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John 4:20-24


Intro: Ill. The context of this story. As Jesus ministers to this woman, she finds herself under deep conviction of her sins. She realizes that she has a desperate need to get right with the Lord and that she needs a time of personal worship in her life. She perceives that Jesus is a prophet and supposes that He might be able to help her understand when, where and how she should approach God. Although her intentions were admirable, her concept of worship was flawed. She, like millions of other, thought that worship had to take place in a certain place, at a certain time and in a certain manner. However, Jesus clears up her misunderstanding and at the same time shares one of his greatest truths with her. He teaches her that genuine worship cannot be relegated and isolated to a single place or to some process or the other.

Many people have that idea about worship. Some people feel that worship is something you do in church and that it can only be done there. Some think that worship is going to a church and sitting quietly while religious exercises are conducted. That concept is about a million miles from the truth! Others see worship as a time of good singing, preaching, testifying and shouting. You hear statements like, "Man, we really worshiped last Sunday! Why, our preacher didn't even get to preach!" They may have had a great time, but was there genuine worship that took place? Someone else may remark, "Our service Sunday was so sublime. The Minster's words were so touching, everyone left the service uplifted and encouraged." Again, they may have been blessed, but was there genuine worship?

Let me remind you today that everyone worships! It is as natural for man to worship as it is for him to breath. Mankind will find an object to direct his worship toward. Even the atheist worships, he just directs his adoration toward himself. For the Christian, worship is vitally important. Worship is to the believer what an engine is to a car or what a mainspring in to a watch. Worship is an absolutely indispensable part of the Christian experience.

Our great need then, is to discover what genuine personal worship involves, so that we might be able to experience God and His fullness in our lives. To do this, we must try and get a handle on this thing called worship.

What is worship? That is a good question to ask, but if 100 people were asked what worship is, there would be just about as many answers. Ask a Pentecostal, a Roman Catholic and a Baptist and you will get three distinct answers. William Temple defines worship this way, "To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, and to devote the will to the purpose of God." That is a good working definition of worship.

The word worship comes from the old Anglo-Saxon word "worthship". It literally mens to attribute or ascribe worth to some one. It carries the idea of declaring the object of worship as being worthy of honor. The Greek word in the New Testament that is most often translated "worship" in the word "proskuneo." This word means to "kiss the hand to one in a token of reverence, also by kneeling or prostration to pay homage." The second most common word is "sebomai", this word means "to revere". Other words are used, but these are sufficient to teach us that the Bible sees worship as an act of honoring God because of His great worthiness to be honored.

With these thoughts in mind, let's spend some time in this passage as our Lord reveals some great, fundamental truths about this matter of worship. Because, in the end, it will not matter what we think about genuine worship, all that will matter is what the Lord says in His Word.


A. In this verse, Jesus reveals the truth that God is Spirit. That is, God does not have a physical substance as we perceive it. He is a Being Who transcends the physical world with all of its limitations. God is Spirit. As a result, any worship that is to reach God must therefore be spiritual in nature. The rituals and practices of the flesh will not suffice to produce spiritual worship that is acceptable in the sight o the Lord.

B. We can find several instances of worship in the Bible that were spiritual in nature.

1. There is the Worship of Repentance - 2 Sam. 12:20. David lost his son as chastisement for his sin with Bathsheba. Instead of rebelling against the hand of the Lord in his life, David repented un der the lash and worshiped the Lord. He wasn't angry with God, but it would seem that his heart was repentant and his life changed. Perhaps this event was the catalyst that brought Psalms 51 ans 32 into existence. This is a worship that is consistent with the omnipotent nature of God, 2 Sam. 12:23. This is a true example of genuine spiritual worship.

2. There is the Worship of Submission - Job 1:20. Job has just received word that his children, along with all his earthly possessions and wealth are gone. Instead of fighting against the Lord in rebellion, Job displays all the classic signs of mourning, but he also falls down before the Lord and worships him. He submits to God's plan for his life even though he doesn't like it or understand it. Yet, his is a worship that is conformed to the nature of God. Job knew Rom. 8:28 in his heart. This is spiritual worship at its highest plain. This kind of worship does not come from some fleshly ritual, but from a heart overflowing with love for the Lord.

3. There is the Worship of Devotion - Gen. 22:1-18, esp. v. 5. Abraham has been asked by God to take his beloved son Isaac to Mt. Moriah and offer him up as a sacrifice to the Lord. Abraham does not question God's command, but willingly goes to do as the Lord has said. It is worthy to note that verse 5 shows Abraham as a man on the way to worship not, not a man who is about to slay his son. Abraham pictures for us the great truth that personal worship may be a costly thing, but that genuine devotion to the Lord overshadows that and produces a willingness in the worshiper to pay the price to participate in worship of such a great God.

