I couldn’t help but post my ‘Rueling elder’s sermon from this past sunday. I think it was his first… to my knowledge anyway, though he has been ‘preaching’ to the youth for quite some time. This sunday was maybe just a new venue. Mike Ruel is our new “WD” at church… “worship director” and he is taking this responsibility from the Lord seriously… the following message can be found at Mike’s site or if you want you can just settle in for a 20 minute or so message on “Worship -Spirit and Truth“. We shared communion this sunday and so the message time was somewhat abbreviated. (scroll down to read or click on the link to listen to the audio… I recommend the audio.)
Worship – Spirit and Truth
Worship – 10.04.09 – 9:30/11:00am Services
Text: John 4:1-26
I’d like to talk to you today about worship – and the passage I read is one of my favorite of all passages on worship. Jesus is traveling back to Galilee and a traditional, strict Jew would have chosen a route that avoided Samaria, as Jews and Samaritans didn’t mix. Our text said Jesus “had to pass through Samaria” and he is tired, hot, sweaty, dirty, thirsty. It would be good to pause here to see and observe the human side of Jesus. He was completely God and yet completely man – note the scripture saying he was “wearied from his journey” in v6. There he came across a Samaritan woman, out in the middle of the day which was strange in and of itself, no one really went out in the middle of the day to draw water – she was there intentionally when no one was there, so she wasn’t seen, for she was known – she had a reputation a bad rep, and she didn’t want any static from anyone, so she went when there was no one there, and then this man shows up looking for a drink…a Jew…looking for a drink from a Samaritan. She says “You are looking for a drink from ME?” Jesus replies…if you knew who you were speaking with you would be asking ME for a drink, because I have living water that unlike this water – will cause you to never thirst again.
She has no idea what he is talking about. (v13) She says “Oh really? Give me some of this water, so I won’t be thirsty!” She was spiritually dead – she couldn’t even recognize who she was talking to or what he was offering.
Jesus continues the conversation – “Go call your husband” , “I have no husband”. Jesus says “You are right, actually you’ve had 5 husbands, and the guy you are living with now? He isn’t your husband either, is he?” Ah, there it is. That’s the white elephant in the room – she is immoral. She’s been found out too. She needs to do something quickly to distract him so she throws out a conversational land mine to distract him – “Hey…um…as long as we are talking about worship, where do you think is the right mountain to worship on?!”
Jesus, probably realizing her game, goes with it. You want to talk worship? OK, let’s talk worship.
“Woman believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation if from the Jews.”
Bob Kauflin says “Jesus was saying that our meeting place with God would no longer be limited to physical structures, geographical locales, or specific times. It would no longer involve animal sacrifices, Levitical priests, or holy places. In a single conversation, he relocated the place of worship from the Jerusalem temple to himself.”
“the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him”
DA Carson says “To worship God in spirit and in truth is first and foremost a way of saying that we must worship God by means of Christ….Christian worship is new-covenant worship; it is gospel-inspired worship; it is Christ-centered worship; it is cross-focused worship.” Again, Kauflin says “The implications are staggering. There’s nothing about our worship of God that isn’t defined or affected by Jesus Christ”
So, let’s focus a bit more on Jesus’ words – “spirit and truth”
I would submit to you that Jesus is saying that we must worship with our feelings and our minds. In our spirit, communing with His spirit the spirit that Christ will leave us with after the work on the cross is complete. And our minds…our thoughts, engage with truth.
Piper says worship must “have heart and head. Worship must engage emotions and thought…true worship comes from people who are deeply emotional and who love deep and sound doctrine. Strong affections for God rooted in truth are the bone and marrow of biblical worship.”
There is one very important pre-requirement to worship however. Don Whitney in his great book “Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life” says “before we can worship in spirit and in truth we must have within us the One whose name is the Holy Spirit and the “Spirit of Truth”. He lives only within those who have come to Christ in repentance and faith. Without Him true worship will not happen.”
It’s odd that in order to worship in the spirit you must already know and believe the truth. The truth that is the gospel that is laid out in 1 Tim 2:5-6 which says “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.”
