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The Centre of True Worship

John 4:20-26
Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.’ ‘Woman,’ Jesus replied, ‘believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.’ The woman said, ‘I know that Messiah’ (called Christ) ‘is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.’ Then Jesus declared, ‘I, the one speaking to you – I am he.’ (NIVUK)

The Samaritan woman was highly articulate and spiritually aware.  Despite her complicated personal circumstances (John 4:17-18), she wanted to understand how to worship the Lord.  She was confused by the different religious interpretations of the Samaritans and the Jews.  However, because Jesus knew all about her, she believed that He could help her.  She started by asking where God wanted people to worship Him.  Jesus responded that the location was neither Mount Gerizim in Samaria (where the blessings of the covenant were recited in Joshua’s day (Deuteronomy 11:29; Joshua 8:33)) nor Mount Zion, about 30 miles to the south, in Jerusalem.  God was planning that true worship would come directly from the hearts of those who love Him.

How we worship is infinitely more important than where we worship.  All the religious ritual in the Old Testament was intended to point forward to Christ, as the writer to the Book of Hebrews demonstrated (Hebrews 9:11-14).  The New Testament story is that the centre of all true worship is Jesus Christ Himself; and that to know Him is to know God (John 17:3): as Philippians 2:9-11 says "… God exalted him [Jesus] to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

We cannot worship God without coming through Jesus (John 14:6).  It is through Christ that we come to the Father and only by the help of the Holy Spirit can we be born again (John 3:5-8).  If our worship does not come from a heart that is released from sin by the blood of Christ, our activity is merely religious liturgy.  But if we know Christ, we have an open invitation to worship the Father in spirit and in truth, anywhere.

The intimacy which God permits for each of His children to come to Him is a remarkable privilege. To speak to the Creator of the universe is an astonishing honour, and to know that He loves us personally is infinitely satisfying.  So, when you are talking about Jesus with your friends, be sure that they understand that they are not just invited to do religious things in a different way: God wants them to know Him through Jesus Christ, and worship Him freely from their hearts, free from sin and shame.

Holy Father. Thank You that through Jesus I always have immediate access into Your presence. When I think about it, I am amazed that You should give that privilege to somebody like me. I am sorry when I have become so pre-occupied with my business in the world and passions of the flesh that I have pushed You to the margins of my life, perhaps only stopping to worship once a week. Please help me to worship You every day in my heart whether at home or at work. Help me to give You thanks for all You have done; and make myself available for Your service however You command. And please give me courage to witness about the amazing relationship I have with You, so that others might come to know You too. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams