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Friday, December 1, 2017

How Do We Worship In Spirit And Truth - 2

To worship God in spirit and in truth is to declare that God is worthy of our reverence. We do this in spirit through our heart, the seat of our emotions, based on the truth of who He is, the truth of who we are, the truth of what God does and has done for us, and the truth of what is going on in our lives. 

This is the manuscript of a sermon preached at Church of Divine Guidance (CDG) in Los Angeles, on Sunday November 26, 2017.  This is the second time that I preached this sermon in the last two months and is a continuation of a Tuesday night Bible Study.  After the Bible Study the Senior Pastor of felt that this is a message that should be given to the congregation at a Sunday worship service.

The link to the YouTube video of the sermon is at the end of the manuscript. 

How Do We Worship In Spirit And Truth - 2 - A Sermon

A month or so ago I led a Tuesday night Bible Study on worship and the pastor thought that it was something the entire church should hear. I believe that the Holy Spirit directs him and if he suggested that I preach this sermon it must be something that the Holy Spirit wants you to hear.

Turn in your Bible to John 4:23-24

We all remember the story of the conversation that Jesus had with the woman at a well in Samaria.  If you don’t know the whole story you can read it in John chapter 4.  In the conversation, Jesus revealed that He knew all about this woman. He told her that she had been married 5 times, and that the guy she was living with now with was not her husband. This made her uncomfortable, so she changed the subject from her personal life to religion.

John 4:19‭-‬20 NIV  “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
Jesus answers by saying that a day was coming when that it didn’t matter WHERE a person worshiped God.  What mattered was HOW they worshiped Him.

John 4:21‭-‬24 NIV  “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.  You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.  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.  God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
Note here that Spirit is capitalized which means that God is not a spirit but He’s  The Spirit.

So the question is just how do we worship God in spirit and in truth?   We'll talk about that later but remember the capital “S”.
Let’s first look at a definition for worship; it’s “the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity”.  To Worship then, is to show reverence and adoration for (a deity); to honor them with religious rites.
Of course the deity we are talking about is God.
We praise God for what He’s done. But we worship Him for who He is.   In fact praise is a former of worship.

One way to look at worship is to think of it as "worth-ship." When we worship something, we declare that it is worthy.

Psalm 145:3 (NLT)  Great is the LORD! He is most worthy of praise! No one can measure his greatness.

The Greek word for "worship" (iproskyneŇć - pros-koo-neh'-o) implies an attitude of reverence. It also includes such physical gestures as kissing the hand or kneeling

Psalm 95:6 (NLT)  Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the LORD our maker,

We worship something when we act as if it has value. By nature, human beings are worshippers.  For instance, we worship our work or our bank accounts, an athlete, an entertainer, a house, a car, a child, a spouse, even  pastors, but we  need to work on focusing our worship on someone who is actually worthy of reverence (like God).

Our attitudes and actions should reflect that we believe the character and conduct of God to be worthy of praise and adoration. At times our worship is expressed through corporate singing, teaching, and tithing. It is also expressed in our daily lives through prayer, Scripture reading, acts of kindness, gratitude, and  our thoughts.

Acknowledge God’s Greatness
When we worship God, we have to understand and acknowledge how mighty He is and how insignificant we are. God is the King of the universe and all creation inevitably bows down before Him.
Isaiah 45:22-23 (NLT)22  Let all the world look to me for salvation! For I am God; there is no other.23  I have sworn by my own name; I have spoken the truth, and I will never go back on my word: Every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will confess allegiance to me.”
In the New Testament in Philippians 2:9-11 Paul writes;
Philippians 2:9-11 (NLT)9  Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names,10  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,11  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Worship is our response to God’s greatness.  It’s us, the created, responding to Him, the Creator.  It’s our spirits being energized in His presence.  

We worship when we come into God’s presence.  Eugene Patterson the creator of “The Message” Bible translation says that worship is “A tribute to God when He comes.”

