Wednesday, November 28, 2012

King of Kings and Lord of Lords

In the liturgy of our church we often reaffirm our common belief in God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Part of that affirmation includes the prophetic faith in Jesus’ bodily return to set everything right.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ….
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,             
and his kingdom will have no end.[1]
         Until that day believers are commissioned by Christ to live in the here and now; we are expected to live into God’s plan for building His kingdom.  The problem is that God’s enemy, Satan, always wants to go in the opposite direction!
The Christian life is compared often in Scripture to a warfare.  And so it is!  Whenever I think of war movies, the 1940's black and white ones are the pictures in my mind's eye.  There are always some constants -- there is a guy who prays a lot because there's an enemy; there is a couple who want to get married before Johnny goes off to battle; and there is a time of preparation for the battle -- scenes of Worship, Wedding, and War:
Worship Scene

After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, “Hallelujah!  Salvation and glory and power to our God, for his judgments are true and just; he has judged the great whore who corrupted the earth with her fornication, and he has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”  Once more they said,“Hallelujah!  The smoke goes up from her forever and ever.”  And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who is seated on the throne, saying, “Amen.   Hallelujah!”  And from the throne came a voice saying, “Praise our God, all you his servants, and all who fear him, small and great.”  Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty thunderpeals, crying out, “Hallelujah!  For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.            Revelation 19:1-6 (NRSV)
Only here in the New Testament, does the word alleluia appear.  It means praise to the Lord.  The word omnipotent means He who controls all.  At another church I served, we often sang as the call to worship, Our God Reigns. 
How lovely on the mountains are the feet of those
who bring good news, good news,
Proclaiming peace and liberty to everyone,
Our God reigns, Our God reigns.
There was never a time when we sang it, that the little hairs on the back of my neck didn't stand at attention.  It put the picture in my mind of that great worship scene, where the praise of the multitudes of saved sinners lifts the roof off planet earth.  The salvation, power, honor and glory are expressions of gratitude, reverence and trust to the God who is omnipotent and reigns.  God judged the false church, and now defeats the Beast with his truth.  His judgment was predicted:
 Let sinners be consumed from the earth, and let the wicked be no more. Bless the LORD, O my soul.  Praise the LORD! 
Psalms 104:35 (NRSV)
And His reign was predicted through the line of David:
Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.             2 Samuel 7:16 (NRSV)
Why do we worship in anticipation of the reign of the Lord God, Almighty?  It is the defining moment in all of human existence.  It is the fulfillment of the promise that sin would not always be our lot.  It is the moment when God declares that enough is indeed enough!  It is the second coming of our Lord.
Beyond the Worship Scene, there is a...
Wedding Scene


Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready; to her it has been granted to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.  And the angel said£ to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are true words of God.”   Revelation 19:7 - 9 (NRSV)
If all of the saved of the ages anticipated the second coming of Christ; it is the marriage supper of the Lamb, for which the church has waited.  Paul's passage which we read at weddings is really about the church, the bride of Jesus:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind—yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish. Ephesians 5:25 - 27 (NRSV)
This tells us that Jesus is expecting a righteous bride.
2I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I promised you in marriage to one husband, to present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. 2 Cor 11:2
By contrast with the harlot of a false church in the Tribulation period, the true church of Christ is faithful to Him.  It is something that ought to make us pause and check the things we do daily.  Our works do follow us to glory. 
But, how can we be wrinkle-free?  (I can't even get a no-iron shirt out of the dryer without a major wrinkle or two -- How am I going to have my own life without spot or blemish?)  The answer is in the imputed righteousness of Christ.  We can never be perfect -- but He is, and God forgives us for Christ's sake!  That's how the church will be spotless -- Jesus puts us through the holy rinse and spin cycle!
The sight of all this made John the apostle, lose his sense of propriety -- he fell at the feet of an angel to worship him,
Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your comrades who hold the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”  Revelation 19:10
Only God should be worshipped.  He is the author and finisher of our faith, and everything in scripture points to Jesus.  That which we do in Jesus' name here on earth, will become like a fine white linen garment of righteousness. 
We will not wear them very long, however.  I believe, as in the case of the Elders casting down their golden crowns at the feet of Jesus, we too will gather around, and the garment of His righteousness in us will serve to reflect the glory of the throne throughout the entire universe. 
Nothing created -- including the devil in the abyss, and the lost of all ages -- will be able to look in the direction of the throne.  It will be too wonderful and painful a sight for them.  But for us --- glory, glory, glory!
A worship scene, a wedding scene, and,
A War Scene
11Then I saw heaven opened, and there was a white horse! Its rider is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems; and he has a name inscribed that no one knows but himself. 13He is clothed in a robe dipped in£ blood, and his name is called The Word of God. 14And the armies of heaven, wearing fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule£ them with a rod of iron; he will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, “King of kings and Lord of lords.”                   Revelation 19:11-16
This is indeed a war scene, but there is hardly anything of war -- but there most definitely is A Warrior!  The picture of the coming of the Lord should make our mouths drop to the floor.  Jim Henry is the Senior Pastor at First Baptist Church in Orlando, Fl.  He tells of an incident from his youth.  He was saved at Hopewell Baptist near Nashville, Tenn.  Just as he entered his teens there was going to be a special service at Hopewell.  Jim lived nearly 30 miles from the church by then.  Wanting to attend, he convinced his mother to allow he and his cousin to hitchike out to the service.  As they were walking along, a big black Oldsmobile came down the road, going in the same direction.  Jim Henry stuck out a thumb.  As the car got near, it began to screech to a halt, and Henry noticed a State Trooper sitting behind the wheel.  He was afraid the Trooper would arrest him.  The window rolled down -- Wher'ya goin' boys? he said.  Jim explained, and he and his cousin were invited to hop in.  When he got in the back seat there was another man in a suit.  The man stuck out his hand and said, Hello, Jimmy, I'm Frank G. Clement, governor of Tennessee.  I am going up to the Hopewell Church to speak, and I will be glad to give you and your friend a lift. 
They took off and the patrolman got them there in a flash.  When they pulled up there was a welcoming crowd.  The whole county was there.  Who was the first one out?  Jimmy Henry!  He tipped his hand in the direction of Mr. Clement, and said, Thanks for the ride, Governor -- and God bless you.  Ol' Jimmy Henry was somebody![2]   The fact is Jimmy Henry was next to somebody.  He was still little 13 year old Jimmy.  Governor Clement was the somebody. 
Who is somebody to you?  The last time Jesus came, He had a manger, and simple barnyard animals for admirers.  He told us plainly who he was,
You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am.                  John 13:13 (NRSV)
Yet, he was still a nobody to us all:  He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.   John 1:11 (NRSV)
The next time Jesus comes, the only animal in sight will be the white horse underneath him -- a horse ridden by a victorious, conquering King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. 
The next time He will not be a gentle baby, with Mary singing lullabyes in some feeding trough.  He will be a mighty warrior with an avenging righteousness.
The next time He will not wear a simple shepherd's robe.  He will have a garment dipped in blood, with which he will cover, cleanse and purge the entire earth. 
The next time He will not hold a shepherd's staff.  He will have a conquering sword that will smash the world systems into oblivion. 
The next time He will not pass out broken bread and grape juice.  He will be marching on the grapes of wrath, and squeezing every last drop of the fierceness of a holy God who has been scorned.
The next time no one will put Him on a cross.  This time He will hold up the cross and every knee shall bow, every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father.  Amen!

[1] The Nicene Creed
[2]Jim Henry, Heartwarmers, (Nashville, Broadman Press, 1977), 15

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Be Ye Thankful

Thanksgiving is a time for expressing our thanks for God's providence and blessing.  I am thankful that teenagers do grow up and eventually have teenagers of their own.  I am thankful I am not a Butterball turkey.  There is one thing, above all, for which I give thanks, the lift of Jesus!  Like the great old hymn says, love lifted me

There is a word in the prophecy of Isaiah 53 that comes out of that word “lift”….borne as in to bear or carry something.
4Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases;
       11  …he shall bear their iniquities.
12… he bore the sin of many,

There are some things that Jesus bears, or lifts from our lives by virtue of His Lordship:

My Blindness

Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases;  yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted.  Isaiah 53:4

Spiritual blindness misses the Lord.  Common sense and worldly wisdom dictate that since Jesus was born on the wrong side of the tracks, He wasn't going very far.  And in the eyes of the world, He didn't! 
        Jesus lifted upon Himself our sorrows and grief, yet the world imagined He suffered because He was bad.  It was MY sorrows – MY blindness He lifted, not His own.  I am thankful!   Besides my blindness he also lifted my…

My Bruises

But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.  Isaiah 53:5

If there is one spiritual principle that is unchanging, it is the exchange of Christ's grace for our goof-ups.  That may not be very "theological" grammar, but it states the case.  Jesus' stripes --- (literally "beaten black-and-blue) and His bruises --- (beaten to pieces) became the acceptable punishment for our sins. 

