Portrait of a New Covenant Worshipper
8 February 2015
A study in the series on the Gospel of John by John Dugas
Grace Bible Church, Tulsa
Full Audio Message
Portrait of a
New Covenant Worshipper
Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh was often ill and his mother worried about him. While living in France, he painted a self portrait to convince her that he was OK. He sent it to her as a gift for her 70th birthday. He hoped she would see it, think “Yep. That’s what my son looks like. And he looks OK.” Sadly though, not long after that he killed himself. Robbed of her son, she now only had a portrait to remind her what he looked like. That’s what portraits do. They show us what someone looks like.
What would a godly worshipper look like if we tried to capture their likeness in a painting? Would they look like a person in a choir robe holding a hymnal? Or maybe someone in a t-shirt and jeans looking up at the big screen? Jesus would say that we can’t capture the portrait of a godly worshipper in a painting. Why not? What makes a godly worshipper really has nothing to do with what can be seen. The woman at the well in John 4 had an image in her mind of what a worshipper should look like and someone could have captured that on canvas. But she was wrong.
As part of His gospel message, Jesus painted a mental portrait of what a true worshipper looks like. One of the most striking features of this worship is its simplicity. He stripped away everything but what was essential for worshipping the one true God.
Isn’t worship something we should discuss AFTER a person is saved? Jesus didn’t think so. We call Gospel work ‘saving sinners,’ ‘seeking the lost’ and so on. Here, Jesus calls it ‘seeking worshippers.’ And those of us who are the right kind of worshippers can improve our own worship.
In His Gospel message, Jesus paints for us a portrait of a genuine worshipper. God desires worshippers who worship Him spiritually and truthfully. Once the woman was convicted of sin, Jesus pointed her to the reason she was created—to worship the true God. But God doesn’t accept just any worship. He tells us what sort of worship He accepts.
Why does Jesus talk about worship in His Gospel presentation? People were created to worship God but sin has prevented us from doing anything that pleases God. Our sin must be dealt first.
You might recall that our fourth point in Jesus’ Gospel presentation to this woman was: Demonstrate need because of God’s character (John 4:21-24). What we’re doing this morning is taking a closer look at that point. What is that need? Sinners need to become the right sort of worshipper. God is pleased with one kind of worshipper. Many sinners you encounter will either worship the wrong god or they will try to worship the true God incorrectly. Jesus’ Gospel addresses that.
I. Introduce the change to New Covenant worship (John 4:21-23).
Once Jesus had this woman realizing that she was a sinner, He used her curiosity about a worship controversy to begin reorienting her to God. God had prescribed specific ways that He will accept in worship under the Old Covenant. Now, God is on the scene again and He will prescribe worship for the New Covenant age. Twice Jesus said that an hour is coming when this change will occur. In a sense it is already here because the One making the change is speaking to her.
What event will mark that change? It will happen when the New Covenant takes effect. When will the New Covenant take effect? Jesus told His disciples at the Last Supper, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood” (Lk 22:20). When Jesus shed His blood on the cross and died in our place, the New Covenant took effect (Heb 8-9; Heb 10:20). His death changed worship.
Godly worship would no longer be tied to a place. The veil in the temple would be torn in two. God no longer required animal sacrifices, priests as mediators, the old symbols and rituals. Messiah brought a new era in the plan of God. So in your evangelism, consider whether you need to introduce a sinner to this change to New Covenant worship. Then,
II. Challenge and correct wrong ideas about worship (John 4:21-22).
Everyone has a theology of worship. Samaritans were no different. When they split from Judah they could no longer worship in Jerusalem. They needed another place. They looked in their Bibles and found a good candidate: Mt Gerizim. Abraham and Jacob had worshipped there. Moses told the people that when they entered Palestine that they were to have one group stand on Mt Gerizim and read the blessings and others were to stand on nearby Mt Ebal and read the curses. They wanted their temple on the mount of blessing! So they felt they had good reasons to worship here.
Jesus was familiar will all of those reasons. So what did He say? He told the woman that you worship that which you do not know. You Samaritans are wrong about worship.” Under the Old Covenant, the Jews had the prescription for godly worship in the Scriptures. In fact, He added that salvation is from the Jews. What does that mean? Salvation for sinners would come through Messiah and Messiah would come from the Jews (Rom 9:4-5).
Now as He describes worshippers in this New Covenant age, He tells us something about their character as worshippers, “for such people the Father seeks” John 4:23). He calls these people true worshippers. What does He mean by the word true? 1) They understand that there are right and wrong ways to worship. God takes worship seriously. He doesn’t leave it up to us to figure out. 2) They are genuine. They are the kind of people God looks for. 3) They are faithful to God’s prescribed worship. He can rely on them to worship Him properly week in and week out. They take seriously the word must in John 4:24. This kind of worship is not an option but is a requirement.
What does it mean to worship God in spirit? 1) True worship is primarily internal. It takes place in the inner man. We offer spiritual sacrifices (1 Pet 2:5). New Covenant worship is focused on what is in the heart of man as he contemplates the greatness of God. Singing starts “in your hearts” (Col 3:16 ). That then spills out through the lips in truth or results in loving actions. We learned in Heb 13:15-16 that our sacrifices are “a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name” and “doing good and sharing.” Paul mentions the sacrifice of putting our whole heart into serving God (Rom 12:1, Phil 2:17). We also make a spiritual sacrifice when we give (Phil 4:18).
This is why New Covenant worship is supposed to be so simple. The temple is gone. The old priests are gone. The veil is gone. Animal sacrifices are gone. Special garments and rituals are gone. Those old shadows were replaced with the reality that they pictured.
2) True worship is governed by God’s Spirit. In spiritual worship, God’s Spirit has a powerful impact on our spirit (Phil 3:3). At the new birth He gave us new desires. As the living water inside of us He stirs up those desires and energizes our thoughts about Jesus. He fills our hearts with love for our Savior, with joy, reverence and awe. Riding the current of that fountain within us, these thoughts and affections gush upward to God and burst forth in a flood of praise through our lips.
The phrase worship in spirit means that there is a connection between our spirit and the indwelling Holy Spirit as we worship. Eph 5:18-20 “be filled with the Spirit…speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your hearts to the Lord.”
What does it mean to worship in truth? 1) We worship God through Jesus who is the Truth (John 3:21; John 14:6). We come to God through Jesus the Messiah. Paul said in Eph 5:20 we are to be “singing… giving thanks…in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”. This means that we should prepare our hearts for worship. Say to God, “Father, my worship can only please you if I come through Jesus my Savior. He removed my sins and gave me His righteousness. He is the mediator between You and me. Accept my worship based on who He is, not on who I am.” Jesus becomes the focus because of His work as Messiah, the Great High Priest.
2) We worship based on a standard of truth. We don’t make it up. We don’t brainstorm and decide how we ought to worship God. God tells us how to do that. So discover in the Scriptures how God wants us to worship Him. We worship according to truth. All other worship is based on falsehood. New Covenant worship is pretty simple. It includes the Lord’s supper, preaching the Word, publically reading the Scriptures, prayer, giving, and singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.
III. Communicate truth about God’s nature (John 4:24).
God’s nature directly affects our worship. You can’t paint a portrait of godly worshippers because you can’t paint God. This woman needed to hear truth about this aspect of God’s nature. Jesus told her that God is spirit. He simply means that God is invisible and omnipresent. Because of this, worship of God cannot be confined to one location. God is everywhere. His people can be everywhere when they worship.
IV. Call them to become a genuine worshipper (John 4:23b-26)[read 23b-26]
God actively seeks the sort of worshipper with the portrait we’ve been describing. But looking here and there around this globe He won’t find any. He won’t find any until His Spirit gives them new life and fills them so that they are capable of genuine worship. God’s Spirit converts men and women from sinners to true worshippers of God. God seeks worshippers who have a new heart, new interests, new desires, new commitments to serve Him. In short, God seeks an entirely new kind of person to be His worshipper.
Herein is Jesus’ motive in evangelism. His motive was the glory of God. Jesus sought worshippers for His Father that would approach God through Him. The Gospel sets things right. We were created to glorify God (Isa 43:7). But we went astray. Jesus came into this world to save lost sheep and turn them into true worshippers.
There is the portrait of a New Covenant worshipper. Brothers and sisters, think on these things to see how you should improve in your worship. Also, take this message of Good News to the lost people you know. Strive to find more worshippers for God by leading them to Messiah. Some of you are not true worshippers at all. Come to God through Jesus. Trust in His work alone to save you from your sins and change you into a true worshipper of God.