John 4:20-26 “Our fathers worshiped 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 will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”
It is hard to pull together the barrage of media and news from around the world. This morning there could be a coup in Nigeria and we would hear about it by tonight. Hindus in Orissa attacked Christians, killing several and causing the rest to flee into the jungles. You can read Time magazine online and find out the top 25 people to blame for the America’s and the world’s financial crisis. You read about thousands laid off in countries all around the world. I spent time this week trying to help two brothers who hitch-hiked into town from Nova Scotia with nothing but the clothes on their back. It begs the question—”What are we doing here? Who am I in the midst of this?”
Place of Worship – in you
As God brought the Israelites out of Egypt, freeing them from bondage, He revealed to them that His dwelling place would be the tabernacle. On Wednesday I was doing an Outcome Inventory as part of my educational requirements for the District and I sat in an unused office in Rock of Ages Church. On a side counter there sat a little model about 2 feet long of the tabernacle. As a kid I had a Sunday school teacher who specialized in explaining how the elements contained in the tabernacle and temple were types or symbols that ultimately led to Jesus. The tabernacle was replaced by Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. Wrecked in the Babylonian invasion the Jews appreciated grudgingly the work Herod was doing in the time of Jesus on the new temple. It would be completed in 63 AD, and destroyed 7 years later when Rome overran Jerusalem. Because the Samaritans were considered impure and not true Jews, they could not worship in Jerusalem. So they set up their own rival temple on Mt Gerazim. Jesus, though, talked of a fundamental change. The grace of God through the death of Jesus was offered to all, both Jew and Gentile. The location was no longer physical, but spiritual.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:17; 6:19; and 2 Corinthians 6:16 that we are the temple of God, that God dwells within us. You are the repository of the Creator of the ends of the earth. We don’t need to put gold on our ceilings or marble on our floors. What we do need to do is use these bodies we have for God’s honour and glory. This is why we Nazarenes ask our members to be sober and stay away from entertainment practices that can lead us away from worshipping God with our minds and bodies. These things become idols all too easily. They take our eyes off Jesus, off the holiness of God. They draw us in pursuit of our own pleasure and quickly become a distraction from keeping in step with the Holy Spirit. In the middle of the book of Acts a church council sends a letter to all the churches saying, “Stay away from eating meat offered to idols.” A while later we see Paul in a letter saying it is okay to eat meat offered to idols. The fact is there are many things in life that just aren’t worth the effort it takes to do them. They are distracting to our faith, our families, our integrity. You have to live within the context of Christ in you. It doesn’t start with what you do. It starts with the fact that God is in you and goes from there. What does go from there? Well…
Method of Worship – in your heart
This is something that should be self-evident, but often is not. We come to church, or go to work or school or just sit in the privacy of our homes. We think we are alone, or at least, our thoughts and hearts are well guarded. Don’t fool yourself. It isn’t about clothes or location; it isn’t even about action to begin with, that comes later. Jesus said it is about worshiping in spirit. It is about intention, about agendas. God knows our inner thoughts. He knew in the Old Testament when the Priests would offer up sacrifices, but were robbing the people. He knew when Achan had in private stolen treasure when he was forbidden. He knows, as Jeremiah states, that our hearts are deceitful and wicked. He knows how often we fail and fall short. But you know what? His grace is bigger than our failures and He asks us to come back to Him. He knows when we don’t and just go through the motions. Jonathon Edwards preached a sermon in 1741 called “Sinners in the hands of an angry God”. He talked about the end result of living a life running against or away from God. He said it is only in Jesus that you can find peace and assurance of the future. So don’t get caught up in the sense that you are somehow escaping the notice of God. This is good news and bad news. Good if you are pursuing Jesus, bad if you are running your own life. There is probably 30 different reasons why we came here this morning. Most of us came to meet God. Rest in His love, in His grace. If you are far from Him, listen to Him calling to you.
When we worship in Spirit, we worship in intention. We purposely do things for God, because He leads us. The incarnation is a prime example of that. Jesus intentionally left heaven to accomplish the will of the Father. It was an act of service. One of the last things Jesus did for the disciples was to wash their feet. Remember that story? Peter said, “No- not me. That is a job for the servants.” When Jesus rebuked him Peter said then wash all of me because I want to be all I can be in you. Worshipping God in Spirit is intention played out in action. In Bible College I had a professor say that “service is the highest form of worship”. Almost everything you do can be worship when you do it in the attitude of service to God and one another. You can do the same thing and it could mean nothing because your intention was not for God, but for yourself. The challenge is live your life as an act of worship, moving from one thing to the next with the continuing sense of the presence of God in your life.
Focus of Worship – Christ in us
Jesus said to worship in spirit and in truth. The ultimate truth is reality. One can talk about homes and food and love, but if we lived in many, many places in the world it would not be reality. As we watched gas prices go up and down, as we watch the stock markets bottom out, we begin to ask what lasts? I read another article yesterday on how they need to look at climate change happening sooner than later because it can get into a self serving circle with the melting of the northern tundra and how that could release 3 times the amount of CO2 than we have released since the dawn of the industrial age in a matter of decades. What will the world look like for our children’s children? The only unchanging thing I know is the character of God. It is what He bases His promises in – His unchanging character of love and holiness. That is why the Old Testament has the rules it does. It reflects His holiness and the seriousness of sin. It also reflects His love and striving with us, His patience. Is it any wonder that these two things are what God calls us to? Love and holiness. Christianity isn’t rules for rules sake. It is about reflecting the life of Jesus in us.
One would think it would be easier to live by rules. It’s not. You would always be waiting for judgement, always wondering how far short you missed the mark, no assurance of God’s love; just Damacle’s sword of judgement hanging above us while we struggle and keep falling short. How much better it is to live in grace. Unmerited favour. Letting our behaviour flow out of who we are in Christ. And if we fall short, there is forgiveness and the grace to go on. There is assurance based on love and promises of salvation.
So go from today with a sense of the presence of God in your life, for you are the temple of God. Take the time throughout your week to keep short accounts. God is closer than a text message or a tweet. He is with you always. Just make the choice to live in His power and direction, and He will come and lead you on, in spirit and truth.