A Jewish businessman in Brooklyn decided to send his son to Israel to absorb some of the culture of the homeland. When the son returned, the father asked him to tell him about his trip. The son said, "Pop, I had a great time in Israel. By the way, I converted to Christianity." "Oh, my," said the father. What have I done?" He decided to go ask his friend Jacob what to do.
Jake said, "Funny you should ask. I too sent my son to Israel, and he also came back a Christian. Perhaps we should go see the rabbi and ask him what we should do." So they went to see the rabbi.
The rabbi said, "Funny you should ask. I too sent my son to Israel. He also came back a Christian. What is happening to our young people? Perhaps we should go talk to God and ask him what to do."
The three of them prayed and explained what had happened to their sons and asked God what to do. Suddenly a voice came loud and clear from Heaven. The Voice said, "Funny you should ask. I, too, sent my Son to Israel ....
One word to describe the fullness of knowing the Lord Jesus Christ, of receiving Him into your life: WORSHIP. To know the fullness of God is to worship Him: to lift up the name of Jesus Christ, to glorify him. He is brighter than the sun. The Spirit of God is more life giving than the breath of life.
Worship. The biggest mistake we make is to limit Worship to the activities we attend on a Sunday morning. This Sunday morning stuff is a public act of worship. Extremely important because there is something about worshipping God together, gathering, focusing on the Lord through prayer, songs, scripture, a message… by ourselves we run out of gas, so God has instructed us to gather together and worship, just as a car needs to stop and get gas, so a Christian needs to fill up the tank. Yet worship is much larger than the public gathering. Worship is a way of life, a way of thinking, a way of feeling, through-out your day and week seeing God as the center of everything you do, the purpose, the reason, practicing his values, his will, his desires. Rom. 12:1: Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in light of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy, pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship! Worship is a spiritual discipline. Challenge yourself to Change through Worship! Spiritual disciplines are meant for all people. All the disciplines like prayer, Bible Study, Fellowship, service, are the vehicle to hear from God, to know God.
My simple definition of worship: Center. Whatever, or whoever is the center of your life is whom you Worship. True worship is defined by the priority we place on who God is in our lives and where God is on our list of priorities. True worship is a matter of the heart expressed through a lifestyle of holiness.
I want to give you two more simple words to define two more key words in today’s scripture. Worship means center. And then the end of today’s scripture from John Jesus says, “God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in spirit and truth.” Spirit and truth = heart and head. Feelings and thoughts. Emotions and mind. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind and soul and strength, what you feel, think and do.
Practice the Spiritual discipline of worship ~ your life will be changed. On your own read John 4:1-30 for the whole story of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan Woman ~ a very rich text of Jesus affirming and accepting a surprising person the Jews rejected. For today’s message, it is enough to know that the woman was trying to stuff God in a box and confine God to a certain place and only fit certain people. Jesus says for complete worship we need to let God out of the box of our own creation, there is always more of God to know, experience, to feel, to love, to direct, to understand. A week or so before Christmas Joyce M. asked if I knew anyone that wanted an artificial Christmas tree, because her mother, Connie, had two of them. I said, How about me! Esther was not home for Christmas and she is married, so no longer does she get a say in if we have a live or artificial tree. Joyce was happy to let us have the tree. When we got the box it was taped shut trying to confine a too big tree into a too small box. I decided to challenge myself, and said to myself, when I put the tree away, I am going to try and get the tree back into the box so that it fits properly and closes like it is supposed to. When it came time to put the Christmas tree away, it was in three pieces. I carefully folded the branches as compact as I could. I placed them the most logical way I could. No luck. It tried a second time. I tried a third time. After four times I gave up, and taped the bulging box shut….
The frustrating thing about worshipping God is that once you let him out of your box, like an artificial Christmas tree, you can never get him completely back in. Worshipping God, making him the center of your life, the center of your thoughts, the center of your heart reveals how big he really is…. You will not be able to confine God to your back pocket, pulling him out now and again to get a quick answer to the dilemma you are facing. God is much bigger than any box you can try to squeeze him into. The woman Jesus was talking to had it in her mind that Jesus, a Jew, had his God centered in Jersusalem, and she, a Samaritan, had her God centered in Samaria. That made it all neat and tidy: You worship God the way you want and I’ll worship my way. Whatever is truth for you is true for you, but my truth is my truth. Jesus says no! There is only one God and he cannot be confined to a box. That would be too easy. That would be too limiting.
Practice the Spiritual Discipline of Worship! Center your life in God. In everything you do, consider God, think God, feel God, let the works of your hands reflect God, let your eyes see God all around you. I want to share with you a testimony of a man who set about for a year to center his life in God as much as possible, knowing he would fail, but yet desiring to worship in spirit and truth, heart and head. His name is Frank Laubauch. This book, Letters by a Modern Mystic, is his diary he kept for his year of experiment. (Here is his signature) I’d love to read you the whole book, his failures, his elation, his amazement…here is one passage, January 29. READ. Frank L. centers his thoughts and life in God. All I need to think about is God, and God will take care of the rest. This is worship, centering your life in God, your thoughts and your feelings, giving way to your daily actions. Nothing else matters but to center yourself in God.
I challenge you to change your life though worship, centering your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Take God to work with you. See him as you assemble your widget, as you fill out your paperwork, as you serve the customer. Bring him into the kitchen, imagine his protection for you in the security of your home. Not only Would Jesus Be Pleased in the choices you make, but would he enjoy the activities you choose, the entertainment, the work and casual times. Try it, try giving God a full minute of each waking hour this week, just a minute to bring God into your life, give your mind and heart to him. Perhaps in time the minute will turn into two minutes…. Start thanking him in the quietness of your heart for keeping you safe, for providing the blessing, for daily life. Worship is to center your heart and mind in God, to love God and to think God, to get mad at God and to be comforted by God, to see God and sense God. Set about to learn more of God each day, the truth of who he is. And worship with others. Make it a priority to gather as many Sundays as possible in public worship not so you’ll get credit from God or others for looking religious, but because public worship is an opportunity to refresh yourself with others in concentrated time of focusing God for this one hour.
The greatest challenge: once you commit your life to centering your life in God, you will never get God back in the box that we each create. After meeting Jesus, the Samaritan Woman at the Well in John 4 would never be able to stuff God back into her box. Worshipping God is messy because it is challenging, your knowledge of God expands, the activities of your day are suddenly holy and not about you. When you begin deliberately worshipping God, making him the center of your life in everything you do, you may find yourself not even liking God because you liked your old life better ~ once you invite God into your daily life he just won’t go away! Yet in time, you will also see God as a friend, the truth of who he is will sink in, you will learn to trust the guidance he gives you, the Holy Spirit within, the conviction and the comfort, the challenge and the assurance. You will find that true worship means you focus on God as the center and God will take care of the rest, he will provide, it will be his life that is being lived through you.
Worship the Lord, put Jesus Christ on the throne of your heart. I challenge you to change your life through the Spiritual Discipline of Worship: Give to Jesus your thoughts and your emotions, in private and in public. You will never be able to stuff God back into a box of your creation, yet you will discover that your life is filled with purpose when you Worship the Lord Jesus Christ in Spirit and in Truth. Amen.