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What do you worship? Complex, self-directed, autonomous creatures that we are, we are nevertheless programmed to worship something. It’s in our DNA. The first four of the Ten Commandments address that very issue. Paul Tripp asserts that worship is not something we occasionally do, it’s the foundation of who we are. What we worship determines our passion, personality and pursuit. It is said that if we will not worship the Creator we will worship creation. Perhaps this is surmised from reading Romans 1: “… choosing a foolish lie over God’s truth (they) gave their lives and devotion to the creature rather than to the Creator Himself…”. I think it is safe to say that we witness this very mentality merely by reading current headlines. The moral outrage over planet, animal, and even plant abuse compared to the apathy over inhumane and even murderous treatment of people created in God’s image is a glaring demonstration of an upside down value system. Disregard, disrespect and even contempt for God inverts the prioritizing of ethics, elevating the creation over the Creator. This has disastrous moral implications.
The popular thought that all religions lead to spirituality and worship is addressed by Jesus in an unlikely interchange. He comments on worship as He speaks with a sketchy woman at the well in Samaria – a very politically incorrect interchange on many levels. The Samaritans were despised, and yet even worse Jesus addressed a lowly woman, initiating a conversation, asking her for a drink – very scandalous in that day and age. As Jesus addresses the issues of immorality in her life, she quickly shifts the conversation to religious questions, a good deflective move. She inquired as to the correct place to worship, since the Samaritans had built a competing temple to the one in Jerusalem. Perhaps she knew from the prophets and Scriptures that worship was the central theme of God’s commands for His people. It was uppermost in fact, and idolatry – false worship – brought God’s purging judgments on His people repeatedly. But there was confusion. So she says “These mysteries will be made clear by He who is promised, the Anointed One.” Jesus answers “The Anointed is speaking to you. I am the One you have been looking for.” Wow! She got a lot more than she bargained for! She is having a conversation with the long-awaited Messiah. His answer was and still is intriguing. Her question pitted Jerusalem against Samaria, but He had an unexpected response that reverberates through history.
“Woman, I tell you that neither is so. Believe this: a new day is coming—in fact, it’s already here—when the importance will not be placed on the time and place of worship but on the truthful hearts of worshipers. You worship what you don’t know while we worship what we do know, for God’s salvation is coming through the Jews. The Father is spirit, and He is seeking followers whose worship is sourced in truth and deeply spiritual as well. Regardless of whether you are in Jerusalem or on this mountain, if you do not seek the Father, then you do not worship.” John 4 Voice
Incredible! What looks at first like a pass for any sincere heart narrows to a point of possibly bringing unacceptable worship. Unless you seek the God of the Jews you do not worship? Basically He is telling her that devotion through her religious system is not able to give God the true worship that He seeks. That would certainly be an unpopular answer today! Rather than being offended she is so stunned she races to her friends and acquaintances and presses them to come meet Jesus. She goes from skeptic to proselytizer. Because one woman shared with her neighbors how Jesus exposed her past and present, her whole village was transformed—many heard and believed. The Samaritans’ concept of the Messiah was that He would tell them all things. Jesus exceeded their expectations and was embraced.
In stark contrast we see the morally impeccable Jewish Nicodemus just a chapter earlier. He was waiting for a conquering king who would rescue the Jews from political domination. Nicodemus also did not expect Jesus’ response as He explained that He was the One come down from heaven to reveal the Father and heavenly things. His kingdom was not of this world – yet! The sign the Jews placed on His cross mocked Jesus for this failure. Jesus was a puzzle to this religious man who at some point became a worshiper as well.
Both stories taken together illustrate God’s interest in people – religious or wretched. He will seek us out or wait for us to seek Him, even if quietly with tentative hopes. He does not conform to our ideas of Who He should be, and He surprises us with His expansive intentions for us. Jesus is still willing to reveal Himself to the seeker. Or maybe He is seeking you as He did this Samaritan woman. What chains us to unbelief and confusion could be summed up by our worship focus, the reluctance to part with our little idols. Perhaps we cling to a belief system, a cherished sense of morality, a religious tradition, an aversion to religion, an addiction, a relationship, money, power, reputation, the fear of losing our comfortable lifestyle, or just stubborn pride. It is terrifying to question much less relinquish the security-giver we are comfortable with. Whatever it is that keeps us from abandoning ourselves to the One Who came from heaven, went back to heaven, and is coming again is our idol.
“The people who make idols will become useless like them, like all who trust in idols.” Ps 115:8 Voice
So I ask again – what do you worship? Your answer determines your destiny.