The Father’s Priority (Part 1)

Series: Sword of the Spirit – Unit: Worship in Spirit and in Truth
Lesson: The father’s priority – Topic 1: The Father’s Priority (Part 1)
Teacher: Colin Dye

Announcer: Welcome to Sword of the Spirit; Written and presented by Colin Dye, Senior Minister of Kensington Temple and leader of London City Church. Sword of the Spirit is a dynamic teaching series equipping the believers of today to build the disciples of tomorrow. We pray that you find these programs inspiring and a catalyst in deepening your knowledge of God, your relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and your intimacy with the Holy Spirit.

Colin Dye: Hello and welcome to the Sword of the Spirit, a school of ministry in the Word and the Spirit.  Today we’re starting a new topic, “Worship in Spirit and Truth.”  Jesus said that the Father is searching for worshipers, those who would worship Him in spirit and truth.  And in this series we’re going to examine that statement in depth.  We’re going to go into the Old Testament and see how God called the people of God in the Old Testament to worship Him.  Then we’re going to see how in the New Testament God, who is searching for worshipers draws us close to His heart through faith in Jesus Christ.  We will find that worship is one of the highest priorities of God’s life and of God’s heart.  And one of the highest priorities therefore that we should make in our lives because really it’s our response to everything that God has done for us.

You know, when people talk about worship, sometimes they think about the kind of set forms of worship that they might be familiar with in classical traditions of Christianity.  Certainly, people think about worshiping together in Church services or in groups and all these things are important, but really worship has something to do with the whole of life, it’s who you are before God.  It’s how you commune with God, how you talk to God and so worship covers our lifestyle, everything that we do that’s offered up to the Lord as an act of worship.  It covers our prayer life, it covers our relationships in fact, absolutely anything and everything that is done with the purpose of glorifying God is an act of worship.

But we’ll also discover that there are special ways in which we draw to God very personally and intimately whether we do that as individuals or together with our Christian family as a group.  But in all of these things, worship has to do with God’s priority for intimacy in our lives.

Hello and welcome to The Sword of the Spirit teaching series, “Worship in Spirit and truth.”  And over the last thirty years there’s been a revolution in worship right across the worldwide Church.  Perhaps today there has been no greater diversity in public worship then at any other time in Christian history.  As recently as thirty years ago, most Anglican worship was based around the sixteen sixty-two prayer book.  Most Roman Catholic worship was in Latin and most Free Church’s used the hymn prayer sandwich.  Nearly all the services were led by a recognized minister and the organist ruled supreme and there were certainly no leading role for women.  But now in the last thirty years there’s been this revolution which has transformed worship it’s become a much more informal its led by people using many more musical instruments using modern liturgical forms of worship, mixing contemporary and traditional songs.

Now many of these changes have reflected the increased informality in the western world and in particular the musical tastes of the post Beatle generation.  But they’ve also been a response to the genuine work of the Holy Spirit right across the world in what is now known as the charismatic renewal.

Now, so many people have therefore discussed many, many aspects of worship in different levels of Church life.  For example, the place of spiritual gifts, the role of women the balance between prepared liturgical forms of worship and spontaneity.  The use of dance, drama and also the role of the Lord’s Supper and many other different forms of worship, acceptable styles of music and so the debate goes on.

However, it seems to me that there’s been far less attention paid to the Biblical principles that undergird worship and because we have concentrated more on form rather than substance more on modern details rather than Scriptural  principals, some of the Church’s have put the proverbial cart before the horse.  Therefore this series on worship is to examine and to study in depth the principals that undergird worship in spirit and truth, to establish what the Bible means by worship and to discover God’s eternal purposes about the way He wants us to respond to His grace.  And I’ve kept “Worship in Spirit and Truth,” at the end of the whole of the series of seminars in The Sword of the Spirit series, so that we could have a climax at the end.  To realize that everything that we’ve been talking about is to lead us to this great conclusion; that we’re called to worship the Living God with all our heart, soul, mind’s and strength.

And so by the end of our time in this topic I’d like to feel that you and I would begin to appreciate worship at a much greater level of depth and to see that it’s much, much more than what we simply do when we come together in our Sunday services.  But that God wants your every word and deed to be motivated by holy fear and adoring love.  And I pray that we will be able to reprioritize our life so that we make sure that worship of the Living God is our number one priority.  So that we might feed our mind with His truth, fire our imagination with His beauty, free ourselves to His love, follow His perfect example and firmly devote our will to His purposes to enjoy Him and worship Him fully in spirit and truth.

