articlesqa September 04, 2015 basic worship
Ifeoluwapo Eleyinafe Article by Ifeoluwapo EleyinafeCreator and author of

Hav­ing re­moved the cloth­ing of time, and place and cul­ture that we im­posed on true wor­ship, Je­sus be­gins to weave for her new clothes. He be­gins to tell us what wor­ship is real­ly about by tak­ing us back to the ba­sics John 4:22. But to do so, He rein­tro­duces cul­ture. He sep­a­rates Jews and Samar­i­tans by their wor­ship! Why? Doesn’t this con­tra­dict what He said in the last sen­tence John 4:21. No. Let us re-em­pha­size what we men­tioned in the last chap­ter. We can­not ap­pro­pri­ate spir­i­tu­al truths un­less they have a phys­i­cal con­se­quence. God does not take you up high with­out ground­ing you in the earth(hu­mus), in hu­mil­i­ty. There is an im­por­tant dif­fer­ence be­tween what Je­sus is do­ing in verse 22 and what He is speak­ing against in verse 21. Verse 21 shows how we use cul­ture to con­strain wor­ship. Je­sus flips the whole thing.

He is telling us that wor­ship de­fines cul­ture. We have been wrong to think that cul­ture de­fines wor­ship. This is the shift that Je­sus in­tro­duces and it is not so much a shift but a com­plete re­ver­sal. A Jew does not know God be­cause he is a Jew. In­stead, one be­comes a Jew by know­ing God Ro­mans 2:28-29. The im­pli­ca­tions go even even fur­ther than that: I do not de­fine wor­ship. Wor­ship de­fines me. In fact, once I start to de­fine wor­ship, then I make my­self most im­por­tant in wor­ship and it ceas­es to be about God and be­comes idol­a­try. The only dif­fer­ence be­tween a Samar­i­tan and a Jew is not the col­or of their skin or the con­tent of their char­ac­ter or where they grew up. The only dif­fer­ence that mat­ters is their wor­ship. It is their wor­ship that de­fines each group.

Life In One Sen­tence

Verse 22 is an amaz­ing verse. Je­sus not only sums up the en­tire­ty of Chris­t­ian life but also cap­tures the dai­ly strug­gle. He does this all in one sen­tence. You can think about verse 22 as the body of Christ’s an­swer to the Samar­i­tan woman. Verse 21 is pre­lude and verse 23-24 is an elab­o­ra­tion. Verse 22 can be bro­ken up into three parts. Part 1: “You wor­ship what you do not know; we wor­ship what we know.” Part 2: “for.” Part 3: “sal­va­tion is from the Jews.” We’ll ad­dress each part some­what sep­a­rate­ly.

As we’ve dis­cussed be­fore, the hu­man task in wor­ship is sub­mis­sion. The thing we sub­mit to is then able to act through us. This is true both in idol wor­ship and the wor­ship of God. One of the prob­lems with wor­ship­ing idols is that you nev­er know what you’re sub­mit­ting to (See: Pu­ri­ty of Heart is to Will One Thing) and you’re nev­er quite sure what is act­ing through you. Idol­a­try al­ways in­volves at least sub­mis­sion to one­self and our de­sires are nev­er sin­gu­lar. So that any giv­en mo­ment, in the wor­ship of idols, one could be an agent for many pow­ers in­clud­ing one­self. Now idols, as we have men­tioned, can be any­thing rang­ing all the way from mon­ey to one’s fam­i­ly. It be­comes an idol when you sub­mit to some­thing God didn’t tell you to sub­mit to.

In true wor­ship, how­ev­er, the Chris­t­ian sub­mits to God and only God acts through the Chris­t­ian. So we could there­fore para-phrase Part 1 of verse 22 to say: You sub­mit to what you do not know and you do not know what acts through you; we sub­mit to God and God acts through us. The goal of the Chris­t­ian in every mo­ment is wor­ship. The en­tire­ty of Chris­t­ian life is summed up in the strug­gle to en­sure that every­thing you do be­gins with sub­mis­sion to God and ends with God act­ing through you.

Every­one Wor­ships

The con­tent of Je­sus’ speech in verse 22 is of course very im­por­tant. There are many things hap­pen­ing here but two things are im­me­di­ate­ly vis­i­ble to me. First of all, Je­sus lumps the world into one group and then di­vides them up. Both parts of Part 1 in­volve wor­ship. We can there­fore con­clude that every­one wor­ships since both sen­tences con­tain the act of wor­ship in them. Je­sus then di­vides the world into two kinds of peo­ple. Those who wor­ship what they don’t know and those who wor­ship what they know. So no mat­ter who you are or where you’re from, you are a wor­shiper. The place of sep­a­ra­tion lies in the fol­low­ing ques­tion: Do you wor­ship what you know or do you wor­ship what you don’t know?

