P. G. Mathew | Sunday, November 9, 1997
Copyright © 1997, P. G. Mathew
"Sir," the woman said, "I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem." Jesus declared, "Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 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 when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."
John 4:19-24 speaks about authentic worship. Now, we know that people throughout the world are worshipers. In fact, all people either worship the true God, meaning the triune God who revealed himself in the Bible as the Creator and Redeemer God, or they worship and serve creation. There are no true atheists. One will either worship God who is Spirit, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, or he will worship idols, meaning creation. But according to the Bible, idol worship--that is, worship of creation--is in fact demon worship. So in 1 Corinthians 10 Paul says that creature worship is really worship of Satan, the devil, and the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God.
I know a Brahmin woman in India who was taught by her parents to worship a stone as God. In other words, even as a young girl she was receiving instruction in how to worship demons. But this woman rebelled against that idea and today she is a true worshiper of our heavenly Father.
The truth is, one either worships the triune Creator God or one worships Satan, who is a creature. Satan demands that people worship him, and the vast majority of people in the world do worship Satan. We read about this in Revelation 13:1-4, "And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. . . . Men worshipped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshipped the beast and asked, 'Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?'" There we see that the vast majority of people of the world are worshiping the dragon, Satan, and the beast, the antichrist. Therefore, even today people of all races throughout the world, whether they are educated or ignorant, male or female, rich or poor, young or old, are worshiping Satan.
Satan even tempted our Lord Jesus Christ to worship him. But Jesus refused, saying, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written, 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'"
Therefore, before we begin our study of authentic worship, I must ask you: Whom are you worshiping and serving? Oh, you might say, "Well, I am not a religious person. I am just a materialist. I don't believe in any God; I just live to make money and spend it for my pleasure. I don't really think much of religion or worship." But if you say such things, then I would tell you, "No, you are very religious. You worship creation, which means you are a devil worshiper and have been duped by the devil." All people worship, and they will either serve God or serve Satan.
What Is True Worship?
This passage in John tells us that the triune true and living God is seeking authentic worshipers who will worship him in spirit and in truth.
God has been seeking worshipers since the fall of man. Why does God himself have to do the seeking? Because as sinners we cannot seek him. It is utterly impossible for a sinner to seek and worship God truly unless God seeks him and makes him able to do so. And so we see God seeking in this passage in John, and the same God even now seeks to deliver people from the slavery of creature worship, idol worship--yea, even Satan worship--to the freedom of the true worship of the living God.
What, then, is the true worship this passage is talking about? The word worship appears ten times in this passage. In the Greek the word is proskuneo; the Hebrew equivalent is shacah. This word means to bend down, to kiss, or to prostrate oneself. It speaks about depression--the worshiper depressing himself before the great One. It means to honor and respect a person of great worth and to express that honor and respect in external behavior. Worship is worthship, in other words.
We see this kind of worship in other places in the New Testament. When the Magi from the East came to see the baby Jesus, the text says they bowed down and worshiped him. And in John 9 we read about a blind man who was healed by Jesus. When the man learned who Jesus really was, that he was the Son of Man, he declared, "Lord, I believe," and worshiped him.
No one can believe without worshiping, no one can truly worship without believing, and no one can believe without knowing who the person is. Belief in Jesus requires that we first recognize his greatness. We must realize that he is not mere man but very God and very man, the Sovereign Lord of the universe.
Therefore, everyone who would worship Jesus Christ must first confess that he is Lord. Such a person will then depress himself, prostrate himself and kiss the Son. He will fall down and worship because the essential idea of worship is submission and surrender to the Sovereign Lord. Therefore, we must fall down, prostrate, bend, bow and depress. We do so first in our hearts and then with our bodies. We must first respect God in our mind, will and affections, and then that respect must express itself in adoration, action, prostration, praise and so on. And when we do this, we will then begin to think God's thoughts, feel the way God feels, will the will of God and do his work. In worship we will honor and serve because worship, someone said, is adoration and action.
God Seeks True Worshipers
In John 4:23 we read, "Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks." Let us, then, examine this idea of the Father seeking.
