The Presence of Worship

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series The Heart of Worship


Looking in Webster’s dictionary you’ll find this first definition for worship, “reverence, homage or honor paid to God” Then it goes on to say that the word is also used to refer to a place where this reverence, homage, etc. paid to God is given.

If you were to ask people what the word worship meant you would probably get a large variety of responses. Some might agree with Webster, some might say it is when you sing songs to God, some might say it is going to church, some might say it is when you place money in the offering plate. The reason why you would get such a large number of different answers is because the word “worship” is used in so many different contexts. While preparing this message I tried to think of all the ways in which I’ve used worship. I’ve said, “Let’s worship God together now” (in reference to singing praises); “Let’s worship God with our tithes and offerings”; “I worship you Lord”; “Why don’t you come and worship God with us” (while inviting someone to our church).

While looking closely at the contexts in which the word worship is often used I found that it often refers to an action we do – whether it is singing a chorus, going to church, placing money in an offering plate, raising our hands – etc. When I undertook to study this concept – this word, “worship” – I discovered that worship is much more than this. I’ve come to discover that you can be doing all these things and still not be entering into the place of worshipping God.

I like what Robert Webber wrote about worship,

We need to let go of our intellectual idea of worship and realize there is more to worship than a sermon; we have to let go of our evangelistic notion of worship and reckon with the fact that worship is not primarily directed toward the sinners who need to be converted; we must let go of our entertainment expectations and remind ourselves that we are not in church to watch a Christian variety show. We have gathered together in worship to be met by God the Almighty. God, the Creator of the universe, the One who sustains our lives, our Redeemer and King, is present through proclamation and remembrance. He wants to communicate to us, to penetrate our inner self, to take up residence within us. And, as we go through the experience of meeting with him in this mystical moment of public worship, we are to respond. But response is not just singing a hymn, not just saying a creed, not just saying a prayer. Response, from the very beginning of worship to the end, must be a powerful inner experience of actually being in the presence of God. When we sing a hymn or say a confession or prayer, we are not singing or saying words, but expressing a feeling, bringing our souls, truly responding and communicating to the living and active presence of a loving and merciful God. (Worship is a Verb, by Robert Webber, pg.114)

You see, I believe worship at its essence is the response of a heart that is earnestly, striving, and crying out after the heart of God! Worship flows out of the deep, wrenching, hunger and thirst desire to know God and not only to know Him but to dwell in Him – to dwell in His presence!

For the next few weeks, starting today, I’m going to be delivering a series of messages based on the Heart of Worship – the essence of worship. It is my hope that the words spoken will be more than inspiring, and more than challenging – I hope and pray that these words on worship will be life-changing, will be life-giving, and will instill in you a deep, ravenous hunger for the presence of God. I believe God is waiting, and anticipating the few who want His presence and will press on to dwell in Him! What we have seen, what we have experienced is but the crumbs of God’s glory. The three messages dealing the Heart of Worship are, The Presence of Worship, The Price of Worship, and The Prize of Worship.

Today we are going to uncover the Presence of Worship.

The story that was read as this morning’s scripture tells of a wonderful display of worship by a woman towards Jesus. (Retell the story if it seems appropriate). This morning I will be referring to this worshipful experience so I invite you to keep Luke 7:36-50 open or book marked in your Bibles. However, the text for this morning is taken from John 4:23-24. I would like to read for you starting at verse 1-26 to help give us the context of this particular passage.

1 The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John, 2 although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. 3 When the Lord learned of this, he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. 4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” 11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?” 13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” 16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” 17 “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” 19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” 25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” 26 Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.”
John 4:1-26 (NIV)

(the mount that the Samaritan woman is referring to is Mount Ebal, Joshua 8:30-35)

There are many lessons that have been given and can be taken from this particular experience Jesus had with the Samaritan woman. But this morning I would like to focus on the particular words that Jesus spoke in reply to her statement in verse 19. You see the woman said something that is very revealing not only of the understanding of worship in her time but also in some ways is echoed by many people in our day -the understanding that worship is confined to a place and particular actions. You see the Samaritans and the Jews disputed about where the worship of God was supposed to take place. Not only that – but they often disputed the way in which this worship was to take place. Now, I don’t think we have any of those problems today do we? There isn’t any conflict among Christian churches about the best place to worship God and the best ways to worship God is there?

