Celebration: A Life of Worship
This is the beginning of a series about the 3C’s and to introduce the fourth C. For years our church has operated from the perspective of defining what it means to be a Christfollower using three simple words that all begin with the letter C.
For the next four weeks we are going to focus on four aspects of what it means to be an authentic follower of Jesus Christ. We are going to look at Celebration, Community and Call. We are going to try to wrap our heads and hearts around the heart of Christ message to those that would follow Him.
For the next three weeks I want us to become really familiar with a chapter from the Book of John. In chapter four there is a story of a woman that many of you already know but some may not.
Here are a couple of pictures that depict this story. The first one looks like something you would buy in a Christian Bookstore. My favorite is the next one because it is art taken from walls of the catacombs in Rome. This picture and reminder of the biblical story of Jesus and the woman at the well would have been the last thing some people saw before being fed to the lions in the coliseum. For a moment let’s look at the story.
In short she was a sinner and not following God or Christ. She had a messed up life. She had been in one failed marriage after another and when she encountered Jesus Christ she was living with a man that was not her husband.
There are a lot of things about this story that make it worthy of a few Sundays study. Jesus was forcing his disciples to go into Samaria when they had been taught to hate Samaritans and avoided it at all cost. Jesus emphasized that He had to go through Samaria.
He sits down at a well to wait on His disciples who have gone into town to find some food, knowing full well that He was going to encounter a woman whose life He would change forever. I want you to know this story. I am hoping that many of you will read and reread it over the next few weeks. By the time we are done you will have a better understanding of what it means to follow Christ on a daily basis. You will know what He wants to do with and through you and your life. You will see firsthand the transforming power of God’s Spirit in the life of a person that surrenders every aspect of their life to God. In this story I find all three of the 3C’s that we have embraced as a church.
Today we are going to talk about Celebration or worshipping God. I want us to pick up the story right in the middle of the chapter in verse 19 because Jesus and the woman are talking about worship and it is here that we get some real insight straight from the heart of Jesus Christ.
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “you must be a prophet. 20 So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim,[c] where our ancestors worshiped?”
21 Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. 23 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. 24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” John 4:19-24 NLT
It is fascinating that in this introductory conversation between Jesus and this woman that He talks about worship. The fact is that He is not talking about a Sunday morning service or music or anything even remotely like that. Let me take the heart of the conversation out and read it again.
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. 24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth. John 4:23-24 NLT
Our goal today is simple. I want us to come to a personal understanding of:
A few years ago the Chicago Tribune reported the story of a New Mexico woman who was frying tortillas when she noticed that the skillet burns on one of her tortillas resembled the face of Jesus. Excited, she showed it to her husband and neighbors, and they all agreed that there was a face etched on the tortilla and that it truly bore a resemblance to Jesus.
So the woman went to her priest to have the tortilla blessed. She testified that the tortilla had changed her life, and her husband agreed that she had been a more peaceful, happy, submissive wife since the tortilla had arrived. The priest, not accustomed to blessing tortillas, was somewhat reluctant but agreed to do it.The woman took the tortilla home, put it in a glass case with piles of cotton to make it look like it was floating on clouds, built a special altar for it, and opened the little shrine to visitors. Within a few months, more than eight thousand people came to the shrine of the Jesus of The Tortilla, and all of them agreed that the face in the burn marks on the tortilla was the face of Jesus (except for one reporter who said he thought it looked like former heavy-weight boxing champion Leon Spinks! (Yes there is even a cheesy website) www.jesustortilla.com
Worship is a broad term. Some have said that it defies explanation. Merriam-Webster defines worship as, “to honor or reverence as a divine being or supernatural power” or “to regard with great or extravagant respect, honor, or devotion” following up with “to perform or take part in worship or an act of worship.” Three thesaurus entries for worship include: revere, adore and love.
Rick Warren in The Purpose-Driven Life says, “Anything you do that brings pleasure to God is an act of worship.”
Ralph Martin states, “Worship is the dramatic celebration of God in his supreme worth in such a manner that his worthiness becomes the norm and inspiration of human living.”
William Temples says, “Worship is the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by his holiness; the nourishment of mind with his truth; the purifying of imagination by his beauty; the opening of the heart to his love; the surrender of will to his purpose -- and all of this gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable and therefore the chief remedy for that self-centeredness which is our original sin and the source of all actual sin.”
No matter how hard it is to define Jesus breaks it down into two words; Spirit and Truth.
But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth.
1. True worshippers know there is a pattern to follow
The word "spirit" here does not have the definite article in the original language, so it does not refer to the Holy Spirit. Rather it is referring to our own inner life, emotions, will, our heart. To worship God in spirit is to connect with God - person to person. It is offering up ourselves to Him in praise. Worship in spirit is not restricted to one form or method, and yet expression is an important part of it. What we feel about God must be expressed.