Unless the heavenly Father seeks true worshipers in Jesus Christ, no one can experience the joy and freedom of true worship. Why? As I said before, since the fall of Adam all people are sinners. Therefore, they are naturally Satan-worshipers and enemies of God in their hearts. As slaves of Satan they are incapable of worshiping the true God. Paul writes about this many times. In Romans 8:5-8 he says, "Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God." In Romans 5 Paul tells us a sinner is powerless, ungodly and an enemy of God. In 1 Corinthians 2:14 Paul writes that the natural man does not receive things that are spiritual and in 2 Corinthians 4:4 that Satan has blinded the minds of unbelievers.
You see, unless the Father seeks a person, that person will not be able to enjoy the great blessing of worshiping God. But, praise God, here we read that the Father is seeking, and in the Greek text the verb is in the present tense meaning the Father is seeking and he continues to seek.
So in John 3:16 we are told, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life," and in John 6:44 we read, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him." In John 6:65 we read, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him." So Jesus himself said in Luke 19:10, "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which is lost." Therefore, the Father is seeking us through his Son Jesus Christ because we cannot worship acceptably unless we are sought and saved--unless, in other words, we are brought close to the Father in Jesus Christ.
In Luke 19 we read how Jesus sought the Jewish Zacchaeus, who was a great sinner. Jesus saved him and made him a true worshiper of God, saying, "Today salvation has come to this house." But the Father is also seeking other sinners and so here in John 4 we see the Father seeking a Samaritan woman.
Now, we know from the Old Testament that Samaritans did not know how to worship. They were syncretistic, as we read in 2 Kings 17:33, "They worshiped the Lord, but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought." All their worship was false. In fact, Jesus told the Samaritan woman, "You worship what you do not know."
If you think that you can worship God and the world at the same time, you are deceiving yourself. Such worship is not authentic; rather, it is worship in ignorance. Such worship is double worship, and the Bible tells us that a double minded man is unstable in all his ways. No man can serve two masters.
What is double worship? It is truly single worship. A person who says he serves God and creation is a person who in truth only worships creation. And if you realize that you fit that description, you need to repent, bend, depress, fall down, and kiss the Son alone as the sovereign Lord of the universe. Then you will learn the freedom and joy of truly worshiping the true and the living God.
The Samaritan Woman
So in John 4 we find a Samaritan woman, a great sinner. This woman had already had five husbands and was living with a man, so we could call her "Five Plus One." The husbands had either all left the woman or she left them, serially. Hers had been a miserable life, and now, in a Samaritan village, this woman was living with a man without the benefit of marriage--shacking up, in other words.
No one really knew the wretchedness of this woman's life. She was a total failure. Her life had gone downhill and now she was at the bottom of the hill. She was filled with guilt and misery. She had never known what peace, shalom, and wholeness was. She only knew misery, failure, poverty, shame, and rejection.
But, praise God, that was not the end of the Samaritan woman's story. Why? There is a heavenly Father who was determined to seek her, save her, and make her into a worshiper who would enjoy the blessing of true worship. So in John 4:4 we read, "Now [Jesus] had to go through Samaria."
Jesus had no alternative. Why? It was a divine necessity. The Father was seeking the Samaritan woman--this miserable, lost, wretched slave of Satan--and the Father disclosed his will to the Son. Jesus always did the will of his Father; therefore, he had no alternative but to go where the Father desired. He had to go through Samaria.
Jesus arrived at noon at Sychar in Samaria and stopped by a well which was fed by an underground spring. While he was resting, the sinful woman also came to the well to draw water. She was coming at noon because she thought that no one would be there at that time. In her sin and loneliness she was trying to avoid any human contact.
God, however, did not intend to leave this woman alone in her shame and misery. Thus, Jesus was at the well when she came and he began a conversation with her. Tired from walking, he asked the woman to give him some water to quench his thirst. But then he spoke to the woman about living water, which is eternal life, with which Jesus Christ alone is able to quench the human thirst. In verse 10 we read, "Jesus answered her, '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.'" But the woman did not understand what Jesus was saying.
We must realize that unbelievers are blind. They are blinded by Satan and cannot understand the gift of God, Jesus Christ. They do not even understand their need, let alone understand the greatest gift that God has given to us in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. God's gift of eternal life is given only through his greatest gift of his Son. No one else is capable of giving you this gift except Jesus Christ the Son of God.
This woman did not understand what the living water was that Jesus spoke about and that he alone is able to give. She did not know that this living water could quench her thirst then and forever. She did not know that living water becomes in the one who drinks of it a spring of water welling up to eternal life. She did not recognize the water of salvation and that this Jew, Jesus, was the Savior of the world, the Messiah. Nevertheless, she asked him for the living water he spoke about. In verse 15 we read, "The woman said to him, 'Sir, give me this water so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.'"
What was wrong with this woman's question? She was blinded by Satan. She was a powerless sinner and an enemy of God. Like Nicodemus, this woman was flesh that is sinful, not spirit, and thus she could not receive spiritual things or seek God. She was as incapable of seeking God as the educated Nicodemus was, even though he was a Jew and a religious leader.
God Saves Sinners
But there was good news for this Samaritan woman. The Father is seeking true worshipers, but he must first save them from their sins. Only such people can know God and be true worshipers.
The worship of God requires knowledge of God. Why? Without the knowledge of God one cannot honor him in adoration and action. Therefore, if you do not worship Jesus Christ in adoration and action, it is because you do not know him. "This is eternal life," Jesus said, "that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent" (John 17:3). The only way to know God the Father is through Jesus Christ who was sent to reveal the Father to us.
How can you fall down, surrender yourself and pay homage to a God that you have no knowledge of? If the Father seeks you, he will save you and give you knowledge of him by opening your blind eyes. You can rest assured of that.
Now, we must realize that when we say God is seeking true worshipers, it does not mean that God the Father is not looking down from heaven for people who are already worshiping him in spirit and in truth. No. God looks down and seeks sinners, rebels, and creation worshipers--spiritually blind people. After he opens their eyes, they fall down and worship him. So God seeks us, saves us, opens our eyes and gives us knowledge of him. When that happens, we will worship him.
God the Father sent the Son to reveal the Father to us. And so John says in John 1:18, "No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only," referring to Jesus Christ, "who is at the Father's side, has made him known."
So Jesus was going to make this Samaritan woman into a true worshiper of God. He was going to give her the living water, even though she didn't understand what it was. He was going to stop her thirst and cause this living water to well up in her unto eternal life.
Sin Must Be Dealt With
The sinful woman had to do something first. Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband and come back."
That was amazing! You see, Jesus knows our heart, and the truth demonstrated here is that no one will receive salvation unless he or she repents, confesses, and believes on the Lord Jesus Christ. That is why I say it doesn't matter how educated you are, how rich you are, how fair-looking you are. You must depress, bow down, confess that you are a lost sinner and a rebel, and ask God's forgiveness in Jesus Christ. No one will be saved without repentance.
We cannot dodge the issue of sin. No one can, even though that is what this woman was trying to do. But Jesus kept coming to it, isn't that true? Unlike modern evangelists, he kept bringing the woman back to her sin. Why? Jesus came to save sinners, and only a sinner can be saved by the Savior of the world. This woman had to confess her sins, recognize who this Jew was and believe on him.
I assure you, if you want to be free and enjoy true worship of God, do not try to conceal your sin. You must repent and forsake it. There is absolutely no other way. So Jesus told the woman to go, call her husband and come back. What did she say? "I have no husband." That was a true analysis of her situation.
Confession and Joy
Then the eternal Son of God told the woman her whole story: "You are right," Jesus said, "when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband." That is why I named this woman "Five Plus One." Jesus unveiled this woman's whole history, as she herself said in John 4:29, "Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did."
It is useless to try to conceal anything from God. Jesus is God and he knows all things, including what is in man. So I ask you: Do you want to worship? Do you want to enjoy freedom? Do you want to have shalom? Do you want to have wholeness? Do you want to have salvation? Do you want to sing and dance? If so, then you must follow the biblical order of acknowledgment of sin and repentance.
This pattern is revealed even in the Old Testament. In Hosea 14 we read, "Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God. Your sins have been your downfall!" We must understand the truth of this statement of God. Why? Because we all try to dodge the issue of sin. I counsel many people and some come to me who are always dodging. They cannot simply say, "Yes, this is my problem." But here in Hosea we read, "Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God. Your sins have been your downfall! Take words with you and return to the Lord. Say to him: 'Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips.'" That is true worship.
What must we do? We must come to God, confess our sins and ask him to forgive us our sins. This can only be done in Jesus Christ. When that happens, we can offer the fruit of our lips in praise to God. The whole purpose of salvation is to bring us into the glorious, joyful experience of worshiping God.
