Worship God in Spirit and Truth

Posted: October 17, 2013 by revivalbiblestudy315 in Bible Study
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Worship God in Spirit and Truth

“But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23, 24).

J.C. Rylee stated, “Beware of manufacturing a god of your own: A god who is all mercy but not just, a god who is all love, but not holy, a god who has a heaven for everybody but a hell for none … Such a god is an idol of your own. The hands of your own fancy and sentimentality have made him. He is not the God of the Bible.”

Since time memorial, the enemy of our souls has used two primary assaults to corrupt and weaken the mission of the church in this poor-fallen world. They are licentiousness on one hand, which attempts to turn the grace of God into a license to sin and legalism on the other hand, which adds to the moral commands of God based upon the traditions of men. In other words, religious systems that place burdens upon men that God never intended them to bear. Jesus exposed this in his day by declaring, “For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.But all their works they do to be seen by men” (Matthew 23:4, 5a).

Both strategies, adding and subtracting from God’s Word, have gained a measure of success throughout church history in waylaying people. It has led many astray, shipwrecked faithfulness, inspired heresies, and promoted apostasy. Minimally, it has stunted the growth of healthy, sound Christians who should be actively engaged in fulfilling God’s will in the earth.

Matthew 7:13, 14 teaches, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Becausenarrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Contrary to the world’s fixation with relativism, diversity, tolerance, and multiculturalism, Jesus proclaimed an exclusive, narrow way that leads to God’s salvation. It is this ultimate reality stated by Christ that invokes much of the world’s disdain against Christianity. How dare one person, Jesus Christ, claim exclusive rights upon truth (John 14:6, Acts 4:12)? On this narrow path, which Isaiah describes as a highway of holiness, however, there are ditches on both sides of the road (Isaiah 35:8). Again, these ditches are licentiousness and legalism.

God is His goodness, gave us His explicit guidance in His word to avoid these ditches in our journey of faith, which culminates in everlasting life. Our opening verse in John grants us insight to keep us on the narrow path. John 4:21-24 states:

Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.

In revealing himself as Messiah to this woman at the well, Jesus teaches us two important spiritual virtues that are necessary to avoid a fruitless life in God’s Kingdom. They are critical to keeping us on track with God’s worship and service. They act as two sides of the same coin of the Christian faith. They provide the proper divine tension to help us grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ and help protect us from the schemes of the enemy. What are they? They are Spirit and Truth.

Unfortunately, for many Christians, these two indispensable supports to our faith have become quite confused in these dark, deceptive days. Some seek to pit truth against spirit or law against grace. These God ordained spiritual realities were not meant by God to be considered enemy combatants, which are hostile towards one another. It is error to consider them as adversaries, when they are in truth, allies in the cause of Christ. Each was meant to have a distinct role working together in harmony to keep God’s people growing straight, strong, and true in their sanctification.

Some prefer love or “spirit” at the expense of truth, thereby loving people straight to hell. Others are warriors for the truth, but lack a genuine love for the souls they are seeking to influence for Christ. Some are so spooky spiritual, not only are they not any earthly good as the saying goes, but they can be downright dangerous.

I saw this vividly demonstrated in confronting a “Christian” leader a few years ago. This man and his church pursued subjective spiritual experiences with a vengeance. They did so at the expense of sound doctrine. Here was a man with questionable beliefs and practices, enjoying tremendous exposure, money, and “success,” while falling into gross sin. Instead of the church loving him enough to truly discipline him according to God’s Word, those who were his “covering,” glossed over his sin in order to restore him back to ministry. They could not afford the loss of revenue this man generated.

They believed, contrary to the truth, that his gifting was more important than his character. Biblically, spiritual gifts are given by God, but spiritual fruit is grown. Immature believers in Christ and the world may be enamored with gifting, but God, however, is impressed with character. Besides this, the nature of his sin disqualified him from serving as a leader in God’s church, though we prayed that he would be restored to the Lord and properly restored to the church. In stating this desire for his soul, however, he was still not morally qualified to govern in the Lord’s house according to the Pastoral Epistles articulated by the Apostle Paul in 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. God has a much higher standard, judgment and scrutiny upon those who dare to lead in God’s church. James 3:1 plainly states, “My brethren, be not many teachers, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.”

The covering church seemed oblivious to these Biblical requirements. They were more interested in subjective spiritual experiences. Their main pursuits were dreams, visions, angels and the like. It is no wonder, they would avoid sound doctrine and the objective truth in dealing with life’s moral failings and challenges. Even in the narratives contained in the Bible, great men and women of God experienced spiritual manifestations on a limited basis. Their lives were not one continuous miraculous experience. On rare occasions, however, God did communicate and intervened in miraculous ways to save his people. Tragically, this church, which is symptomatic of many today, thought this is to be the rule, (ongoing spiritual manifestatons) rather than the exception. To be led by the “Spirit” in their world is to be led continually by subjective spiritual experiences, rather than the Lord primarily speaking and guiding His people through His infallible, immutable, and inerrant Word. It has and is proving to be a recipe for disaster and deception for the churches who pursue this spiritual folly.

In John 7:38, 39 Jesus promised, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” In order for the true river of God’s Holy Spirit to flow properly in the church and in each individual believer, there must be strong embankments. It is the pressure of God’s truth upon the soul of the believer that assures the sparkling, cleansing, and refreshing river of God functions according to our Lord’s promise. Take away the embankments, which represents God’s moral law, truth, and sound doctrine, and the river will become a pond, which produces all manner of scum and uncleanness.