C. These are merely three instances. Others could be mentioned, but these are sufficient to teach us the truth that genuine worship of God must be an absolutely spiritual practice. Did you note that in each of these three events, the flesh and its desires were placed on the back burner? The worshiper was more interested in doing the will of the Lord from the heart than in gratifying the flesh. And that, is the true essence of spiritual worship. It comes from the spirit of man and ascends to God. It ascribes worth to in spite of personal feelings, fleshly ambitions, or personal desires. It has the glory of God as its highest aim.

I. Genuine Worship Must Coincide With The Nature Of God


A. In conversing with this woman, Jesus tells her that those who worship God must do so in "spirit." Genuine worship of God is not the fleshly displays we sometimes call worship. Though worship may indeed manifest itself in vocal and visible forms. (Ill. David - He worshiped the Lord in two distinct manners, and both were perfectly acceptable to the Lord. First, he danced before the Lord with passionate zeal, 2 Sam. 6:14-16, then he sat before the Lord in humbled amazement, 2 Sam. 7:18. Simply stated, you can't tell how much gas in the tank by how loud the horn honks!) Essentially, worship is a spiritual matter. Worship, instead of being an event that happens externally, always begins internally, within the spirit of man.

(Ill. Genuine worship from the spirit can be said to be:

1. Worshiping God with the entire spiritual drive and ability of the soul, seeking the most intimate fellowship and communion with Him.

2. Worshiping God with the spiritual core of one's being, trusting and resting on God's love, acceptance and care.)

B. How then, can a person develop a worshiping spirit? What is required for us to enter into this kind of spiritual realm where we are actively seeking God in fellowship and worship? There are 5 great realties that must be in place for you and me to be able to worship in spirit.

1. We Must Be Born Again - Authentic worship of God can only be found in a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Salvation is the first step in developing a worshipful spirit. The only access that any person has to the Father is through the Son - 1 Tim. 2:5.

2. We Must Be Yielded To The Holy Spirit - All genuine worship of God is the work of the Holy Spirit is the spirit of the believer. Who knows Lord better than His Holy Ghost - 1 Cor. 2:11? Therefore, as the believer yields to the influence of the Spirit of God in his life, worship will be the result. Worship that is not motivated and directed by the Holy Spirit will be flawed at best and blasphemous at worst. The Holy Spirit must lead in worship!

3. Our Thoughts Must Be Centered On God - Worship is the natural outflow of a mind filled with and renewed by God's truth. We call this process of centering one's thoughts on the Lord meditation. Now, there is a lot of confusion as to what meditation is. To meditate is to simply focus the entire mind on one subject, concentrating reason, imagination and emotion on one reality. The heart and goal of meditation is the discovery of truth. As we meditate on the Word of God we will discover more about Him. As our mind is filled with His glory as revealed in His Word, this will naturally overflow in genuine worship of the Lord God.

(Ill. I am not promoting some metaphysical, mystical kind of meditation. What I am promoting is old fashioned prayer and study of the Word of God. You may call it a quiet time or you may refer to it as devotions, but the goal should be the same. We must all have a time set aside when we get alone with God to meditate on His truth and talk to him in prayer.)

(Ill. Spurgeon said this about the matter of a private devotional time, "Why is it that some are often in the place of worship and yet they are not holy? It is because they neglect their closets. They love the wheat, but they do not grind it; they would have the corn but they will not go forth into the field to gather it; the fruit hangs on the tree but they will not pluck it; and the water flows at their feet but they'll not stoop to drink it.")

(Ill. Sounds like us doesn't it? We get so busy doing the things that we see as being urgent and we take no time for the one thing that is really important. That thing is spending time at the Savior's feet - Luke 10:42. If it was necessary for Jesus to take time to be alone with the Father, how much more do you and I need those times of meditative solitude? Mark 1:35; Mark 6:46; Luke 4:42; Luke 6:12; Luke 22:39-46. It is virtually impossible to center the thoughts on the Lord unless we are willing to fill our minds with His thoughts on a regular basis. David hit the nail on the head when he described the desire he possessed in his heart to be near the Lord, Psa.42:1. This is the all consuming love that should fill every heart today. There must be nothing that is allowed to eclipse the Lord in our lives. Do you have a regular, structured time set aside to meet with the Lord? If not, I would suggest that you make that a priority in your life when you return home. It is good to come apart and meet with the Lord in a retreat setting, but you need to remember that when you return home, the arrows will still be flying, the valleys will still be wide and the canyons dark and gloomy. You will need the Lord and the way to have Him draw closer is to draw closer yourself!)