Christ Must Die
Not only does the Father seek sinners, but he also saves them. Now in the gospel of John we find three divine "musts." The first is to be seen in John 3:14. If we want to be true worshipers, something must happen first. What is that? In John 3:14 we read, "Just as Moses lifted the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up."
What is man's problem? Sin. For God to forgive our sins, the Lord Jesus Christ must first be crucified, buried, resurrected and ascended into heaven. Christ must die for our sins. And so Jesus said, "Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up." Christ must accomplish salvation on the cross in behalf of us.
We Must Be Born Again
The second "must" is found in John 3:7, where we read, "You must be born again." This is also a divine "must," meaning it is not something optional but of divine necessity. It is divine plan because salvation is based on knowledge of God in Jesus Christ. No one is going to be saved unless he or she understands that God is holy, that God is against sin, that God has put our sin on his own Son, and that Christ--very God and very man--died for our sins, that he was raised, that he ascended and that he is seated on the throne as the Sovereign Lord of the universe. If we do not realize all of this, then we cannot say, "Forgive us our sins."
In order to understand, one must be born again. Now, being born again is a supernatural work in which a person is passive. God comes and instantaneously raises us from the dead and implants into us a new disposition, a new nature. When that happens, we are then able to turn to God. We are then able to think God's thoughts, will God's will, and feel the way God feels. It is an amazing, wonderful turning. Before, we were enemies but now we love God; before, we hated the Bible but now we love it.
We must be born again! And if we are not, we will have no knowledge of who God is. Why? Because it is our spirit that understands these things. Only through the new birth are we made capable of understanding God. And only when we have knowledge of God can we truly worship him. We will fall down because we respect, adore and honor God.
Worship in Spirit and Truth
We find the third "must" in John 4:24. There we read, "God is spirit and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." This tells us that worship is not optional. If you have been born again and given understanding into the gospel and the person and work of Jesus Christ, and if you repent, believe on him and are saved, what will you want to do? "Offer to God a sacrifice of praise--the fruit of lips that confess his name" (Heb. 13:15). You will want to worship God, and so we are told, "God is spirit and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."
What is the idea of the new covenant? That God gives us a new heart, a new spirit, a new mind, and a new attitude, which is the beatitude, "Blessed are those who are poor in spirit," hungering and thirsting after righteousness. We must worship God in spirit and in truth, and through regeneration we are given the ability to do so.
In Philippians 3:3 St. Paul tells us about his own worship: "For it is we who are the circumcision"--not the Judaizers-- "we who worship by the Spirit of God." We worship in our spirit by the assistance of the Holy Spirit because God is Spirit--that is his essential nature--and God is not limited to one place. He cannot be located like that. He is spirit--independent and present everywhere. We can only worship him in our spirit by the assistance of the Holy Spirit, but he assists us in that.
But not only that, we worship him in truth. What does that mean? It means we worship in accordance with revealed knowledge that Jesus Christ is the truth. True worship is not something we do in our own subjectivity and imagination, nor is it based on our own opinions and feelings. True worship is based on knowledge of God. Where do we get that knowledge? From the Bible. What about traditions? The Samaritan woman said, "Our fathers worshiped here." How many people worship a certain way because their fathers did? No, true worship is not even that done according to the tradition of the fathers unless, of course, that tradition is in accordance with God's word.
David understood this. In Psalm 51:6 he prayed, "You desire truth in the inner parts." This means that anyone who worships God without reference to Jesus Christ is a worshiper of Satan.
Let Us Worship God!
The Father seeks, the Father saves, and the Father enables us to fulfill this requirement to worship him in spirit and in truth. And, finally, we are brought to worship God.
But this worship is not done exclusively in Gerizim, Jerusalem or some other specific place. Forget about that idea that we can worship God only in specific places. Since the coming of Jesus Christ, we can worship God anywhere. Why? God is spirit. He is invisible, incorporeal, independent and present everywhere, God is personal and God is worshiped in spirit. And Jesus himself told us that wherever we meet, there he is in our midst.
Because we are born again and understand the gospel, we now understand who God is. Additionally, we understand that we can now worship him everywhere. Therefore, what should we do? Worship God! God has redeemed us to bow down before him, prostrate before him, and pay homage to him in our heart, in our praise and in our action.
