Have you ever found yourself rushing around for school/work/church/company, pulling a button-down shirt out of the closet, toothbrush in mouth, possibly hopping on one foot in a failed attempt to balance while getting your shoes on? You rush to the bathroom to spit out the toothpaste, and…you realize your shirt is off by a button. Looking up in aggravation, contemplating ripping the shirt open and grabbing a hoodie then quickly dismissing the thought because you don’t have time to pick up any busted buttons, you take a deep breath and patiently unbutton back to the beginning because there is no way you can (in dignity) continue out the door with your shirt the way it is.
Forget lost time, irritation and slight embarrassment. It simply has to be fixed! Our passage today in John 4 is of a lady who, somewhere early down the line, missed a buttonhole in her approach to God and worship.
Jesus and his disciples purposefully traveled through Samaria on their way to Galilee. It was a land of intermarrying that led to half-Jew/half-Gentile children. Midday, Jesus came to a well and met the outcast of the outcasts: an immoral Samaritan woman. It is an understatement to say that she might have been surprised that Jesus (a pure-blooded Jewish male) would speak to her. Though offended, she was oddly intrigued by the prophetic and comforting words of the Messiah. In coming to the well for water, she left with the nourishment of the Father and the word of the Messiah on her lips without ever tasting a drop from the well she intended to draw from. What made the difference?
Christ had to take her back to where she first missed her buttonhole. He had to reveal and redeem her misconception of “worship.”
Where to Worship
It says in verse 22, “…The hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.”
In understanding Jesus was a prophet, she asked a controversial question: where is the proper place to worship? She did not realize that her (false) view of worship was founded upon outside appearance and formalities. Does her question sound familiar? How often are we discouraged from going to church because of the way a Pastor teaches, a band sounds, or a program is structured? Such details can serve as distractions and construe our idea of worship and even why the church gathers.
What is Worship?
Verse 24 states, “God is spirit and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Worship has two key elements: spirit and truth. The being (spirit) of who you are will attribute worth (worship) to what has been made known (truth) to you.
~ Spirit ~
Worshiping in spirit is more than emotion. It is your being and the core convictions of your innermost heart. To understand what our spirit is, we must view ourselves in reference to our Creator. Verse 24 says that, “God is spirit”. God the Son took on human likeness, but God the Father does not have such form. This is hard to wrap your mind around, but bare with me—if God the Father were to physically reveal himself, though He may not have a defined form, His being would be seen. We can see a glimpse of this in Ezekiel 1:26-28. We, too, have a spirit, and to worship in that spirit, we must worship with our being. That is our emotion, yes, but also character, personality and actions; they collectively should display that God is worth everything we have, including self. All of what our being produces should reflect the God we say we worship!
~ Truth ~
Our being constantly must be held accountable by Truth so that we are not tempted to function purely on emotion. Verse 22 says, “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.” Jesus was the salvation of the Jews and claimed to be the Truth in John 14:6. John 1:14 tells us that Jesus is also the Word. Jesus, the Word and the Truth are all synonymous. So the spirit of our worship must find its unwavering substance in Truth. God must be the object of our worship, and He tenderly makes Himself known through His Word in the Bible.
When to Worship
Verse 23 says, “…the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him.”
Is a biblical view of worship public or private? BOTH! Both are vital.
The Father is seeking pure, individual worshipers, and this can only be reached through individual time with Him. Daily private worship must have Truth revealed by the Spirit through Scripture and prayer. Jesus proclaimed He is the bread of life (John 6:35), and meals are not to be eaten once a week…or even once a day. They are to be intentionally prepared, tasted, digested, and repeated. Wherever your time with the Lord falls in the day, it does not end when you begin other daily routines. Your worship continues as He is thought about, thanked, and talked about for the rest of your day!
Will private worship ever be fully mastered? Not on this side of Heaven! We are broken, distracted, selfish and sinful. We are in desperate need of a Savior…daily. God created us to be relational. We need encouragement to continue running the race. We need to be reminded that it is worth it. “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day [of Christ’s return] drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25). That is church. That is weekly coming together after a hard run in the world pursuing the furthering of the Kingdom of God, and joining with other runners, to share stories and listen to examples of God’s work on the move. We come, we serve, we sing, we pray, we encourage, we listen, and we are reminded of our purpose through Scripture…we worship together. Truth is revealed, and together we worship in one Spirit.
To examine your private and public worship, try considering these questions.
~Personal: Is the object of my worship truly God?
~Personal: Is my worship derived from daily time in God’s Word?
~Public: Is my choice/rejection of church rooted in superficial formalities or joining and edifying the people of God?
Living Out Worship
We are told in verse 28, “So the woman left her water jar and went away into town…”
Our narrative in John concludes with the Samaritan woman running through the streets of the town proclaiming Christ the Messiah to people she had just previously been ashamed to look in the face. When Christ is our identity and the focus of our worship, all shame we stand to receive is deflected to Christ, leaving us free to have joy! We do not dwell on the past, but rather look forward to our Savior. So breathe. Begin each day, reading chapter-by-chapter through the Word of our God, praying through what He has revealed. On the days you may not “feel” it, read or listen to someone who does; the joy of the Lord is contagious. Let the Savior take you back to your missed buttonhole. Let Him redefine your worship. Let Him spur on the church through you. And let Him transform you into a true worshiper.
Lord, You know my heart better than I do. You know my deepest motivations. Purify my worship, make Yourself my motivation, teach me to worship in spirit and in truth, and guide me to encourage my brothers and sisters to true worship. Help me see and know You on a more intimate level, and allow me to share of Your goodness. Thank You for Your patience with me as I am only learning. I pray this in the powerful name of Jesus, Amen.