“But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24)
The apostle John records a remarkable exchange that lays out God’s expectation for worship. And it remains the guide for honoring our Lord today.
Jesus shares this truth with a most unlikely recipient, in the least appropriate place, in an unexpected circumstance.
Jesus deliberately traveled from Judea to Galilee through Samaria, a region and a people avoided and despised by the Jews. He had a conversation with (GASP!)…a woman…a Samaritan… in the daytime… in public! This Jewish rabbi broke through cultural barriers to offer her living water (John 4:11-14), listen to her confuse that offer with her workload (John 4:15), and point out her sinful sexual history of five husbands and a live-in boyfriend (John 4:18).
Then He redirected her away from the notion that worship has to be in a specific location (John 4:19-22) – as the Jews worshiped on the Temple Mount and the Samaritans on Mount Gerizim. Jesus gave her –and us – the secret: it’s not where, it’s how. God wants believers to recognize He is Spirit (John 4:24); as a result, we are to worship Him with our inner spirit. We need to intentionally focus on God in truth – that is, with a vulnerable, genuine, and humble heart. We are able to worship what is true, because God is Truth (John 14:6-7).
Jesus then revealed the real truth: He is the Messiah the Samaritans and the world had been waiting for (John 4:26). She ran off and told others about Him – and they believed (John 4:39-41). By the way, Jesus never did get His drink of water; instead, the woman got an evangelist.
Orchestrating the “Sunday Morning Worship Experience” to create an inviting, emotional, and memorable environment without considering the nature, character, and desire of the Lord turns the focus toward a location – the church building – and ultimately, to us. God wants us to worship Him as He is – Spirit and Truth. The result is – we, like the Samaritan woman, can know the Savior and share Him with a thirsty world.
Written by Paul Ciotta: Chaplain Paul Ciotta serves at the Colony of Mercy, where men struggling in the bondage of addiction seek a closer relationship with Jesus Christ. He has been connected with America’s Keswick for more than 20 years as a vacationer, donor, and pastor/delegate and mentor to Colony graduates. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.