Worship: The Joyful Feast of God’s Glory
June 25, 2012 2 Comments
Do you chew gum? Have you ever thought about why we even have gum? Gum has been around in some form or another for thousands of years going back as far as Ancient Greece. But when you think about it, it really has no purpose: it isn’t able to fill you up, it’s flavor only lasts for a limited amount of time, it eventually makes your jaw sore, and worst of all, it gets stuck on the bottom of our shoes. So why do we still have gum? For many it is because of the short-term enjoyment it brings.
Luckily, most people realize that we can’t survive just by chewing gum. Our physical bodies need real food and water to function. Food sustains us, brings us satisfaction, and enables us to continue with our lives. But what about our spiritual sustenance? Where does it come from?
Main Text: John 4:7-39
Settling for Gum- Misguided Worship
We are worshippers at our core. Almost every second of every day, we are worshipping something whether it’s our job, our family, our TV, our selves, our stuff, or any of a number of other things. Why do we give our time, money, and lives to these things? Because we think they will bring us fulfillment. We think they will make us happy.
That is the same reason that this Samaritan woman is in the place that she is. She has come to the well in the heat of the day, not because she needs a refill, but because she wants to avoid others. The reason: she is living in sin and she knows it. She has a man living with her that isn’t her husband. He has become the misguided object of her worship.
Like the woman, we often find ourselves worshiping things that weren’t meant to be worshiped. In fact, this is what leads to the majority of our problems as human beings. The greatest hindrance to worship: our willingness to settle for lesser pleasures. CS Lewis compares it to “an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slim because he can’t imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. ” Or as John Piper says “The enemy of worship is not that our desire for pleasure is too strong but too weak.” We gather and gather created things hoping, like Solomon that more and more will make us happier and happier. How did that work out for him? In Ecclesiastes he repeatedly says “vanity, vanity, all is vanity.” Solomon experienced it all. He has experimented with “everything under the sun” to such an extreme that his exploits will likely never be repeated again. Anything he wanted he got. Once the rush associated with Object X wore off, he upgraded to something newer, bigger, or flashier. Then that wore off and he pursued something else. Drug addicts have a similar experience: they only need a small amount of a drug to achieve a high at first, but at time goes on, they need more and more of the drug to achieve the same high. Eventually they get to the point where they can’t reach that high anymore or use so much of the drug that they overdose.
In Romans 1:22-25, Paul points out that the every problem and addiction we have is, at its core a worship problem. We put something above Jesus as our object of worship and it throws things off. You make sacrifices so that you can glory in something other than Christ. The Samaritan woman has sacrificed her friendships and comfort so that she can continue living with this man. We also make sacrificed to worship things that we think will bring us joy and fulfillment.
It is important to point out here that money, sex, power, family, food, and other created things aren’t evil in themselves. In fact, they were created for us to use to glorify God. So what takes these things and make them idols? Rapper Trip Lee explains it well in his song “Heart Problem” when he says:
“Don’t miss the problem, man it is not the God who reigns
It is not the gifts He gave, this is what I gotta say
Don’t exalt them over the God we praise
You can’t really enjoy Him till your heart’s replaced
The gifts and the Giver of good
Your heart is where the problem’s at, let’s get that understood.”
Mark Driscoll shares the answer to this problem in his sermon on worship: “There’s an answer to our [lives’] problems – one thing. Keep yourselves from idols. If you worship God you won’t end up doing those things because you won’t be worshiping false gods like food or power or money or fame or comfort or sex. You’ll just worship the real God, and those will be opportunities, means by which he can be worshiped.”
Solomon finally realized this. In all his wisdom he realizes that none of his pursuits brought him as much pleasure as worship. In other words, he realized that “whoever dies with the most stuff…dies.” On the opposite end of the spectrum, Job realized that even when all earthly possessions are taken away, he can still find joy in the worship of the Lord God (“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” –Job 1:21). The woman comes to see that this is the case for her as well: Jesus sees right through her misguided worship and focuses it back on himself, the Messiah.
Worship can also be misguided when it is done in vain. For many in the Church today, worship has become nothing more than a duty, an activity confined to one, maybe two times a week and often without any feeling of pleasure. Ladies, imagine if your husband bought you a beautiful bouquet of flowers for your birthday or anniversary, but when he gives them to you he says “I am only giving these to you because it is my duty.” How messed up is that? Sadly, every Sunday churches around the world are filled with people doing the exact same thing on a spiritual level. They are only there to check a box on their “Christian To Do List” or to impress others with their outward act of piety.
Like the woman at the well, when confronted with the vanity of their worship, they change the subject and point to their location of worship. They have fallen into the same trap as the Pharisees. Jesus confronts this attitude in Matthew 15:8-9 saying “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.” A. W. Tozer also addressed this problem. He said, “If you will not worship God seven days a week, you do not worship him on one day a week.”
