“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.”  (John 4:23)

This week on my blog, I want to write about the nature of true worship and use John 4:1-26 as my base text.  The fourth chapter of John records the story of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well in the town of Sychar.  The gospel writer records the exchange that took place between Jesus and this woman.  His encounter with her is a wonderful passage where we can sit at our Lord’s feet as He teaches us in the area of true, God-honoring worship.  Jesus deals with this woman the same way that He deals with us–on a one-on-one kind of basis.  We see in the passage how the woman was affected by her realization that Jesus was well aware of her sin.  It was not something that she could hide from His piercing gaze.  As a result, her conscious was pricked, her soul was pierced, and she was unmasked as one living in adultery.  Yet in spite of her sin, the way that she responds to Jesus shows that she was open to truth.  It began to dawn on her that the way she had been living was no way to live.  The weight of conviction was heavy upon her and she shows a desire to set things right in her life.  We know this because her first reaction was to bring up the subject of worship.

People who are living in open disobedience to God will get very religious in their conversation when the subject of sin comes up.  This is often the result of conviction.  In many ways, a person’s pride will lead them to make excuses for their sin and justify it rather than admitting their own failure and confessing their need for God’s righteousness.  The woman at the well goes through this same process as Jesus is dealing with her.  As Jesus points out her sin, she immediately begins to talk about the way Jews and Samaritans worship and she wants to debate about who is right.  This grew out of her society’s shallow perspective which led to the belief that worship is something you do as a set time and in a ritualistic manner.  Jesus tells her that worship is not an activity to be confined to a place or a ritual.  Jesus tells her that true worship is always an issue of the heart and a person’s standing with God.

Did you know that you can go through religious motions and never genuinely worship?  It happens every Sunday in many churches and lives as people have reduced worship to simply a service or a ritual rather than being the response of the heart to God’s truth.  Jesus went to the cross and offered Himself in order to give you access to worship God freely and to bring you into the Holy of Holies–the presence of God.  However, many people today approach worship the very same way that this Samaritan woman did.  Their understanding of worship goes no further than a formal activity that takes place once a week in a building deemed as a “sanctuary.”  All the while, they neglect the truth of 1 Corinthians 6:19 which says, “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?”  Worship is what takes place in our hearts as we adore the God whom we are singing about, praying to, listening to, and obeying His Word.  All the formality in the world cannot make a non-worshiping heart into a worshiping one.  This is the work of God’s Spirit who takes the truth of God’s Word and penetrates the heart.  Thus, what is important in worship is not so much the form it takes as it is the condition of the heart of the worshiper.  If a person’s heart has not been penetrated by the truth of the gospel, then true worship cannot take place.  Salvation means that a person has been made alive unto God and has been given new life by His Spirit.  It is only then that they can truly worship God.  Worship flows from the inside out, not from the outside in.  True worshipers are not seeking some outward stimulus to provoke inward worship, for that would be equivalent to idolatry.  Jesus says that true worshipers are those who worship God in spirit and in truth.  As Christ’s disciples, we evangelize and share the gospel for the sake of seeing more worshipers who glorify God with their lives.  Worship is the impetus of mission.

“Father, thank You for seeking true worshipers who worship You in spirit and truth.  Thank You for saving me by Your grace and enabling me to worship You.  So many people are in darkness and are in desperate need of salvation.  May worship be the passion which fuels the mission of my life to share the gospel with those around me.”