Spirit And Truth
But a time is coming and is already here when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit [from the heart, the inner self] and in truth; for the Father seeks such people to be His worshipers. God is spirit [the Source of life, yet invisible to mankind], and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
The Samaritan woman at the well thought that people could connect to God only at particular places and in particular ways. (John 4:20) Jesus gently told her that God is bigger than that-a lot bigger! Places and rituals aren’t the essentials of a relationship with God. Jesus explained that, instead, there are two rails that keep us on track: spirit and truth. Both are necessary for a vibrant growing relationship with God.
In today’s verse, John quotes Jesus as saying, “God is Spirit.” We operate in the physical world, but God has put eternity in our hearts(Ecclesiastes 3:11) with an awareness of the unseen world. It’s easy, though, to be attracted to any of the myriad of spiritual experiences promised by other religions and New Age philosophies. Jesus reminded the woman (and us) that the second rail in our pursuit of God is truth. The Scriptures tell us the truth about the nature of God, the way He relates to us, His instructions about life and relationships, and the consequences of turning our backs on Him.
Our expanding grasp of truth, though, can lead only to pride if we aren’t sensitive to God’s Spirit, who points out our selfishness and points us back to God again and again. Spirit and truth- both are essential in our walk with God.
Many times Christians state their love for the Lord and their willingness to die for Him. I will make no pretense of knowing the Lord’s will in your life, but I do feel that in most cases the Lord is far more interested in our living for Him than He is in our dying for Him.
It is said that one of the early church fathers was visiting with the Pope. The Pope took him to a window overlooking the Vatican and said, “Dear brother, we no longer have to say as Peter said, ‘Silver and gold have I none.’”The early church Father replied, “And neither can we say, ‘Such as I have, give I Thee.” So often we place great emphasis and value on those things created by humans- rituals and buildings and programs. Far too often we miss the very things that the woman at the well was missing before her encounter with Jesus. She was wrapped up traditions of the Samaritans and their worship on the mountain. She recognized that the Jews only accepted worship in the temple with Jewish rituals that no Samaritan would be welcome to. But on that occasion she discovered the truth. That truth is found in God alone and not at some location or through some ritual. She also discovered that God is Spirit and that He brings encounters in the heart even if it is sitting at a public well an noon. It is apparent from her life that her religion had left her empty and she had been attempting to fill the void with another human. As a matter of fact, she had been married five times and was now living with a man who wouldn’t even give her his name. I’m sure that she had tried the ritual and place on the mountain seeking in vain for something to soothe her soul only to come up empty time after time. It’s obvious that she had no friends otherwise she would have gathered with the other women in the morning hours to draw water and to share conversation. That day she went to the well as usual expecting nothing more than a pitcher of water to take home when a voice spoke. Jesus opened the conversation by asking her for a drink. And then He said something amazing. “If you asked me, I’d give you water so that you will never thirst again.” She responded, “Sir, give me this water.” That led to the conversation of where and how one should worship God. And Jesus said to her and us, “in Spirit and truth.” No matter how elaborate our rituals, no matter how perfect they are, without the presence of God working in our hearts, they are but empty shells that leave us empty and still in the same trap of sin. Like the woman we are driven to search for love and acceptance in all the wrong ways and places, never realizing that all the time is was a prayer and heart touch away. We certainly never expect it at a public well. Instead we sometimes act as if God dwells in some building and is only available one day a week. But God is Spirit, everywhere, all the time and not far from us. As the woman at the well heard the truth and experienced the transforming power of the Spirit, she became a new person. Gone was her shame for she rushed back to the town and began to say, “Come see a Man who knows everything about me and yet I felt His love and acceptance. Surely God has come near.” It’s obvious that she was changed for the whole village went to the well and after their meeting with Christ said that they believed because of their experience, no longer having to take her word that this was the Messiah. And church happened at noon at a public well.
In another story in Acts we find Phillip sitting in a chariot with an Ethiopian explaining the Scriptures and when they come to water, the Ethiopian asks to be baptized and church happened in a chariot that day for heaven came down and a soul was born into the family of God. No matter where we gather or what means of ritual we practice, if the presence of God is not at work changing and transforming lives it’s all empty. But wherever we gather, whatever means of worship we employ, if we gather to “worship in Spirit and truth” we will find ourselves having a God encounter that will fill us and make us complete, lacking nothing. Only when we accept the truth and that truth is Christ and only when we depend on the Holy Spirit to reveal Christ to us and lead us to worship can we find the fullness of all that God intends for us.
Dr. John Thompson