Knowl­edge Be­fore Wor­ship

The sec­ond thing Je­sus does is de­clare that there is a re­la­tion­ship be­tween see­ing/know­ing and true wor­ship. There is an in­ti­mate re­la­tion­ship be­tween know­ing God and wor­ship­ing God. The greek word used for “to know” here is eido which means know­ing, see­ing, be­hold­ing and per­ceiv­ing. You can there­fore de­fine true wor­ship as the wor­ship that aris­es from be­hold­ing/know­ing God. False wor­ship is wor­ship that aris­es out of an ig­no­rance of God.

So lets say I go to church every Sun­day and sing the songs and every­thing. Let’s say I can heal the sick and the blind and all sorts of mir­a­cles. But if I don’t know God, I am an idol wor­shiper Matt 7:21-23, 1 Cor 13:1-3 and the same as a Samar­i­tan. (We will talk about how you know that you know God lat­er.) The Samar­i­tans wor­shiped with­out see­ing or know­ing what what they were wor­ship­ing. They wor­shiped in fu­til­i­ty. Their wor­ship could nev­er bring them out of ig­no­rance.

Note, how­ev­er, that their ig­no­rance didn’t stop them from wor­ship­ing ei­ther. This tells us just how im­por­tant wor­ship is to hu­man be­ings. We breathe in air and we breathe out wor­ship. No one needs to know any­thing in or­der to breathe and every­one knows those who don’t breathe are dead. But how you breathe is very im­por­tant. Just ask some­one who suf­fers from asth­ma or some­one with COPD. Any ath­lete will tell you that if you don’t know how/when to breathe in and how/when to breathe out, you’re wast­ing your strength and en­er­gy.

As we have dis­cussed ex­ten­sive­ly, all of us are prone to hav­ing idols. We can wor­ship them with all our might but these idols will not re­move our ig­no­rance. In­stead, they fur­ther con­firm and reaf­firm our ig­no­rance. The pic­ture to use here is that of some­one tread­ing wa­ter in the mid­dle of the ocean or some­one lost in the wilder­ness (like Ha­gar and Sarai). In these sit­u­a­tions, you can al­ways go some­where but the ques­tion is where will you go and will you be dead be­fore you get there? Re­mem­ber, no one walks a dry path deep into the desert. No. We find our­selves lost in the desert by fol­low­ing a trail of un­re­li­able springs.

Sub­mis­sion Vs. Fu­til­i­ty

There are those who be­lieve that all re­li­gions and all be­liefs are the same and that all gods are the same as God or will lead to a knowl­edge of God. Well this verse con­tra­dicts all that in a fun­da­men­tal way. You can be­lieve any­thing you want but this will nev­er lead to any knowl­edge of God. You’ll just be tread­ing wa­ter till you get tired and start to sink. As we’ll talk about next, our minds will strive in fu­til­i­ty to turn ig­no­rance into knowl­edge through many meth­ods. But the mind is not a philoso­pher’s stone. It can­not turn ig­no­rance into knowl­edge any more than dark­ness can be turned into light. Paul says as much Eph­esians 4:17-20. We will elab­o­rate on this lat­er.

There are those who be­lieve that Chris­tians should leave their brains at the door. They be­lieve that deep thought pre­vents faith. But Je­sus re­veals here that an ig­no­rance of God is in­im­i­cal to faith in God. This means that you have to know God and every­thing about Him. An ana­log would be how we strive to know every­thing about a loved one. Now God says in Deut 10:12, Matt 22:36-39, James 4:8 that we can­not love Him and can­not know Him un­less we bring our en­tire be­ing into the pic­ture.

This, at the very least, means that your mind has to be ful­ly en­gaged and un­di­vid­ed in the pur­suit of know­ing Him. Hence, the prop­er re­la­tion­ship be­tween the mind and faith is that of ser­vant(the mind) and mas­ter (faith). The mind sub­mits to faith and there­by be­comes ful­ly en­gaged.

We’ll talk lat­er on how one comes to know God but lets say here that know­ing God be­gins and ends with God know­ing you Psalms 139:23-24.

There is a great book by a broth­er in whose fam­i­ly I do not de­serve to be­long called The Cost of Dis­ci­ple­ship. The book lays out what we eas­i­ly for­get as The Church of Je­sus Christ: the cost of dis­ci­ple­ship is de­nial of one­self so that I can be like Je­sus Christ. We lay down our lives be­cause He Laid down His Own. He Of­fers us His Body and Blood and we of­fer to Him our body and blood. The cost of dis­ci­ple­ship is the price of love. Even when the price is high, it is an easy de­ci­sion. So please go and read The Cost of Dis­ci­ple­ship by broth­er Di­et­rich Bon­ho­ef­fer. These se­ries of ar­ti­cles deal with dis­c...
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“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” - Colossians 2:3