, in our hearts.
E. Why is this simple, spiritual worship such a very rare thing?
1. Fallen man wants a god he can see and feel, a god he can show to others.
2. Fallen man wants a god he can impress and obligate by his gifts and works. – Cain!
3. It is far easier to go through a form, a ceremony, a ritual, and a liturgy than it is to worship God in spirit.
4. If we worship God in spirit, we must acknowledge, confess, and seek the forgiveness of our sins.
5. It is impossible to traffic in spiritual worship. -- No idols, icons, or trinkets to sell. – No priests to serve and fear. – No holy places to reverence. – No rewards to win or lose.
V. If we would worship God, we must worship him in spirit and 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 masks, 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 (Matt. 15:8-9).
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 (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…
· Confessing our sins, like the publican (Total Depravity).
· Trusting Christ’s blood and righteousness as our Substitute (Effectual Atonement).
· Upon an altar of earth, without steps – Free grace alone (Ex. 20:24-26).
Application: “The Father seeketh such to worship him.”
1. Upon the Basis of Blood Atonement.
2. By the Power of His Spirit.
3. With a Heart of Faith.
4. Looking to Christ.