I preached a sermon earlier this year “What Does It Mean To Delight Yourself In The Lord” in that sermon I referred to a Scripture Zephaniah 3:14-17.

Zephaniah 3:14-17 (NLT) 14 Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! 15 For the LORD will remove his hand of judgment and will disperse the armies of your enemy. And the LORD himself, the King of Israel, will live among you! At last your troubles will be over, and you will never again fear disaster. 16 On that day the announcement to Jerusalem will be, “Cheer up, Zion! Don’t be afraid! 17 For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

What Zephaniah said was the nation of Israel was to rejoice.   In other words delight themselves in the Lord because He was present with them.

God’s presence makes us who we are. His presence sets us apart from others. And every time we draw near to Him, He draws near to us.
We know that God isn’t confined to a church building or only available at certain times of day. So we don’t have to wait until we come to church or a certain time of day to worship Him.  We don’t even have to wait until we feel spiritual. If we are delighting ourselves in Him we can be confident of His presence all the time.

Psalm 139 says that God's presence can be wherever are.
Psalm 139:1‭-‬10 NIV You have searched me, Lord , and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord , know it completely.  You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.  Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.  If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,  even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

He said that He would never leave us.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV
The very last thing that Jesus said to His disciples, before He returned to heaven was that He would always be with them.  

Matthew 28:18-20 NIV Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
There is nowhere we can go, no situation, no challenge, no relationship, no conversation where God isn’t present. Because of His great love for us, and His spirit at work in and through us, worship of Him will invade every nook and cranny of our lives.

When we worship God, we embrace His attributes. We see Him as omnipresent (everywhere at once), omniscient (all-knowing), omnipotent (all-powerful), totally good, and totally loving. Worship is not about responsive readings or singing hymns. Worship is surrendering yourself to the power, majesty, and goodness of your Creator, letting God be God — even when you don’t understand what He’s doing or when you disagree with what He’s doing.
Worship is all about responding to who God is and what He’s done for us. It’s about being so into God that we can’t help responding out loud or with our actions. Worshiping God is just about focusing on Him.
God doesn’t require some kind of perfect, complicated worship act. He just wants it to be authentic and genuine.
Let me give you an example of phony worship, and God’s response to it.  
Isaiah 1:11-15 NIV “The multitude of your sacrifices— what are they to me?” says the Lord . “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.  When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts?  Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations— I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.  Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them.  When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood!

He didn’t say they weren’t bringing their sacrifices and offerings, in fact they were bringing them.  They were observing the festivals and feasts that God directed them to keep but because of their lifestyle He didn’t want to have anything to do with their worship.

Jesus confronted the religious leaders of his day for turning worship into hard work and for appearing to do all the right things but inwardly neglecting to show justice and mercy. He called them “hypocrites” and “blind guides”

Matthew 23:23‭-‬24 NIV “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.  You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

Sometimes people walk out of church saying things like, “I didn’t really like the songs today,” or “I just wasn’t really feeling worship today,” or “That singer or the band wasn’t that good. It kinda took me out of it.”  Pastor wasn’t on it today that sermon was flat.  The Spirit wasn’t here today.  

We'll let me let you in on a little secret.

Worship isn’t about you anyway.   It’s about carving out time in our busy lives and responding to who God is and what He’s done for us. It’s about a deep, inner spirit response.  Worship doesn’t always mean singing at the top of your lungs, or dancing or shouting. It’s about just entering into His presence and your response to that.

Here’s what God wants in worship.  Go back to Isaiah chapter 1
Isaiah 1:16‭-‬17 NIV Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong.  Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.

Hosea 6:6 For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings

Micah 6:8 NIV He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
In other words we are to be completely devoted to him and compassionate toward others, not just giving lip service and empty sacrifices. God wants people to actually to know him, not just know about him while ignoring what God considers important which is obedience and love. Living a life of obedience and love is what worship is not just going through the motions: outwardly sacrificing and saying the right things, yet inwardly remaining far from God.

