In John Chapter 4 Jesus is having a conversation with a woman of Samaria. He gets her to start thinking about spiritual things by bringing her to the realization that He knows everything about her: even the most intimate details of her life and even her sins. The woman of Samaria said to Jesus in John 4:20, "Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and you say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship." The woman of Samaria made the same mistake that many people make in reference to the worship of God: she thought that there was a particular place that you had to be in, in order to be closer to God and in order to worship God. People who make pilgrimages; thinking that some places in the world are more holy than other places, make the same mistake.
The answer that Jesus gave, concerning the best place to worship God, is in John 4:21-24. "Jesus said unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour is coming, when you shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship you know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeks such to worship Him. God is a spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth."
There is no place on the earth that is more holy than any other, and there is no building on the earth that is more holy than any other because God is a Spirit and God is everywhere. A church building is only a meeting place: it is not meant to be considered a place that is more holy than other places. In order to serve God faithfully, you must realize that God is everywhere and you should serve Him just as much wherever you are. Your ability to serve God should not be limited by where you are at. Anyone who thinks that they are closer to God because they are in a certain building or at a certain geographical location does not understand the teachings of Jesus and does not understand the nature of God. Remember in John Chapter 2 that Jesus taught very clearly that a building made with stone was not the temple of God, but that His body was the temple of God. Whenever people start saying that they must be in a church building in order to be in the presence of God, then they are starting to think and to talk just like the heathen and just like the woman of Samaria before she was a believer in Jesus.
Jesus taught that God is a Spirit. That answered the question about any issue that might exist concerning which place in the world is the best to worship God or to get closer to God. There is no place that is better than any other place because God is a Spirit. Wherever you go, God is already there. You can pray to God, think about God, and dedicate what you to God wherever you are because God is a Spirit. There are good reasons to go to a church building especially if good messages from Godís Word are preached there; but donít ever go there because you think that the presence of God is more in that place than any other place. If you do think that, then you have forgotten the teaching that Jesus gave to the Samaritan woman about the fact that God is a Spirit.
There are many blessings behind the fact that God is a Spirit. You donít have to fear that somehow you are in the wrong place and canít serve God because He is in another place. God may want you somewhere else, but you can still serve Him where you are until you get to that other place because He is just as much in the place where you are now as He is in the other place.
If there is someone that you love and that you care about who is not with you now, you do not have to fear for them. God is able to take of them wherever they are, just as He takes care of you. The reason is; that God is a Spirit and He is just as much where they are, as He is where you are.
When Jesus said to the woman of Samaria, "we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews," He was proclaiming one of the great benefits and blessings that came through the Jewish religion. Most of the religions of the world were established by humans: the humans who established the religions may have had noble goals and noble ideals, but in the final analysis they were established by humans. That was not the case with the Jewish religion: it was established by God. One of the reasons that God established the Jewish religion was to provide the human lineage by which the Messiah would come, and to provide a way of salvation for the human race through the Messiah. The Messiah was never meant to be the Savior just of the Jews, but of the whole world. Thatís why Jesus was as willing to reveal to the woman of Samaria His true identity as He was to any of the Jews. Salvation is of the Jews because Jesus was a Jew.
There is another point to notice in regards to the fact that salvation is of the Jews. The Jews have been persecuted over the centuries as much if not more than any other group. Why? The ultimate reason for the persecutions is the fact that the devil stirs up hatred against them because He hates the Jews, and the reason that the devil hates the Jews is because Jesus was a Jew. This very thing is said in Rev. 12:13 which says, "And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman who brought forth the man child." The first part of Rev. Chapter 12 makes it clear that the woman is the nation of Israel and the child is the Messiah. Anyone who hates the Jews has become a tool of the devil, and that is probably why some of the worst humans who have been on the earth have been known for their immense hatred and persecutions of the Jewish people.
In John 4:25-26 the Bible says, "The woman said unto Him, I know that Messiah is coming, who is called Christ: when He is come, He will tell us all things. Jesus said unto her, I that speak unto you am He." Because Jesus knew everything about the woman, she recognized that omniscience was an attribute of the Messiah. And Jesus told her clearly and directly that He was the Messiah.
John 4:27-32 says, "And upon this came His disciples, and marveled that He talked with the woman: yet no man said, What are you seeking, or Why are you talking with her? The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and said to the men, Come see a man who told me all things that I ever did: Is not this the Christ? Then they went out of the city and came to Him. In the mean while His disciples said to Him, "Master, eat." But He said to them, I have meat to eat that you know not of."
Once again, just as He did throughout His teachings, Jesus uses food to be symbolic of spiritual nourishment. The disciples had gone to buy food, and when they returned with the food Jesus said to them, "I have meat to eat that you know not of." During His great temptation in the wilderness Jesus said that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word of God. To study, to read, and to hear the Word of God can be spiritual nourishment. The soul needs to be nourished just as the body needs to be nourished. Taking in the Word of God will give you spiritual nourishment, and now Jesus is saying that giving out the Word of God will also give you spiritual nourishment: it will also be a means of strengthening your spiritual life.
