articlesqa August 27, 2015 true religion true worship
Ifeoluwapo Eleyinafe Article by Ifeoluwapo EleyinafeCreator and author of thinkheaven.com

So far, we have seen all the ways peo­ple strive to ful­fill them­selves how this only makes us more thirsty. We asked if this meant that we just need­ed to work hard­er at be­ing re­li­gious so that we could be more ful­filled and we dis­cov­ered that God is against this method as well. Now let us see what Je­sus has to of­fer that could be so dif­fer­ent.

Give Me This Wa­ter

The con­ver­sa­tion with the woman at the well had been so far about the wa­ters she had been drink­ing from. It had been about the wa­ter that can en­ter us and take away our thirst. Je­sus though, switch­es the con­ver­sa­tion on her in verse 14 so that she asks a ques­tion of Him in 15 John 4:13-15. What was it that Je­sus of­fered that was so dif­fer­ent from what she had been do­ing be­fore? He of­fered her a wa­ter that would leave her ful­filled for­ev­er. She would nev­er ever thirst again. She wouldn’t have to run from place to place in the heat of the day look­ing for some­thing to sat­is­fy. She would drink once and this sip would grow in her into a spring. Oth­er re­li­gions, hus­bands, jobs and friends are wells. Wells are deep. You have to dig deep to get any­thing out of them and they of­ten fail to sat­is­fy. If they do sat­is­fy, we grow thirsty again and have to go back. What Je­sus of­fers here is a spring. A liv­ing spring that is go­ing to well up in you. All you have to do is not get in the way. All you have to do is be a chan­nel to let it flow.

Is it any won­der then that this woman ea­ger­ly asks for the wa­ter. Have we not all asked some­one or some­thing this ques­tion at some point in life: “give me this wa­ter, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw”? This is what we all want out of life. We want ful­fill­ment with­out this con­stant cy­cle of thirst and drink. We want God to come and in­hab­it the emp­ty throne He cre­at­ed for Him­self in each of us. We want His King­dom to rule in us.

That I Don’t Want?

But no­tice as you were read­ing, that maybe a re­sis­tance grows in you. Cause it was cer­tain­ly grow­ing in me. I want to be ful­filled but I don’t want to be ruled. Even though it doesn’t make sense, I want the wa­ter and the spring and all that but I don’t want the source. That would mean that I was no longer in con­trol. But how can there be a spring with­out a source? Fur­ther­more, if out of you flow rivers of liv­ing wa­ter but you don’t know the source then will not peo­ple be at­tract­ed to you in­stead of God? Is this not the mis­take that we of­ten make when we try to be the so­lu­tion to oth­er peo­ple’s prob­lems?

As we saw with Ha­gar and Sarai, the only prod­uct of this mis­take is more bar­ren­ness for both par­ties in­volved. The samar­i­tan had idol­a­try be­cause he want­ed to be his own lord and do what­ev­er he want­ed. The Jew had the law and used the law to af­firm her ex­clu­sive right­eous­ness be­cause she worked hard to keep the law. Both the Jew and the Samar­i­tan were bar­ren and thirsty be­cause they ruled their own lives. Sarai and Ha­gar were equal­ly bar­ren and thirsty be­cause each did what she con­sid­ered to be wise. We have to stop be­ing wise with our own wis­dom. Stop work­ing and toil­ing to be your own lord and mas­ter. Stop try­ing to be your own source. Je­sus came to give a source that would over­flow into eter­nal life. All we have to do re­ceive Him as our Lord and His Spir­it as our Source and we will find a flood break­ing out us. Re­mem­ber that the empti­ness in us is too big for any per­son or peo­ple to fill. Only He can fill us. But He is big­ger than us and big­ger than the space of our heart that He has come to oc­cu­py. There­fore, His King­dom flows out of us into every part of our lives. Out of us flow rivers of liv­ing wa­ter be­cause we have be­lieved in Him John 7:38.

