Monday, June 17, 2013

Gospel-Centered Worship

Part 7 of the series The Gospel-Centered Life

You can listen to this sermon here.

The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that 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 not 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 4:19-24). 

What Really Matters About Worship 

When it comes to worship, many people are most concerned with secondary issues. What kind of songs should churches sing? What musical instruments should be played? What version of the Bible should be read? What style of clothes should be worn to church? (Of course, worship shouldn’t be limited to Sunday morning gatherings.)

The Samaritan woman was concerned about a secondary issue. She asked Jesus about the correct location for worship (vv. 19-20). (The Samaritans believed that the proper place for worship was Mount Gerizim, but the Jews said it was Jerusalem.) But Jesus told her not to be concerned about the where of worship (v. 21). Instead, the whom and the how of worship are what really matter.

The Whom of Worship

We must “worship the Father” (v. 23). Jesus makes two statements about the Father in verses 23 and 24. First, the Father is “seeking” people to worship him (v. 23). Second, “God is spirit” (v. 24). Since God is spirit, we can worship him anywhere at any time.

“We were not created to worship, but rather we are created worshiping. Everyone worships all the time. Atheists, agnostics, Christians, and everyone in between are unceasing worshipers. Everyone, everywhere, all the time, is always worshiping. While the object and method of worship vary, the act of worship does not" (Mark Driscoll, Gerry Breshears, Doctrine, p. 339).

True worship values God over idols. 

To worship is to ascribe “worth” to someone or something. The first commandment says, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Ex. 20:3). But humanity “exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Rom. 1:25). John Calvin said, “The human heart is a factory of idols.” (Go to a bookstore and look at the shelves of magazines. Each magazine is dedicated to something that many people worship: sports, relationships, sex, fitness, technology, home improvement, cars, hobbies, etc.)

“The primary way to define sin is not just the doing of bad things, but the making of good things into ultimate things. It is seeking to establish a sense of making something else more central to your significance, purpose, and happiness than your relationship to God” (Timothy Keller, The Reason for God, p. 162).

God is “jealous” when we worship idols (Ex. 20:5). Why? Because (1) he deserves our worship, and (2) he knows idols will end up disappointing us. “God the Creator is worthy of all honor from his creation. Indeed, his creatures (mankind esp.) are functioning properly only when they give God the honor and worship that he deserves. God’s jealousy is therefore also his zeal for his creatures’ well-being” (ESV Study Bible, p. 176).

Idols are like the water in the Samaritan well. Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again” (v. 13). Only when we give our lives to God do we find what truly satisfies.

The How of Worship 

We must worship “in spirit and truth” (vv. 23, 24). In other words, worship must engage both the mind and the heart.

“Truth without emotion produces dead orthodoxy and a church full (or half-full) of artificial admirers (like people who write generic anniversary cards for a living). On the other hand, emotion without truth produces empty frenzy and cultivates shallow people who refuse the discipline of rigorous thought. But true worship comes from people who are deeply emotional and who love deep and sound doctrine. Strong affections for God rooted in truth are the bone and marrow of biblical worship” (John Piper, Desiring God, pp. 81-82).

True worship is both intellectual and emotional. 

Jesus said to the Pharisees and scribes, “You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men’” (Matt. 15:7-9). They did not worship God in spirit (“their heart is far from me”) or in truth (“the commandments of men”). Their worship was worthless.

When we worship God (the whom of worship) in spirit and truth (the how of worship), we avoid two sins of false worship: idolatry and hypocrisy.

Gospel-Infused Worship 

“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Is there any greater truth than the gospel? Is there anything that lifts our spirits more than the gospel?

Worship is not supposed to be something we give to God for one hour of the week on Sunday morning. Worship is to be a lifestyle. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Rom. 12:1).

The more your mind is filled with the gospel and the more your heart is moved by the gospel, the more your life will overflow with worship of God.

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