There are several reasons to take in the Word of God: in order to renew our minds so that the philosophy of life that we have will allow us to not be conformed to this world, in order to draw closer to God because we will be assisted in thinking about Him, but also in order to be equipped so that we will know what to say to others in regards to the faith. That which is taken in must be given out or it will not fulfill its purpose. When apples are put into a barrel, they fulfill their proper function if they are taken out in a timely fashion to satisfy those that are hungry; but if they are left in the barrel untouched, they will eventually corrupt and rot. Growing in the spiritual life involves taking in spiritual things, but it also involves giving them out. Jesus said in reference to giving out the truth, "I have meat to eat that you know not of." He also said, "Whosoever confesses me before men, him will I confess before my Father who is in heaven." If you believe in Jesus and are rightly related to God, you will not be satisfied with your life unless you are doing things to spread the truth and to spread the Gospel.
John 4:33-34 says, "Therefore said the disciples one to another, Has anyone brought Him anything to eat? Jesus said unto them, My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish his work." In addition to speaking the truth and spreading the Word of God, Jesus makes a further explanation of the source of His spiritual food. He said, "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish His work." One of the most essential ingredients to spiritual growth and to spiritual life is the concept of being surrendered to Godís will. "Whosoever saves his life shall lose it, but whosoever loses his life for Jesusí sake and the gospel shall save it." Jesus told us in the Sermon on the Mount to pray to the Father, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." And He also prayed before His crucifixion, "Not my will, but thine be done." A person who is self-willed or who is not surrendered to the will of God, will cause themselves many sorrows, will lose many spiritual blessings, and at best will be used of God in the most limited of ways.
The kind of surrender that Jesus had to the will of God, directed Him to an involvement in doing things that God wanted Him to do. He said that His meat was to "do" the will of God and to finish His "work." You donít understand the concept of being surrendered to the will of God and finding the will of God, unless you have the confidence that what you are doing is what God wants you to do. If you donít have that confidence, you may need to do some praying and asking for wisdom to understand your way and the way that you should go.
In regards to doing the work of God, Jesus said that He must "finish" the work of God. Itís one thing to start doing the work of God and the will of God, but itís another thing entirely to finish it. Paul said at the end of his life, "I have finished my course, I have kept the faith." There is no doubt that there will be many pitfalls along the way, and one of the evil purposes of each of the pitfalls and each of the trials will be to get you to start doing your own will again. Itís a good thing that our relationship with the Lord is based upon His mercy. We can start each day with forgiveness and a new opportunity. Each day is a new opportunity to be surrendered to His will: a new opportunity to dedicate what we do to Him: to go His way instead of our own way.
One of the pitfalls to doing the will of God is procrastination. If anyone thinks about doing the will of God someday down the road or somewhere else, then they are not doing the will of God. Humans tend to put things off, and to always find reasons to put them off. Thatís one of the misapplications of the concept of world missions. You may find people who are interested in spreading the gospel half way around the world, but some of those same people show little interest and little activity in doing so right in their own community. In John 4:35 Jesus said, "Say not you, There are yet four months and then comes the harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes and look on the fields: for they are white already to harvest." There are people who need to be spoken to about God, and there are things that need to be done right where you are. There are spiritual needs all around. All that you need to do is to open your eyes and look around you, and you will see the need, and you will find something that you can do with God to help meet the need.
In John 4:36-38 Jesus said, "And he that reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit unto life eternal: that both he that sows and he that reaps may rejoice together. And herein is that saying true, One sows and another reaps. I sent you to reap that where you bestowed no labor: other men labored and you are entered into their labors." One of the reasons to do the work of God is that we will be rewarded for it. Evidently Jesus thought that it was important to remind us that we will be rewarded for the work of God that we do. Your work for God probably will not be noticed by the world, and it certainly will not be rewarded by the world. But it is observed by God and will be rewarded by Him. Often humans like to receive rewards. When humans create organizations, eventually those organizations will hand out rewards to humans in the form of certificates and trophies and plaques. Of course, all of the rewards that humans receive in this life are from other humans. You may have labored to receive such awards from humans, but what have you done to receive awards from God? Paul said, "I have fought a good fight... Henceforth is laid up for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord has prepared for them that love Him."
It must be the Lord who rewards people for doing the work of God, because only the Lord knows who deserves such awards. Some of those that humans honor for being great Christians may not be so great as far as God is concerned. Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart. Notice that Jesus said that there will be rewards given for both sowing and reaping. Often humans attempt to measure what they perceive to be reaping: how many church memberships or how many baptisms or how many professions of faith. But anyone who does come to believe usually has had a time of sowing that took place in their heart in previous months or years. Even in the case of the Samaritan woman at the well, we see a good example of sowing and reaping. Jesus did the reaping because He was the last one to have spoken with her before she believed on Him. But in a way she was already prepared to believe on Him, because she had obviously already been taught about the Messiah and how to recognize Him. Some other human taught this woman in the past. There were probably no obvious results from the previous teaching, based upon the way that the woman lived. But eventually it paid dividends because she was prepared for the time when her path would cross that of Jesus.
God knows who does the sowing and who does the reaping. Both are important and both will be rewarded by God. Maybe God has made you more of a sower than a reaper. Donít despair. Your work is very important. There will be no reaping if there are not first those who are willing to do the sowing. Jesus said, "One sows and another reaps," and He said, "that both he that sows and he that reaps may rejoice together."
Copyright; 2000 by Charles F. (Rick) Creech
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