Sharing Our Faith Together

Worship for 18 July - Worship in Spirit and Truth

by Jackie Berry 18 July 2021

Welcome to our service at Newmount today.

Call to worship: Psalm 95: 1-3, 6-7
1Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
    let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving
    and extol him with music and song.

3 For the Lord is the great God,
    the great King above all gods.
6 Come, let us bow down in worship,
    let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
7 for he is our God
    and we are the people of his pasture,
    the flock under his care.

Song – Bless the Lord O my soul, 10,000 Reasons

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Father, God, our loving heavenly Father, we come into your presence this morning and bring you our prayers of adoration. We want to tell of your goodness, your unfailing, never-ending love and declare that and we love you and adore you.

Creator God, we glimpse your beauty in the creation we see around us. We marvel in wonder at the care you took when creating our beautiful world and the love you poured out in creating us to be in relationship with you. We are in awe at your power displayed for all the world to see and we bow our hearts in reverence and awe before you. Creator God we praise you.

Precious Jesus, we see your love stretched out upon a cruel cross. We stand in awe at your sacrifice, pure love poured out for humankind. We adore you for your grace and mercy, your humility and sacrifice, your example of a live lived in service, compassion, love and truth. Precious Jesus we praise you.

Holy Spirit, we see your power in lives transformed, hearts on fire. We listen for your still, small voice, comforting, guiding, calling. We worship you for your presence and peace within us. Holy Spirit we praise you. To you loving God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be all glory, honour and praise, now and forever. 

Loving and merciful God, we confess to you before the whole company of heaven that we have sinned against you in what we have thought, said and done. We have not loved you with our whole heart and we have not loved our neighbours as ourselves. 

Forgive us for the times when we have sinned in what we have done and in what we have failed to do. We are truly sorry and turn away from what is wrong. 

Father, thank you that when we confess our sins, we know that you are faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us anew. Thank you for your reassurance and the knowledge we have that Jesus stepped into this world to save each of us. That by his death on the cross we know our sins are forgiven. Thank you. 

And out of the knowledge of our forgiveness and our new life found in you, we offer you our prayers of thanksgiving. Thank you Lord God for the opportunity of worship, for the freedom to be amongst your family meeting together in your house, and in the warmth of your embrace. Thank you that in worship we can put aside the uncertainties of this world and rest upon the certainties of the Kingdom, for your promises are not changeable but immovable and eternal. Thank you that you hear all our prayers. Amen

Today the message that I felt God wanted to share was about worship. About the kind of worship that he desires and the worshippers that he seeks. Over the last few months I’ve had many conversations with people about how different church has had to become because of all the government rules and restrictions. For many the way that they feel most able to worship God is through singing and to have that taken away has been a struggle for lots of people. But I think God is speaking to his church today about a deeper worship life that he desires his followers to have. 

So our readings today are about worship and how God teaches and leads us to be the worshipping community that he desires. 

Readings : Isaiah 66:1–2 and John 4: 1-26

Song: In Christ Alone

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What is most important to you when you worship God? If you were to list those things that are really essential for you to participate in worship, what would they be? Is it a certain style of preaching? Is it a certain translation of the Bible? Is it a certain type of music? But worship is more than the outward actions that can often occupy so much of our concern. In our passage this morning Jesus points us to something much deeper at the heart of worship.

The context of this passage may seem a bit unusual for a discussion about worship. Jesus is passing through Samaria on His way to Galilee and He stops at Jacob's well for a drink. There He encounters a woman from Samaria and He draws her into a conversation by asking her to give Him a drink. As the conversation continues, Jesus confronts the woman with her sin, by asking her to go and call her husband. When she realizes that Jesus knows all about her, she responds by changing the subject. She retreats behind religious controversy and asks Jesus' view on the theological debate of the day: “Where should God's people worship?” 

