Sunday, March 21, 2010

Here We are to Worship

As a new bride, a woman in a remote village dreamed about the security and happiness her marriage would bring. Perhaps her expectations were unrealistic. Maybe she was too preoccupied with her own ambitions to recognize the first signs of tension in her marriage, but the tensions mushroomed. Eventually she and her husband made the agonizing and dream shattering decision to divorce.

The friends of this young woman tried to convince her that “time heals all wounds.” She hoped that were true, or that time would, at least, lessen the pain. This lady did pull herself back together emotionally, and she met a man who seemed to have all the qualities that her first husband lacked. This marriage would be a success!

It was not.

The foundations of her second marriage began to crumble. Before long, this woman who thought that she would never divorce, found herself to be a two-time divorcee. Because of the times and cultural climate, this not-so-young-anymore woman could not find employment. She could not get an education. She could not move on to a different community. No, there was no escape from the gossip, the glances from the corner of the eye; all she knew and all she could know, were household chores.

Her decision to marry a third time was easy to make. By this time she had become bitter towards God and disgruntled with men. Hey, if this marriage didn’t work (“and it probably won’t”, she thought) then another divorce would rescue her from the bonds of meaningless vows. Predictably, she experienced a third divorce…then a fourth…and then a fifth. When she met yet another man, they decided not even to bother with the formality of a wedding. The two simply began to live together.

Then this woman met Jesus Christ. She met Him at the well just outside of her town, and at that well Christ offered her living water. He said, “Whoever drinks of the water that I give him will never thirst; but the water that I shall give him will be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”

This woman liked the sound of that! Although she did not fully understand what Christ was offering. She thought Jesus had some magic or mystical drink that would forever quench her physical thirst. Then Jesus asked her to get her husband so He could talk with both of them.

As you may well imagine, this struck a nerve with the lady. She simply and stifly retorted, “I don’t have a husband.”

To which the Lord replied, “That’s all too true; the man you’re living with now is not your husband, but you have had five husbands before him.”

Once the lady picked her jaw up off the floor, she made a rather obvious statement, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.”

The quickest way to the heart is often through a wound (Proverbs 27:6), and concealed sin keeps one from seeing the light of Christ (John 3:20). Having now been brought under the conviction of her sin the woman tried to take Jesus on a detour of religious debate. Because, as everyone is well aware, it is much more comfortable to debate religion than to face one's own sin. She said to Him, “Our tradition is to worship in Mt. Gerizim, but you Jews say that Jerusalem is the place for worship.”

The great "Soul Hunter" is not deterred by the detour. He knows the hearts of all men. Adultery is not mentioned again. It was a thrust against the heart's door, and now that his foot is in He deals with the issue of worship. Jesus answered the Samaritan woman's question in John 4:21-24:

Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 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. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

This passage records Jesus' definitive word on acceptable worship. To this adulterous woman and to all who hear it, Christ extends an invitation to become a worshipper. What an invitation!

Think about the statement from the Lord Jesus Christ in John 4:23. He said that the Father seeks worshippers. We know from Luke 19:10 that the Lord Jesus Christ came to seek and to save that which was lost. That is why we find Him striking up a conversation with a Samaritan woman who came to Jacob’s well to draw water for the day. As the Son engages in witnessing, the Father seeks worshippers.

Do you see that the end of evangelism is worship? God desires worship above all else, and as followers of Christ take the good news of their Lord and Savior to their neighbors, both here and around the globe, as we must in obedience to the Great Commission, the driving motivation for this evangelism is that those who embrace Christ may come to worship along with us. We need to understand that worship and witness are irrevocably linked in the purposes of God. A wedge cannot and should be driven between the two, because as we witness, it is God seeking true worshippers.

As we ponder the timeless and definitive words of Jesus Christ in John 4:21-24 we should realize that:
  • Worship is the constant activity of Heaven
  • Worship is the chief business of the Lord’s churches
  • Worship corrects our man-centered theology

If you are asking yourself, “What on earth is man-centered theology?" here is the answer. Man-centered theology is worship that begins with man and his needs instead of with God and His glory. That is the wrong focus.

The focus of our worship must be God, not us, and acceptable worship begins with God and His glory, not with man’s needs, interests, or preoccupations. Worship must be orchestrated and conducted with this vision before us that the mighty, holy, creator God would be pleased, and above all, glorified by our worship. Everything in our worship should flow from that understanding. The Puritan Stephen Charnock said it best,

“When we believe that we should be satisfied rather than God glorified in our worship, then we put God below ourselves as though He had been made for us, rather than we for Him.”

What about our needs then? Listen, when we worship and adore God in spirit and in truth, His blessings will well up in our souls so that we leave exalted and blessed. But this is a byproduct of worship, not the goal of it goal, and is further evidence of God’s generous grace and love.

God is seeking true worshippers; those who worship in spirit and in truth. Over the course of the next few Sunday posts I'll endeavor to answer the question: So what does it mean to acceptably worship God ?

No comments: