Transformative Worship

Transformative Worship

John 4.23-24

 

Introduction: Imbalanced Worship.

During the 17th century the common habit among young men was to study theology. The historians to tell us that these young could discuss and defend sound doctrine, but they did not have the “spirit” of worship. They lacked a passion and zeal for God. These practices are more similar to Greek stoics than true Christian worship.

 

Today there are many churches in America that can orchestrate a strong performance that can make us feel like our hearts are jumping out of our chest. But these churches will spoon feed their people watered down teaching and singing. These practices are more similar to eastern mysticism than true Christian worship.

 

In our text today we have the same tension—READ John 4.19-20. The tension this woman is recognizing in her historical context is a same one we would affirm in ours. The Jews during this time would have been like the 17th century young men—disciplined students of sound doctrine, but they lacked a heart for God. The Samaritans would have been like our modern mystical churches—passionate people, but lacking in truth.

 

The solution Jesus offers this woman will reveal how we can resolve this tension in our time. The solution Jesus offers will transform both extremes. I would summarize Jesus’ solution as…

 

Theme: True transformative worship engages both the heart and mind.

 

1. Transformative Worship Is Transformed—John 4.21-24.

In John 4.21 Jesus said, “…the hour is coming,” in verse 23 he says it is “now here.” Jesus is telling her His presence on earth, His coming, is the beginning of the end. What end? The end of the old way of doing things. The incarnation of Christ is beginning to institute the new covenant promises given in the OT. In the OLD covenant the Spirit of God would come and go as God chose. But in the NEW covenant the Spirit of God comes and permanently dwells in God’s people. Various prophets throughout the OT described this in various ways. Jeremiah describes it as God writing His law on our very hearts (Jer 31.31-34). Ezekiel gives us the image of a heart of stone being turned into a heart of flesh (Ezek 36.22-32). Even Moses hinted at this in the TORAH when he told us in Deuteronomy 10 to circumcise our hearts (Deut 10.16), but later told us in Deuteronomy 30 that God will circumcise our hearts (Duet 30.6). All of the desires of our hearts are TRANSFORMED into godly desires. In order to continue to unravel this truth we need to continue to explore more of the language in this passage.

 

In the OT the “TEMPLE” was a place the people of God would go to worship. But as I mentioned last week, in the NT worship is not about a place but a people. According to Rom 12, I Cor 3, 6, II Cor 6, I Pet 2, and many others, God’s people now referred as  “LIVING TEMPLES.” In the OT the Temple was a place where people went to experience the presence of God through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit dwelt in the Temple. But now, according to the new covenant, every Christian is a living temple and the presence of the Holy Spirit is in us. Wherever we go we go to worship. This is what Jesus wants this woman to understand. It is not about the mountain verses the Temple. Worship is no longer about a place but a people. We no longer to go to a place to offer regular sacrifices, but according to Romans 12 Jesus’ one time sacrifice TRANSFORMED us into living sacrifice.

 

The “HOUR” language is used all throughout the NT Gospels. Most scholars agree it is about the “DEATH” and “RESURRECTION” of Christ. The “hour” language is pointing us to the beginning of the end. The Gospels writers connect these truths for us. At the Cross of Christ we see various descriptions that help us connect the dots. For instance, we are told right before Jesus’ death that the whole sky went black. This same image is given in Revelation 4 when the apostle John is standing underneath the throne of God. In a very real sense God’s throne is beginning to burst forth through the death of Jesus Christ. We also know that during this time that the curtain in the Temple is torn in two. This curtain symbolized a separation between God and His people. Our sinful lives were too impure to fully experience His holy presence—it would have consumed us. Therefore, this image is communicating to us that the barrier between God and His people (sin) has been removed.

 

And when we truly embrace the Cross and Resurrection of Christ, we are set free to worship God anytime and anywhere. But when don’t embrace the Cross of Christ, and the Resurrection of Christ, our worship is the equivalent of a dead person worshiping. And dead people don’t worship. According to the Bible we are born spiritually dead, and we need to be made alive to worship. Embracing the Cross and Resurrection transforms our spirits—our spiritual lives are restored. Even for those who have started down this transformation we still go back to this for continued transformation. The longer you read the NT you will see how the apostles ground all of their instructions in the Cross Christ or the Resurrection of Christ. Are we continuing to embrace the Cross and Resurrection friends? Do we know how to ground our habitual life patterns in the Cross and Resurrection of Christ? Transformative worships begins with this.

 

2. Transformative Worship Is Biblical—John 4.22.

Not only do we need to be transformed to experience transformative worship, but it also needs to be Biblical. I mentioned this last week, but one of the major points of tension between the Jews and Samaritans was around what belonged in the Bible. The Samaritans would not affirm some of the Scriptures I mentioned earlier as the Word of God. Ever so slightly Jesus confirms that the Jews have this right—READ John 4.22.

 

Jesus was not saying Samaritans lacked passion. But their passion was not coupled with truth. Just because someone is passionate about something does not mean they are right. Anyone who has been around young children long enough can see this. You can stop a child from touching a hot stove or light socket, and they will passionately cry because they believe they are right. But we know they are not right. They don’t understand why you are keeping this from them. The Bible brings us into reality. The Bible guides and protects us like a parent. It tells us what is true and what is false. It tells us what is pleasing to God, and if it is pleasing to God it will be pleasing to us in the end. Transformative worship is Biblical because it will make sure we are worshiping the One True God, and not some false god we have made up in our minds to just make us happy or get what we want. When that is our motivation of worship then what is at the center of our worship is ourselves, not the God revealed in the Bible.

 

3. Transformative Worship is Comprehensive—John 23-24.

Jesus was once asked in Matthew 22.37 what was the greatest commandment in the Bible and He answered with Deuteronomy 6.4-5. In Israel this passage was called the “SHEMA,” which means “Hear, O Israel.” What the “Shema” reveals is there is ONE God and we are to worship Him with our whole being—heart, soul and might. All of these words describe something internal happening in us. What Jesus is revealing to this woman is God has an inward being, and because we are made in His image, we also have an inward being—READ John 4.23-24.

 

I believe Jesus is saying God has an inward being. In I Corinthians 2.11-13 Paul tells us God has an inward being and we have an inward being.  So why do I say this inward transformation is comprehensive? There are Christians who believe that humanity is broken up into 3 parts—body, soul, and spirit. This group is called the trichotomist. They believe the soul is the heart, and the spirit is the mind. Personally I think we are broken up into two parts—body and soul. This is called the dichotomist position. With that said I believe our souls are broken up into two parts—thoughts and desires—or minds and hearts. Whether someone is a trichotomist or dichotomist, all theologians agree the whole person must be engaged in worship. Transformative worship will hold these two together knowing when we are truly transformed it is comprehensive. Our thoughts and desires are transformed. Our hearts and minds are transformed.

 

If we want to truly engage in transformative worship then we need to engage the whole selves—both body and soul OR body, soul & spirit. If we want to experience truly transformative worship then it is not about entering into one extreme over the other. Our worship should connect with our hearts, but also our minds. Our worship should stimulate our minds and our hearts. For instance, good transformative preaching will not just be some mere dry lecture, but requires passionate pleas from the preacher that pierces the heart. While good transformative music will not just resonate with our hearts, but should arouse our minds to think deeply on the depths of God.