During one of Jesus’ preaching tours with this apostles, he made a decision to go to Samaria to preach the good news of the Kingdom. And it was during this preaching tour that Jesus gave one of the most important lessons in worshiping the Father. And he gave it to an unlikely candidate under uncommon circumstances. What we can learn from Jesus’ teaching that day can have a profound effect on each one of us as we seek to please our heavenly Father.
On this certain day, Jesus and his apostles arrived at the Samaritan city of Sychar. While the apostles went into the city, Jesus sat at the well outside of the city, known as Jacob’s Well. He was thirsty from his journey, but he had no way of getting water from the well. So while sitting there:
“A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her: ‘Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone off into the city to buy foodstuffs.) Therefore the Samaritan woman said to him: ‘How is it that you, despite being a Jew, ask me for a drink, when I am a Samaritan woman?’ (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)”
– John 4:7-9
She was much surprised to have a Jewish man speak to her and ask for water, for it was not deemed proper in those days for a self-respecting man to speak to a woman in public, much less for a Jew to converse with a Samaritan.
Also, for more than six hundred years, the Jews of Judea had been at enmity with the Samaritans. The religious enmity dated from the return of the Jews from the Babylonian captivity, when the Samaritans worked to prevent the rebuilding of Jerusalem. Later they offended the Jews by extending friendly assistance to the armies of Alexander. In return for their friendship, Alexander gave the Samaritans permission to build a temple on Mount Gerizim, where they worshiped Jehovah and their tribal gods and offered sacrifices much after the order of the temple services at Jerusalem. The antagonisms between the Jews and the Samaritans were time-honored and historic; increasingly since the days of Alexander they had had no dealings with each other. Nevertheless, Jesus engaged her:
“In answer Jesus said to her: ‘If you had known the free gift of God and who it is that says to you, “Give me a drink,” you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’ She said to him: ‘Sir, you have not even a bucket for drawing water, and the well is deep. From what source, therefore, do you have this living water? You are not greater than our forefather Jacob, who gave us the well and who himself together with his sons and his cattle drank out of it, are you?’”
– John 4:10-12
To her surprise, Jesus responded:
“‘Everyone drinking from this water will get thirsty again. Whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty at all, but the water that I will give him will become in him a fountain of water bubbling up to impart everlasting life.’ The woman said to him: ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may neither thirst nor keep coming over to this place to draw water.’”
– John 4:13-15
She did not know how to take Jesus' willingness to talk with her. She must have beheld in the Master's face the countenance of an upright and holy man, but it appears that she may have mistaken his friendliness for commonplace familiarity given the sternness of Jesus’ reply:
“He said to her: ‘Go, call your husband and come to this place.’ In answer the woman said: ‘I do not have a husband.’ Jesus said to her: ‘You said well, “A husband I do not have.” For you have had five husbands, and the [man] you now have is not your husband. This you have said truthfully.’ The woman said to him: ‘Sir, I perceive you are a prophet.’”
– John 4:16-19
Jesus’ response opened her eyes to new possibilities for information. Here was a prophet! Though Jesus had spoken to her of life giving waters, she did what so many have done before and since. She dodged the issue of personal salvation by turning to a discussion of theology and philosophy. She chose to address the theological controversy of her day. Pointing over to Mount Gerizim, she continued:
“Our forefathers worshiped in this mountain; but you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where persons ought to worship.”
– John 4:20
Jesus perceived the attempt of the woman to avoid direct and searching contact with him, but he also saw that there was present in her a desire to know the better way of life. After all, she did express her thirst for the living water; therefore he dealt patiently with her, saying:
"Believe me, woman, The hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you people worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, because salvation originates with the Jews. Nevertheless, the hour is coming, and it is now, when the true worshipers will worship the Father with spirit and truth, for, indeed, the Father is looking for suchlike ones to worship him. God is a Spirit, and those worshiping him must worship with spirit and truth.”
Here, Jesus makes a startling announcement. He told the woman that, from that point forward, God is no longer concerned with where we worship – this mountain, that mountain; this church, that church; this Kingdom Hall, that Kingdom Hall, etc. What matters to the Father is that we do worship and that the worship we give is practiced in spirit and truth. Salvation comes not from knowing how others should worship or where we should worship, but by receiving into our own heart this living water of truth, worshiping where we are and as we are.
But the woman would make one more effort to avoid the discussion of her personal life and her status before God. Once more she resorted to questions of general theology:
“The woman said to him: ‘I know that Messiah is coming, who is called Christ. Whenever that one arrives, he will declare all things to us openly.’ Jesus said to her: ‘I who am speaking to you am he.’
– John 4:25-26
This was the first direct, positive, and undisguised pronouncement of his divine nature and sonship that Jesus had made on earth; and it was made to a woman, a Samaritan woman, and a woman of questionable character in the eyes of men, but a woman whom the divine eye beheld as a human soul who desired salvation, sincerely and wholeheartedly, and that was enough.
At this point, the apostles returned and the woman rushed off to the city to tell her fellow Samaritans of this Great Teacher. In response, they followed her back to the well. (John 4:27-30):
“Now many of the Samaritans out of that city put faith in him on account of the word of the woman who said in witness: ‘He told me all the things I did.’ Therefore when the Samaritans came to him, they began asking him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. Consequently many more believed on account of what he said, and they began to say to the woman: ‘We do not believe any longer on account of your talk; for we have heard for ourselves and we know that this man is for a certainty the savior of the world.’”
– John 4:39-42
We learn a few lessons from this interchange between Jesus and the Samaritan woman. First, we learn that there are no barriers to whom the life giving waters of truth of the fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man can be preached. Long-standing religious conflict do not stand in the Father’s way. And we learn that there is no partiality with God. Our background, history, race, gender does not matter. As Paul said:
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor freeman, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one [person] in union with Christ Jesus.”
– Galatians 3:28
We learn that if we want salvation, we must keep our focus on the life giving waters of spirit and truth, rather than on theology or religious philosophy. Worshiping with spirit and truth is the only way to successfully approach the Father.
But what was the real import of Jesus’ words? What is worship? What does it mean to worship with spirit? What does it mean to worship with truth? When we are clear on these concepts, we will understand the depth of divine impartiality and how spirit and truth transcend denominations and unite all of mankind as sons of God and brothers of Christ and of each other.
Worshiping With Spirit
Worship may be defined as the contemplation of the spiritual. It is the highest privilege and the first duty of all created intelligences. It is the conscious and joyous act of recognizing and acknowledging the truth of our intimate and personal relationship with the Father.
Worship becomes a transforming experience whereby the one worshiping increasingly becomes more like the One who is worshiped. It renews the mind, inspires the soul, enables us bravely to face our problems, obliterates debilitating fear, and equips us with the assurance that enables us to dare to be Godlike. (Matthew 5:48) It is an exchange of strength for weakness, courage for fear, and the will of God for the mind of self.
We know that a part of the divine nature resides in us. (1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19) Worship, therefore, is the act of a part identifying itself with the Whole; the finite with the Infinite; the son with the Father; time with eternity. Through worship, we assent to the attempt of the indwelling spirit to communicate with God.
But note that worship is not prayer. The great difference between worship and prayer is that worship is for its own sake. Prayer embodies a self-interest element; whereas there is absolutely no self-request or other element of personal interest in true worship. We simply worship God for what we comprehend him to be.
Worship asks nothing and expects nothing for the worshiper. We do not worship the Father because of anything we may derive from such veneration; we render such devotion and engage in such worship as a natural and spontaneous reaction to the recognition of the Father's matchless personality and because of his lovable nature and adorable attributes.
Think of our loving God who chooses to reveal Himself in these last days as a Father rather than a lawgiver, a judge, a dictator, or a fear-inducing potentate. Think of His compassion in sending His Son to demonstrate true worship, and to show us the way to attain to the presence of the Father Himself. Imagine how much love the Father has for us to design and orchestrate a vast spiritual organization for the advancement and upliftment of mankind. Contemplate that in our darkest hour, He is with us; that He goes through every trial with us, as a part of us. Remember how He repeatedly sent His prophets to warn and direct mankind, not so that we can do obeisance to Him, but to better ourselves.
Look around you and see the beauty of life. Even in the concrete cities, life forges its way through the cement cracks as a reminder that the Father is alive and present. Look at the faces of your friends and loved ones smiling back at you. Can you not see the Father’s love in their eyes? Look at your body. Whether old or young, ailing or healthy, we can still experience all kinds of pleasures, and most assuredly, the satisfying joy that comes from thoughts like these.
Be thankful for, and train your memory to hold in sacred trust, the strength-giving and worthwhile episodes of life, which you can recall at will for your pleasure and edification. These experiences are your reserve galleries of beauty, goodness, and artistic grandeur. And do not forget, the noblest of all memories are the treasured recollections of the great moments of a superb friendship. All of these memory treasures radiate their most precious and exalting influences under the releasing touch of spiritual worship of the Father. Think about these and similar matters for a few minutes. Pause and contemplate....
