Worshiping in Spirit and in Truth - Jon Haley

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Good morning!
I have been on the road the last few days and really had very little sleep and time to prepare for this message so please forgive me if what I am about to say is incoherent, rambling, or jumbled.
I pray that the Holy Spirit teaches us all despite whatever I may or may not say.
Please turn in your Bibles or phone app to John 4
The main focus of today are verses 21-24 but we are really going to look at the first 45 verses.
John Chapter 4 is the famous account of Jesus talking to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well.
I believe verses 21-24 are the key central point to unlocking the meaning of these 45 verses.
John 4:21–24 ESV
21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But 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. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Before we zero in on these verses I do think it’s important that we understand the context of the chapter.
In the first verse of chapter 4 we read that Jesus left Judea and headed toward Galilee after he learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making more disciples than John the Baptist.
This was not because he was afraid of what the Pharisees would do but rather more than likely because he knew that his hour had not yet come.
It was not time for him to take on the Pharisees.
The quickest way to get from Judea to Galilee was to go straight through Samaria which is why he stopped in the town of Sychar.
This equates to about about 30 miles from Jerusalem on foot.
Jesus, wearied from his journey sat by Jacob’s well. His disciples had gone into town to buy food.
This is actually a picture of what is thought to be Jacob’s well.
John says it was about the sixth hour. Some commentators think that this was at noon and some think that it was 6:00 PM. It depends on if you use the Roman time tracking method or the Jewish time tracking method.
Either way, his disciples had gone into the village to buy food, and Jesus meets this Samaritan woman at the well.
We can conjecture that this woman was alone at the well because we don’t see any other people in the story and when the disciples return it is said that they marveled that Jesus was talking to a woman of Samaria with no mention of anyone else.
We read later that this woman has had been married to 5 different men in the village and was now living in sin with another man, so many commentators think she may have been trying to avoid meeting other women due to shame or guilt.
So she was probably alone.
Jesus says in Verse 7 “Give me a drink”. This shocks her because in verse 9 we read
John 4:9
9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)
It is important that we understand that she is a Samaritan because we see Jesus revealing the gospel to one who would have been on the very lowest class of society in the eyes of the Jewish culture.
Jews and Samaritans did not mix and women were not treated well in general.
In addition to this, I think it is important to note that this account of the Samaritan woman follows Jesus’ encounter with the Pharisee Nicodemus in Chapter 3, who would have been considered one of the highest, and most respected people in social ranking people in the Jewish culture.
I encourage you to read both chapters 3 and 4 of John back-to-back because I believe John put these two accounts back to back for a reason.
It is incredible to see the main themes and similarities of how Jesus presents the gospel to two totally different people of opposing social ranks in that society.
And he does it using language that they would be able to relate to and understand.
The implication of these two accounts is that the gospel if for everyone.
After the woman asks Jesus how he could ask her to get water Jesus immediately says
John 4:10 ESV
10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”
Jesus does not really address her question but rather cuts straight to the heart of the matter. There is no small talk. My kind of guy.
This is because Jesus knew exactly who she was and that his interaction with her was part of His father’s work.
He was accomplishing something here with this woman for her sake, His disciple’s sake, the town’s sake, and even for our own sake because we are studying it 2000 years later.
Jesus steers the conversation away from the physical realm and opens her eyes to the spiritual world of the Kingdom of God.
She asks him how he can get water out of the well with nothing to draw water with.
The well is deep she said.
It is thought that Jacob’s well was about 100 feet deep.
In John 4:13-14 Jesus again does not really answer her question but says....
John 4:13–14 ESV
13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Then she said
John 4:15 ESV
15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”
It is important to see that she is still stuck in the physical realm at this point of the conversation.
She is so concerned with the physical aspect of getting water and loves the idea of not having to come to the well to draw water up out of this 100 foot well.
