Short Meditations in John 4: 23. New Worship (3)
Jn 4:23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.
There are two forms of worship. The first is the sort that human beings love to create. It is based upon ritual and formality. It is the sort you see on state occasions on TV. It is little more than mere actions, a programme put together by human beings. It is also the sort that is seen in many churches every Sunday morning. It is not to say there is no value in it but it needs to be seen for what it is. If it comes out of a prayer book or even from the order service established by the minister, it is still this particular form of worship. Now there may be some of us beginning to feel uncomfortable with what you are reading but we should be honest about it, even if the alternative makes us feel even more uncomfortable and fearful.
This Samaritan woman has used different places of worship in Jerusalem and Samaria as a means of pointing out differences between her and Jesus, as a means of diverting the conversation away from her, and Jesus is happy to use the new direction to draw out some spiritual truths.
She has focused on places: “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” Certain denominations today focus more on buildings than the reality of the church, for that is what the distinction is all about. In a day when the Temple in Jerusalem still stood, the apostle Paul taught, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1 Cor 3:16) For the Christians the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in AD70 was not a big issue because that was no longer the focal point of their worship. The church is no longer buildings but people in whom is the presence of the Holy Spirit. Indeed everything about the Christian life is possible because of the work of Christ on the Cross and the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit. There are still some who talk about the Holy Spirit almost in hushed tones, but He is the very presence of God with us and our whole lives should be motivated and energised and guided by Him.
Jesus declared that the time had come when believers, true worshippers (as against ritual followers) would worship in spirit and truth, i.e. who are responding to the Holy Spirit and are being utterly real and not making a pretence of worship. God deals in truth and reality and real worship is that which springs out of the heart and under the flow of the Holy Spirit. Anything else is pretence and mere ritual and does not please the Father.