For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions. 2 Tim. 4:3
In the infancy of Jesus ministry he made one bold statement what would revolutionize the way ancient people would approach God.
“God is a spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4.23
Spirit & Truth. Not exactly how most of us would characterize Old Covenant worship.
Instead of temple worship, intercessory priests and animal sacrifices, the worship offered to their God would contain equal parts of spirit and truth by each worshiper. The sacrifices would be of the heart. The worship prescribed would be in the temple of man rather than stone.
The problem for me is, I am not entirely spiritual. This spiritual body is contained in an earthly, carnal, predatory body God calls flesh.
“For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.” Rom. 7:14
When I don’t intentionally worship in spirit and truth I, inadvertently, worship in the flesh. That’s what makes Paul’s warning to Timothy so frightening to me. I don’t want to be one who is out for me. I don’t want to be lumped with men who seek to “suit their own passions.”
I wonder if I worry too much about making sure the temperature is right, the lighting is stimulating and the seats are set up at just the right angle with just the right amount of padding.
The truth is, some of the most spiritual experiences I have had in collective worship have been in a hot prison chapel in a men’s prison where I couldn’t get up to use the bathroom and armed guards stood menacing at the back of the room.
It wasn’t the atmosphere that made it. It was the Spirit of God who made it.
I think that is probably something like what happened to Paul and Silas.
They were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison. The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn’t escape. So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks.
Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening…
They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.” And they shared the word of the Lord with him (the Jailer) and with all who lived in his household. Even at that hour of the night, the jailer cared for them and washed their wounds. Then he and everyone in his household were immediately baptized. Acts 16:23-25; 31-33
After a severe beating and an unjust imprisonment, Paul and Silas worshiped. And their spiritual offering so impacted their jailer that he and his family were converted and baptized on the spot.
It had nothing to do with comfortable seating or setting the mood with lights and drama. It was a simple offering of sincere worship that made the impact.
Confession time. When I came to Christ as a teenager it was with a group of Christians who traditionally never use any type of instrumental accompaniment with their singing. I have always been self-conscious about that. I have always wondered if visitors think we are strange or if we lack some zing, bang, pop.
Funny thing is the New Testament describes the type of music they used in only a few places. The first Christians never threw a zing, bang, pop in their music. Their worship was an offering of simple, spirit-filled voices. A lot like Paul and Silas offered in prison.
It isn’t the music that makes it. It is the Spirit of God who makes it.
“Be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts.” Eph 5:18-19
Jesus’ teaching got him crucified.
Paul’s teaching started riots, got him beat and thrown in prison.
Peter’s teaching told sinners in plain terms if they didn’t repent they would be lost for eternity.
Bible teaching isn’t about motivational speaking, self-help, how to achieve your dreams, cure your cancer or double your blessings. Bible teaching is supposed to “reprove, rebuke and exhort.”
Instead of looking for preachers who tell the truth about sin, guilt and condemnation, the scripture warns, “They will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths.”
Whether it is health and wealth, the prosperity gospel or God loves you just the way you are, those messages neglect the seriousness of sin and a Holy God’s plea for his creation to seek holiness.
Jesus taught more about self-denial than self-preservation. He actually called his followers to go to the cross with him.
Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Mt. 16:24
The type of preaching I should seek is the kind the Apostles delivered.
When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power. 1 Cor 2
It’s not speaking ability that makes good preaching. It is the Spirit of God who makes good preaching.
I don’t want my worship to be fluffy or lacking. I really don’t want my worship to be carnal. I want Jesus to identify me as a true worshiper. I want to be exactly what the Father is looking for.
But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. John 4:23