There is an answer in one of the confessions of faith known as the Westminster Shorter Catechism, and the first question that is asked in that catechism that people learn is, what is man’s chief end, what’s the chief goal and purpose of humankind?  And the answer is man’s chief end is to enjoy God and to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever and so, that’s very much part of our worship.

Now in the first section, we examine the fact that worship is the Father’s priority.  Worship is the Father’s priority.  The title, worship in spirit and truth is taken from the words that Jesus spoke to that woman of Samaria.  And in one of the earlier seminars, “Reaching the lost,” we go into detail to see how this woman was made, Jesus made contact with this woman by placing her in His debt, asking, placing Himself in her debt that is by asking her to do something for Him.  And He also roused her curiosity by hinting at something, which was more satisfying than her present experience.  And it seems that Jesus’ challenge in verse twenty of John chapter four is too close for comfort.  And so she raises a religious red herring, she says, “our fathers worshiped on this mountain and You say that Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”  And here was a real red herring that was raised at this time because the Samaritans and the Jews had different ideas about religion, different ideas about the rightful place to worship and so forth.  And she used this as a diversionary tactic as Jesus was homing in on her personal life, seeking to bring her to eternal life.

And now, Jesus answers in that statement which is the basis of this teaching series, Jesus said to her, this is John chapter four verses twenty-one through twenty-four.  Jesus said to her, “woman believe me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem worship the Father.  You worship what you do not know, we know what we worship for salvation is of the Jews but the hour is coming and now is when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.  God is Spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.

Now I’ll unpack this so that later on, but I want you to notice straight away that the phrase, worship in spirit and truth is a single phrase to be taken together.  Notice Jesus does not say to worship in spirit and in truth, talking about two separate things.  He’s talking about worship in spirit and truth in other words its one single thing.  We’re gonna spend a moment or two looking at what that means.  Here Jesus’ words to this woman this promiscuous pagan woman reveal God’s eternal heart to all His sinful people.  What a wonderful revelation this woman received, He declared to her that the Father is seeking true worshipers.  Notice it’s not just that the Father is seeking worship He is seeking worshipers, He is seeking people and this was the Father seeking this woman as He sent Jesus for that very special appointment.  You know if you know the story how Jesus was at great pains to keep that appointment because the Father had directed Him to be right there for that woman at that particular time.  So the Father is seeking sinful men and women who will worship Him in spirit and truth.

Now, as with so much else that we look at in The Sword of the Spirit series, worship is entirely the Father’s initiative.  We cannot worship Him unless He draws us.  Worship is His will and His purpose.  It is He who is actively seeking worshipers for Himself, eagerly drawing believers together to worship Him, firmly persuading us that this is His will for our lives.  This means that true worship is always a human response to a divine initiative.  It’s never merely a human action to attract divine attention.  This is very, very significant; we don’t get God’s attention by worshiping Him so much as God draws us and gets our attention so that we may worship Him.  And then when we worship Him in spirit we are also being empowered by the Holy Spirit to do this.  And now it is God time and time again we see in Scripture, God seeking worshipers it was God who walks in the Garden of Eden seeking sinful Adam and Eve and offering them bloodstained clothes of grace.  It was God who spoke to Noah and covenanted with him keeping his family safe in a time of judgment inspiring him to worship.  It is God who calls Abraham and draws him to Canaan; it is God who leads Israel from Egypt across the Red Sea through the desert and into the Promised Land.  And supremely it is God who in Christ on the cross draws all people to Himself as He says in John chapter twelve verse thirty-two, if I be lifted up from the earth I will draw all men to Myself.

And this is the ancient Covenantal Promise, you will be My people and I will be Your God, it runs like a thread through Genesis through Revelation as the Bible repeatedly underlines the Father’s efforts to initiate and to restore and to maintain fellowship with His children.  It is as if God is the father in the story of the prodigal son to bring that son from afar to rush to meet him to welcome him home with shouts of joy and extravagant celebrations.  We need to enter into the heart of the Father who says, “I want you I want you in a relationship with Myself, I want your worship because I want you and I to be at one.”

