Friday, December 18, 2009

A Lesson in Evangelism (part 5) - John 4:20-24

“’Our father’s worshipped in this mountain,
and you people say that in Jerusalem
is the place where men ought to worship.’
Jesus said to her,
‘Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming
when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem,
shall you worship the Father.
You worship that which you do not know,
for salvation is from the Jews.
But an hour is coming, and now is,
when the true worshippers
shall worship the Father in spirit and truth;
for such people the Father seeks
to be His worshippers.
God is spirit and those who worship Him
must worship in spirit and in truth.’”
(vs 20-24)

In this ongoing encounter with Christ, the Samaritan woman has come to see her sin and now her conversation has turned God-ward rather than world-ward. Suddenly, out of the blue, they are discussing worship! What? Worship? Where did that come from? Well, it came from her. She asked and Christ is about to answer.

So, what in the world does this have to do with evangelism? Well, I think it has a lot to do with it! First of all, she is curious and asks about it. This is, to me personally, a reminder that in our encounters with the unbeliever we need to be willing to dialogue and hear out their questions, listen to their concerns, and give an answer if necessary. Secondly, worship is an important issue because, bottom line, it is THE issue. We are all worshippers. We were created to worship and in some way, we ALL do worship!

In our natural, unredeemed condition we are all idolators and our false gods and false worship of them is ultimately at the root of all our misery. By nature we all have “other God’s before Him.” By nature we worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator. As Calvin said “our hearts are idol factories.” Therefore, the topic of worship – the topic of TRUE worship - is an important issue to cover in our evangelism.

To be honest, I’d never really thought about this until meditating on the various points of this passage. In that meditation I’ve been reminded that worship is one of the ultimate purposes in our salvation. We are saved not to continue in a worship of the world’s trinity (the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the boastful pride of life) but of the divine Trinity (Father, Son and Spirit). We are saved for a purpose. We are created with a chief end in mind – to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. The convicted sinner needs to be pointed to that which his repentant soul should be all about - the worship of the true and living God. The unbeliever needs to be challenged to leave her idolatry and pursue the only One worthy of worship.

This Samaritan water gatherer has obviously heard much about Jewish worship through the years and apparently she has a bitter taste from it. Probably with much reason! The Jews didn’t care one iota for the Samaritans. They were as unclean dogs to the Israelites. Here she finds herself face to face with the great Prophet of Father Abraham’s heirs and she must pose a question that is troubling to her. “You people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.”

Christ responds to her with a brief dissertation on the problem of outward formalism in religion as compared to the inward condition of a worshipping heart. That was the problem with what she’d seen and heard. It was outward form that was devoid of inward devotion. Jesus speaks to her about worship in spirit and in truth. He has come to rend the veil that separates men from their Maker and to fulfill all of the laborious types and shadows of temple sacrifice. He has come to shatter the fetters of idolatry. He has come to enable us to worship rightly. Who better to teach her about worship and what a better time than right slap dab at the beginning of her walk with Him!

As was alluded to earlier, we were made to worship. We are saved to worship. Sadly, even once the reigning idolatry of unbelief is conquered – even as redeemed sinners, we still tend to mess worship up. White washed walls are easy and can feed our pride. Outward appearance can be pulled off in an academy award winning fashion. We tend to have a check list of duties – yet often our duties are void of devotion. You know what I’m talking about. You make it to worship but you argue with your husband and yell at your kids on the way. You walk in the church door and your mind is on everything but your God and your Savior. You sing the songs without having any meditative thought regarding the lyrics. You stare at the preacher while he preaches and maybe even nod every now and then just to fool him – but what would you say if he asked you what you learned from his message? You have your Bible on your lap, drop a dollar in the plate, shake hands with your neighbor on the pew – but where has your heart been in all of these activities? Where are your thoughts? Have you worshipped in spirit and in truth or in game face and hypocrisy? What idol have you worshipped while feigning true worship? We are all guilty from time to time!

Jesus, in His initial conversation with this woman, in His first moments of spiritually enlightening her directs her gaze at true heart worship! We’d do well to listen! “The principle contained in these sentences can never be too strongly impressed on professing Christians. We are all naturally inclined to make religion a mere matter of outward forms and ceremonies. The heart is the principle thing in all our approaches to God. ‘The LORD looketh on the heart.’ (1 Sam 16:7).

How’s your heart regarding worship? How’s mine? As we point others to Christ let us make sure we point them to the importance of true worship. May we direct them from idolatrous worship to heart-felt, God-centered worship. Worship that is in spirit and in truth and as we do, may He be pleased to add to His church true heart worshippers!

In His glorious grace,

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