But then Jesus turns the conversation again ignoring her statement not to be rude but to drill down into her heart and we read:
John 4:16–20 ESV
16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”
Jesus, supernaturally knows that she has had five husbands and is now living in sin with another man.
Because she of this insight that Jesus has, she now is beginning to think in spiritual terms.
She begins to come to the conclusion that Jesus is a prophet.
This is very significant because the Samaritans only believed in the 5 books the Bible. They did not adhere to or give credence to the prophets of the old testament.
And now we see her change the subject, either out of guilt and feeling uncomfortable about a man who told her everything she did wrong, or perhaps she started to believe in Jesus and legitimately wanted an answer to this question.
John 4:19–20 ESV
19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”
The Jews believed the place they should worship was in Jerusalem and the Samaritans believed it was on Mt. Garizim.
I don’t have time to go into the history of this and the why but it is important to note that her heart is steered towards a question of worship.
It is as if Jesus has gotten to her core and she was now beginning to turn toward the spiritual plane.
This point of contention on where to worship was a huge debate and controversy. It is thought that the temple on Mt. Gerizim was destroyed about 100 years before this, so maybe she is really wanting to learn more about this and thinks Jesus can shed light on it.
And here is where we come to our key verses.
John 4:21–24 ESV
21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But 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. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Jesus gets to the heart of the matter and reveals to her something she has never heard considered.
It is the gospel. Because of the gospel, it does not matter who you are or where you worship.
The building does not matter but rather it is important that the worshiper now dwells in spirit and in truth.
This would have been such a massive shift in thought and thinking and one of hope.
It broke down the barrier between Jew, Samaritan or any other people group.
Jesus is saying that God is seeking anyone who will worship him in Spirit and in truth.
The criteria is not where they physically worshiped or where they were at in social standing.
It is now going to be to worship in spirit and truth.
To help us define being in the Spirit we can look to John 3.
John 3:5-6
John 3:5–6 ESV
5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Jesus is telling Nicodemus here in verse 6 that you have to be born of the Holy Spirit and once that happens you are of the spirit or in spirit.
And so with this understanding in mind, we can take a phrase like worship in spirit and truth and conclude that Jesus is saying true worshipers will be born again because they are born in the Spirit.
And the result of being in the spirit goes hand in hand with being in the truth.
It is amazing to read in John the connection between the Holy Spirit and truth which is fully revealed in Jesus and his words.
John 14:6 ESV
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
John 14:16–17 ESV
16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
John 15:26 ESV
26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.
John 16:13 ESV
13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
The indwelling of the Holy Spirit reveals to us the truth of God’s word.
Our worship is to be guided by the Holy Spirit because it directs us towards God’s truth which in turn means our worship points to the truth of God.
Being in the truth goes deeper than simply knowing what is true, but it means that you are aware of what is real.
It is being aware of your surroundings and knowing the reality of your situation.
It has to do with the revelation of true reality.
I like how the Holman Illustrated Bible dictionary puts it regarding the word truth.
Jesus is the true way leading to life, and men should not come to Him seeking truth but, because He is the end of the search, the revealed reality of God.”
The ultimate source of truth is the revealed reality of God.
And in the revelation of the reality of the Kingdom of God we see that we are called to live out our life in this world understanding the tension between the present and the future.
Worshiping in Spirit and Truth means that we are to be concerned with real things things that are spiritual and true.
And we are certainly given the example of this by Jesus in the concluding section of this passage.
We read this in John 4:28-35
John 4:28–35 ESV
28 So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” 30 They went out of the town and were coming to him. 31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.
I love to think how every word in our Bible is there for a reason and I find it fascinating that John thought it was important to note that the woman left her water jar.
It almost seems like she has gone from thinking of physical water only and now left in such a haste to tell others . Physical water is the furthest thing from her mind.
And then the disciples return and now it is they who were thinking in terms of physical food.
This is why we really needed to look at all 45 verses in order to understand what jesus means by worshiping in Spirit and in truth.