We should be so tuned into God that we’re feeling His presence in our lives in big and small ways.  It’s about who He is, what He does, and our response to those things. Worship isn’t about us. It’s about Him.

Still The Question Is How Do We Worship Him In Spirit And In Truth
Let’s go back to our very first Scripture.

John 4:23-24 NLT But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way.  For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”

As I said before, worship of God is not to be confined to a place or a prescribed formula or actions.  Because of Christ’s sacrifice, death, burial and resurrection, worship became a matter of the heart rather than ceremony.
Here’s something that Jesus said when somebody asked Him what was the greatest commandment.
Mark 12:28-30 NIV One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”   “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’

So….to worship God in spirit and truth means loving Him with heart, soul, mind and strength.

True worship must be “in spirit,” engaging the whole heart which is the source of our emotions.   Unless there’s a real passion for God, there is no worship in spirit. At the same time, worship must be “in truth,”.  We have to know who we are worshiping.  Unless we have knowledge of the God we worship, there is no worship in truth. Jesus said that the truth makes us free.  

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
John 8:31-32 NIV

We get that knowledge from the Bible, God’s Word.  That freedom is what allows us to worship in spirit and truth.
Passion and knowledge are both necessary for God-honoring worship. Spirit without truth leads to a shallow, overly emotional experience that could be compared to a high. As soon as the emotion is over, so is the worship. Truth without spirit can result in a dry, passionless encounter that can easily lead to a form of joyless legalism. The best combination of both aspects of worship, spirit and truth, result in a joyous appreciation of God. The more we know about God, the more we appreciate Him. The more we appreciate Him, the deeper our worship. The deeper our worship, the more God is glorified.
Make Time
In everyday life, there are so many things pulling you in different directions. So many things fighting for your attention.  Things fighting for your worship.

We’re either worshiping God or we’re worshiping something else. But we can’t worship both. Worship is how we respond to the thing we value the absolute most! The thing we spend most of our time thinking about, doing, giving the most attention to, putting all our energy into is what we worship.
True worship is your response to how great you know God to be. We should worship Him with everything we have, everything we are, and everything we do.

When we worship in spirit and truth we do what Paul urges us to do in;
Romans 12:1 (NLT)1  And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.

Because God sent His Son, Jesus, to die for you—because God loves you so much—because God has done great things in our lives—our only natural response to all of that should be the sacrifice of our whole lives.  Our worship in spirit and truth.
There is a gospel song, by Richard Smallwood the title is “Jesus You’re The Center Of My Joy”.
The lyrics of that song are;

Jesus, you're the center of my joy
All that's good and perfect comes from you
You're the heart of my contentment, hope for all I do
Jesus, you're the center of my joy
When I've lost my direction, you're the compass for my way
You're the fire and light when nights are long and cold
In sadness, you are the laughter that shatters all my fears
When I'm all alone, your hand is there to hold,
You are why I find pleasure in the simple things in life
You're the music in the meadows and the streams
The voices of the children, my family, and my home
You're the source and finish of my highest dreams,
Jesus, you're the center of my joy
All that's good and perfect comes from you
You're the heart of my contentment, hope for all I do
Jesus, you're the center of my joy
Worshiping God isn’t just something you do, it’s the way you live. Worship can be as intense as spending an hour every day in quiet time listening and talking to God. It can be something as simple as when you go to work, or to volunteer, or just talking to someone on the street and thanking God for the opportunity that He has given you. You realize that it’s because of Him that you get to do any of these things.

Worship is made possible through a relationship with Jesus.  

When we surrender every day to Jesus, with obedience and with compassion toward others, we  are worshiping God in spirit and in  truth.  

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.
Romans 12:1 NIV

Jesus, sometimes we are too embarrassed to celebrate you the way that we should. Please help us to worship you in spirit and in truth, without worrying about what other people might think.   I your name we pray Amen.

Sermon Video

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