You have just engaged in worship! That is what worshiping the Father is all about. It is best to remain for a time in silent receptivity to afford the indwelling spirit the better opportunity to speak to your listening soul. The spirit of the Father speaks best to man when the human mind is in an attitude of true worship.
The spirit rarely speaks in audible tones. Instead, you will likely experience more of a peace and a knowing. You may not know how, but you have a conviction that whatever problems you have will be worked out. You have an inclination that you can face whatever comes your way with courage and success. You will have “the peace of God that excels all thought.” (Philippians 4:7)
These are the gifts of worship. When frequently practiced, we develop worshipful habits that eventually formulate themselves into a spiritual character that will be recognized by our associates as spiritual maturity. And we will, without fail, begin to more perfectly manifest the fruitage of the spirit – love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)
In all, we worship the Father, first, because He is, then, because He is in us, and last, because we are in Him. Amen.
Worshiping with Truth
First, we must distinguish the difference between truth and knowledge/facts. Knowledge is the realm of the material or fact-discerning mind. Truth is the domain of the spiritually endowed individual who is conscious of knowing God. Knowledge is a possession of the mind; truth an experience of the self. The eye of the material mind perceives a world of factual knowledge; the eye of the spiritualized intellect discerns a world of true meanings and values.
Truth is not facts, but rather the value, the meanings, the heart appreciation of facts. It is the understanding of the relationships between facts. The more truth you know, the more truth you are, and the more of the past you can understand and of the future you can comprehend. Truth is the joint creation of the indwelling spirit and the material fact-finding mind. And when truth and fact harmonize, the world of reality is revealed.
Neither is truth dogma, or doctrine. Those are merely a collection of facts organized to socialize religious ideas and develop religious associations. Many such associations claim to possess “the Truth” when in actuality what they possess is merely knowledge or facts. Truth is not possessed, it is experienced. Unless we have experienced what we claim to know, it is merely an idea or concept. For example, one may teach that God is loving and merciful and kind. But unless the individual hearer has consciously experienced divine love, received divine mercy and tasted the kindness of the Father to the point that it stirs action toward divine goals, it is only theological philosophy. What the Father wants is worship, not in fact, but in truth.
The best way to understand how to worship in truth is to examine the worshipful life of Jesus. While other prophets and teachers could tell about truth, no one could fully demonstrate it but the Son:
“Jesus said to him: ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you men had known me, you would have known my Father also; from this moment on you know him and have seen him.’”
– John 14:6-7
Although the average mortal cannot hope to attain the high perfection of character which Jesus acquired while sojourning in the flesh, it is altogether possible for every mortal believer to develop a strong and unified personality along the perfected lines of the Jesus personality.
The unique feature of the Master's personality was not so much its perfection as its symmetry, its exquisite and balanced unification. The most effective presentation of Jesus consists in the words of Pontius Pilate as he gestured toward the Master standing before his accusers, “Look! The man!” (John 19:5)
The unfailing kindness of Jesus touched the hearts of men, but his stalwart strength of character amazed his followers. He was truly sincere; there was nothing of the hypocrite in him. He was free from artificiality; he was always so refreshingly genuine. He never stooped to pretense, and he never resorted to deception. He lived the truth, even as he taught it. He was the truth. He was constrained to proclaim saving truth to his generation, even though such sincerity sometimes caused pain. He was unquestioningly loyal to all truth.
But the Master was so reasonable, so approachable. He was so practical in all his ministry, while all his plans were characterized by such sanctified common sense. He was so free from all freakish, erratic, and eccentric tendencies. He was never capricious, whimsical, or hysterical.
In all his teaching and in everything he did, there was always an exquisite discrimination associated with an extraordinary sense of propriety.
The Son of Man was always a well-poised personality. Even his enemies maintained a wholesome respect for him; they even feared his presence. But Jesus was unafraid. He was surcharged with divine enthusiasm, but he never became fanatical. He was emotionally active, but never flighty. He was imaginative, but always practical. He frankly faced the realities of life, but he was never dull or matter-of-fact. He was courageous, but never reckless; prudent, but never cowardly. He was sympathetic, but not sentimental; unique, but not eccentric. He was pious, but not sanctimonious. And he was so well-poised because he was so perfectly unified.
Jesus’ originality was unstifled. He was not bound by tradition or handicapped by enslavement to narrow conventionality. He spoke with undoubted confidence and taught with absolute authority. But his superb originality did not cause him to overlook the gems of truth in the teachings of his predecessors and contemporaries. And the most original of his teachings was the emphasis of love and mercy in the place of fear and sacrifice.
