"God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth." John, chapter 4, verse 24.
ALL the themes with which we are dealing in this present series are important, and not the least is the practice of worship. The average unconverted person thinks that worship is a matter of attendance in a consecrated building where there will be hymns and chants, possibly ritual, the saying of prayers and worst of all the risk of listening to a sermon which, whatever its length, will be intolerably long! He wonders how it is possible for any intelligent person to endure such martyrdom and concludes that the whole business has wriggled itself into human arrangements for a particular and certainly peculiar class of people. He is confirmed in this view to some extent because quite a number of people who profess to be "good Churchmen " are evidently confident that their goodness and their Churchmanship can be well preserved without very frequent attendance at public worship. He quite understands the plaint at the recent Methodist Conference that in the country towns and villages there are a number of Methodist Chapels attended by a diminishing group of old people.
The believer, enjoying life indeed in Christ, could not possibly find any point of correspondence with such a view. He is clearly commanded not to forsake the assembling of himself with other believers, " as the manner of some is." He, of course, must have his daily devotions with the Lord in private but just as a family to be a family must be gathered and live under one roof so there is to be the larger gathering of the redeemed Church, to share together the one life of the Lord, to recognise and respond to the ministry of the Holy Spirit and so to be individually and collectively nourished by prayer and the word. Every child of God knows the terrific power of the crowd when he stands alone in the Name of Christ. The world knows the enthusiasm of the mass. So too, this and much more is to be known by the believer every time he gathers with other believers for worship. Why is this not so?
There may be many reasons why services of worship are dull. The minister charged with the primary responsibility of conducting the worship of the gathered Church will not seek to escape from considerations concerning himself. How far has he been in living communion with the heavenlies? ' What does he know experimentally of life within the veil? Has his own redeemed spirit found its complete satisfaction in the fellowship of the human spirit with the Divine? All these are matters, for which he is accountable to God and which once recognised, will cause him to tremble every time he reaches the steps that lead to the pulpit. But there are matters to be borne in mind even by those who think little about worship.
The first is that the first crime recorded in Scripture arose out of worship. We must conclude that Abel and Cain had been instructed in worship. It was not a matter of what they thought or how sincere they were but essentially what was the worship God required. Abel drew near to God in that frame of mind but Cain came resolved to worship God, as he thought was suitable. In worshipping God according to his own ideas he grieved God with the result that instead of worship drawing him nearer to God, it enflamed within him a deep hatred of his brother, and nothing would satisfy him until his brother's blood was shed. Evidently, therefore, worship is not such a simple matter as the multitudes today think.
The second important fact is that when Satan challenged our Lord in the wilderness he showed Him the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, declaring they belonged to him. However, he was willing to hand them over to our Lord on a precise condition: " If Thou wilt fall down and worship me." So worship Godwards is not the only possibility! It may seem to be a worthless business to the unconverted, yet Satan, to get it, would surrender the kingdoms of the world! That of course, requires careful consideration and we shall be even more intrigued as we reflect that if Satan would have the impudence to tempt our Lord to worship him, he will have no scruples in tempting us in the realm of worship. There is, therefore, the possibility that in spite of all our smug common sense we, even we, may at some time, and possibly frequently, have been engaged in worshipping the Devil.
Therefore, worship is important. How we come, our demeanour, our clothes, our thoughts, our attitude, our speech or our silence are all important. In worshipping God, in spirit, according to His will and revelation, we are endued with all power to resist all evil. We energise our fellow worshippers with all the replenishments of love and patience and the Lord is magnified in our hearts. From all these blessings Satan will seek to detract us. In such circumstances none is to act, to dress with any marks of eminence or to allow himself to stand out in prominence, in order that all may be on their faces before God. They are sinners saved by grace who have no title to be present in worship, except by the grace of God, which in mercy has found them, and redeemed them out of this present evil world. With all this in view we may consider three major matters:-
(1) WORSHIP MUST BE IN SPIRIT
While it includes it, it is much more than sincerity. God is SPIRIT! They who worship Him must likewise be in spirit. We are therefore taken back to the constitution of the believer. Regeneration, a particular and exceptional form of conversion, is an act of the Lord Who brings to life the spirit, which from our birth has been dead in trespasses and sin. It is the one and only faculty by which a person may have fellowship with God. God is not worshipped by any faculty of the flesh. He is not seeking the worship of such people. He seeks those that will worship Him in spirit and in truth. It is remarkable that even Christians can miss the important teaching implied in our text. God does not hear the human voice; He hears the utterance of the born again spirit. Human words have no value except as they express what is the deep yearning and desire of the spirit. A careful consideration of the teaching of Scripture will show that we are not heard because of any carnal faculty of the flesh but because in our approach to God we seek to give exercise to a faculty which can develop only by the most intimate communion with God the Father of spirits.
Audible prayer in the midst of a congregation gives the unity of mind and heart to which all present in the Lord give their assent but that which affects God is the inward unseen reaching out together of the spirits of God's people in sweet accord. Therefore, in so far as the hymn is Scriptural it will assist the spirit. The prayers that evoke the Amen of all present are potent in fellowship, the reading of the Word will become the channel by which the Holy Spirit enlightens and illuminates the spirit of the mind. While the message as it springs from the inspired Word, and is declared in the power of the Holy Spirit, will inspire, enthuse, exhilarate and empower the hearing by the spirit in faith. No child of God can contemplate these things without desiring to know the highest experience so opened to those who worship God in spirit and in truth. It is therefore a question as to how this may be attained.
The first step is to recognise that the Father is seeking these "spirit" worshippers. Let me be well assured that the longing of God's heart is for the worship of my born-again spirit. Because He is so seeking let us so seek Him. We shall not appreciate that in this new approach our spirit, as distinct from our soul, is now seeking God. We shall be quite unable, in fact, to distinguish the activity of the spirit yet we may well assured that in this approach to Him the Spirit, our spirit will become active in worship. Whatever seeking there is will ultimately become the seeking of the human spirit. Draw near to Him the Father of spirits, who is seeking this mysterious communion with your spirit. We all know the joy of finding something that was lost, we have all had experience of greeting a dear one we have not seen for a long time. There is an ecstatic moment in which our whole emotional life is overwhelmed with the thought and knowledge that the lost thing has been found, the absent dear one is with us again. Even so when thus we have been seeking there will be a moment when in spirit we shall at once be found of God and shall find God.. In that blessed and holy communion of the human spirit with the Holy Spirit of the Father and the Son our spiritual delight and joy will reach its excellence and overwhelming delight and joy. We shall know what it means to worship Him in spirit and in truth and the ecstasy, as we thus have fellowship with those of like experience, will transcend all we have ever imagined in spiritual worship. Unfortunately, there are many Christians who not knowing of this possibility have never sought it. They assume that the experience of their souls in a thrilling and exciting evangelistic campaign is the very best there is to be known. Some do not even know any emotional uplift. For them the business of worship is a ceremonial defined and limited to the four walls in which they gather. They sense the importance of the service by the importance of the people present. All this can be and indeed is Satanic deception.,
(2) WORSHIP IN MEDIATION
The Scriptures record our Lord's words very clearly. " No man cometh unto the Father but by Me." At least that puts the rest of mankind upon a common basis and those who claim special and particular powers in mediation with the Father must prove their claims beyond the shadow of a doubt. For the Lord's redeemed people who know worship in the spirit the mediation of the Living Lord in heaven, their Great High Priest, Melchesidec, His ministry unique, vital and eternal is beyond question. They see and know that no other human being who has ever existed is of the least importance in this mediation. They do not hesitate in their sure conviction that all others who perpetrate illusions of ritual, magical, divine power by virtue of an ecclesiastical office are misleading people and perhaps themselves, being ignorant of the truth by reason of their neglect of the revelation of the Word. This marvellous and unique mediation of our Blessed Lord has two aspects for our purpose this morning
First, it is the mediation of His blood. This is mediation beyond mortal powers to define. Evangelists and what are termed "fundamentalists" use the phrase without being able sometimes to convey to others what is the concept in their minds. In consequence those who listen ignorantly or critically are somewhat mystified. What do we mean by the mediation of blood shed by our Lord 2000 years ago? Let us frankly admit that there is far more ignorance than knowledge in our answer as indeed there is bound to be. Perhaps we may venture to use words in relation to a marvellous revelation that we know are utterly inadequate. However we may affirm that we believe that what happened at Calvary, as the nails were driven in and the side was pierced, was an epoch in time, within the realm of the human, expressing what happened in God before the foundation of the world. We cannot accept the idea that Jesus suffered to appease the wrath of God as a simple issue. Redemption was before creation and the Cross with all its horror indicates in the temporal human context the unfathomable thing that happened in God before the world was, in order to secure the ends of redemption. It may be theologically defective and philosophically impossible, but this is revelation and the redeemed spirit that knows the wonder of the mediation knows that he is on holy ground. Holy ground indeed it is, when the worshipper in spirit thus draws nigh by the blood of Jesus, and senses the awesomeness of the privilege, the costliness of the grace that by a newly slain and living way opens heaven itself to the believer. He will not need a consecrated building; he will know experimentally that wherever the spirit by the mediation of the blood of Christ seeks God the Spirit, there the ladder up to heaven is revealed with angels ascending and descending.