In these 45 verses, There are at least 4 examples that Jesus uses to show us the spiritual world.
First the you have physical water compared to living water.
Second you have a physical place of worship compared to worshiping in Spirit
Third you have Physical food and then spiritual food.
And fourth you have the physical harvest and then the spiritual harvest.
I believe the story of the woman at the well is not only about worshiping in Spirit and Truth but also a lesson about how we need to be aware of the work that we are to do which is the harvest.
You see the disciples trying to get Jesus to eat food as I am sure they were concerned for him after a long journey, and now you have the whole town coming out to meet Jesus.
But he tells his Disciples that His food was to do the work of the Father. He was aware of the ripe harvest that needed to be gathered.
He was living in the reality of the kingdom of God.
Jesus is showing this woman, his disciples, and us that if we let the distractions of physical water and physical food be our focus, we end up missing the reality of God’s kingdom.
We need to be made aware of how the seemingly mundane and normal things that we do in this life are symbols and part of the spiritual realm of the Kingdom of God.
If you were to look at this story without a spiritual lens, it would appear to be a normal conversation.
This could be a normal water cooler conversation in an office.
But for those who live in Spirit and truth, this means that the normal water cooler moments have spiritual implications.
The fields are ready for harvest and Jesus is telling us to open our eyes to that reality.
The harvest was a real and important part of an agricultural society but Jesus shows them there is a “spirit and truth” harvest that is more important.
Jesus knows that we need to eat food but our true food, the food of spirit and truth is to accomplish the work of God.
We drink physical water for our physical body’s sake but it is more important that we also daily partake of “spirit and truth” water which is what will sustain us for an eternity.
We worship in a building now because we want to be out to the rain and snow but in the reality of the gospel is we worship anywhere and the building does not matter because the kingdom of God has now come.


So as we conclude, how does this affect our life?
Well first I think our worship is to be guided by truth, that is it is to be guided by the revealed reality of who God is.
Or songs and our prayers must be true. And we will know what is true because the Spirit is there to guide us.
Second I think that our actions must be guided by this truth, because the reality of God’s kingdom reminds us that this world is not our home.
We need to live our lives in confidence and joy knowing that if our physical water dries up and our food goes away we are still promised eternal life with Jesus.
When we come to church and we sing songs and listen to God’s word there is so much more going on.
If we are too concerned with our physical world and circumstances we will miss out on the joy of living in the revealed truth of God’s kingdom.
I have been doing a lot of flying for my new job and one of the best parts of travel for me is when I get to sit in a window seat and look down at the earth below.
When I do that I am always so inspired by the landscape and the mountains.
It is easy to look at this amazing landscape and be inspired and awed by the view alone but Romans tells us that nature reveals the glory of God.
So when I am looking 3 miles down to the amazing scenery of God’s creation I am pointed not to the amazing landscape and view but rather towards God’s glory and reminded that this no matter how great that view is, it is but a dim shadow of the kingdom of God and what is to come.
It is easy to become too focused on the the symbolic mountain tops of the wins and joys in our life or the low valleys of physical ailment or loss.
If we only focus on the present physical reality we will lose sight of the joy set before us.
It is easy to look at the waves crashing around us and forget that all that is going on is going on for a reason.
The joys, the struggles, your job, your pain, is all just the surface but when you peel it back you will see that God is working all things in your life together for His good for those who love him.
So as we worship in Spirit and in truth we are doing something that is of upmost important because it is what we were created for.
Being in church and gathering together represents a unity of the bride of christ and a foreshadow of what is to come.
Mankind’s life is but a breath and we need to stop trying to find our life in this physical world but rather embrace the reality of our true life found in the Holy Spirit and revealed reality of God’s kingdom.
This means that everything we do in this life matters.
Whether you are parenting, working a job you don’t like, going to the grocery store.... whatever. It all matters because we have been given the truth. of the reality of God.
I pray that God helps us worship in spirit and truth as we all live in spirit and truth.
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