worship

In Spirit and Truth

Confusion has prevailed since the beginning of civilization about who God is and what He desires of those who would trust in Him. The reason is simple. We all tend to have our own ideas based on our own reasoning, rituals, superstitions, traditions, and the influence and opinions of others. This includes people raised in churches and who read the Bible.

This confusion is illustrated in the story of a Samaritan woman who encountered Jesus at an ancient well. When Jesus—the Son of God—engages her in conversation, her confusion about spiritual things is evident.

When Jesus reveals what He knows about her, she responds with a challenge about religion. Jesus doesn’t mince any words. He tells her plainly, “You don’t know what you’re worshipping.” Sadly, this is just as true for many today as it was for this woman.

The woman dismisses what Jesus says by changing the subject. This is a common tactic when a conversation about spiritual truth goes beyond our understanding. But Jesus keeps the conversation centered on what is spiritually true, as seen in how the story unfolds.

Scripture

The woman told Jesus, “Sir, give me this water! Then I won’t get thirsty or have to come here to get water.” Jesus told her, “Go to your husband, and bring him here.”

The woman replied, “I don’t have a husband.” Jesus told her, “You’re right when you say that you don’t have a husband. You’ve had five husbands, and the man you have now isn’t your husband. You’ve told the truth.” [vss 15-18]

The woman said to Jesus, “I see that you’re a prophet! Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain. But you Jews say that people must worship in Jerusalem.”

Jesus told her, “Believe me. A time is coming when you Samaritans won’t be worshiping the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. You don’t know what you’re worshiping. We ⌊Jews⌋ know what we’re worshiping, because salvation comes from the Jews.  [vss 19-22]

Indeed, the time is coming, and it is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. The Father is looking for people like that to worship him. God is a spirit. Those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

The woman said to him, “I know that the Messiah is coming. When he comes, he will tell us everything.” (Messiah is the one called Christ.)

Jesus told her, “I am he, and I am speaking to you now.” [vss 23-26]

(John 4:15-26 GW)

Key phrase—

God is a spirit. Those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What water does the Samaritan woman ask for and why does she want it?

  • What does Jesus tell the woman to do and how does this result in a religious discussion?

  • What does Jesus say about “true worshipers”? How are they to worship God and what do you think this means?

  • How does Jesus respond to the woman’s comment about the Messiah?

Reflection...

Discussions about religion are difficult for many reasons, especially when emotions are driven by opinions and ignorance that interfere with clear thinking. Terminology and traditions also contribute to confusion and fruitless debates that are more emotional than spiritual.

As Jesus speaks of spiritual things—living water—the woman is focused on what’s immediate and physical. This illustrates what Jesus says about God and worship. Worship is neither mystical nor religious, but spiritual. True worship is based in a personal relationship with God not a specific action.

When the woman dismisses what Jesus says to her about worship by speaking of the Messiah to come, Jesus reveals who He is to the woman. As the story continues, she appears to believe Him and what He says about God and true worshipers.

God is spirit—spiritual in nature, not human in origin. He’s eternal—self-existent and above and beyond the natural world. True worshipers—those whom God is seeking—worship Him in a spiritual way rather than with rituals and traditions. True worshipers also worship Him in truth—according to what is revealed by God in His written word, the Bible.

Taking it to heart...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • How does Jesus’ discernment about the woman’s marital status relate to what Jesus says about worshiping God?

  • What is Jesus referring to when He says, “…salvation comes from the Jews”?

  • Are you a “true worshiper” of God? If so, in what way have you learned to worship God “in spirit and truth?”

  • When Jesus tells this woman He is the Messiah, how does this reveal who is included as the true worshipers God seeks?

Personalize it...

Meditate On This— God is spirit and we need to worship Him in spirit and truth in ways that are genuinely spiritual, that reflect His true nature, and are in agreement with the truth He’s revealed about Himself in the Scriptures.

Prayer Focus— Practice times of quiet reflection before and after bringing your concerns, petitions, and intercessions to God in prayer. Ask God to help you understand how to worship in ways that please Him.

©2018—Word-Strong

A Bloodless Sacrifice

What image springs to your mind when you hear the word sacrifice? Do you visualize a primitive pagan sacrifice of a bloody animal offered on a rock altar? Perhaps you think of a soldier or first responder's sacrificial bravery?

