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Monday, July 18, 2022

Spirit and Truth

Christmas in July
It's July as I write this.  But today, I want to share a little Christmas in July!  Listen to the Christmas story.  Jesus' birth changed everything!

Luke 2:1-20
1 At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. 2 (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. 4 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. 5 He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child.

6 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. 7 She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in highest heaven,
    and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

Jesus Divides History’s Timeline
Jesus was born to save the world from sin.  He came to unites all people as one people in the Kingdom of God.  More than any other figure in history, Jesu changed the world.  The world’s transformation by Christ is so great that we split history in half, marking it by whether it happened before or after Christ was born.

After He was born, Jesus grew in wisdom and stature.  He was baptized by his cousin John to mark the beginning of his public ministry.  Then he begam to teach and heal and share the love of God with people.  Jesus also made it clear that His mission was to all people.  Where others in the Bible had only come in ministry to Israel, Jesus even reached out even to gentiles and the despise Samaritans.

Jesus was the son of God, the long awaited Messiah who would save the world. 
The first person to whom Jesus revealed this truth was a Samaritan woman—an outcast in her community.  When everyone else shunned this woman, Jesus met her at Jacob’s well and told her about living water—water that wells up from inside and sustains us spiritually and never runs dry.

And Jesus shared a very important Truth with the Samaritan woman that I want to share with you today. 

John 4:23-24
The time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. 24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”

Spirit & Truth
Music moves me in worship.  It always has.  When I was a child, church was so boring.  I would just bide my time until we could finally leave.  But I will never forget the first time I truly felt something good in worship.  I was only about 8 years old and a lady (I wish I knew her name) sang a solo during the service.  It gave me chills.  Every Sunday after that, I hoped that someone would sing or do something else in the service that would help me feel something in worship.

God is real and His Son, Jesus, is alive.  The relationship we are to have with the Divine is real and tangible.  It is something you can feel.  We can feel love and comfort and friendship and caring and sadness and anger with the Divine just as we do with our parents or our children or our spouse.  Real relationships involve feeling.

But our relationship with God is not limited only to spirit (feelings).  Christians have often gotten into big trouble when they base their faith in God only on feelings.  Feelings are a good gift from God, but they are quite subjective.  People who base their life and faith and decisions only on feelings, quickly find themselves in trouble because "follow your heart" is not a very wise cliché. 

We are also called to worship in truth.  We need wisdom and knowledge.  So God gave us a brain and He wants us to use it.  We can read the Bible and learn and reason to understand who God is and why He sent Jesus and what are God's expectations and commandments and how we are supposed to live.  It is important that we have a rich intellectual relationship with God as well as a heartfelt one.

Another aspect of worshiping in truth is practical truth.  Knowing something is one part of truth, but doing something is putting our intellect into action.  We are called to act upon what we know.  Christians are called to serve and to sacrifice.

I love the Methodist movement.  It grew our of the renewal efforts of John Wesley and others who wanted to breathe new life into the dead, stagnant religions of the Anglican Church of the 1700s.  At that time, there was no passion in worship in England.  People would come hear a boring lecture at church and leave unmoved and unchanged and did nothing practical with their religion in everyday life.  John Wesley wanted to change that.  He believed in Jesus' admonish that God wanted people to worship Him in spirit and in truth.  And so John set about renewing the church.  He was a highly educated man who understood the deep theology of the Christian faith and he taught it in his sermons.  Wesley was also a man who had experienced his heart being warmed as he understood how Jesus had saved him while he was still a sinner.  Wesley felt God's love and was assured of his salvation.  And Wesley brought this out in his worship services.  That's why a university man like Wesley could preach and teach lower class uneducated coal minors and others about God's love and they responded with great emotion and devotion.  And the truth of the Gospel was practical in the Methodist movement, and they cared for the poor, opened hospitals for the sick, made a place for orphans, and even ministered to criminals in prison.  By worshipping God in spirit and in truth, those early Methodists changed England and made it a better place.

The Church in the 21st century, must be a people who worship God in spirit and in truth--with emotions, with intellect, and with practical application.

Be the Church
If the Church is to be what God wants it to be, then individuals must worship the Father in spirit and in truth because the church is made up of individuals. Therefore, if you are a follower of Christ, a Christian, then you must be a follower of Christ who worships in spirit and in truth.

Is your relationship with Jesus spiritually rich? Do you feel Him and know Him? Is He real to your heart? Or is Jesus only someone or something you know intellectually?  What could you do to practice and grow in knowing Christ with your heart this week?  How can you worship Him in spirit?  One way that helps move me is music.  Could that be something that helps you?  Or could it be something else?

Do you also worship Jesus in Truth? Is your relationship with Jesus only emotional? Do you really know Him in Truth? Do you understand who He is and what He did and what He wants to do in your life and the world today? Do you have an intellectually rich relationship with Jesus?  What could you do this week to know Christ in truth?  Perhaps it's time to join a Bible study or listen to a Christian podcast or read a stimulating religious book to learn about an important aspect of your Christian faith.

Does your relationship with Jesus move you to live for Him? Does His love for you and the Truth about Christ compel you to serve others—to be the hands and feet of Christ?  How will you walk with Christ this week--serving others as Christ calls all HIs followers to serve?

The time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth.

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