False Religion, True Religion series
Jesus was big on truth. What did he mean by truth? He spelled it out in a couple of verses, but I wanted to know more about what he meant by “worshiping in Spirit and in truth.” It took a lot of study back into the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament).
“But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” – John 4: 23, 24 (NASB)
Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
They wondered what Jesus meant since they didn’t consider themselves to not be free. Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.”
– Passages from John 14th Chapter, verses 31-38. (NASB)
The image that most of us have of worship is something we do in church, such as praising God. Nope – major failure.
I never hurt anyone
I have too frequently heard people say to me that they never hurt anyone, so they are doing all that’s required of them. They are kind of like the wealthy person who came to Jesus and talked about himself and asked what else he should do. Jesus told him he was doing well, then said to him to sell everything he had, give it to the poor, and follow him. Gulp. Who of us would do this? (Not that everyone should – Jesus talked specifically to that man, not everyone.)
What Jesus told the man negates the idea that just following the law is the key. It’s much more.
The prophets told us about what is false and true
Portions of this are from my True Worship Sermon on OneSpiritResources.com.
A series of prophets spoke to the people of Israel over hundreds of years. They told them that they lived opulently but were horrible people. And that God hated their religious feasts, meetings, and ceremonies.
Prophet Amos (paraphrased) ”You go to one holy city and do wrong, and then you go to another and do ten times worse. You rely solely on your military power, your dealings with others are full of corruption, you ignore the poor while you sit in opulence, you are horribly immoral, you’re totally shallow, and your religious feasts and ceremonies are meaningless. God hates… no, he despises your religious feasts and meetings! He doesn’t want to hear your songs. What he wants is for justice to roll from you like an ever-flowing stream.”
Later the Prophet Jeremiah: He tried to make them realize that their “election” was conditional. He asked (paraphrased), “Would you steal, murder, commit adultery, lie against others, worship false gods, and then come to God’s House and say, “We are cleansed,” and then go back out and do the same horrible things all over again? Is this Temple a den of thieves? I don’t think so. God doesn’t think so. Don’t trust in these deceptive words, ‘This is the Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord.'” Once again they were symbolically bowing to God, pretending to do what He wanted, and then doing the opposite.
The Prophet Ezekiel came to them (paraphrased): “You have perverted everything – the house of God has now become a symbol of your horrible crimes. You go to the Temple but you can’t find God there because your crimes are blinding you. God is booting leaving the Temple.”
Ezekiel saw the glory (literally splendor or honor) of God leave the Temple (literally or symbolically), and the Assyrian Empire conquered them and deported most of the people in the northern half of Ancient Israel to Assyria.
The Prophet Isaiah said (abbreviated): “The multitude of your sacrifices– what are they to me?” says the Lord. “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. I cannot bear your evil assemblies. Your appointed feasts my soul hates, they’re a burden and wearying. I will hide my eyes from you. Your hands are full of blood. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.
Jesus had the same message as the prophets
In the 8th chapter of John, Christ spoke about himself and belief. Verse 14, about himself, “My testimony is true.” Verse 26, “…he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him. And then he said about them, verse 31, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
Continue in my word, Jesus said. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Those aren’t idle terms about head knowledge. They are about what we do. Truth in religion and spirituality is all about following the intent (spirit) of religion and the law, not glossing things over to make yourself look good while continuing to mistreat others and doing wrong, basically ignoring the intent of religion. The intent of religion is to act out of love.
Has the Glory of God left the Body of Christ in this world?
Has the church become a perverted symbol of hatred? Do we hate and despise others and call it good in direct contrast to what is expected of us: To love the “Samaritans” in our lives?
True worship has little to do with going to church and what we do there. It isn’t about what God can give us – it’s more about what we can do for others. It isn’t uniting Jesus with our politics, nation, or our culture or ethnicity. It’s not about becoming totally dependent on God as if we were simply puppets, shouting “God’s will!” over everything that happens to us, setting aside all responsibility. It isn’t about looking for signs of the end and separating ourselves from the world. It’s not about our skin color, ethnicity, or power.
True worship is a path of love that is proven, consistent, credible, and stands out as a clear choice that is worth following. It’s about what we do, simply framed and compelled by what we, in spirit, believe. True means you can count on it. It isn’t as flashy as end of the world images and screaming about economic and political systems, but you can have faith that the way Jesus showed us works.
Take Home points
True religion isn’t about what we believe, it’s about what we do. The Spirit of religion is the intent of religion. The prophets called it out: help others. Jesus demonstrated it for us by helping others and said to follow him. While declaring the glory of God is great, it isn’t what God wants in worship of God. He wants action. He wants social justice.
Our answer is God. God’s answer is us. Together we make the world better.
I will use some book references for this series, which I recommended reading:
- Tabernacle of Hate by Kerry Nobles – true story of a group that isolated for peaceful living but ended up in cults that advocated violence.
- C Street by Jeff Sharlet – a true cult that thought Jesus was wrong, and influences politicians around the world
- When Religion Becomes Evil by Charles Kimball (5 warning signs)
What Is Meant by Truth? (Worship in Spirit and in Truth)