(Ill. Peter Wagner surveyed 572 pastors across America to find out about their prayer life. The average amount of time these pastors spent in prayer each day is 22 minutes. (This is actual prayer--not studying the Scriptures, reading devotional books, or listening to worship tapes.) He found that 57% pray less than 20 minutes daily. One in three (34%) spend between 20 minutes and one hour in prayer, but only 9% pray for an hour or longer every day. -Ministries Today, Nov/Dec 1992 )

(Ill. He only way to overcome this is by a system of "Planned Neglect". By that, I mean that we need to place our private time with the Lord above everything else and then do what is left after we have met with the Lord. He must come first!)

4. We Must Have An Undivided Heart - God, and God alone must be the focal point of our worship. We must ever guard against the temptation to allow the Lord to be crowded out by thoughts of a million other things.

(Ill. It is easy to allow the mind to wander, but we must learn to have a heart that is as David said "fixed", Psa. 108:1.)

5. We Must Have A Repentant Heart - Just as worship involves all these other things, it also involves the concepts of cleansing, purging, purifying, confession and repenting. The only person who can enter into the presence of a thrice holy God is that person who's sins have been taken care of. It is absolutely essential for the child of God to allow the Holy Spirit to shine the spotlight of God's truth into all the deep, dark and hidden recesses of the heart. We all have dark spots and hidden sins and areas of impurity. We all have deficiencies about which only God knows. Only when every nook and cranny of our lives has been cleansed and the sin done away with can we there be a closeness with the Lord. He promised that He would draw night to us when we drew nigh to Him, James 4:8. This cannot happen until the sin has been purged. Sin hinders the flow of spiritual things between God and man, Psa. 66:18, and therefore must be dealt with.

C. When all these things are in place in our lives, then we can enjoy the depths of genuine spiritual worship. By the way, our public worship is absolutely dependent upon what we are and do in private. Until we learn to experience God through private, spiritual worship, we can never hope to worship Him in a corporate sense.

(Ill. "Public worship is only the manifestation of private worship. The reason our public services are dead is that our private devotional life is dead. The `quick fix' of injecting more upbeat music into our services may seem to solve the problem, but we have ignored the disease that will destroy us, unless we seek God's cure. Our church congregations fail to sing with conviction because the song isn't in their hearts before they come to the service."--Tim Fisher)

I. Genuine Worship Must Coincide With The Nature Of God

II. Genuine Worship Must Be Centered In The Spirit


A. Just as Jesus told this woman that true worship arises out of the spirit, He also said that true worship must be practiced in truth. This tells us that our worship of God must be built upon a knowledge of Who He is, and that He must be approached through the true path and that He must be worshiped from a true heart.

B. As time is spent in the Word of God meditating and learning more about God, the spirit is filled to overflowing. The truth about Him wells up in the spirit of the believer and worship then ensues. You see, the spirit is the subjective factor in worship, while truth is the objective factor. Truth is the catalyst for all genuine worship.

(Ill. We cannot ascribe true honor to one about whom we know nothing! It is only as we learn more about the Lord and about His greatness, about His grace, about His mercy and His love, etc. that we can truly lift up genuine worship unto Him. Therefore, a systematic exposition of the Word of God is necessary to uncover the truth about God thereby prompting the spirit to burst out in worship. As important as this is in the assembly of the church, its importance can never be over stated in the private worship life of the believer. As we experience God in His Word and learn more about Him, we find ever increasing reason to bow before Him in worship.)

C. To put is very simply, worship is an expression of praise from the heart, toward a God Who is understood as He is truly revealed. Worship is receiving revelation about God and then rendering back homage for His greatness and His glory. The essential nature of worship is to offer God adoration from our inner beings in praise, prayer, song, giving and living always based upon His revealed truth.

(If there is a doubt as to the worthiness of the Lord to receive worship, consider all the wonderful things He has done for us. Think of salvation, grace, love, mercy, His Son, the Spirit of God, the Church, the Bible and so on. God has given us plenty of good reasons to worship and adore Him.)

I. Genuine Worship Must Coincide With The Nature Of God

II. Genuine Worship Must Be Centered In The Spirit

III. Genuine Worship Must Be Constituted Upon The Reality Of Who God Is


A. The Lord tells the Samaritan woman that God the Father is actively looking for those who will worship Him. The word "seeketh" is present tense and comes from a word that can mean "to crave." It is my conviction that we cannot give the Lord very many things that will be acceptable to Him, but genuine worship that is in spirit and in truth is one of those things that God desires, and yes, even craves. Therefore, when God gets what He wants, then He is glorified!

