The woman at the well was curious about the location where God’s people were to worship:
“Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”
Jesus’ response shows that fruitful worship is not limited to a particular site. Jesus explains that the key is that we worship in spirit and in truth, not whether we are at Jerusalem or Mount Gerizim.
We can associate worship with a particular location. Perhaps we associate worship with being by a mountain, a lake, the ocean, or a stream running through the middle of the forest. Perhaps we associate worship with a particular church building. Perhaps we associate worship with a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. There is nothing wrong with being inspired by a particular site to worship. The problem is when it is difficult to worship God when we are away from that site. Fruitful worship is not limited to a particular site, because God is everywhere.
We need to consider whether we are more focused on the God we worship or the place of worship. We need to be more impressed by the God we worship than the building we worship in. When our fellowship began we met in a shopping center. There were many people who struggled with the idea of church in a shopping center. They enjoyed the worship music, the teaching, and the children’s ministry, but they could not worship in a retail center. As we built our new building, people would come in and say, “I can’t wait for the new building so that I can come and worship with you.” They would not come and worship until there was “a proper” church building. Although I certainly understand their difficulty, it clearly is less than an ideal situation.
We can easily focus on the site of worship rather than whom we worship. I remember as a young pastor when I was experiencing a particularly difficult time that I would want to go back to worship at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa and hear Pastor Chuck teach. Yet, I needed to learn to focus on God, and not my pastor or any place of worship. It is imperative that we learn to focus on God, and not the site of worship. Here, I want to consider whether I am more focused on God or the site.
Jesus also helped the woman to see that sin in her life was keeping her from becoming a fruitful worshipper.
“Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come here.’ The woman answered and said, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You have well said, “I have no husband,” for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.'”
Jesus gently exposed the fact that the woman was living with a man outside of the marriage relationship. When Jesus called the disciples, He met them exactly where they were at. As fisherman, He encouraged them that He would make them “fishers of men.” Jesus approached the Samaritan woman at the well about the “living water.” Apparently, this woman already knew how to be a fisher of men as she had been married five times and the man she was now living with was not her husband.
We can never truly worship God until we are ready to turn from our sin and receive God’s forgiveness. Jesus exposed her sin to encourage her to turn from her ways, and to turn to God’s ways.
For example, consider a couple that is living together outside of the marriage relationship. They come to church on Sundays, sing worship songs, and want God to bless their relationship. Nevertheless, we can’t truly worship God when we are living in rebellion to God’s express desire for our lives. God has made it abundantly clear that if we are not married then we can’t “play house.” Fruitful worship requires us to deal with the sin issue, and turn from our ways, and turn to His ways.
Here, we want to consider patterns of behavior or attitudes which reveal an element in our lifestyles that is contrary to God. We need to appreciate that it inhibits our ability to be a fruitful worshipper. Once we do that we need to come to Jesus and ask Him to help us to turn from those things and turn to Him.
In summary, we all have a thirst that can only be satisfied when we worship God. It is comforting to know that God is seeking us to worship Him. Our worship must be prompted by the Spirit, and must be sincere. Worship of God does not depend on a particular site, but merely focusing on Him. Finally, we must be willing to turn from sin, and turn to God. This is what is required in worship.