Jesus addressed this perception of worship and declared that the Father’s ideal of worship is a lot different than hers. Indeed I believe his ideal of worship is a lot different than many Christians in our churches today.

Jesus said, “…a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” I’m sure some of you have probably heard this particular passage before but do you really grasp the meaning of it – do you really understand what Jesus is saying?

Jesus is saying that Worship is not determined by place or posture BUT by the attitude of your heart and the longing of your spirit.

This was nothing new – David wrote in Psalm 51:16-17,

16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Psalms 51:16-17 (NIV)

God responds to worshippers who worship him with hearts that are truthful and spirits that are broken and longing for His presence! This determines worship! The act of worship will flow naturally out of the heartfelt, spiritual desire to KNOW GOD and dwell in his presence. When people determine worship by place and posture you get what God describes to Isaiah:

13 The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.
Isaiah 29:13 (NIV)

How much of our worship is made up of “rules taught by men”? That is, we follow what others do, we subscribe to traditions and the accepted and proper ways of worship, we order our services to perfection so as to make sure we’re “pleasing God”?

Don’t get me wrong, the place of worship and acts of worship are very important BUT more important to God, in fact what He responds to – what He delights in – is the heart and spirit behind our worship!

Now let’s return to the worship experience in Luke 7:36-50 and look at it through the window of Jesus’ words to the Samaritan woman in John 4.


attitude of reverence for who God is (vs38,44-46)

First, we need to observe that this woman washed Jesus feet.

Simon had invited Jesus to his house and yet by his actions made it very clear his attitude towards Jesus. In the time period of this story,

… open sandals were the most common footwear, and it was customary for guests to leave their sandals at the door when they entered a house. Since most travelers in Israel shared the main roads with camels, horses, and donkeys, it was impossible to completely avoid the droppings of these animals all day long. Sandals provided some protection to travelers, and it was unthinkable to wear them into a person’s house. Nevertheless, it was certain that the residue of the day’s journey (including the odor of the animal droppings) was still deposited on a guest’s unprotected feet. For this reason, the dirty job of washing the animal droppings off of everyone’s feet was reserved for the most insignificant servant of the household…
…If you really wanted to dishonor and humiliate a person who entered your home, all you had to do was make sure that your servants didn’t bother to wash his feet. This was especially true in a Pharisee’s house where outward cleanliness meant everything. Jesus clearly says that when He entered Simon’s house, no one washed His feet (Luke 7:44). It is almost like Simon wanted Jesus there, but he didn’t want to honor Him. (The God Chasers, by Tommy Tenney, p. 130)

I believe that the woman recognized the measure of disrespect that had been shown to Jesus and sought to honor him by washing his feet. Her worship was characterized by reverence for who Jesus is.

It is important that we have the attitude of reverence for God in our hearts when we worship Him! Are you seeking to honor God in your worship? Or are you striving to bring honor to men, to yourself, or to another, or to the service itself? We often come to church asking God to be “present” in our services – but it is important to give Him the place of honor in our services. Do give Him room to “interrupt” the service as He sees fit. When you come to church is it more important to you for you to say “Oh, that was good. I enjoyed that” or for God to say, “Oh that was good. I enjoyed that?”

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe,
Hebrews 12:28 (NIV)

We’ll be touching on this attitude of worship more next week when I talk about the price of worship.

attitude of humility and repentance (vs. 37-38)

Not only did the woman display an attitude of reverence in her worship but she also displayed humility and repentance. We need to understand the significance of her washing Jesus’ feet with her hair. The Bible says that a woman’s hair is her glory.

but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering.
1 Corinthians 11:15 (NIV)

Middle Eastern women in Jesus’ day generally wore their hair “up,” and it was often wrapped in a turban or veil when they left their homes for public places. So the woman probably had to unwrap her hair to wipe the Lord’s feet. Tommy Tenney in his book, “The God Chasers” called this “dismantling her glory”. In essence when this woman wiped the feet of Jesus’ she was not only humbling herself because this was a job generally reserved for the most lowly of servants but also because she was removing every evidence of Jesus’ public rejection with her beautiful hair and taking it as her own.