The worst thing I have in my life is my sin.  Jesus took the punishment for my sin, and that which would have beaten me in little black and blue pieces is now laid on Christ. 

Jesus lifted my blindness and my bruises from me!  And I am thankful.  He also lifted my…

My Blunders

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.  Isaiah 53:6

The words are most revealing in this sentence. 

·     Sheep” comes a verb meaning to migrate. 
        ·     "Astray" carries with it the idea of being deceived. 
·     "Turned" is an action a person does deliberately, and
·     "iniquity" is a form of the word "crooked". 

My blunders include both those things that I ignorantly do to myself, and against other well as those things I stubbornly commit with my first-degree selfishness or crooked ways.

The couple was nearing their 75th wedding anniversary.  She was no spring chick, and he had almost completely lost his hearing.  The bride reflected, with affection in her heart, how faithful her man had been over the years.  Rocking on the front porch one evening, she remarked, Lester, I'm real proud of you.  Lester turned to her and replied, Well, Charlotte, I'm real tired of you too!
Blunders, indeed!  With the coming and crucifixion of Jesus Christ, all my sins, and self-will, my blunders and first-degree sin offenses have been laid on Him.  Jesus has straightened my crookedness.  It was lifted from me!  I am thankful! 

Blindness, bruises, blunders and one other:

My Banishment

through him the will of the LORD shall prosper.  Isaiah 53:10

This is a foreshadowing of the Advent of Christ, His coming to die for us, His burial and resurrection.  In this rests the entire hope and only true lifting of man.

The prophet looked down the time warp of eternity, and with the breath of God announced that we are standing on resurrection ground. 

·        I don't have to spend eternity separated from God. 
·        I shall see Him one day because Jesus said I could!
·        I am not banished, separated from God’s presence, even though that’s what I deserve!  I am THANKFUL!

Tomorrow, don’t settle for stuffing the turkey, and then being stuffed like a turkey…make it a totally awesome day of LIFT…let the Lord take your blindness, bruises and blunders – let Him banish your banishment.   And, Be ye thankful!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Congruent means agreement, as when two (or more) of anything are exactly matched.  The seats in our auditorium are congruent in that sense; they are all the same.  When the psychologist speaks of congruence as it relates to people, he is pointing to the inner person and the outer person matching-up.  The opposite would be the one we call a "phony", or one who puts on an act.  I heard about the mascot of an Army company.  He was just a common little "mongrel", and the enlisted men cared for him, and he followed at their tired feet on long hikes, KP, and all.  One day two officers spotted the dog running playfully along.  As soon as the dog spotted the officers it began to limp and hobble along on three legs.  When the dog was well past the officers he began to walk and run just as before.  The explanation is that the dog had learned from the enlisted men that the best way to keep off heavy, nasty work details was to fake sore feet!
Congruence in the believer's life has to do with matching up the reality of Christ in us...with what we do!  When there really isn’t a match, it’s not exactly “phony” but it is what I call "miserable Christianity".  This happens when a person accepts Christ as savior because he's been told there is joy, truth and life in Jesus.  He experiences the wonder of forgiveness, and being part of the family of God.  And all this leads him to join in with a church. 
Now he wants all these wonderful Christians (who seem to have it together) to think well of him.  So he develops a "churchy personality" to take the place of the "real him" while he's in the church house.  The different personality says things like, "Amen", and "righteousness", and "sanctification", words he'd never say down at the job.  And he talks about joy and peace, answered prayers...all that stuff!  But all the while he somehow feels like he's living on the fringe....not quite a part of the whole thing.  He talks about joy, but he feels frustration...He honors truth in his heart, but constantly falls into this "churchy personality" to hide who he really is!  He talks about NEW LIFE in Christ, but somehow it is more an EXISTENCE than abundant living.  He knows it’s a lie, but he’s stuck, feels no joy, and its eating him up inside.  He’s got a full-blown case of Miserable Christianity!
If you have ever felt that way, or known someone who feels like that, please note that there is a reason for this.  The root cause of miserable Christianity is found in the misunderstanding of what makes for a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ.  We can understand this by examining three perspectives about our calling as Christians:
Called to a life of joy!

I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you,                                 
and you’re your joy may be complete.  John 15:11
Jesus was a joyful, happy person; he was “alive with living”.  I can say this with assurance, because I read in the gospel accounts how children came to Him.  Children don't hang around drab and sour people.  Two teenagers were standing in the Sunday school building.  As they talked, a grumbly old sourpuss walked past. One of the teens said to the other, if that's what 30 years of Christianity will do for you, then I want out now! 
Dr. Tommy Starkes was my professor of missions in seminary.  He used to tell us that he enjoyed his Christianity.  It wasn't always so.  When he was growing up the folks in his church seemed to think that "...becoming a Christian was writing down 10 things you wouldn't do anymore, and being miserable for Jesus the rest of your life." 
Dr. Starkes could laugh at himself too.  Once on a mission trip to South America he preached to a large Spanish-speaking crowd through an interpreter.  Dr. Starkes spoke the language, but not very well.  He wanted to “break the ice” so he told a cute little story through the interpreter.  But what the interpreter said to the crowd was:  The white man has told a joke.  I don’t understand it, and I don’t think you will, but let’s be nice to him.  When I count to three, everybody laugh…uno, dos, tres…[1] 
Christians are called to a life of joy.  The word (joy) itself literally means "delight".  The same word is used in Luke (2:10) to announce the birth of Jesus.  In our text (John 15:11) Jesus declared it was this delight that was to be in us.  He used a noun.  It isn't something we DO.  It is a reality within that we ARE!  But it leads to the outward signs of rejoicing (Phil 4:4).  In other words, the joy Jesus places IN us does something TO us. 
A young man got saved on the first night of a five-day revival meeting.  The second night the fella came back, and all through the service he would shout "Amen", "Hallelujah".  He was happy!  The pastor went to him and warned him to be a little quieter, but to no avail.  The third and fourth nights were the same, shouting "Amen, Hallelujah" all through the meeting.  So the pastor got the Lay Leader, and they talked to this joy-filled new believer.  "Son," said the parson, "this'cheres the last night of our meetin’; won't you find a way to settle down?  With all your 'Amen-in', somebody's gonna mistake us for a Pentecostal church. 
Tell you what....if you calm down for tonight we will buy you a brand new pair of boots."  Well the boy agreed.  But about half way through the sermon the joy was bubbling up so that he thought he was going to bust wide-open.  He squirmed and tried his best to contain himself.  Then the choir sang a wonderful praise song and the boy couldn't stand it a moment longer.  He stood right up in the middle of the service and shouted, "Amen, amen.  Boots or no boots, Hallelujah, praise the Lord." 
Someone has said that "...happiness is excitement that has found a settling-down place, but there is always a little corner that keeps flapping around."  Joy does indeed fill the believer, and causes the believer to be happy.  We've got something wonderful that causes us to be filled with joy.  We are sinners who have been rescued, redeemed from the penalty of our own sinfulness.  
PERSPECTIVE #2 – We are: 
Called to a life of discipleship

Then Jesus told his disciples,“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me."  Matthew 16:24
The unmistakable meaning of this verse is that the disciple of Christ must serve in the same way the Master served.  The reality of salvation is that we may not only come to Jesus so He can FORGIVE our sins; we come with the understanding that WE will FORSAKE those sins, placing our lives in His hand.  We become like a tool, ready to be used in His service.  Look at the larger picture, drawn for us by the words Jesus uses...
·        He says "deny self"...that means we fully renounce the ownership of our own life and destiny, making God the captain, the commander of all we do. 

·        He says "take up our cross"...that is the burden of sacrifice; we are ready to place God's kingdom ahead of personal pursuits. 

·        And He says "follow me"...which means perfect obedience. 