Do you remember what your life was like before you were redeemed? Now, some people who are not redeemed think they are having a good time. They will say, "Oh, what a great time I am having!" But look at what the Bible says in Exodus 2:23-24: "During that long period the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning. . ." Let me tell you something about life without Christ. It is groaning, burden, weariness.
What about the life of the redeemed? In Exodus 15:1 we read, "I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea." In fact, throughout this whole chapter you see worship and adoration. The groaning is over, the burden is lifted, and the guilt is gone. And in verse 18 we read, "The Lord will reign for ever and ever." The essence of worship is acknowledgment, surrender, and submission to the sovereignty of God.
Therefore, we worship no more in the shadow of the temple with animal sacrifices, ceremonies and externalism. The coming of Christ and his death, resurrection and ascension has put an end to all such shadow. Reality has come in Jesus Christ. He is the altar, the priest, and the sacrifice. Let us worship him!
Characteristics of True Worship
What are some characteristics of true worship?
It is a delight. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says that our worship in spirit and in truth is not duty but delight. So let me ask you: Husband, did your wife have to drag you to this place? If so, I counsel you to get saved. You are not a true worshiper if you do not come here to worship out of delight.
It is led by the Holy Spirit. True worship is not a forcing of ourselves. It is led by the Spirit of God in the energy of God's Holy Spirit.
It is warm and free. Authentic worship is not cold and formal. Rather, it is warm and free because our hearts have been kindled by the love of God that is shed abroad in them. When we worship in this church, I see some people showing great enthusiasm in their worship. What is happening? The Holy Spirit is assisting them and their hearts are warmed. If you are truly coming to God, your cold heart will be warmed.
It is not dependent on buildings and circumstances. Are you looking for stained glass windows? True worship is not dependent upon them. Nor does it require liturgies, incense, candles, vestments, chanting, bell-ringing, or genuflection. True worship is not even dependent on other people. True worshipers can pray and praise from their hearts any time and anywhere because they love their great God who condescended in Jesus Christ to seek, find and save them. God revoked our groaning and caused us to sing his praises.
It is worship of the heavenly Father. In true worship we are not worshiping a distant God. Rather, we are worshiping God our heavenly Father who loves us and is with us. Therefore, when we pray we can say, "Abba, Daddy."
It is reverent and balanced. There is balance in true worship. We worship God in holy reverence as well as in love.
It is a response to God's great salvation. True worship is a response to what God has done for us. Do you remember our misery before we were redeemed? We were groaning, burdened, beaten, slaves. But God in Jesus Christ brought us into great freedom--freedom from sin, freedom from Satan, freedom from law, freedom from hell, and freedom from death. We now have great freedom to come into the very presence of God to worship and obey him. And when we worship like this, God delights in us and we in him.
Are You A True Worshiper?
The Father is always seeking wretched, lonely, sinful people like the Samaritan woman, and through Jesus Christ his Son he will save them from all their sins.
God sought this Samaritan woman. Her sins were forgiven and she became a true worshiper of God. How do we know that? This woman began to witness boldly about Jesus Christ. Let me tell you, if you are really saved, you will boldly witness. No longer was this woman sneaking about. No, the Bible tells us that she went out and told all who would listen, "Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Come and see the Messiah."
I am persuaded that this woman also told the man with whom she was living what had happened to her. I believe she also probably told her former husbands. What was she saying? "Come. I know you are sinners, but come. There is one who told me about all my sins and yet he forgave them. He gave me something called living water, which is now in me, welling up in me unto eternal life. And now I have no more shame, no more guilt, no more loneliness, no more wretchedness, no more restlessness, no more fear, no more depression, no more insecurity, no more poverty. I have been given living water by the Messiah! So come, one and all. Come to Jesus!"
God the Father sought this woman through his Son, Jesus Christ. He brought her near to him and qualified her to worship him in spirit and in truth. This is salvation and this is blessing. And now she also could sing the song of the redeemed: "I will sing unto the Lord for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and the rider he has thrown them into the sea."
What is true blessing? The worship of God the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ by the Spirit of God. Therefore, let us worship God! And if you have not trusted in Jesus Christ alone as your Savior, may you come to him today in repentance and faith. May you, like the Samaritan woman, drink of the living water and receive eternal life through the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
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Copyright © 1997, P. G. Mathew
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