In the time of Christ, the Jews worshipped on Mount Zion, in Jerusalem. The Samaritans, however, were treated as outcasts and not considered as pure Jews. The Jews did not want to have any association with the Samaritans. They did not want to use their roads, their wells, their cups for drinking; they avoided them if at all possible. This is why the woman was surprised when Jesus asked her for a drink. So while the Jews worshipped in Jerusalem, the Samaritans worshipped in a different place, on Mount Gerizim. 

Although the woman at first tries to avoid dealing with her sin, Jesus is there on a mission so He purposefully draws her into a conversation to bring her the Gospel. So, in the midst of this conversation with the woman at the well, Jesus teaches several important truths concerning worship. This morning I want to draw out some significant truths from this passage:

I. The Place of True Worship
In response to the woman's question, “Where should the people of God worship?”, Jesus said: “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.”

God is Spirit and cannot be contained. He is not confined to one place. This truth is not new to the New Testament. We read in Isaiah 66: "Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me?”. God is Spirit and cannot be confined to one place. He cannot be contained in a temple of stone. Heaven is His throne and the earth is His footstool. We can worship God in any place for He has made our hearts His Temple and made his dwelling within us. 

In the next verse Jesus reveals the next truth and gives a warning… a warning about empty worship.

II. A Warning against Empty Worship
He tells the Samaritan woman: "You worship what you do not know." (John 4:22) The Samaritans were guilty of worshipping God in ignorance. They rejected most of God's Word and only claimed the first five books of the Bible as their Scripture. They turned away from a large portion of God's revealed truth and were not worshipping God according to the full testimony of Scripture.

We know how to worship God, by knowing His Word. God has revealed in Scripture how He is to be worshipped and we must pursue an understanding of His Word, if we are to worship Him rightly. Our worship must be guided by the revealed truth of God's Word. Now, we might look at the Samaritans and say, “Of course they were in error. They rejected truth. They rejected part of the Bible!” But be careful here! They are not the only ones who are guilty of evading and editing truth. How often do we see people today trying to make the Word of God fit our society and culture, rather than standing firm in its truth and living a radically different life to those around us. Those in Christ's day had a wrong view of worship. They had confined God to one place and had turned away from His Word spoken by His prophets. The best way to avoid false worship is by knowing God in His Word, so we must make time to do this. 

III. The Time for True Worship
The third thing to note is that Jesus tells the women that the time for true worship is now here. He says in verse 23: "A time is coming and has now come".

The coming of Jesus and His fulfilment of God's plan had a profound influence on worship. In the Old Testament, God's people worshipped by following instructions in the ceremonial law. They included the tabernacle and Temple, priests and sacrifices. But these were only temporary and provisional.  Think of them as a shadow of what was to come. These were aspects of worship that foreshadowed what Christ would accomplish in His life, death and resurrection. All these ceremonial laws were now no longer necessary since Christ had come. By sending Jesus, God was breaking down previous barriers. 

The Old Testament prophets looked forward to the coming of the Messiah. But the woman at the well saw Jesus for herself. She saw the Saviour sent from God and it changed her life. Jesus gave her the good news. He is come! The Word of God is fulfilled. And the time for true worship is now!

We now have a better vantage point, this side of the cross and the resurrection, to worship. Worship is no longer in foretastes or shadows, or in ceremonial laws. We no longer travel to a physical Temple to offering animal sacrifices that can never take away sin. We worship Jesus, who has come, who died and rose again, who alone is the Way, the Truth and the Life!

This brings us to the fourth point. In John 4:23 Jesus then reveals the true essence of worship.

IV. The Essence of True Worship
He says: Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23–24)

Those who worship God must worship Him in spirit and in truth. These are not two different or distinct ways of worshipping God, but two essential parts of the same worship. We must do both together. But what do they mean? It’s a phrase we hear a lot, worship in spirit and truth, but what do those two elements mean and how do we worship in them? 