I must admit to you that I am not comfortable with all the demands the New Testament makes on my life.  But following Jesus means serving, and a servant does what his Master desires.  We must be faithful servants; understanding or not, we do our part.  God is the Master architect, and He knows how our part will fit together in His plans.  We do the job we're fitted for. 
So…two perspectives;
·        We are called to Joy...
·        We are called to Serve...and…
PERSPECTIVE #3:                           
Joy and Serving are inseparable

But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.   Matthew 6:33 (NRSV)
Throughout the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5-7) Jesus shares the keys to the abundant life of joy.  Many times the Lord says, "Blessed are..." which easily translates "O how happy, how joyful".  And what is connected with that happiness is the life of serving.
Jesus teaches that material things are not the purpose for which we are given life.  But material necessities will be given us because God provides for those who seek His kingdom as first priority.


What is it you are looking for?  Is it a life of joy?  Do you want to live with the deep down feeling of peace and contentment?  Do you desire feel the joy within, and to live a life that matches up with that joy? 
If you have given your sins to Jesus to be forgiven, you will experience the joy of being saved.  But there is deeper joy available.  The answer is to be found in commitment to the Lord, serving Him.  It is when you give your service to Him that you are taking up your cross and following Him. 
God has given instructions for the joy-filled, abundant life.  The instructions are found in the Bible.  In capsule form we could sum up the whole this way:  Love Christ - Live for Christ - Serve Christ.  That’s what leads to real joy; joyfully-fruitful!

[1] As told by Dr. Starkes in a Missions Class at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary 1981

Monday, November 5, 2012

Passionate Worship

A third-grade boy had just heard the story of Abraham and his young son Isaac going to Mt. Moriah to offer sacrifice to God.  Of course the part of that  drama which would stick in the mind of a boy that age would be the fact of Isaac’s starring role – Isaac was the sacrificial lamb!   The next Saturday it was really pretty weather, so the family decided on a picnic.  They drove up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and found a clearing to put their blanket on the ground.  Everything was going fine until the Dad said to his son, “C’mon Junior, let’s go get some firewood.”  The boy whined, “Why, Daddy, why?”

Do we know why we're here?

"Why" questions are important.  I have a friend who says that he has an alarm clock to tell him when to get up, but some days (particularly on Mondays), he needs one to tell him why! 
Why should we worship; because Daddy said so, or because Momma and Grandma always did?  Is God some self-centered infant that needs the positive strokes of all us mere mortals bowing and scraping?  Why should we worship? 
John 4 gives us the "whys" in the incident known as "The Woman At the Well".  The first 19 verses describe the encounter of Jesus with the woman of Samaria at a well dug in ancient times by Jacob.  Jacob was even buried nearby. 
The Samaritans and Jews had a centuries-old feud that centered-around religious judgment.  Around 720 BC, Jewish Samaria had been conquered by the Assyrians.  Most of the people had been carried off in captivity.  Those who remained in the land intermarried with the foreigners who moved in.  This made the Samaritan descendants half-Jews, totally unacceptable to the "racially pure" Jews of Galilee.
When Jesus met this Samaritan woman at the well, he spoke of "living water" and the curious woman began to ask some "why" questions of her own.  The Lord then takes the opportunity to share some of the living truth with her.  In the exchange, the woman brings up the subject of worship.  Jesus gives us (at least) four reasons why we should worship...

Because Of His Sovereignty

20Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.”  21Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.  John 4:20 - 21 (NRSV)

The Sovereignty of God's Nature

Sovereignty indicates complete control.  God is sovereign, and has complete control in the entire universe.  The nature of God, therefore, is unbounded by dimensions as we experience them.  Time, space, height and depth are only meaningful to God as He chooses.  The Bible tells us that one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as but a day[1].  God transcends dimensions. 
God is worthy of worship just because He is so much higher than us.  If there had never been a cross, a tomb and an Easter resurrection, God is still worthy of worship because He is God.

The Sovereignty of God's Actions

As the creator and sustainer of all life, God is worthy of worship.  One author said, "Worship is an end in itself, and it requires no further justification than that God is God.  We do not go to church simply to receive benefits from the Lord; we also go to give him the honor due his name."[2]
A sovereign God can't be figured out, placed in a three-volume set of commentaries placed on an appropriate shelf -- God must simply be worshipped because He is sovereign.