RC Sproul says: “The glory of the gospel is this: the one from whom we need to be saved is the one who has saved us.”
The truth of the gospel as laid out in the Bible – in order to worship, you need to accept the truth about God. He has revealed himself to us in the Bible. God created us but we turned and did our own thing – the Bible calls that sin. Sin does not merely constitute failure to keep the law of God, but represents personal rebellion against God’s lordship – and God only has one position on sin: He hates it. It makes him furious – not because he is mean, but because he it 100% holy, and sin by it’s very nature is incompatible with his nature. He is 100% good. However, since he created us, in his image – he LOVES us – the good news is in fact that God loves you so much that he provided a way to satisfy this wrath, this justified anger towards all our sin – he laid all the wrath and all the sin of ours on his Son Jesus – who sacrificed his life – the only one who could – in order to satisfy God’s wrath and the penalty for our sin. He saw Christ sacrifice as good and acceptable, so much so that he raised him from the dead and thus we also share in Jesus’ LIFE that we will enjoy with him forever in Heaven – if we believe in the gift of his sacrifice for us on the cross and turn our lives to live for him. Thru that truth – all laid out in the Bible is a new life, it’s “regeneration”. That’s why we worship — folks we come to the communion table today to remember that sacrifice – without this there IS no worship. This is the symbol, the reminder of the new covenant with God thru Jesus Christ – Pastor Andy will probably quote 1 Corinthians 11 when he serves the elements – “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
David Peterson in his book “Engaging with God -a Biblical Theology of Worship” says this — “God’s great act of redemption in Christ is the basis of a call to enter into and enjoy the blessings of the new covenant. Worship in the New Testament terms means responding with one’s whole life and being to the divine kingship of Jesus.”
Worship itself cannot “bring us into the presence of God” – I hear this every now and again from a worship leader – the blood of Jesus Christ is the only thing that can bring us into the presence of God.
But what about worship? What has God revealed to us about worship in the Bible? What is the definition of biblical worship?
CJ Mahaney says, (and I’m going to be taking a lot from CJ from now on just to let you know…) and I would agree “We are in desperate need of a biblical definition of worship, otherwise how will we discern between the primary and the peripheral?” Between the areas that are really really important and what isn’t so important in worship. It keeps us from becoming pre-occupied with our preferences, our comfort zones and keeps us focused on the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
This discernment must be grounded in doctrine, in solid biblical wisdom – not the wisdom of man. The Bible speaks clearly against the wisdom of man, we don’t have time to go into the verses, but look at James 3:13-18. We still have a sinful nature that is within us, we cannot rely on our own wisdom in understanding worship – we must rely on Gods. Yet as v24 of our text clearly says – we are commanded to worship him in spirit and truth. What does that mean Biblically?
Biblical worship would therefore be one that rejects the wisdom of man and here’s the important part – Biblical worship rejects cultural models/methods that obscure the cross and refuse to build upon the cross. Form and method can obscure the message – if we let that happen we are letting the cross be emptied of it’s power.
I was on Twitter a few weeks back and someone posted a link to a remake of an old hymn. A great hymn. One of my favorites soaked in doctrine and the cross…I wish I could remember what it was called….ANYWAY…I clicked on the link and got taken to an artist’s page…you know all hip, trendy web design…dudes there in the band picture having way more hair than I have all like messed up, spiked this way and that…tough menacing rock star looks in their eyes. I played the hymn and it was so over-produced…so much stuff added to it that it completely obscured the message. I immediately Tweeted back “Yes, great song indeed, too bad the production completely overshadows the message.”
Mahaney goes on to say we must not let ourselves get “preoccupied with methodology and vague with theololgy.” Some churches are designing whole services after the culture, any musical taste there is…Polka, country, rap, rock whatever. Churches have gone way overboard in trying to cater to personal preferences!
Spurgeon said “We slander Christ when we try to draw them with anything other than Christ crucified.”
