THE WORSHIP THE HEAVENLY FATHER SEEKS
By: Frank Tunstall, D. Min.
As the New Year blossoms, this study is intended to show Jesus as the great changer of paradigms. One of the new beginnings in the Lord’s ministry that was critical for the future of His church was changing the form of worship practiced in the temple. The paradigm change Jesus launched lives to this day.
When Jesus made His first visit to the temple following His baptism in Jordan River, Nicodemus came to visit Jesus one night. The Lord told Nicodemus “You must be born again.” This birth from above was clearly a New Covenant message and Nicodemus was the very first recorded person to hear it spoken. Nicodemus admitted he and his temple partners knew Jesus was “a teacher come from God, for no man can do the miracles you are doing if God were not with him.” But he rejected the new birth Jesus offered that would have made him a new person with a new heart, and open the gates of heaven to him (see John 3:1-21).
The worship in the temple featured the priests sacrificing animals such as lambs and rams, turtle doves and pigeons. These leaders were locked into their past, determined to perpetuate into the future a form of worship that reached back 1800 years through Moses and on to Abraham.
Neither were the temple priests looking forward to the new form of worship foretold by John the Baptist that demanded the personal repentance that would lead people to Jesus as their Messiah. They also made no place in temple worship for John the Baptist’s prophecy that the day of Pentecost would come when all people everywhere could be filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:16).
Jesus’ offer included redemption for Jews and Gentiles, slaves and free, male and female, and even children.
Jesus set out to change the paradigm because He knew He could not fulfill the vision His Father gave Him if He held to the temple. But another ominous reason existed. Jesus had prophesied the temple would be torn down to the point not one stone would be left on another. About forty years up the road it happened when the Jews rebelled against Rome.
A new form of worship, a new paradigm, for each of these reasons had to be built for the gospel to go to the nations.
Jesus ended His first visit to the temple knowing the temple rulers did not want the new life He offered, and even saw it as blasphemy. The Lord headed north with His disciples, telling them He had to “go through Samaria” (John 4:4). Israel’s Messiah was certain He could not depend on the temple system of worship to develop an international ministry. The Lord was painfully aware He had to bypass the temple and make a new beginning.
How scary! May we never see the day when Jesus will need to bypass us to achieve His vision in the 21st century.
Jesus also foreknew the worship paradigm He told Nicodemus about could be unveiled in Samaria. Jesus left Jerusalem and made the 35-mile walk to Samaria. He met a woman at Jacob’s Well to whom He made the same proposal He offered Nicodemus, here described as ‘living water.’ She opened her heart and received Jesus, saying to Him, “Sir, give me this water” (John 4:15).
In their conversation Jesus led her to the new form of worship the Heavenly Father seeks, and she embraced it. In fact, this woman was the first recorded person in John’s gospel to experience the new birth and drink the living water that saves the soul. Jesus explained it in two simple sentences:
“A time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth, for they are the worshippers the Father seeks. God is Spirit, and His worshippers must worship Him in Spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24).
This statement forecast the new paradigm of worship that would replace the temple and blossom in the church. No more sheep or goats, nor doves or pigeons, nor lambs or rams. No more spilling of the blood of animals with its constant stench would be needed to perpetuate this new order of worship. Jesus’ one sacrifice of His own holy blood became the atonement for the sins of all people who repent and accept Jesus as the Son of God.
“God is Spirit,” and He wants sincere worship that is heartfelt, springing from a person’s inner soul. This adoration must also be wrapped in truth, genuine honesty, and pure integrity. This kind of heartfelt worship grounded in repentance before God and empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit is what the Heavenly Father seeks. Jesus’ offer to this day includes Jews and Gentiles, men and women, and even children.
This new worship form was launched three years after Jesus met the woman at the well. The Holy Spirit filled the 120 on the Day of Pentecost and took up His abode in the new temple that was their hearts (John 1:29-34; Acts 2:4; 1 Corinthians 6:19).
A new era of divine purposes was dawning in Israel and a new paradigm of worship was being formed. John the Baptist’s prophecy of the gift of the Holy Spirit was also being fulfilled.
The story of the nameless woman at Jacob’s Well continues to be told around the world.
About 40 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection Israel rebelled against Rome, and Caesar’s legions invaded Israel. Men, women, children, and even babies were mercilessly killed. Some 100,000 were force marched to Rome and became slaves. Jerusalem and the temple were left as rubble.
Blood sacrifices ended with the slaughter, and the temple to this day has never been rebuilt.
A new temple not made with hands is in its place. This temple of the heart is a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. It meant the gospel, empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit, would indeed go international (1 Corinthians 6:19). The new paradigm that includes worshiping the Heavenly Father in Spirit and in truth continues to thrive worldwide.
A new year is at hand; 2021 is upon us. May we all be blessed to renew our commitment to give our Heavenly Father the worship He seeks – in spirit and in truth – knowing the astronomical price God’s Son paid for our salvation.