More Like Jesus #5: What is Worship

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[trx_audio url=”″ image=”” title=”More Like Jesus #5: What is Worship” author=”Cody Whittington” controls=”show” autoplay=”off”]


Hi everyone welcome to the Sonrise Café channel for Shepherds Heart Ministries. My name is Cody, and I am one of the directors for Shepherds Heart, and I’m glad you are joining in with us on the podcast.

If you are just stepping into this podcast, we are continuing our series called More Like Jesus, where are exploring our devotion, discipline, and general direction as we seek to follow Jesus. So far we covered who the Holy Spirit is, who Jesus is, what it means to obey Jesus, the biblical vision for repentance, and the nature of prayer. This week we are launching off of last week and discussing the concept of worship as seen in Scripture and how it is played out in the life of the believer.

This week will be a little bit different than usual as the content and teaching will be shorter because I want to bring on Daniel Hartzhiem and interview him on the nature of worship. Daniel is a good friend of mine, a highly gifted worship leader, and also the co-founder and a director for Shepherds Heart.

So with that said let’s jump into the episode.

During our Sonrise gathering, we looked at a few passages that related to worship. We discussed Psalm 20 and John 4 which both engage worship and directing our worship towards God. We will spend most the time here discussing John 4 and drawing some points from the text.

Sort of a question I would like you to ask yourself throughout the episode is “When I hear the word worship, what comes to mind?”

When we hear the word worship, we may be tempted to not really engage a conversation about it. Perhaps we feel we have a good grasp on worship, perhaps we feel bored by the topic of worship, or maybe we would just rather hear a different teaching on a topic that might seem more applicable or theologically deeper. I want to encourage you to not simply reduce worship to a secondary issue in your faith but to actually see it as the place where our life and theology is most enriched, deepened, and most clearly expressed.

I believe that John 4 will help us make sense of worship in this way.

[trx_quote title=”John 4:16-26 ESV”]“Go call your husband,” he told her, “and come back here.”  “I don’t have a husband,” she answered. “You have correctly said, ‘I don’t have a husband,’” Jesus said. “For you’ve had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” “Sir,” the woman replied, “I see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus told her, “Believe me, woman, an hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.  You Samaritans worship what you do not know. We worship what we do know, because salvation is from the Jews.  But an hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth. Yes, the Father wants such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and in truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that the Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Jesus told her, “I, the one speaking to you, am he.”[/trx_quote]

Because we stepped into the text mid-story, some context is necessary. Jesus is on his way to Galilee and passages through Samaria. Samaritans and Jews did not have a cordial history. The Samaritans were considered to be heretics who were ethnically, ritually, and religiously unclean and the two groups of people had a deep-rooted disdain for one another. A lot could be said historically about how these tensions came to be but for now just know that Jews would not want to be caught talking to Samaritans, let alone Samaritan women who have been married several times, but that is exactly where Jesus wants to be in this story.

Jesus meets a woman at a historically important well and spends some time trying to reveal his true identity to her and her need for him. Jesus begins by addressing the longing within her, as he symbolically uses the literal situation of being thirsty and going to a well to illustrate the greater thirst of the soul of living water. She misses the point. So, Jesus moves on to prophetically addressing her personal situation, sin, and struggles and the need for honesty and wholeness. Which is where we picked up in verse 16.

Now that Jesus patiently and gracefully touched a nerve when mentioning her lifestyle, situation, and sins… and the woman tries to be sly and change the topic to an old theological and geographical debate that had gone on for years between the Jews and Samaritans. It was about the location of worship. Its as if she is saying, “Oh, you know the depths of my heart and issues, um…let’s talk about something else…oh, how about the theological issues of worship!” But in actuality, she is moving in the direction Jesus wants here to go. We will come back to that.

But firsts lets draw out some things critical to worship. Some points will be more personal observation and others will clearly be seen in the text.

What is worship? 

Worship is setting our affections and energy upon or towards an object. We are by design, worshipping creatures. Because of sin, we naturally set our affections and energy towards things of this world, but we are worshipping nonetheless. The question is not so much what is worship, but who or what are we worshipping.

Worship is reserved for God alone.

In John 4 we see that Jesus is attempting to reveal himself as the Christ, the one who has been chosen to redeem the world. He is God in the flesh, and he uses the situation and the conversation about worship to try and get the woman to consider that He is worthy of her worship. In the New Testament, it is clear that Jesus accepts worship, and this one piece of evidence to point to him being God and proof that he believed he was God. He was a faithful Jew and Jews believed that there was only one God and this one God deserves our worship. So for Jesus to accept worship is to equate himself to God, and he upheld every part of the Old Testament Law which included the mandate to worship and reserve worship for God alone. One verse we read this morning at Sonrise café was Luke 4:8 where Jesus is quoting Moses in Deuteronomy,

[trx_quote title=”Luke 4:8″]And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’”[/trx_quote]
Worship is not location specific.

Building off of the fact that worship is reserved for God alone, our worship of God is not location specific. God did instruct his people in Scripture to worship in certain places, during certain times, and for various reasons, but that was never meant to be interpreted as “God can only be worshipped in this particular place.” We see this in the Psalms where King David is worshipping in the desert as he is fleeing persecution. Jesus is telling this woman in John 4 that she might be obsessing over the wrong thing or simply asking the wrong question. Jesus is trying to orient this woman towards himself.

Worship is rebellion against idolatry and reminds us of our identity.

We all have things that compete for our heart in this world. Perhaps it is money, power, affirmation, work, family, sports, or school…the list could go on and on, but the point is that we are wired for worship and because of sin we often orient our worship in the wrong direction. After Jesus tries to address the longing of this woman’s soul and she complete misses the illustration, Jesus moves towards something extremely personal, here lifestyle. He accurately and graciously identifies the sin and struggle of this woman’s life. Some scholars argue that this woman was likely an outcast and someone who is apparently searching for affirmation or meaning, she was just looking in the wrong places. She very well may have made an idol out of seeking relational affirmation or even marriage itself. This, of course, cannot be proven, but if we were to place ourselves in this woman’s situation and examine our own lives, it does make sense.

This touches a nerve, and she quickly changes the subject to a less personal issue and more theological issue – worship. Jesus uses this as an opportunity to reveal that worship is personal and to reveal to her that he is the one that deserves her worship and in whom she can find the craving for meaning and significance satisfied. Worship of Jesus moves us away from the pursuits of flesh and leads us in a spiritual rebellion of the idols in our lives.

Closing thoughts

How do I locate my idol and reorient myself towards Jesus?

In his book, Counterfeit Gods, Keller offers a couple of ways that will help us identify potential idols or distractions that lead to misdirected worship. I’m paraphrasing in my own words so the book may be more detailed. Some of these may be applicable, some not so just be discerning.

  1. What occupies my thoughts? Where do my thoughts constantly wander throughout the day and throughout various situations?
  2. Where does my money go? Is there something that is robbing my generosity? Money is the number one competitor of our heart, but only because we need it to fund our idolatry.
  3. Unfulfilled desires. When things don’t go my way, how do I respond? What do I run to in order to cope?
  4. What brings me the most joy, but can also bring me the most anger or frustration when I don’t have it or have control over it?

Learning to worship is an ongoing process of our spiritual growth. The reason it is important to reflect on is that we live in a  Christian culture the often confuses spiritual maturity with spiritual dullness. As a pastor, I’ve heard people say, “Oh look at the new Christians lifting their hands.. just give them time, they will calm down.” That’s awful. The more closely we are walking with Jesus, the more we should desire to worship him. At SonRise this morning we were blessed to have Pastor Tharp in our conversations. He said something to the effect of, “Those who follow Jesus should have an ongoing song, a continual hum of the soul that is pointed towards God>

I love that.

Suggested Reading:

Whatever Happened to Worship: A Call to True Worship by A.W. Tozer (classic book)

Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller (book)

20 Timeless Worship Quotes by A.W. Tozer

Worship Scriptures by Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology

Worship | Sermon + transcript by John Piper

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