Worship conferences after worship conferences focus on secondary, peripheral issues – “The Secret 46 Ways to Make Worship in Your Church ROCK.” or “38 Lighting and Sound Tricks to Help Your People Worship at the Next Level” OK, I’m making it up a little bit…but not much. That’s why I chose my conference very carefully – I wanted 1 focus: THE CROSS. Sovereign Grace is right on there, I plan to go back each year. In fact…as Worship Director I’m stating mandatory Worship Team attendance.
So what are the key points here? How can we follow Jesus’ command to worship him in spirit and in truth?
How do we do that? Well, it comes down to the perspective of why we worship –
Here’s the perspective of worshiping in TRUTH:
1) The truth is – our worship needs to glorify Him, because he is worthy. Psalms says “Ascribe to him the glory due his name.” Why is he worthy?
* He created us. There are really only 2 categories of things in this world – the Creator and everything else. By design, everything the “created” column has to worship the “Creator” – he was the one who designed it.
* Next, he has redeemed us (Rom 3:21-26)
* He also sustains us
2) We also worship him in truth by singing songs with words that are soaked in the gospel and solid biblical truths. There is no bigger more glorious truth than the message of the cross – the message of reconciliation with God thru Jesus Christ. So to worship in truth we must sing songs soaked in solid doctrinal truth to REMIND us of what Christ has already done for us. We come in, who knows what is going on. I see it on your faces, it’s OK. People’s minds are elsewhere, we’ve got a zillion things going on. What time is that soccer game today? Maybe I can run to the store to pick up that desert I have to bring to mom’s after church…are those 2 different color socks that I put on this morning? Our job, the worship leaders job is to focus you – to bring you back to remind you of the cross, the gospel, the mediator – Jesus Christ. We cannot assume that you understand the Gospel, we must never assume the Gospel, we must proclaim it! That’s the truth part. Worship songs that can be confused with love songs about our girlfriend are NOT good worship songs. Songs that remind us of biblical truths and encourage us thru those truths ARE. We need to sing songs that say something. Thank you, Morgan for putting together a great set today – and great exhortations that focus us on the cross.
It was my sin that held him there, until it was accomplished. His dying breath has brought me life, I know that it is finished.
Why should I gain from his reward? I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart, his wounds have paid my ransom.
That says truth. Hymns are AMAZING truth soaked songs, we will do well to sing truth soaked Hymns…
If you can swap out your girlfriends name for Jesus and it’s a love song? That’s probably not truth. We need to sing songs with words that remind us of truth, that’s how we worship him in truth.
Here’s how we worship him in spirit –
1) We need to cultivate an environment where your spirit can respond to God’s Holy Spirit. We want to limit distractions for one, it’s why we practice, it’s why we struggle to get the slides right and have a “flow’ to the songs – not so we look polished and cool – but so that we can not get in the way – as Piper calls it “undistracting excellence”. We want to grow in this discipline, and going back to Don Whitney, he calls it a discipline “a discipline that must be cultivated just as all relationships must be to remain healthy and to grow.” We want to provide and foster and environment where people joyfully and expressively worship – as outlined in scripture. Where people feel free to worship God as their spirit leads in accordance with scripture. We should be personally worshiping God all week and our Sunday gatherings should be the culmination of that private worship during the week. Tozer has some pretty blunt words “If you will not worship God seven days a week, you do not worship him one day a week.” Ouch. Doing that takes discipline and teaching – all part of what the church is set up to do – in shepherding and nuturing the body – we want to teach you how to worship! We said that part of why we worship God in truth is because he is worthy and to pair that with our spirit, we need to “gladly reflect back to God the radiance of his worth.”
2) The biggest goal of musical worship is for you to see Jesus Christ, however, Jesus Christ isn’t here anymore, he is with the Father now, but as scripture tells us he has left his Holy Spirit here to teach us all things and remind us all things. We need to worship by and thru his Holy Spirit during worship to truly worship – that’s how we’ll see Jesus. The spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Rom 8:16). The spirit testifies to us, and confirms that is true – the regeneration of our souls. That’s the ultimate goal — If you walk out of these doors and say “Man that was great worship, that was a great BAND”…we’ve failed. You need to walk out of this building and say “Man, what a great Savior is Jesus Christ.” We want you to see Christ in worship and worship him in spirit and truth.