How then shall I honor and worship a sovereign God?

And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.  Hebrews 11:6 (NRSV)
John MacArthur said, "Worship is all that we are responding rightly to who He (God) is."[3]  The woman at the well said her ancestors worshipped at Mt. Gerizim, and the Jews held that worship should happen at Jerusalem.  Jesus countered with the right response for all of us, in that true worship recognizes the sovereignty of God, not some local address.  The act of genuine worship, ascribed to a holy, sovereign Lord, is taking the local address of our heart, and offering it to Him in faith; nothing less, nothing more.
Theologian Karl Barth described a scene during the war, in a monastery in Alsace.  The monks were chanting "The Magnificat."  ("My soul doth magnify the Lord...").   They were aligned in perfect rows, concentrating on lifting up praise to God.  A French bombshell suddenly tore through the roof and exploded in the rear of the church.  When the smoke and dust had cleared, the monks were still there, chanting the Magnificat.  God is never thrown off course by circumstances, but His heart is touched by those who bend the knee to an absolute sovereign.  We also worship...

Because of His Salvation

22You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.   John 4:22 (NRSV)
This is an interesting exchange.  Jesus seems to be condescending to the woman, telling her she just doesn't know what she's doing in worship; salvation is from the Jews. 
Actually, Jesus is pointing to the shortcoming of both Samaritans and Jews.  The Samaritans limited their holy library to the first five books of our Bible, the Pentateuch, or law.  They worshipped God sincerely, with fervent hearts, but they chose to ignore parts of scripture with which they disagreed. 
On the other hand, the Jews indeed had the truth, for God had chosen to reveal Himself to the world through the nation of Israel.  They had Moses' Pentateuch, and the history of Israel and the prophets.  They had truth, but worshipped like tombs full of dead men's bones.  They were empty and blind.  When the embodiment of truth, and the full revelation of God stood before them on the very next Passover, they shouted "Crucify him!" 
It is empty to have only one part of the equation in focus.  Later Jesus would say to the woman that you must worship in Spirit and truth.  It is good to be enthusiastic in worship – but without having that enthusiasm based and founded in essential doctrinal truth, you will wind up with emotionalism that only seems right when it "feels" right. 
But there is also the risk of orthodoxy without genuine heart worship.  For instance, some churches major so heavily on evangelism that a new convert could get the idea that there is nothing else involved.  He might even start to believe that worship is a matter of maintaining his salvation through doing evangelism. 
In Kentucky a little boy heard his parents say they go to church to "waarship."  From that point on he told his friends that he was going to church to "warsh up!"  It is certainly true that there is a cleansing effect to worship, but that throws the focus on us, not Him.  Worship is for God alone.  The salvation He brings is not for sale.

How then shall I worship the God who saves me?

1I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Romans 12:1 (NRSV)
The correct response to God who saves is to place all you are at His disposal -- all the time.  Continual, consistent worship is the evidence of truly being saved.  The "Easter & Christmas" crowd comes to church to pay dues, do the right thing, or please Mama.  Don't you be that way.  Come with your Bible open, having studied, willing to have an open mind for the things of God.  Come with your heart open, so there will be enthusiastic worship which leads to compassionate and joy-filled service.
We worship because of His sovereignty, salvation, and...

Because of His Seeking

23But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.  John 4:23 (NRSV)

What God is seeking

Please note that God is seeking true worshippers.  God is in the people business.  God is building a kingdom of the Spirit.  If He wanted more things He'd just create them with a thought or a wave of his hand.  What He is seeking in you and me, is the true worship of spiritual response.  He wants our hearts.

What God expects to find

Does God judge our worship?  Yes, indeed!  Jesus said the hour now is, of true worship – in spirit and truth.  We have all the revelation of truth we will ever need.  Jesus said I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No man cometh unto the Father but by Me.  We are in the age of true worship -- not perfect worship (that will only be in heaven). 
We are expected to worship with our whole heart.  The reality is that worship occurs from the inside out.  Only God is equipped to judge that!  For that reason, we must be ready to make room for every one who walks through the doors of this place to worship.  Why?  Because God is constantly seeking for those who will worship Him.  He is constantly the holy God meeting with profane man. 
Jacob was a profane man, a deceiver, a street-wise con man.  God met with him at Bethel.  Jacob went to sleep and had a vision of angels ascending and descending on a ladder that reached to heaven.  And in the morning?
And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not.  --  Genesis 28:16
When a profane man meets a holy God, something is going to give.  Our business in God's service is to be ready to cooperate with holy God as he seeks to meet with profane men to change them.
We worship because of His sovereignty, salvation, seeking, and...