Now this phrase is in two parts, worship in spirit, its one phrase but we do need to see what worship in spirit and truth is.  Worship in spirit is always the stammering response of the prodigal who is absolutely amazed at the grace of the Father and the love of the Father.  This kind of worship in spirit rises only within people when the Holy Spirit has touched our spirits.  And we know that by our own careful rituals or our own set formula we cannot produce this kind of worship in spirit.  We could even have great songs and gifted musicians and helpful techniques, culturally relevant styles, well prepared order of service and wise leaders but this will now draw us to worship God in spirit until the Father draws us to Himself and the Holy Spirit touches our human spirits.

Our singing our praying our praising our dancing our meditating all may lead to worship but true worship will not occur until our spirit’s have been drawn to God by the Father and have been ignited by the work of the Spirit of Truth.  And so this seminar is not about modern forms of worship and contemporary techniques in leading worship.  It doesn’t present one particular style of worship as against another style of worship because we know the New Testament never prescribes any techniques or asks for any special forms.  Instead our focus is having a look at the Bible to find the way that the Father graciously draws us to Himself and consider how He expects us to respond to His love.

It is also worship in truth.  When Jesus was dealing with Satan and Satan tempted Jesus with the incentive of the riches of the world and the kingdoms of the world to worship him, Jesus said, “no, we should only worship God, He is the only One whom we should worship and whom we should serve because He is the true and the living God.  This is true worship, worship of the true God.  Exodus chapter twenty, the first two of the Ten Commandments have to do with worship, showing God’s priority of worship.  The first commandment is God’s demand that Israel should exclusively worship Him.  “You shall have no other gods before Me,” He says.  You shall have no other gods before me, this is the first commandment and this is showing us that we should worship God exclusively and direct all our worship only to Him.  But there is another aspect of this because the second commandment goes on to show who or how we should worship Him.  OK.  God is the only One we shall worship you should have no other gods before me, then Exodus chapter twenty and verse four, you shall not make for yourself a carved image or any likeness that is in Heaven above or on the earth beneath.

And so, we need to know God calls us to worship Him alone but also how we should worship Him, in an attitude of total exclusivity.  We don’t involve any idolatrous forms in our worship of God because that detracts from His glory.  And so, putting these things together we must not honor or adore anything more than God the true God.  We must also know the true God correctly if we are to honor Him and adore Him above all else.  So just as we cannot worship God in spirit if we do not get touched by the Spirit so we cannot worship Him in truth if we do not know the truth about Him.

Worship in spirit should be our eager response to what God has done for us in creating us and saving us and worship in truth depends on us knowing the Father the Son and the Spirit in the fullness of the Biblical revelation.  So true worship is not some aimless emotional activity it’s an action, which is tightly focused on the One True God, and if we are really to worship Him in spirit and truth we must make every effort to know Him better.  This means that we must keep on studying His self-revelation to the people of Israel.  We must keep on meditating on all the divine attributes, which He reveals in His written Word.  And we must keep on gazing at His wonderful self-revelation in Jesus.  That’s why we emphasize throughout all of the seminars and in The Sword of the Spirit series that this is a school of ministry in the Word and the Spirit.  And when we come to worshipping God our minds must be set on fire and illuminated by the truth of God’s Word.  We must continue to dig deep into God’s Word because in God’s Word is the fuel that will fan the flames or feed the flames of our hearts worship and devotion of Him.

And so we grasp that worship must be rooted in spirit and in truth, it must be worship with confession.  When we look closely at God’s purposes and we see Him clearly we are bound to a time, to come to a place of confession, just like Isaiah did in chapter six and verse five of his prophecy.  You know when he sees this great vision of the Holy One of Israel, he cries out, “woe is me for I am undone because I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips, for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts.”  When we appreciate the truth of our own sinfulness, we grasp that by the revelation of Scripture but we can only grasp it fully when we see God and stare at Him in His absolute holiness.  And when we see His faithfulness, we’re conscience of our fickleness, when we gaze at His grace we know the truth of our own guilt and then we find the solution of that as we come to worship Him.

And so worship is the recognition of who God is and therefore the revelation of who we are which leads us on to glory in the fact of what He’s done for us to rescue us sinful creatures to purge us from our sin to speak and to say to heal and to deliver to judge, conquer and to forgive.  Supremely, He is the God who acts as well as the God who is and we find that His intrinsic goodness His faithfulness His justice and His love, every attribute of God His wisdom His patience His mercy, all of these things are etched in mighty works throughout the whole of the Bible and our lives.  And whenever we consider His mighty deeds we are drawn to worship Him in spirit and truth.

This speaks to us also of the fact that worship is our first priority.  Jesus crystallizes all of the commandments into two, loving God and loving your neighbor.  And here we find that the second horizontal aspect of this loving your neighbor depends on your love for God and the first primary vertical aspect of loving God must be outworked in loving your neighbor.  And so, worship of the One True God must be our supreme priority.  And then Jesus shows that the second requirement for our lives is serving others with the same passion that we have for ourselves.  And so this establishes two vital principals of worship right at the outset, worshipping God and serving others are closely linked in God’s purposes.  But that secondly, worshipping God comes first and serving God comes second, very important, serving others comes second.

  1. According to Jesus, worship is God’s chief purpose for humanity. He’s created us to worship Him and to enjoy Him and He’s redeemed us to worship and enjoy Him.  Service flows from this worship and its based in worship but it’s not a substitute for worship.  We must take care that our godly activities do not because the enemy of our godly adoration.  I find so often that our evangelical and charismatic Pentecostal busyness drives out this sense of worship.  We need to know what it is frequently to put worship of Him above any other activity for Him.  We find in the Old Testament the priests and Levites were set apart exclusively to serve God and their ministry to Him took precedence over every other work.

In the book of Ezekiel he has that end time eschatological vision of the new temple and he shows the principal that applies to worship in the end times is the principal that applies to worship throughout all time.  There in Ezekiel forty-four and verse fifteen he says, but the priests and the Levites, the sons of Zadok who kept charge of My sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from Me.  They shall come near to Me to minister to Me and they shall stand before Me to offer to Me the fat of the, and the blood says the Lord.

So it’s the priests who were called essentially to approach God and to minister personally to Him.  And we know that in the New Covenant administration of God’s grace and mercy, we are all priests and our primary purpose is to worship Him and to adore Him.  So this means we must make sure that we’re not so busy serving others and responding to their genuine needs and doing all the things that we think are relevant to the ministry while neglecting to minister personally to God and minister to Him.  And yet these two principals are not set against each other, the way we can minister to God.  But these two principals are not opposed to each other because the way that we worship God is from our heart and our spirit and when we serve other people with that same attitude of worship and devotion to God our serving others becomes a ministry to Him.  That’s why Jesus said, “In as much as you’ve done it to the least of these My brethren, you’ve done it unto Me.

Worship in spirit and truth, also means that we worship with sincerity.  Worship in spirit and truth meaning real, being real with God being sincere.  True worship can only come from a sincere heart.  Psalm twenty-four and verse four says, answering the question, who can ascend to the hill of the Lord, he who has clean hands and a pure heart who has not lifted up his heart to an idol nor sworn deceitfully.  Isaiah twenty-nine verse thirteen, Isaiah prophesy’s about the insincerity and superficiality, the lack of reality in the worship of the people of God of his day.  Isaiah twenty-nine, verse thirteen, therefore the Lord said, “in as much as these people draw near with their mouth and honor Me with their lips but I have removed their hearts far from Me and their fear towards Me is taught by the commandment of men.

So, we need to make sure that in our worship of God we know that He hates all forms of religious pretense.  Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount speaks about true worship and He says, “don’t do these things in order to be seen by men to get your praise by them to impress other people.”  Worship must be directed to God from the heart.

God is looking for practical actions in His worshippers, not just symbolic gestures; He’s looking for inner purity of our hearts not just for outward ritual.  Throughout the Psalms, God is calling forth for a people who will come to Him with clean hands and a pure heart, with a broken and contrite spirit.  And of course, this can only happen as we know, we are washed and cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ.  Now we know that God is calling us to worship Him in a way that is true pleasing and acceptable to Him and this can only come as we depend on the Holy Spirit.  Philippians chapter three and verse three says, we are the circumcision who worship God in the spirit and rejoice in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh.  True worship begins when we acknowledge that we have nothing in ourselves upon which we can depend in our relationship to God.  But when we abandon ourselves to the grace of God and throw ourselves on His love and mercy.  We give up all pretenses of fleshly efforts to try and please God or to impress Him in any way and we say, “God, all I’ve got is You and so take all of me because that’s how much You mean to me.”

And that brings to an end today’s teaching on “Worship in Spirit and Truth.”  And I pray that as you’ve been watching and listening, God has been drawing you closer and closer to Himself.  There’s no greater thing on earth than being a worshipper of the Father in the name of Jesus.  And so until next time, goodbye and God bless you.

Recommended reading

Dye, Colin. Worship in Spirit and Truth
Kensington Temple, 2009