The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”21 Jesus said to her, ” Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:19-24
The subject of worship has always been a major issue for man. There is an innate desire to worship something, someone or even himself. Jesus had a revealing discussion with the Samaritan Woman. On realising that Jesus had supernatural knowledge about her life, she concluded that He must be a Prophet and thus could resolve a historical theological controversy that had existed between the Jews and the Samaritans concerning the proper place of Worship.
The Samaritans believed that Mount Gerizim (probably around where this encounter took place) was the right place to worship God but the Jews believed it should be Jerusalem. This had caused a major division and animosity between these two peoples who trace their origin to the patriarchs. Jesus made it clear to her that where a person worshipped was not nearly as important as whom and how he worshipped.
WHOM YOU WORHIP
It must have been a surprise to the woman when Jesus said to her “you worship what you do not know…” That was the divine verdict about worship by the Samaritans. Invariably, Jesus also implied that not all worship is to the true God. This is particularly instructive especially at this time when there is so much talk that “we all worship the same God!” No, we don’t, and do not let anyone deceive you! Paul addressed this issue to the Athenians: “For as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you.” Acts 17:23.
For worship to be effective there must be a proper conception of the object of worship. Actually, the word worship is said to have evolved from an old English word worthship which means to show worth or value. Therefore, the quality of worship you give depends on the value or worth you ascribe to the person or object. What is God worth to you? How you perceive God will affect how you worship Him. The Psalmist said:
“Give unto the Lord, O you mighty ones, Give unto the Lord glory and strength.2 Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name; Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” Psalm 29:1-2
In worship we declare in our thought, word and action the greatness of God and our devotion to Him. True worship begins with the revelation of whom God is. Your perception about whom God is will affect how you express your worship to Him.
That is why people bow, kneel, prostrate or lift up their hands etc when they worship. It is acknowledging that God is greater than we are; it is demonstrating total dependence and surrender to Him; it is humbling ourselves before the Almighty God. When it comes to worship, a person’s status is insignificant because we are before the Most High God – and you can’t get higher than that! In the place of worship we realise how great God is and how little we are.
HOW YOU WORSHIP
Jesus said that “… true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.” The very realisation that God is seeking for worshippers is quite humbling. But then, He is looking for a particular kind of worshippers – those who will worship Him in spirit and truth (or reality). This simply means that man, in his fallen nature, cannot adequately worship God. We may sing with our mouth and mind but we worship with our spirit. Worship is a faculty of the spirit so it takes the recreated human spirit to effectively engage in it. That is what the born-again experience confers on us (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:23-24). That is what Paul implied when he said “For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” Philippians 3:3.
So, we must not only see worship as what we do; it is what we are. We are worshippers! It means that there should not be a dichotomy between how we live and how we worship. A person’s lifestyle affects his worship. In fact, if there is true worship then there is also false worship. When our lifestyle is incongruent with what we profess then it is false and God has a problem with that. Jesus reminded the Pharisees what Prophet Isaiah had spoken concerning them: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 9 Their worship is a farce, for they teach man- made ideas as commands from God.” Matthew 15:8-9. NLT. As is often said, “The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart.” The Psalmist prayed:
“Teach me your way, O Lord,
and I will walk in your truth;
give me an undivided heart,
that I may fear your name.
12 I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart;
I will glorify your name forever. Psalm 86:11-12 NIV
THE HEART OF WORSHIP
The centre of God’s dealing with man has always been the heart. Having the right voice or instrument does not necessarily make someone a worshipper! True worship involves the heart. When the heart is right and ready it cuts the lead time for connecting with heaven. Unfortunately, some people think that worship only happens when we are in church. This is contrary to what Jesus was teaching in our text. Anywhere you can experience the presence of God is a place of worship (and it can happen anywhere).
Worship leaders have shared with me the frustration they often feel in trying to get people to worship on Sunday morning. They have to cajole and admonish just to get people into the mood of worship. It is like a car having a ‘hard start’ because it had been parked for too long. The engine is cold so they have to crank it over and over again to get it to start. Unfortunately, before some people can come up to it the worship session has ended so they leave church as dry as they came because they were unable to make connection with heaven.
Some years ago, I felt God was saying to me that “our worship does not go far enough!” Notice that He did not say “long enough.” When the heart is bogged down with loads of care, when we are distracted by the happenings around, we can hardly concentrate in the place of worship. We may be physically present in church but our heart is at home, or is cooking or shopping or visiting with family and friends. We can also be in church but our attention is on the dress the person in front of us is wearing, the size of their hat or the quality of their jewelry. By the time we finish the evaluation the worship time is over!
True worship strikes fear in the heart of the devil that is why he does everything to oppose it. If he cannot tempt us to worship him (as he tried with Jesus and failed Luke 4:7), or pervert our worship (as he does with so many so-called Christian cults) then he will do everything to ensure that we are distracted from focusing on God.
But when the heart is properly engaged in worship, there is an intensity that attracts the presence of God, that brings down the glory (2 Chronicles 5:13-14). In this realm of worship there is no struggle because you are completely immersed in the Spirit who Himself aids us in worship (Ephesians 5:18-19). God is attracted to worship, therefore it is one of the quickest ways to bring Him into your situation (2 Chronicles 20:22; Psalm 22:3). A genuine encounter with God in worship will transform your life forever.
As we look through the book of Revelation, we see that worship is the preoccupation of heaven. The angels, the elders and the living creatures ceaselessly worship the Lord. When we worship on earth we are only rehearsing what we shall be doing for all eternity. If a person is uncomfortable with worship in the ‘here and now’ then he will be too bored in the ‘there and then!’ God is still seeking for worshippers, I hope He will find one in you?