John 4:21-23 Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.
If last Sunday was about temptation, and how Jesus over came all temptations for us, that we might be truly free from sin – this week our test seeks to equip us with tools to overcome what might be the greatest and first among all temptations, idolatry. Now idolatry is more that someone who bows down to statues of wood or stone. Idolatry is first of all a condition of the heart, and the easiest way is to consider your life – spread your arms out and walk through your day, and consider all the things that touch your life – and as you look at it all, ask one question what is the center? That is, what does your life mostly revolve around, what is the one most important thing or things? Chances are that this could well turn into idolatry, especially if it is more important than God, his Word, and doing his will.
Here’s the second test, a simple question – who are you? That is, how do you define who you are? It is another way to consider what is important in your life, for we generally define ourselves it terms of what is important. And, if as you consider who you are, you find that being a child of God by grace through faith is not at the top of the list – then maybe you have a problem.
The third test is also simple – consider how you prepare for something important, what things need to be done, and how do you get ready – now consider how you get ready to worship God – is there the same care and similar amounts of preparation between the important things of life, and coming into the presence of the living God?
If we see sin, now is the time to repent, and return to God seeking forgiveness, which has been purchased and won for us in Jesus our Savior.. If we cannot see sin, certainly we can see the temptation – and our text seeks to provide us with something to strengthen us so that God might always come first in our life.
The text begins with a very important presupposition, that is, that everyone knows that God deserves to be worshiped, even if they do not understand very much about who God is – they know he is worthy of praise, adoration and thanks. It seems that everyone knows that if they do not give God what is his due, they will have to answer to him. So it is that people throughout the world not only seek God, but also seek a way to please him. But if you don’t really know God – how can you know what pleases him? This is a big problem today, in Jesus day, and since the beginning. From the beginning people have known that part of the worship of God was sacrifice – and the most complete sacrifice was a burnt offering – and many have thought that was the way to please God, they just didn’t know God, and so they didn’t know any better.
1 Sam 15:22 Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Surely, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.
Psalm 51:17 The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Hosea 6:6 For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
It seems that God has been saying the same thing for quite some time – that is:
God doesn’t wait until we find Him, rather he comes and finds us. God doesn’t wait until we are worthy of his grace and mercy, but he pours out his grace, calling us to faith, enlightening us with his spirit, making us a new creation. The prayer of the people of God, "Create in me a clean heart of God, and renew a right spirit within me" has been answered. God has given us a right spirit and his revealing word that we might be able now, to worship him in Spirit and in Truth. And knowing God, His grace, and the salvation that is ours in Jesus Christ makes worship much easier – for having experienced his love, we find our worship flowing not out of the law, which says we must – rather it is the devotion which is the response to His love poured out for us, and a heartfelt gratitude of his mercy and grace – for forgiveness and for eternal life.