Not all sacrifices require blood to be spilled or the exchange of one life for another.

Set Apart for God

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lightstock.com

Religion, by definition, is a set of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or group of gods. The Latin root of this word carries the idea of constraint and practice, even to restrain or tie back.

Many religions are noted by their adherence to traditions, rituals, and rules along with other implied expectations. A religious person practices these things with the hopes of becoming more spiritual and acceptable by whoever or whatever is worshiped.

Sacred is a common term related to religion. It describes a sense of holiness or devotion. Something that is sacred is devoted or set apart for service or worship. It can also refer to people who are set apart for service or worship.

In Christianity, this is expressed as being holy or sanctified. When applied to a person, the process of becoming holy is called sanctification. All of this religious stuff sounds pretty exhausting and intimidating, doesn't it?

Here's some good news. Jesus has set His followers free from all this effort, once for all! Not so we can do as they please but to free us to live a life that pleases Him.

Scripture

We have been set apart as holy because Jesus Christ did what God wanted him to do by sacrificing his body once and for all.

Every day each priest performed his religious duty. He offered the same type of sacrifice again and again. Yet, these sacrifices could never take away sins. [vss 10-11]

However, this chief priest made one sacrifice for sins, and this sacrifice lasts forever. Then he received the highest position in heaven. Since that time, he has been waiting for his enemies to be made his footstool. 

With one sacrifice he accomplished the work of setting them apart for God forever. [vss 12-14]

(Hebrews 10:10-14 GW) [Context– Hebrews 10]

Key phrase—

With one sacrifice he accomplished the work of setting them apart for God forever

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What made it possible for believers to be "set apart as holy"?

  • What did the priests under the Law do over and over yet not able to accomplish?

  • How is what Jesus did as a chief priest contrasted with the other priests?

  • What do you see is the major emphasis of these few verses? [hint– it's repeated three times]

Reflection...

Why keep repeating the same thing over and over if it isn't effective and has little lasting value? This is the nature of religion.

No religion, no effort at goodness, no philosophy or system of discipline can make a person better or more righteous than what Jesus did once for all.

Why try to improve on perfection? Our own efforts at goodness are futile. Why not choose what is perfect and guaranteed for eternity?

Christian believers—followers of Jesus—are set apart as holy by the work of Jesus on the cross and through the power of His resurrection living in us. It's the Holy Spirit's transforming work in our hearts and minds that makes us holy.

True righteousness and sanctification are not the result of good behavior and good intentions but is based on a genuine, personal relationship of trust.

Exchanging our effort for Jesus' perfect work is wise. What will you choose today?

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • How would you describe the idea of being holy or set apart (IYOW)?

  • Why do you think we all seem to default to some type of religious effort?

  • Have you experienced the conflict between effort and trust in your own life?

  • How are you currently learning to trust Jesus and His perfect work in your daily life?

©2017—Word-Strong


Here's a free introduction for the book of Hebrews— Intro to studying Hebrews

Guaranteed!

A common hook used for selling something is to offer a guarantee. Of course, the hook might come with some catches like time limits or other restrictions. It's the "money-back" guarantees that are most appealing.

You can also buy extended warranties and some credit cards even offer warranties. But remember, guarantees or warranties are only as good the one who issues it, whether it's a person or a company. Are they trustworthy? Will they stay in business?

Another limitation is whatever is being guaranteed. Any item or service, even a life insurance policy is limited because it's temporary. A life insurance policy is only in force while a person is alive and pays out when they die.

But what about a human soul? It's contained within a physical body but it exists beyond physical life. What kind of guarantee is there for life after death and eternity, or is there any? Again, it depends on who issues the guarantee.

A Son Not a Servant

The Christian faith is not a set of abstract beliefs. A confession of faith is more than words and thoughts written out or spoken.

Genuine Christian faith is anchored in Jesus. Not only what is believed in Him as the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior of the world, but in relationship with Him.

Genuine Christianity is centered on the person of Jesus Christ, not a set of doctrines to be practiced or beliefs to hold. The book of Hebrews makes this very clear.