Outward performance may or may not be worship. As Spurgeon said, “God does not regard our voices, He hears our hearts, and if our hearts do not sing we have not sung at all.” For a moment let’s consider worship in the context of a church service.
Sometimes we sing but we do not worship. Sometimes we pray with our lips, but worship does not take place. Sometimes we give, but we do not worship. And sometimes we do none of these things but are in deepest worship. One could conceivably kneel in the most beautiful of cathedrals, listen to or sing the most spiritual of hymns or songs and not be worshipping.
C.S. Lewis was dead on when he wrote that the best church service in the one we notice the least.
“As long as you notice, and have to count the steps, you are not yet dancing but only learning to dance. A good shoe is a shoe that you don’t notice. Good reading becomes possible when you need not consciously think about eyes, or light, or print, or spelling. The perfect church service would be the one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God.” – Lewis
Remember some of the greatest worship times recorded in the Bible took place in some of the most unlikely places.
More than once Abraham worshipped God on the side of a mountain but he really worshipped by being obedient.
Noah worshipped after climbing out of the Ark but he really worshipped by spending decades following God’s command to build an ark. He worshipped by swinging a hammer and collecting animal.
David worshipped while tending sheep
Daniel worshipped while he was in a den of hungry lions.
Jonah worshipped while spending a few days in the belly of a great fish
One of my most favorite stories is of two guys named Paul and Silas that were beaten and thrown into jail for preaching and teaching about Christ. The Bible says they lifted their voices in song at midnight praising God unashamedly. All of them worshipped in spirit.
A. Involves accuracy
We must have a right conception of God if we are to truly worship Him. True worship only occurs when we worship in accordance with what God has said about Himself.
“God created man in His image and then man returned the favor.” --George Bernard Shaw
Knowing what God has revealed about Himself is critical. Not just having our own idea of what God is like or what we wish He is like, but honestly searching His word to find out who He is and what He has done as Creator and Ruler and as Redeemer, Savior.
Wrong thinking about God is in fact idolatry because an idolatrous heart assumes God is other than He is. In the sophisticated times in which we live we must not think that we are above idolatry because we do not bow down to some physical image or statue.
The pitiful truth is that the typical twentieth first century concept of God is decadent to say the least. Some people view God as some kind of cosmic force and worship Him with a kind of icy distance. By far most people have turned God into some kind of “God Pal.” Everything in religious life becomes centered on us and what God will do for us. He becomes some kind of cosmic vending machine, but instead of quarters we feed Him scriptures to get what we want from Him.
To worship Him in truth means that we are people of the word of God.
The person who makes a shrine to the Jesus of The Tortilla has missed something - the truth. But the person who knows the Bible forward and backward and can expound on the nature of God but feels nothing that moves him to express his love to God has missed something just as critical. And that lead to the second inference about worshiping in truth.
B. Involves authenticity (not hypocritical)
Romans 12:1,2 says that we are to give God our lives as our spiritual service of worship. Worship is not only confined to a place and a time like Sunday morning church, it is a lifestyle. Worship happens here but continues as you go out that door. Worship happens when we live out what we say we believe. Worship happens when you are careful with the language you use at work. Worship is happening when you take the time to visit a lonely person. Worship happens when you share a bit of your faith with someone. Worship happens when you decide not to watch that movie that mocks a pure lifestyle. Worship happens whenever you present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice to God because of who He is and what He has done.That is why the greatest commandment is "love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, with all of your mind and with all of your strength." It is in spirit and in truth.
2. True Worshippers know the Father is actively looking for people that will be faithful.
The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way
For you and I to really experience worship on a daily basis we must follow what the Bible teaches about being Christfollowers. We must do what God asks us to do. Authentic followers of Jesus Christ don’t get to make it up and define what it means. We are to become students of the Bible and matter how much it changes our lives we live it out.
If you have your Bibles for a moment I want you to turn to 1 Samuel 15. This is one of the most vivid illustrations of the importance of being faithful.
1 One day Samuel said to Saul, “It was the Lord who told me to anoint you as king of his people, Israel. Now listen to this message from the Lord! 2 This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has declared: I have decided to settle accounts with the nation of Amalek for opposing Israel when they came from Egypt. 3 Now go and completely destroy[a] the entire Amalekite nation—men, women, children, babies, cattle, sheep, goats, camels, and donkeys.”
4 So Saul mobilized his army at Telaim. There were 200,000 soldiers from Israel and 10,000 men from Judah. 5 Then Saul and his army went to a town of the Amalekites and lay in wait in the valley. 6 Saul sent this warning to the Kenites: “Move away from where the Amalekites live, or you