In my journey with Christ, and in my endeavour to live my life the way He wants, I’ve come to realise truths very hard to accept, but truths nonetheless.
A certain verse has been on my mind a lot: Jesus says something that I’ve been trying to understand and one day, He shed some of His Light on His word so that I understood.
Jesus was at a well, speaking to a Samaritan woman and after He had told her the things that she had done, she said to Him, “I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and you say that people should worship in Jerusalem.”
And He replied and said, “Woman, believe me, the time is coming when you will worship the Father neither in this mountain nor even in Jerusalem. But the time is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship God in spirit and in truth: for the Father wants those kind of people to worship Him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:20-24)
That is quite the heavy declaration and I mulled it over in my mind for some time, as I tried to figure out what it means to worship God in spirit and in truth.
If we break it down, it helps us understand what Jesus meant when He spoke. The Samaritan woman was saying that her ancestors, her fathers, had always gone up to the mountain to worship God; perhaps they had only worshipped in that mountain. She went on to say that the prophets, whom she perceived that Jesus was too, say that men should go to worship in Jerusalem, at the Holy Temple. We can apply this woman’s words to our day and age and say, “My parents worshipped at church and priests and religious leaders say that people should go to worship God at church.” And you will definitely find that in these days, people only worship God when they are at church. So what was Jesus reply to that?
He says that the time is coming, and that time is now, when people won’t just worship in that mountain or in the Holy Temple at Jerusalem, or in any normal place of worship which for us today would be a church; but the true worshippers will worship in spirit and in truth: because God is a Spirit! God is not confined to a temple at Jerusalem, or a church building in your community, he is bigger than that, and he is everywhere. “Do I not fill heaven and earth, says the LORD.” (Jeremiah 23:24)
Jesus knew that there would be millions of professed Christian out there, all claiming to believe in Him, all claiming that He is Lord, but carrying on their daily lives without regard to how He wants us to be living, and once a week, for maybe one hour out of the hundred and eighty six hours in a week, turn to Him to give Him praise and worship. He knew it, and He says no, those who want to worship God, who is a Spirit, and who therefore is always always present, they must worship Him in spirit and in truth; they cannot live lives that are contrary to his will and His word and then acknowledge Him once a week as if He hasn’t been there all along, “I am a God near, says the LORD, and not far off.” (Jeremiah 23:23, Septuagint Version)
I hear a lot how religion and “religious” people have put other people off God, and how they have made them reluctant to get to know God because they can see how hypocritical these supposed “religious” people are. I find it terribly sad when I see how these people can chase people who are truly looking for God away by their double standards and by their pride. But people are deeply flawed, we are all sinners, and a sad reality is that there are wicked people even in the churches. However we shouldn’t be looking to people for the answers and for God, and God, through the Holy Spirit, says: “It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.” (Psalms 118:8)
People try to complicate religion and make it something that is burdensome to others, full of pomp and grandeur and showy ceremonies all of which are man-made and have less to do with God and more to do with men’s puffed-up pride but, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself from being corrupted by the world.” (James 1:27)
So these hard truths that I have come to accept in order to worship God in spirit and in truth include keeping away from the corruption of the world, and forsaking the works of the flesh: “Now the works of the flesh are evident: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, sensuality, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, murders, drunkenness, revellings: of which I told you before, as I have told you in the past, that they which do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-21) and living by the Spirit, the result of which is “love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23, 25)
The only way to truly overcome the flesh and the world is to believe in Jesus Christ who overcame them first and accept Him, so that by His Spirit, you can be transformed. But it doesn’t end there: we need to, each of us, build a relationship with God. He wants us to get to know Him; people sometimes say to me that they don’t really know anything about God and I normally don’t know exactly where to start, or how to respond. Well, here is my response to that question now: how does anyone get to know anyone? You have a conversation with them, you speak to them, tell them about yourself and they tell you about themselves, then you maybe give them your number and then you can chat to them some more anywhere anytime, simple as that!
It’s not all that different with God, in fact it should be easier because He is the one Person that has been with you all your life and you just haven’t been aware of it, He knows your heart and all your thoughts and your dreams and He wants you to talk to Him every single day: He wants you to take the time to pray. “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut the door, pray to your Father in secret; and your Father which sees in secret will reward you openly.” (Matthew 6:6) When Jesus teaches us how to pray he begins with “Our Father”. Think about what this means with regard to how God sees us all in relation to Himself: we are all His children, young and old, and He wants us to come to Him as such, meek and trusting in Him fully.
However, people often stop at prayer and they expect their prayers to be answered the way that they want and “when you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” (James 4:3) Imagine you meet someone and all they do when they are with you is speak about themselves and what they want from you and they don’t even give you a chance to respond before they go off and carry on with their lives. That’s not a relationship. We must give God the opportunity to respond to us, to speak to us too, to be a part of the conversion otherwise we are merely praying to ourselves. The most powerful way you can let God speak to you, every single day, is through His Word: by reading the Bible we allow God to have a part in the conversion we’re trying to have with Him, and we can thus build a solid relationship with the Creator.
Download a Bible on your phone, I have mine on my phone too and it’s awesome because I can read it anywhere anytime and highlight and save my favourite verses, some of which I use for this blog.
Don’t be shy! Start the conversation, He is and has always been waiting eagerly for you, “for the eyes of the Lord are on those who do right, and His ears are open to their prayer.” ( 1 Peter 3:12)
As always, may Christ, the Light of the World, be with you in all you do