Because Of His Spirit

God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.  --  John 4:24

The Nature of God is Spiritual

William Barclay has it:
 "If God is spirit, a man's gifts to God must be gifts of the spirit.  Animal sacrifices and all man-made things become inadequate.  The only gifts that befit the nature of God are the gifts of the spirit -- love, loyalty, obedience, devotion.  A man's spirit is the highest part of him."[4]
Oswald Chambers wrote "My Utmost For His Highest."  This same thought is contained, that it is the spirit alone within us that can truly commune with God.  It is a devoted spirit that God seeks, not some automated robot who attends church 156 times per year and gives the tithe of his income, accurate to the twelfth decimal place.
Money, things, comfort and entertainment are important to us because they are human symbols of what we can accomplish.  God doesn't need or want these.  He wants our love.  Whatever material things or works of obedience He may require are symbolic to Him of that love.  Beloved, if you love God, He will have your time, your service and your wallet.  Love responds in the realm of spirit to Spirit.

The Nature of worship of a Spiritual God is spiritual

3For it is we who are the circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and boast in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh.  Philippians 3:3 (NRSV)
To worship in spirit and truth means the spirit reveals truth to us, and we accurately reflect that back to God in the way we live.  The word "truth" has its root in a sense of unveiling.  That is what God did for us.  He unveiled Himself in a manger two thousand years ago.  He spoke our language so we'd understand.  He lived as a man so we could see clearly.  Then He died as only a perfect man could -- a sacrifice for you and me.  Jesus revealed perfectly God.
I have been asked before, "Are you one of those?"  The questioner wanted to know if I was a Jesus person.  I have to answer yes without hesitation.  I worship Him with my spirit, because His Spirit has revealed truth to me.  What truth?
The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things.   Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.  John 4:26
On that day at the well, the woman said, "I'm waiting for God's man, the Christ."  To the woman that day Jesus said, "eimi" (Greek meaning:  “I am”)   Jesus gave her so much more than that for which she bargained.  She was waiting for a messenger from God, Jesus said "I AM."   That was what God spoke to Moses.
Beloved, realize your opportunity with your spirit.  You have truth abounding.   
·        You know God who spoke the stars and planets into existence.
·        You know the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph
·        You know Moses' God of the burning bush.
·        You know God who can part the Seas with his breath and crumble Jericho's walls with only trumpets.
·        You know God who uses a shepherd boy's slingshot to bring down any giants in any life.
·        You know God who whispers so a Solomon writes ageless wisdom.
·        You know God who overshadows a virgin and brings together the holy and profane in spiritual victory.
·        You know God who healed the lame, the deaf, the blind.
·        You know God who is Jesus, the Messiah, the Christ, God's only Son. 
·        You know God who told us in words that He loves us.
·        You know God who told us in suffering on the cross that he loves us.
·        You know God who told us he loves us by ripping death and Hell apart on Easter morning.
Who are we to not worship a God like that?

Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations

These are 5 practices and that word implies action, doing, breathing in and out.  If we want to be fruitful, obedient to our God we must be:
·        radically-hospitable, welcoming people in Jesus’ name,
·        extravagantly generous as we invest in ministry,
·        intentional about stretching our faith so we develop into disciples
·        willing to risk to serve others and fulfill our mission
·        and passionate about worship, because He is worthy!
Father, help us be passionate.  Too often we are guilty of counting the ceiling tiles until the service is over.  Help it to be that fire is lit in this congregation for worship.  Complete what we need to be people who worship in spirit and truth.  You’ve been seeking us; may we be found.  We pray in the Name of the Father, Because of the Son, Cooperating with the SpiritAmen!

[1] 1 Peter 3:8
[2] Fisher Humphreys, Thinking About God, (Insight Press, New Orleans, 1974), 183
[3] Grace To You radio broadcast 5/4/95
[4] William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Vol VI, (Westminster Press, Phila, 1975), 161