This woman had come to Simon’s house because she knew Jesus’ was there – with tears of repentance (she acknowledged her sinfulness) she humbly bowed before Him in worship. If you want to see the face of God you’ve got to start at his feet.

Does pride govern your worship? Or does humility? You know that the attitude of pride is determining your worship when you are more concerned with what men are thinking than on what God is receiving! Again Simon wanted Jesus in his house but his attitude drew a rebuke from Jesus because he was more concerned about pleasing man then pleasing God.

Another aspect of this woman’s worship is she didn’t try to hide who she was or what she had done from Jesus. She didn’t wait until Jesus came to her and confronted her with her sin. No, not only did she go to Jesus – but she went to Jesus in the presence of the Pharisee who knew about her sinfulness! True worship is characterized by the attitude of repentance – that is not trying to hide what we’ve done or who we are (the fact of the matter is God already knows) but worshipping in truth!

attitude of love (v40-47)

Lastly, but perhaps more obviously, is the love that this woman displayed toward Jesus by her act of worship. Remember, I said earlier that with true worship the act or form of worship flows naturally out of the substance of worship in your heart & your spirit! What greater thing for this woman to do in love than to bow in tenderness at Jesus feet and with her own tears wash away the scum and animal dung and then to finish the job with her own hair. And yet, she wasn’t done yet. She poured almost a year’s salary worth of expensive perfume onto his feet and gently rubbed it in.

The love that this woman had for Jesus was birthed out of a genuine deep gratitude for the hope and promise Jesus presented for the forgiveness of sins.

Here, on the other side of the cross – we as Christians have seen the ultimate evidence of God’s love for us in the death and resurrection of his only son. He has forgiven much! But the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was intended for more than the mere forgiveness of our sins! God’s hope – his aim was to restore an intimate relationship with mankind. He longs to share his love for you and for you to share your love for him. True worship is born out of a deep abiding love in the heart for God, for Jesus, for the Holy Spirit.


Trued worshippers long for God – it is an intense, hunger and thirsting to be in the presence of God. Why? Without taking the time to explain this in detail (it would require another message) I want to recall to those of you who are Christians the moment you first became a Christian…The time you first realized what Jesus Christ had done for you and made him Lord and Saviour of your life. Do you remember the joy of that moment – do you remember the love you felt from God – do your remember the clarity with which you started to witness your life around you and how everything seemed a little different? At that moment, God had brought life to your spirit and your spirit began to thrive on the presence of God. Our spirit’s long after God because He is our life-giver!

Do you remember the conversation Jesus had with the Samaritan woman? Jesus talked about a living water, a spring that he will give, that will satisfy the thirst of those who drink it, that will well up into eternal life. Notice the response of the woman – She longed after that water, she wanted it – in Jesus she recognized the source of this life-giving water. Are your spirits thirsty? Do you long for the presence of Christ? This longing determines our worship!

You know your spirit is longing for God when…

you’re seeking the giver not merely the gifts! (v. 37)

A man told a story about the time his son’s sixth birthday was approaching. He had mentioned he wouldn’t mind a party, and as his son usually was very specific about the kind of presents he liked the dad asked him what he could get him. Bill expected a well-planned reply, such as “I’d like a baseball glove; you can find it at Toys ‘R ‘Us, aisle 6, below the batting helmets, or a video game; the games are in alphabetical order in electronics.” But his son’s request was a bit different. He said, “Dad, I’d like a ball to play with for my birthday.” Bill said “Great, what kind of ball?” “Oh, I want don’t know, either a football or a soccer ball.” “Well, which would you want more?” He said, “Well,” and thought about it. Then he said. “If you have some time to play ball with me this year, I’d really like a football so we could throw it back and forth in the back yard. But if you’re gonna be real busy this year, maybe you just better get me a soccer ball, because I can play soccer with the rest of the kids in the neighborhood.” The dad thought about this and said, “Let me surprise you. How does that sound?” And the little boy smiled and said, “Oh that would be great Dad. I really love you.” Then Bill went in and shared this little encounter with his wife and together they agreed, their son was not so much interested in the gift. He was interested in the giver. (, “WORSHIP”)

