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JOHN 4:23,24

Pastor Stephen Muncherian
September 20, 1998

This morning I’d like to begin by having us think back to what may have been happening in our lives during the last few hours. Imagine it is 8:00 a.m. - and suddenly you’re awake. You’ve overslept - last night when you went to bed you were too tired and forgot to turn on the alarm. You’re awake now - to the sounds of the kids tearing the house apart.

You quickly shower and try to get up to speed - while your spouse is trying to get the kids dressed and get breakfast started. Breakfast is staggered - people eating when they can - a process of preparing, cleaning, and eating - all at the same time. Breakfast was cold cereal. It would have been nice to have something more substantial but there wasn’t time.

It’s now 9:45 a.m. - you’ve dressed your younger child for the second time - changed diapers 3 times - vacuumed up a major accident - somehow you’ve managed to get all the kids - and your spouse - into the car.

By 10:00 you’re rolling down the freeway - miraculously on time. Of course there’s an accident and the freeway’s a parking lot - the kids are tearing the car apart - and your nerves are rattled. 10:30 a.m. - the freeway is moving again but the guy in front of you is doing 64 in the fast lane. So much for being at church early.

10:55 - you arrive - 55 minutes in traffic. By time you drop the kids off in Sunday School and rush back upstairs it’s 11:10. The first hymn has been sung and the Badveli's already welcomed everyone. Somehow - its time to worship God. But, if this scenario is anything like what you may have gone through this morning - the last thing on our minds is worshiping God. Sleep might actually be closer to the truth.

For some - they work six days a week - and Sunday is a day to collapse - Maybe you were out late last night - but you got up this morning - you made the effort to be here.

Each of us has made an investment of time and wits to be here. Why? Do you ever ask yourself that? What am I doing here? 52 weeks out of the year we do worship here - and what’s the point?

There are a tremendous number of other things we could be doing this morning. But we made a choice to come here and be together in this sanctuary - to worship God. Why?

This morning I’d like to share with you about about worship - what it means to worship God. I’d like to invite you to turn with me to John 4:23,24. And, to think through this idea with me: What really is worship? What are we doing here this morning?

The setting of John 4 is familiar. Early in Jesus’ ministry He took a shortcut from Judea to Galilee - through Samaria. At six o’clock in the evening - Jesus - who is tired and thirsty from walking in the hot sun all day - sits down at a well - Jacob’s well - which is about ½ mile west of the village of Sychar.

While He’s sitting there by the well - a Samaritan woman comes to get water. And they have a conversation about her life and her relationship with God. Towards the end of their conversation a question comes up about worship. The woman asks Jesus where the proper place is to worship God - Jerusalem where the Jew’s worshiped - or Mount Gerizim - where the Samaritans worshiped.

What Jesus answers her is our text this morning - His answer is a powerful statement about what worship is. Jesus says to her: (23) “...the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship Him. (24) God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Jesus says two remarkable things about worship.


Jesus is talking about how we worship God

Jesus said - its not the location that matters - its not all the outward things that we surround ourselves with in worship - what matters to God is where our heart is - our relationship with God. From our relationship with God is where true worship comes from.

In Ezekiel chapter 11 the prophet Ezekiel was taken by the Spirit to the east gate of the Temple in Jerusalem. And the Spirit showed Ezekiel the priests and spiritual leaders of Judah - men of sacrifice and devotion - men who worshiped God - men who - in the middle of a very difficult time for the nation were crying out to God in prayer - devoted and devout men.

And God speaks to Ezekiel and tells him to speak out against these men because they don’t know God. Outwardly they appear very religious. But God says they’re spiritually dead. And whatever acts of worship and devotion they may be practicing are worthless. In fact, God says, they’re planning sin - devising new ways to live in sin - and leading the people away from God.

Later in Ezekiel 11:19 & 20 - God describes the people who have turned to Him - who have a relationship with Him. God says, “I shall....put a new spirit within them....that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and they will be my people and I will be their God.”

