Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Fruit, Worship, and the Cross, part 2

On the last post I ended with the thought that God was looking for supernatural fruit, the fruit of the Holy Spirit working in us. The Holy Spirit is the one who interacts within us to teach us how to love God and others. As Paul wrote "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. " Gal 5:6 NIV This is the fruit our Lord is looking for.

The apostle John wrote about a time when Jesus met a Samaritan woman at a well. Jesus initiates a conversation with her resulting in her asking him some questions about proper worship. Jesus tells her that "Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know … him, for salvation comes through the Jews.
But the time is coming—indeed it's here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth." John 4:21-24 NLT

In this passage Jesus teaches us that God is seeking worshippers. Note it is not worship, but worshippers. There is a big difference. God is not needy or egotistical, but God is who he is. The creator of all, the one who made up all the physical laws, who made matter by his all-powerful word. The one who brought life into the universe. This same God wants our love, but does not need it. So God gives us a choice to love or not. To believe him or not. To trust his word and thereby love him, or not.

Those who love God and believe him are those whom our Lord seeks. Worship of God is the logical response – our "reasonable worship" – to seeing him as he is. So many times in the prophets we see the prophets encountering the Lord Himself and their only response is to fall on their faces and worship. The Lord is worthy of such worship. God wants to be loved by those who see him as he is. These worshippers are the ones he seeks.

Note also that the worshippers must worship in (S)spirit and truth. This is the context or place where the worship of God is to take place. It is contrasted with the physical locations of "this mountain" and "Jerusalem". No longer could places be deemed intrinsically holy. This is because that would inconsistent with God's nature – his mode of being. It is in the Spirit and in Truth that our Lord dwells. This is where we can find him and this is the environment within which we can truly worship.

It is this close identification with the nature of God that leads us into worship. This nature is most clearly seen in the way Jesus responded when incarnated – he took on the nature of a servant and became obedient, even to dying on a cross. As worship is the only logical response to seeing the deity as he is, so serving God in loving obedience is the only logical response of humanity in relation to God. After all, he is the one who made it all and knows the end from the beginning, who has demonstrated his love for us in the strongest of terms, shall we not love and serve him? If we willingly take advice from an expert friend whom we trust, how much more should we believe the word of the one who is the source of all expertise, all wisdom, and all knowledge?

Our worship of God follows the path that Jesus himself tread. Jesus himself said to his disciples "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it." Matthew 16:21, 24-25 NIV Thus God is seeking worshippers who will worship him in a manner consistent with God's own nature, in Spirit and Truth. This worship is expressed in our willingness to deny ourselves and follow Jesus, believing his word.

In part 3 I will look more deeply into the cross.

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