true reli­gion true wor­ship

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.

“… for from the first day that you set your heart to under­stand and hum­bled your­self before your God, your words have been heard …”
- Daniel 10:12

Wanna reach out and ask me some ques­tions? Or do you want clar­i­fi­ca­tion on some­thing writ­ten here? If so, write me a let­ter. I’d love to hear from you and I’ll respond. I bet your hon­est ques­tion will pro­duce insights that will ben­e­fit other read­ers.