We’re spiritual beings. Outwardly flesh. But inwardly spiritual. And when we come to God through Jesus - He changes us inside. He puts His spirit within us. And so we can really worship Him. Without His spirit working within us it is impossible to really worship God.

A few years back I was in Montreal and I went to visit St. Joseph’s Oratory - which is this beautiful Roman Catholic Church sitting on top of a very high mountain in the city. From the street level - way below the church building - there are at least 1,000 steps going up - maybe 2,000 - a lot of steps.

When I was there - there was an elderly lady on her knees going up the steps. From a kneeling position she would go up a step - stop - pray - then go up another step - stop - and pray. And she was working her way up to the church. It probably took her several hours to go from the street to the church. A great act of religious piety.

And as I watched that lady painfully go up those stairs - I wondered about her relationship with God. I don’t want to judge this lady - God knows her heart. But, how many times have we seen acts of devotion - maybe even within our own lives - and are these really acts of worship?

Its tempting to get hung up on all the outward things of worship. I wonder sometimes if we come and have this beautiful Service of Worship - the hymns are moving - the choir is great - the instruments are played well - the sermons are good - both in Armenian and English - we even follow the order printed in the bulletin - but are we really worshiping?

Jesus says to this Samaritan woman - your question about where to worship is irrelevant - geography - temples - buildings - the outward symbolism is not what’s necessary to worship God. Your own heart - your own person - surrendered to God - is the place where God wants worship.

The Apostle Paul writes, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwells in you?...the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.” (1 Corinthians 3:16,17)

In every congregation God is looking for those whose focus is not on the outward signs of worship - but on what the spirit of God wants to do in their hearts.

Jesus said we are to worship God in spirit. The second remarkable thing Jesus said was that:


Jesus is saying that we need to be honest about who we are before God

In Isaiah 6 - we read that the prophet Isaiah had a vision. He saw the Lord sitting on an elevated throne in a Temple - and the Temple was filled with His glory. And there is incense rising before the Lord from an alter - and the whole Temple is filled with smoke.

Hovering around the Lord were powerful angels that each had six wings - with two wings they covered their faces - with two wings they covered their feet - and with two they flew. And these angels were singing - singing so powerfully that the very foundations of the Temple were shaking - “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of Hosts - the whole earth is full of His glory.”

Imagine being before God - the sovereign God of creation - all powerful - all knowing - the God who is everywhere present - and everytime present - not limited by time and circumstance - God who by His word brought everything into existence and sustains creation by His word. God who is holy - and justified in His wrath against sin and sinners - like us.

And Isaiah says, “Woe is me - for I am ruined! I’ve had it. I’m a man of unclean lips - a foul-mouthed sinner - and I live among a sinful people. And I’ve looked upon the King - the Lord of heaven’s armies - I’m finished.”

Then one of the angels flies over to the alter and with a pair of tongs picks out a burning coal. He takes the coal and touches Isaiah’s lips and says, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your guilt has been taken away - your sins are forgiven.”

In worship - we should be overwhelmed by who God is - and humbled by His graciousness. We worship the holy God who is loving and gracious and merciful - who has saved us through His Son, Jesus Christ.

If we come - because we’ve surrendered our heart before Him - because His spirit is freely working within us - and in honesty consider who He is and who we are before Him - then real worship takes place.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism of Faith states, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” To glorify God - that’s worship. To enjoy Him forever - that’s the all encompassing reward of worship.

In worship we are reminded of God’s forgiveness - we recognize His holiness and accept His forgiveness. And in worship we experience God’s love. God - in the Bible - promises that if we honor Him first in our lives - worship Him alone - He will give us wisdom and guidance for our lives - He will meet our material needs - He will watch over us in all of the circumstances of our lives - He will enable us to do the things He requires of us. In worship we are reminded that one day we will inherit a new heaven and new earth and join a company of believers and angels in perfect - eternal - worship.