Worship is vain and futile when it doesn’t come from the heart. It is more than just an act of mere willpower; it flows forth from a redeemed heart. Where feelings for God are dead, worship is dead.
The Feast of God’s Glory- True Worship
Fortunately, God provided a way for us to revive our dead hearts and quench our spiritual thirst. Although we had gone astray like misguided sheep, Jesus chases after us, puts on his back and brings us back into his flock. The gospel of Jesus Christ transforms dried out, sandy souls into fountains where others can find eternal life (John 7:37-39).
This is the purpose of Jesus approaching this woman. He’s not really looking for a drink of water, but is wanting to point the woman to the source of living water. He opens her eyes to show her that the water she is drinking now will not satisfy her and that the water he offers will bring her eternal joy. He points out that the how and whom of worship are crucial, not the where.
Worship must be vital and real in the heart, and it must flow from a true perception of God. We don’t worship to give God anything; we worship to get the satisfaction of our heart’s deepest longing: the joy and healing that come with salvation. Worship is an end in itself. It is an unconscious response to God’s glory from deep within as a result of a heart transformed by the gospel. As Edward Clowney put it, “The gospel call is a call to worship, to turn from sin and call upon the name of the Lord.”
God is worthy of glory and we are not, that is why he jealously and rightly seeks his own honor. He calls Christians into the assembly of the church so that they might worship him corporately just as he called the Israelites out of Egypt into the desert to worship him at Mt. Sinai (Exodus 7:16). Donald Whitney writes in his book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, “The more we focus on God, the more we understand and appreciate how worthy he is. As we understand and appreciate this, we can’t help but respond to him.”
Like I said earlier, we are worshipers at our core. You and I were made to worship. As men and women created in the image of God, we are the most alive when we are worshiping the One who’s image we are made in.
However, somewhere along the way, the idea that worship shouldn’t bring us pleasure snuck into the church. Slowly we have come to believe that worship is depriving us of joy. This couldn’t be farther from the truth! We worship for our own enjoyment and fulfillment. Jesus said that he came to “that we might have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). The New Testament repeatedly uses the imagery of a wedding feast, a feast that would last for days. The first question in the Westminster Catechism asks, “What is the chief end of man?” and answers “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” John Piper rephrased this statement in his book Desiring God by saying that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”
Not only does worship give God the honor rightly due to him, but it brings us unspeakable pleasure in the process. This is what Jesus is talking about in this passage. He provides eternal satisfaction for those that worship him in “spirit and in truth.” For believers, it is an eternal feast of God’s glory.
What does Jesus mean when he says worship is done in spirit and truth?
Worshiping in spirit is the opposite of worshiping in merely external ways; it is a deep movement of the heart. Worship is an emotional response to all of who God is, all of what God has done, and all that God has promised to do in the future. Just like we respond to natural or created beauty with awe and wonderment, our revived spirits cannot help but explode with adoration for the Lord. The only affections that honor God are those rooted in biblical truth. Affections of authentic worship include silence (Psalm 46:10; Habakkuk 2:20), awe (Psalm 33:8), brokenness and contrition (Psalm 51:17; Isaiah 57:15), longing for God (Psalm 42:1-2; 63:1; 73:25-26), gladness and gratitude (Psalm 30:11-12), hope (Psalm 42:5; 130:5), and joy (Psalm 16:11).
Worshiping in truth is the opposite of worship based on an inadequate view of God. It is a desire to know God more deeply and intimately through time spent with him. As we read his Word, we learn about his character and will. We are fed as the Bible is read, studied and preached.
Worship must have heart and head. Worship must engage emotions and thought. Truth without emotion produces dead orthodoxy and a church of artificial admirers. 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.
How does genuine worship affect us? Look at how it affected Jesus. When the disciples offered him food, he said he’d already eaten. How was this possible? Jesus answered them “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” As the people of Samaria are coming out to the well, he tells them to get ready because they are about to reap a harvest. The disciples are about to enjoy the glory of God as he uses them to create more worshipers.
This is our calling as Christians today: to find our satisfaction in glorifying God through true worship in spirit and truth. We do this by living lives that point to Jesus as Lord, Savior, and Creator. John Piper said it best when he said “Missions exist because worship doesn’t.” We take part in local and global missions so that the worship of God might increase. People that were once dry wells have become a flowing source of living water to those thirsting for satisfaction. As we spread the gospel, we join Christ in reaping the harvest in preparation for the eternal feast of God’s glory!
And if you don’t know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior either because of worship that has been misplaced or due to worship that is done in vain, then follow the example of the woman at the well and countless others throughout history: repent of your sin and place your trust in Jesus as the only well that can quench your spiritual thirst. He is the only one that can do it.
As we grow stronger in the worship of God, we grow stronger in the likeness of Christ. Perhaps Calvin Coolidge said it best when he asserted, “It is only when men begin to worship that they begin to grow.”
Learn It. Love It. Live It.
[image credit: The Greatist on Flickr]