Worthy of Worship
It’s Not About Me
Scripture Text: John 4:19-24
Over the next few weeks we’ll be talking about worship. My hope is that this will help us to identify some of our deeply held attitudes that actually hinder us from freely worshiping. As we talk through these things together I am praying that each of us will be struck with the awesomeness of our God, and that we will be compelled by that to passionately worship Him; in this room and in every aspect of our lives.
I want us to get this right because there are so many things that can so easily derail us from true worship, and yet authentic worship of our great God is vital to our relationship with Him.
Thinking of our tendency to get distracted from genuine worship Donald Whitney talks about a story from his 10th birthday in his book “Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.” He said that the highlight of the day was taking his friends to a high school basketball game. He had planned every detail of the day and with great excitement paid the price for each of his friends to get into the game. As he walked into the gym he pictured enjoying the excitement of the game with his friends at his side, but as soon as they walked through the door all of his buddies abandoned him. Not one thanked him, none of them acknowledged his gift to them, they simply ran to their own desires. Let’s make sure that’s not our story. Let’s make sure that when it comes to worship we’re running to Him, not our own desires.
Read & Pray
Worship is about God – verses 21-22
In the scene we’re looking at today, Jesus and His disciples have taken the unpopular route through Samaria on their way back to Galilee from Jerusalem.
The Jews and Samaritans were not on friendly terms because during the Old Testament period the Samaritans had intermarried with other nations which was an act of disobedience towards God. Because of this Jews typically treated Samaritans pretty horribly, if they interacted with them at all.
Jesus is speaking with the woman that we know as the Woman at the Well. The part of their conversation that we are focusing on comes right after Jesus has revealed to her that He knows she’s had 5 husbands and is now living with a man that she is not married to. His revelation gets her attention and her response tells us a little about her heart, and also shows us a little of what is in ours.
She turns the conversation to a point of religious practice. Where should we worship? On this mountain, the one they were standing at the foot of, or in Jerusalem. The divide in their cultures had produced separate systems of worship and she wanted to know which one was right.
Just like us, she was asking the wrong question. We aren’t as concerned about where we should worship, but we sure get caught up in lots of other side issues that distract us from what is really important. For us it’s music styles, holding a book verses looking at a screen, pews or chairs, do we allow coffee in the service, do we print and order of worship for everyone or just leaders and workers…
The point is that like her, we’re often asking the wrong questions. It’s not about where and how we worship, but about Whom we worship. That’s why Jesus points out that she doesn’t even know who it is that she should be worshiping.
Here me on this. Worship isn’t about us. It’s not about what we want, or what makes us feel good. It’s also not about us twisting the Bible to make arguments in support of things that are simply nothing more than preferences.
Worship is about Him. Today and for the next few weeks we’re going to look at what God’s word teaches us about worship that pleases God. We begin by shifting our attention from personal preferences and the things that make us feel good to focusing on what honors God. Making ourselves the focus of our worship is idolatry and is destructive. Let’s look to Him. That’s the point of worship, after all.
“If you judge your church’s worship on how well you have been “fed” you have made yourself the object of your worship.” – Micah Fries
It’s not about us. It’s all about Him. In order to worship God we have to know Him through His Son, and learn to worship Him according to His word. Let’s take a look at what Jesus says about worship.
Worship in Spirit – verses 23-24
Simply put, Jesus says that God sets the terms for what true worship looks like, and that what He is looking for is people who will worship Him in spirit and truth.
Jesus said that we have to worship God in spirit because He is spirit. So, when it comes to worship, it’s not as much about what we do as what’s going on in our hearts and minds as we do it.
We’re introduced to the idea of worship right after the first sin. Adam and Eve’s sons Cain and Able bring the fruit of their labors to God as an act of worship. Here’s what we’re told (Genesis 4:3-5).
Cain’s offering is not looked on as favorably as Abel’s is. Is it about animal sacrifice verses, crops? Hebrews 11 unlocks the mystery for us. Through His word God tells us that He was pleased with Abel’s sacrifice because of his faith. Then we’re told this.
Hebrews 11:6 NIV
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
It’s not about the actions of our hands. It’s not the style or content of the songs we sing (assuming that the songs are Biblical), it’s not about the equipment we use, or the location of our worship. Worship comes from our hearts. We can’t please God unless we approach Him in Faith. We have to know who He is and believe what He has said.
So in part, true worship is a heart thing. It’s an emotional response to who God is and what He has done. That’s why David danced when the Arc of the Covenant was brought to Jerusalem, and why Thomas exclaimed, “My Lord and my God” when He saw His risen Lord.
Are you moved by what you know about your God? If not, maybe you need to dig deep and stir up inside you an awareness of the greatness of our God. Once that has gripped your heart it is not difficult to express that love, praise, and gratitude in corporate worship, like today, and in private worship when we are away from here.
“Where feelings for God are dead, worship is dead.” – John Piper
Worship is stirring our hearts in response to who God is and what He has done.
Worship in Truth – verses 23-24
Worship isn’t just shallow emotion, though. It’s also an intellectual endeavor where we focus our minds toward knowing God, understanding who He is, and allowing that knowledge to change us.
Jesus said that God is looking for those who would worship in spirit and in truth. We hold God’s truth in our hands. So, our worship must be guided by His word.
It tells us who we worship
Creator and sustainer of the universe
Holy and just
It shapes how we worship
Our worship is a response to who God is. The beautiful thing about worshiping in spirit and in truth is that it can be done anywhere and anytime. We don’t have to go through a priest, and it doesn’t have to be an elaborate ceremony. We simply need to acknowledge Him with our minds, and express love for Him with our hearts.
What if I don’t feel like it?
It happens to all of us. Life happens and you don’t feel like worshiping. You’re tired, sick, ashamed, distracted, bored, or too sleepy. What do you do when you don’t feel like worshiping?
Do it anyway. I’m talking about corporate and private worship. Do it, even if you don’t feel like it.
We all pass through spiritual deserts. Those places where we feel dry and empty. It’s in those places that we need Him and the connection to His presence and power most deeply. It is a horrible mistake to allow those dry times to keep us from worshiping. Even when you don’t feel like it, persevering in worship (private and corporate) may be just the thing that pulls you through and brings back the feeling of devotion that you’re looking for.
I believe that is, in part, why Jesus warned the disciples in John 15 to abide in Him. They were about to go through a very difficult time, and they would need His power to endure. As He spoke with them that night He told them that abiding in Him would give them power to do what God created them to do, but allowing themselves to get disconnected from Him would lead to not being able to do anything.
Worship Him in spite of what you feel. Worship Him in the way that pleases Him.
Repent of worshiping the idol of self
Make worship a priority
Make time for corporate worship
Make time for private worship