Liv­ing Wa­ter

Our con­text is es­tab­lished. Je­sus says that He has come to give a Spir­it. A Spir­it that gives life. It is the Spir­it that gives life, the flesh prof­its noth­ing John 6:63. It is the Spir­it that gives life, re­li­gion with­out Spir­it prof­its noth­ing. Let’s be­gin to talk then about what makes wor­ship and re­li­gion true. What is it that makes re­li­gion true? From verse 14, Je­sus be­gan to talk to the woman about what will come out of her. Then in verse 16 He com­pletes the turn by point­ing out the things that she had been do­ing be­cause she did not have the liv­ing wa­ter John 4:16-18.

So also it is with us. In the ab­sence of liv­ing wa­ter, all that we at­tempt to do, even re­li­gious wor­ship, is sin. All that is not done out of faith in Je­sus Christ is sin Ro­mans 14:22-23. She knew these things were not pleas­ing to God. So she bril­liant­ly be­gins to talk about wor­ship John 4:19-20. She thought that, since Je­sus was a Jew, he would tell her that right­eous­ness be­gan with wor­ship­ing in the right place. For all Jews, Jerusalem was the right place. But she was used to wor­ship­ing on the moun­tain like a Samar­i­tan. So what could she do? Je­sus then goes on to tell her what true wor­ship is all about from John 4:21-24.

True Re­li­gion, True Wor­ship

Broad­ly we should ob­serve from Je­sus’ re­sponse that true wor­ship is an out­ward ex­pres­sion of an in­ner state (more on this lat­er). We men­tioned in a pre­vi­ous para­graph that God was too big to re­main just in your heart af­ter you had re­ceived Him. We said that He would flow out through you into all that was around you. The word to cap­ture this act of God flow­ing out through you is wor­ship. You can now be­gin to see how God in­hab­its the prais­es of His peo­ple Psalms 22:3. Wor­ship is God pour­ing out of our re­la­tion­ship with Him. Our sub­mis­sion to Him is our re­sponse to what God has done in our lives by giv­ing us the Holy Spir­it. Sub­mis­sion means that I choose His Way over my own. I choose His Laws over my own. I choose Him as Lord.

True wor­ship then is not some­thing we do by our own pow­er. In fact, wor­ship can only be ex­pressed through you when you for­sake your self and your pow­er and choose God in­stead Ro­mans 12:1-2. True wor­ship is what God does through us. Wor­ship and re­li­gion, till the point of this con­ver­sa­tion be­tween Je­sus and the woman by the well, had al­ways been seen as a means to an end. It was ei­ther a duty in Ju­daism or a flight of fan­cy in idol­a­try. It be­gan with me by my own pow­er and end­ed with me. But true wor­ship is not a means of re­ceiv­ing more from God or re­ceiv­ing more of God or a means of ap­peas­ing God’s anger. True wor­ship is ini­ti­at­ed by God when He gave Him­self (Je­sus’ sac­ri­fice, His Holy Spir­it in you) to you. The act of wor­ship is com­plet­ed when He be­gins to act and do good through you.

This can take the shape of a song to Him­self but it can also take the shape of you help­ing an old lady cross the street or the cure for can­cer, or good busi­ness or paint­ing or walk­ing or eat­ing. In all these cas­es, wor­ship is the liv­ing wa­ter that flows out of you. Wor­ship is every­thing.

Does this mean that I am say­ing that God ex­alts Him­self through you when you sing? Yes! He in­hab­its the prais­es of His peo­ple. Who are these prais­es ad­dressed to and who gives the pow­er to praise? Him­self. He in­spires and in­hab­its the prais­es of His peo­ple to Him­self. That’s ex­act­ly what sep­a­rates the wor­ship and re­li­gion of old from the true re­li­gion that Je­sus and James talk about. False re­li­gion and false wor­ship be­gins with me and ends with me and maybe I’ll give God some crumbs every now and then. True re­li­gion and true wor­ship be­gins with God, by God and to God. My only role is sub­mis­sion.

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“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” - Colossians 2:3

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