In last week’s blog, we looked at the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. In that story, Jesus was passing through Samaria with his disciples. At midday they passed Jacob’s well. He instructed his disciples to go into town so he could talk to a woman who had come to draw water from the well. She was at the well in the hottest part of the day to avoid contact with her neighbors. Jesus looked into her life and told her the sin he saw there. She immediately tried to distract him with something controversial—worship. Her question might read like this in today’s language: “My people worship on Mount Gerizim. Our worship is contemporary and appeals to the senses. Your people worship at Jerusalem. Your worship is traditional and orderly, appealing to the mind. Which is right?”
Her tactic should be very familiar to us. Jesus is looking deep into our hearts to identify sin, but we are picking fights about worship style: “Your people like orderly traditional worship, but my people like exciting contemporary worship.” Does that sound familiar? Starting a worship war is a devious way to deflect attention when Jesus starts convicting us of our sin. We do it all the time.
But Jesus countered the woman’s question with a simple yet profound statement: “A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth” (John 4:23, NIV). Jesus’ arrival on earth was the sunrise for a new era of worship dawning on mankind. The full sunlight would not be revealed until Jesus’ mission was complete.
First, worship would become fully empowered by Christ’s sacrificial death and victorious resurrection—the gospel. Second, worship would be fully consummated by the gift of God’s Spirit. When these two epic events were fulfilled, worship was no longer contained in temples. Worship is now expressed through the lives of disciples who drink the water of life. We become God’s temple. God’s spirit has replaced sensationalism, and the truth of the gospel has replaced traditionalism.
Where can we find the most basic model of worship in spirit and truth? Come to the dark pathways in oppressive places where believers wear black and slip through the night to small, dimly-lit rooms. There, they worship, pray, and study the Bible. They are outlaws because of their faith in Christ. They could be arrested and killed at any minute; yet they live to follow Jesus. These courageous believers are multiplying disciples at an astounding rate. They are winning others to Christ, training them, and sending them out faster than church growth experts can comprehend. How are they doing such amazing things under such trying circumstances? What is their source of power? They dare to believe that the work of Christ can be done with nothing more than his Word and his Spirit. Nothing has the power to ignite our lives as do God’s Spirit and Truth.
We assume that pianos, guitars, drums, an organ, and a comfortable building equipped with the latest technology are required for real worship. We think we need to present a particular style of music with correct instrumentation and the best players. Yet Jesus tells us that spirit and truth empower real worship. God’s Holy Spirit, the engine for true worship, is empowered by his Word. Throughout the Bible, we see the power of God’s Word. When prophets spoke on behalf of God, people were healed or cursed, and nations arose and fell. When Jesus’ disciples spoke, demons were banished and hearts were opened to salvation. John 1 states that God’s Word became flesh in Jesus Christ and dwelt among us full of power and grace. Paul testified to the power of the gospel in Romans 1:16a (HCSB): “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes.”
The gospel is God’s Word made flesh in Jesus. What is more powerful than the gospel of Jesus presented in Spirit and Truth? Absolutely nothing! It truly is a vortex that draws everything surrounding it into its powerful current. Go ahead and make your announcements and do your “churchy stuff” . But if you don’t unleash God’s Spirit and make the Gospel of Jesus central to the greater part of your worship, your worship will be lifeless and powerless!
– Mark Powers