The second thought in mediation is that the Great High Priest, the Living Word, divides between soul and spirit. All true worship in spirit manifests to the worshipper in his worship the difference between sou1 and spirit. That, of course, is one of the supreme objectives of God in worship. The need of every believer is the continual exercise of the knife, sharper than any two edged sword which by an operation of heaven divides to the enlightened conscience the subtle frontier between the carnal and the spiritual. If we are worshipping in spirit, Jesus from heaven will put the knife at a point and place of division of which carnal worship can never be conscious. In such enlightenment the believer knows that his moral nature must be governed not by society but by God. He realises that God is exposing to him everything that stands between the pure fellowship of the redeemed spirit and Himself. That which is under the knife the believer must will to renounce. It is only in such moments of revelation that the spiritual believer can be released from the earthly, and sense and taste the powers of the world to come, as all the handicaps of time are renounced. In this dual mediation of the blood and the knife the believer comes to God in worship. How near he gets to God, and how realistically he, understands the poverty and carnality of a life that is lived without entrance within the veil. Every such season finds his born again spirit endued afresh with energy from the throne.
3)WORSHIP MUST BE IN THE MINISTRY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
The new convert will not forget that by his constitution as a believer he is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. In worship therefore we must expect that the Spirit dwelling within us will be supremely active. Worship rightly understood is not a passive state, it is not the discharge of an irksome duty but the submission of the whole being to the Father of spirits for His ends in the life of the believer. Therefore as the High Priest wields the knife; that is sharper than any two- edged sword, and finds the believer obedient then the Holy Spirit will do His work within the believer.
First that work is to fashion in every believer the image of the One Who is worshipped. We do not worship God to pay homage alone although that is indeed a great privilege, but we worship God because in that worship God deigns that we shall become like Him Whom we worship. We are all becoming like what we worship. If we worship money, we cannot help becoming mean, grasping, greedy and self-centred. We tell ourselves that people know how careful we are, what good businessmen we are, but they do not! They know us precisely according to the god we worship. If we are really seeking God in worship it must be because we desire to be like Him. No man has ever been near to God unless at least in his heart there was a desire to be holy as God is holy.
Therefore, as we behold the Lord of glory in faith and rapture the Holy Spirit proceeds to fashion within us that which commands our love, our aspiration, our faith. It is the will of the Father that the Holy Spirit shall reproduce in the humblest believer the image of the Lord of glory. If this ministry is fashioned in worship in the individual, it has its effects in the gathered company. In such circumstances envy, pride, superiority, find no place. The eyes of each believer being thus enlightened he sees so much more of Christ in others than ever can he see in himself ; for there is nothing but unworthiness. He begins to thank God for the grace, the humility, the Christlike character that he perceives in his fellow believers, he finds himself drawn out in love towards them. He does not know it but this is God the Holy Spirit moulding the fellowship according to the Divine pattern and energising the gathered company for all its life and ministry.
And after the contacts with a carnal world all through the week, how good it is to meet with such men and women on the Sunday! Meeting thus with God and meeting also with such choice souls, drawing near to the Father of spirits and to the spirits of just men made perfect what a privilege indeed to live for. The believer who knows these things will not spend the morning lying in bed, he will never be wilfully absent. On the contrary, to be in the company of kindred spirits and with them to enter within the veil will be one of the ecstatic joys of life never to be missed. The new convert should lay these things to heart. He should be careful to give to his Sunday morning worship its supreme place. He will be misled if he puts service before worship. He will indeed have little with which to serve if the service takes the place of this sublime experience at the throne of grace with all other believers. God has reserved some of the most glorious experiences and blessings for those who worship Him in spirit and in truth. This is the secret of all blessing. Where Christians put service in place of worship their own spiritual life suffers, the quality of their service will be affected and the time may come when the will to lead others to the Saviour and the power to bring forth spiritual children has perished. Little remains but ineffectiveness and regrets, or worse still a foolish self-satisfaction in what a wonderful work we have done for God. Let us seek the shining way for it leads to glories upon glories, blessings once experienced never to be missed.
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