2 Peter 1:16-21 states:

For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. And so we have the prophetic word confirmed,which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
The Apostle Peter in this passage of Scripture reveals the proper order and priority when it comes to the relationship between spiritual experiences and the written word of the Lord. He does not deny that he experienced the Lord’s glory and power on the Mount of Transfiguration. Talk about spiritual manifestation, he saw the Lord transformed before his very eyes and heard with his own ears God the Father approve of His Son “from the excellent glory.” Yet, after this miraculous visitation, he teaches the church that we have a more sure word of prophecy, the written revelation contained in the 66 books of the Holy Bible.

In stating these truths, I do not want to leave the impression that I believe the miraculous realm of God has ceased in our day. I’m not a cessationist, one who believes the miraculous realm of God ended with the death of the Apostles. To do so, would deny God’s dealings in my own life. God used the miraculous to get the attention of a rebellious, stubborn punk like me to submit to His call upon my life. They are still rare, but they happened nonetheless.

Thankfully, the Apostle Paul grants us in I Corinthians 14 the proper relationship between God’s gifts of the Spirit and sound doctrine in the church. Commenting along these lines, he declared, “Let all things be done decently and in order (1 Corinthians 14:40).” In context, he was speaking of a Biblical church service, which allows for the manifestation of the Holy Spirit to function. This was to be tempered by divine order to help guide the service in honoring our Lord and benefiting His people. In American churches today, there are few who achieve this delicate balance. Some are so decent and orderly, but they leave no room for the Holy Spirit to operate in their midst. They become dead as the substitute the life of God with religious ceremony. Other churches “let all things be done,” but they are spiritually out of control. They set aside decency and order and allow all manner of spiritual wackiness to deceive the church.

Tragically, in our day, much of the glory has departed from the American church as our nation is adrift on the sea of blood and perversion. While other nations are experiencing great miracles and divine intervention, America is suffering from a spiritual drought. God, it seems, is hiding His face from us. Perhaps it is due to our turning our backs on Him and tolerating the intolerable. Regardless, most Christians look at the Bible and perhaps have studied the history of revivals and have certain expectations. They know there should be certain manifestations, which reveal God’s power and demonstration of His Spirit in the church today (1 Corinthians 2:4).

If God is not pouring out His Spirit and reviving His people, however, man shouldn’t attempt to artificially produce a revival. If God is not moving by His Spirit, it is foolish to pretend otherwise. As way of example, in the Midwest there are parks that are miles away from oceans and have machines that produce man-made waves to enjoy surfing, but it is not the real deal. Such is the error of those who seek to fulfill in the flesh what only God can do by His Spirit. They invariably become as the Bible decrees, “clouds without rain (Jude 1:12).”

Tragically, so many are lost seeking signs, wonders, angels, dreams, visions, miracles, and other spiritual manifestations to cope with the cruelty of this world or their intolerable conditions. As a result, much of the church is being led by subjective experiences of men, rather than the objective truth of God’s word. For instance, I have confronted a few so-called “women pastors.” When I ask them by what authority do they rule in the house of God, invariably they tell me that they had a dream, vision, or someone prophesied to them this position. I then take them to the word of the Lord, which forbids them to govern in God’s house and then ask them, “If God’s word says one thing and a spiritual experience dictates another, who should you obey?” Sadly, most of them choose the spiritual experience, rather than the sound teaching of Scripture.

God’s word must be the umpire to judge all spiritual experiences. The Bible warns that Satan can produce lying sings and wonders. Remember Jannes and Jambres of Moses’ day? Their poles turned into snakes, just like Moses’ pole. Gratefully, Moses’ snake swallowed both of them up to prove the supremacy of God’s power. In this we see that Satan is a counterfeiter. In order to have a counterfeit, however, you must have an original. In other words, in order to have lying signs and wonders, there must be true signs and wonders. Let us not be guilty of throwing the baby out with the bath water.

To distinguish between the two, the Bible tells us to test the spirits to see if they proceed from God (1 John 4:1). How do we test them? If they don’t agree with God’s word or confirm God’s word, the Holy Spirit is not the author of that experience or teaching. The Holy Spirit will never lead anyone to violate the veracity of Scripture. He will only guide us into all truth (John 16:13). He is called to bring into our remembrances the teachings of our Lord (John 13:26). He will never contradict them.

To sum up this teaching let us close with Mark 16:15-20:

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; theywill take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.

To stay on track with God and His divine purposes, we are not called to seek signs and wonders. Remember, Jesus told us that only a wicked and adulterous generation seeks such things (Matthew 16:4). In other words, wickedness and adultery are the fruits of seeking signs. This is what we are witnessing today. In the age of infidelity, it is no mere coincidence that it is also the age of seeking signs. Many are obsessed running to and fro seeking a sign from God, a word from God, or a miracle from God? They run to this minister, that convention, or to this “prophet.” True signs, however, follow obedience to God’s word; they were never designed by God to lead. Thus, if the church in America is ever to experience the power, presence, and miraculous realm of God again, she must come back to the truth and preach it everywhere. According to God’s promise, the Lord will work with us by confirming His word with signs following. Amen.

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