B. That, my friends, is the chief end of man and ought to be the desire of every child of God this morning, 1 Cor. 10:31. How does our private worship glorify God? Because a life that is totally and absolutely devoted to the Lord and His glory.

(Ill. As I prayed and thought about what I would say down here today, I began to wonder just how much I actually knew about this matter of private worship. So, I began to read the Bible and to meditate on this matter and the Lord taught me something that you may or may not agree with, but it is something nonetheless that I think is true and relevant. What do think is the highest form of worship that can be rendered to the Lord? Certainly it would be that act which would bring Him the most glory, right? OK, if that is true, then what can you and I do personally and privately as an act of worship that will glorify God in a big way? I think the answer can be found in John 15:1-11. In these verses, Jesus talks about the relationship between Himself and His children. He tells us that without Him, we are totally helpless, but with Him, we are strong in the Lord. Now, to me, the highest form of worship I can render to God is to simply abide in Him. That's right! When we just cease from self and totally yield every aspect of life to the control of the Lord, then we are in a position to glorify Him. I think our highest worship is found in abiding in the Lord. How do we abide? By spending time with Him in His Word and in prayer. We abide by worshiping! You see, worship is not something we do, it is what we are! Worship is all that we are reacting to all that He is! Worship is to be the main activity of every believer's life - Col. 3:17. What I am trying to say is that you don't go to worship, you are to be worship. Every facet of you life is to exude worship to the glory of God. Every second we live in this world is to be an act of sublime worship before the Lord. When we are truly abiding in the Vine, when we are drawing every ounce of strength from Him, when we are totally dependent upon Him for everything we do, have, are and ever hope to be, then we are in a position to glorify the Lord. It is my contention that our lives ought to summed up in one word - WORSHIP! I think that was Paul's Idea when he told us that we were to present our bodies a living sacrifice, Rom. 12:1.)

C. When this is true in your life and mine, God will be glorified, we will be true worshipers of the Lord Jesus Christ and even our public worship will be profoundly affected. You see, whether we realize it or not, we are responsible to the church to maintain a lifestyle of consistent, acceptable worship before the Lord. When we do, God will be glorified in some very profound ways. His church will be edified, believers will be purified, and the lost will be evangelized. Private worship, when it is practiced in a manner consistent with the Word of God, has the power to change all of life!

(Ill. Everything about us should communicate the truth that we have been with Him! Dr. Charles Weigle composed many lovely hymns and gospel songs, among them the favorite "No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus." One day he visited Pasadena, California. Early that morning he had an opportunity to walk through some of the famous rose gardens when the full fragrance of the flowers filled the air. Later in the day he arrived at the hotel where a Bible conference was being held. As he took his seat a man turned to him and said, "Dr. Weigle, I know where you've been. You toured one of our lovely gardens, for I can smell the pleasing aroma on your clothing." Weigle replied, "Yes, that's right. Several others have told me the same thing. Their comments reminded me of Acts 4:13. My prayer is that I may walk so closely with the Lord that the fragrance of His grace will pervade my being. I want them to know by my words, actions, and songs that I have been with Jesus." )

Conclusion: As I try to bring the thoughts together, I feel as though I have given a dissertation on worship rather than just the private aspect of it. However, worship, even in the public arena is something between an individual and the Lord. Therefore, all worship is in essence private! Now with that in mind, I would like to conclude with a checklist of sorts whereby one can gage his readiness to worship.

This list was given to us by the writer of Hebrews and is found in Hebrews 10:22. There are four basic conditions that stand as a litmus test of our readiness for worship. They are:

1. Sincerity - A mind and a life given over totally to the Lord.

2. Fidelity - Worshiping according to the truth that faith alone is the ground for acceptance by the Lord.

3. Humility - We can come before the Lord confidently, in full assurance of faith, Heb. 4:14-16, but we must also some humbly, knowing that we have no right to worship Him apart from the power of the cleansing blood of Jesus.

4. Purity - Not a literal bath, but a consistent lifestyle of confession and repentance.

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the lowest and 10 the highest, how would you honestly rate your private worship? Do you need work in this area? I know I do! I would suggest that all those who feel lead of the Lord should come forward just now and let's seek His face. Let's take a few minutes to reflect on everything we have heard and let's rediscover the value of personal, private worship.

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