“And he [Jesus] had to pass through Samaria.” -John 4:4
It was the shortest of ways for Jesus to travel. Traveling through Samaria would be shortest distance geographically, but most Jews would bypass that city because of their disdain for the Samaritans. Racial stereotypes kept most religious Jewish leaders out of that city.
But Jesus had to go through that way. He had work there.
In that city, he didn’t feed the masses or heal numbers of people, he spent time with a loose woman by a well. She had been married numerous times and was living with a man who was not her husband at the time. As Jesus was sitting by the well, she came his way, and she would never be the same again.
In this amazing passage, John chronicles Jesus’ uncanny knack for reaching people far away from God. As he draws her in, she begins to realize she is not dealing with your average passerby. When she realizes this fact, she begins to discuss one of Scripture’s worship wars. These feuds about how worship should be done didn’t start when drums were brought into a sanctuary; they’ve been around a while.
“Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”
“Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do now know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:20-24).
Did you catch it? She was more focused on when and where and how worship should take place. Worship happens when it’s in this location in a certain type of way and it doesn’t happen when it’s different than what is expected. Jesus reveals that worship cannot be confined to preferences. It is not manmade. It is not manufactured. It is a lifestyle. It is on God’s preferences and not our own.
As a worship leader, I notice different types of worshipers. I can spot someone who is engaged and who is not. Oftentimes, if something seems off in the room, people seem distracted, people seem disconnected, I seek out those worshipers on whom I can rely. I look to find them in the rows of faces. If I just locked eyes with someone who looks like they are ready to leave, I find those worshipers whom are always on. They are always ready to give Jesus worship no matter how they feel.
Those are the type of worshipers I seek out. The type of worshipers that God seeks out are those who worship him in spirit and in truth. I remember studying this passage in college and never really grasping what it meant. What does it mean for someone to worship God in spirit and in truth.
To understand it, I tried to envision the opposite. What would it look like for someone to worship God in flesh and in lies?
WORSHIP IN THE FLESH Worship that is done in the flesh is when we make it about us. We worship when we feel good. We worship when we like what songs are selected. We worship when the environment is set just right. We worship what we like.
And when we worship in the flesh, make no mistake, we are not worshiping God. We are worshiping ourselves. We are worshiping our comfort. We are addicted to our preferences.
“Then the Lord said, ‘Because this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote” (Isaiah 29:13).
I often have wondered what would happen if we switched service styles on a Sunday. What if the 8:45 crowd walked into a band leading Chris Tomlin songs? What would happen do the 9:45 and 11:15 services if they walked into a organ leading hymns that were hundreds of years old?
I truly wonder: would we be able to worship Jesus that morning? Would Jesus be pleased with what happened in our midst? What would your reaction be? Each of our reactions to that scenario might reveal whether or not we are worshiping in the flesh or in the spirit.
WORSHIP IN LIES What would it mean to worship in lies? It could mean two things: 1) singing songs devoid of biblical truth, or 2) singing words of commitment that do not match our lives.
The Bible doesn’t say anything about worship styles. It talks a bunch about worship content. What we sing should be biblically accurate and help reinforce biblical theology in our lives. God’s main concern in worship is that the words are reflective of the Bible. The packaging of that truth is not mandated in Scripture because it’s not the most important thing.
As we sing, we want to sing biblical truth but also characteristic of our lives. When we sing songs of commitment, we don’t offer God lip service, we want to mean what we sing.
WORSHIP IN SPIRIT AND IN TRUTH When someone asks me about the worship at North Side, I normally explain the different musical styles we offer. Wouldn’t it be great one day if our whole congregation could say, “Our worship style is spirit and truth.”
As we enter this season of the One Initiative, I get the privilege to lead an amazing team of people making up the One Worship team. Our job is to unify and mobilize our church to be lifestyle worshipers. I have already accepted one thing: we will not find a style of music that every person will like. Even if it was possible to unite musical styles, what a small thing to unite over.
I want us to unite on biblical truth. I want us to unite to give God the glory He deserves. I want God to unite us together to worship.
As you pray for this team, I ask that you pray that God gives us wisdom to equip people to worship God in spirit and in truth. While we will address certain logistical space and time issues for adult and children’s services, we will also be looking at the big picture of what worship is supposed to be about and how we carry that out as a local church.
We treasure your prayers, and we pray that you commit with us to make our entire lives about bringing praise and glory to God.