If we are to participate rightly in worship, we must worship in spirit. That means worship that is heart-felt and alive in the power of the Holy Spirit. In order for us to worship in spirit, we need the Spirit of God to come to us, seek us out and make us alive. Our spirit is the core of who we are. It is the centre of our thoughts and our emotions. We also know that God is a spiritual being. To worship in spirit, then, is to do something that is beyond the physical. We do not worship by simply bowing our knees; we worship through a heart posture. Our worship is to then be in line with the worship going on in heaven. When we worship in the Spirit, we enthrone Christ in our hearts. We see Him as precious and place Him first in our affections and desires. 

If we are to participate rightly in worship, we must also worship in truth. Worshipping in truth means that we pursue God in His Word and in submission to His Word. This includes the Scriptural truth about who God is and what He does, hence why He is worthy of worship. Worshipping in truth also includes the truth about our circumstances. We worship God in joyful circumstances but we also worship God even when we are experiencing heartache. When we worship Him, we do not forget about our hurt, but we worship even in the truth of our hurt. God would have us worship Him in spirit and in truth. Let His Spirit dwell with yours and make His truth come alive in you. Spirit and Truth mark the true worshippers of God.

V. God is on a Quest for True Worshippers
The last lesson Jesus teaches is that God is on a quest for those who will worship Him in Spirit and Truth. Jesus says: true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks (John 4:23b–24).

Worship is the central theme and quest of the Bible. God is in pursuit of those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth. God is in pursuit of true worshippers, and He seeks us with His love, His grace, and His mercy to bring us to Himself. God is not seeking your time, your good deeds, your money, your intellect, or your creativity. All of those things might be useful in honouring Him, but those are all things He gave you in the first place. And they are things that He can just as easily take away.

The only thing that God is seeking is you! He is aiming for your heart. He is on a quest to seek and save the lost. He is on a quest to make true worshippers, a people to worship Him for eternity. This is why we were created. This is our purpose and our end—the true worship of God – in spirit and truth—loving and enjoying Him forever. May God grant us all to know His Truth by the power of His Spirit to His glory alone that we would be the worshippers he desires! 

Prayers of Intercession
Lord, we thank you for your word and the lessons you teach us through it. As we come before you now we ask that you would help us to be the worshippers that you desire.

Lord, we thank you that Your word tells us that You “uphold all those who fall and lift up all who are bowed down.” And so, as we bow down before you in prayer, we lift up those that need Your touch, Your hope, Your healing, Your strength and Your love now. 

And so we bring before you now people on our hearts that we know need your power today. For those in this fellowship and in our families and friendship groups that need your touch right now we ask for your healing, your comfort, your presence and your peace to be at. In the quiet now we name before you those on our hearts. 

We also bring before you the streets in this community that need to experience you and feel you almighty presence in their homes and families. Please would you minister to the needs of each person, fill them with your Holy Spirit that they may come to know the risen lord Jesus as lord in their lives and homes.

We pray now for our own country. We lift before you our government and ask that You pour out Your wisdom on the leaders of the different political parties. We pray that your presence would be felt when decisions are being made and that your voice will be heard above all other voices. We ask for your guidance and wisdom to prevail. We pray too for the scientists and medical advisors that are working so hard to guide our politicians. Please draw alongside them helping them to guide our country and indeed the whole world as they seek to bring an end to this pandemic. 

So we lift up before you those affected by this pandemic throughout the world. We give you thanks for the vaccination program and ask that you would help it to be implemented fairly across the whole world. May each country see an end to this virus and it’s devastating effect on lives, jobs, and economies. 

And so Lord we ask that you would take all that we have heard and learnt this morning. May your message for each one of us be remembered and lived out, throughout the coming days and weeks. Help us to hold fast to our faith in You. We pray that every person here would grasp afresh the depth of your love for them and the extent of your mercy. Help us to live as people who delight in your ways and your teachings, who mediate on them and see them pure joy. Equip us afresh to be people who willingly serve others, help those in need and seek to honour you be all our actions.  

We bring all of our prayers in and through the name of Jesus Christ our Lord knowing that you hear us and know all the desires and needs of our hearts. Amen

The Lord’s Prayer

Hymn: Be thou my vision

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May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the holy spirit be with us all, now and forever more. Amen.