Jesus was very broad in his outlook. He exhorted his followers to preach the gospel to all peoples. He was free from all narrow-mindedness. His sympathetic heart embraced all mankind. Always his invitation was, “let him come.” (John 7:37)
He loved men as brothers, at the same time recognizing how they differed in innate endowments and acquired qualities. Jesus was an unusually cheerful person, but he was not a blind and unreasoning optimist. He could maintain this confident attitude because of his unswerving trust in God and his unshakable confidence in man. He was always touchingly considerate of all men because he loved them and believed in them. Still he was always true to his convictions and magnificently firm in his devotion to the doing of his Father's will.
The Master was always generous. He never grew weary of saying, “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” (Acts 20:35) Said he, "You received free, give free.” (Matthew 10:8) And yet, with all of his unbounded generosity, he was never wasteful or extravagant. He taught that you must believe to receive salvation. You must ask, seek, knock until the door of understanding is opened to you. (Matthew 7:7-8)
He was candid, but always kind. Said he, “If it were not so, I would have told you.” (John 14:2) He was frank, but always friendly. He was outspoken in his love for the sinner and in his hatred for sin. But throughout all this amazing frankness he was unerringly fair.
Jesus was consistently cheerful, notwithstanding he sometimes drank deeply of the cup of human sorrow. He fearlessly faced the realities of existence, yet was he filled with enthusiasm for the good news of the kingdom. But he controlled his enthusiasm; it never controlled him. He was unreservedly dedicated to doing the Father's business. This divine enthusiasm led his unspiritual brethren to think he was beside himself (Mark 3:21), but the onlooking universe appraised him as the model of sanity and the pattern of supreme mortal devotion to the high standards of spiritual living. And his controlled enthusiasm was contagious; his associates were constrained to share his divine optimism.
This man of Galilee was not a man of sorrows; he was a soul of gladness. Always was he saying, “Rejoice and leap for joy.” (Matthew 5:12) But when duty required, he was willing to walk courageously through the valley of the shadow of death. He was gladsome, but at the same time humble.
His courage was equaled only by his patience. When pressed to act prematurely, he would only reply, “My hour has not yet come.” (John 2:4) He was never in a hurry; his composure was sublime. But he was often indignant at evil, intolerant of sin. He was often mightily moved to resist that which was inimical to the welfare of his brothers on earth. But his indignation against sin never led to anger at the sinner.
His courage was magnificent, but he was never foolhardy. His watchword was, “Have no fear.” (John 6:20) His bravery was lofty and his courage often heroic. But his courage was linked with discretion and controlled by reason. It was courage born of faith, not the recklessness of blind presumption. He was truly brave, but never audacious.
The Master was a pattern of reverence. The model prayer he gave his apostles began, “Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified.” (Matthew 6:9) He was even respectful of the faulty worship of his fellows. But this did not deter him from making attacks on religious traditions or assaulting errors of human belief. He was reverential of true holiness, and yet he could justly appeal to his fellows, saying, “Who of you convicts me of sin?” (John 8:46)
Jesus was great because he was good, and yet he fraternized with the little children. He was gentle and unassuming in his personal life, and yet he was the perfected man of a universe. His associates called him Master without his urging.
Jesus was the perfectly unified human personality. And today, as in Galilee, he continues to unify mortal experience and to coordinate human endeavors by means of the Spirit of Truth. (John 16:13) He unifies life, ennobles character, and simplifies experience. He enters the human mind to elevate, transform, and transfigure it. It is literally true: “Consequently if anyone is in union with Christ, he is a new creation; the old things passed away, look! new things have come into existence.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Though we cannot truly accomplish the living worshipful truth as Jesus did, we can look to him as a model of how truthful worship is lived. And by imitating him – by exchanging our minds for “the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16; Philippians 2:5) – we not only know factually what truth is, but we can experience it in our daily affairs.
Yes, Jesus was a great truth-liver and truth-giver. When a truth-giver meets a great truth-seeker, the result is a great and liberating enlightenment born of the experience of truth. We know of what we speak. Let us ever be such truth-seekers!
The Samaritan woman did not have the advantage we have of knowing the life experience of Jesus. She had not yet learned “the mind of Christ.” But what little she did know about him was sufficient to sustain her in her hope, along with the other Samaritans who followed her to the well at her beckoning to hear personally from the Great Teacher. (John 4:28-30)
Since we have so great a witness of spiritual and true worship, we should all the more so come to the Father with a worshipful attitude, honoring Him with our whole hearts, soul, mind and strength, and in truth – a living truth – as did our Master.
Because it is an internal heart- and mind-motivated action, nothing can prevent us from worshiping in spirit and truth. (Romans 8:38-39) “[F]or, indeed, the Father is looking for suchlike ones to worship Him.” (John 4:23)