When the woman heard that Jesus was in town she went to him, despite the fact that he was at a “holy man’s” house and she probably wasn’t worthy to be there. She didn’t go to receive Jesus’ blessing, she didn’t go to make a claim, she didn’t go to get something from him! How do I know? She didn’t say a word. This woman simply went to be in the presence of Jesus. She just wanted to be with Him.

King David was a true worshipper, listen to his words…

One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.
Psalms 27:4 (NIV)

1 O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. 2 I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.
Psalms 63:1-2 (NIV)

1 How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty! 2 My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. 3 Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young– a place near your altar, O LORD Almighty, my King and my God. 4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you. Selah
Psalms 84:1-4 (NIV)

Do you hear the words of David? David wasn’t satisfied with the gifts and blessings that God had to offer, he sought after God himself. He desired to know God, not just about Him.

Now I don’t want anyone to misunderstand me – the gifts of God are important, there is a necessary purpose and plan for God’s blessings – after all Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 14:1 that would should eagerly desire the spiritual gifts of God,

Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.
1 Corinthians 14:1 (NIV)

However, I am a firm believer that the spiritual gifts flow out of our worship of the giver of the gifts. True worship flows out of a hunger and thirst for God – not just his handouts.

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27 God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
Acts 17:24-28 (NIV)

When you come to church are your looking for the giver or the gifts?

I seek the giver not the gifts,
My heart’s desire, is to lift you up,
High above all earthly kings,
To bring you pleasure Lord.
(“I Bow My Knee Before your Throne”, Deuschle ©1990, Integrity’s Hosanna! Music)

You know your spirit is longing for God when…

You’re concerned more with ministry to God rather than ministry from God.

“We used to think that the chief end of man was to glorify God. Now we’re tempted to say the chief end of God is to gratify man” Oswald Sanders

The last time I read it, David wrote in Psalm 103:1, “Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name” NOT “Bless my soul, O my Lord, and all that is within me receives the blessings of your Holy name”! Yet isn’t that the way we tend to approach worship? I’ve been guilty of this, I know there are times I’ve even prayed, “Bless us Lord”. Yes we want to receive the blessings of the Lord but what about blessing Him? Worship, is not about receiving God’s blessing but giving our blessings, our praises, our attention, our lives to Him!

The danger is that when you are concerned with ministry from God more than ministry to God, your worship becomes displaced:

Many years ago, Thomas K. Beecher once substituted for his famous brother, Henry Ward Beecher, at the Plymouth Church in Brooklyn, New York. Many curiosity seekers had come to hear the renowned Henry Beecher speak. Therefore, when Thomas Beecher appeared in the pulpit instead, some people got up and started for the doors. Sensing that they were disappointed because he was substituting for his brother, Thomas raised his hand for silence and announced, “All those who came here this morning to worship Henry Ward Beecher may withdraw from the church; all who came to worship God may remain.” The example of godly leaders is helpful, but only the Savior is worthy of our worship and devotion.

Back to the woman at Simon’s house. When she went to Jesus everything she did was a blessing to him. She didn’t do those things to receive his blessing (even though she did receive His blessing – and I’ll talk more on this in the message, the prize of worship) she did those things to bless Him! I am reminded of the story of Martha and Mary in Luke 10:38-42. Martha was busy making supper and doing things for the Lord and was frustrated because Mary was merely sitting at his feet and listening to Him. In response to Martha’s frustration Jesus said, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” The question is, how do we bless God? How about by bringing to Him His desire? You!

16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Psalms 51:16-17 (NIV)

God wants your love more than anything else, He wants your worship – in spirit and in truth.
{show Video “The Gift of Worship“}

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