Are church buildings God’s houses? – John 4:1-26, Part 4

Sometimes Christians call church buildings, “God’s house.”  I hear adults from time to time say, “Kids, stop running in God’s house.” I cringe when I hear that.

I cringe because it reminds me of something Jesus said when he and the Samaritan woman were having a conversation around the well. You can read about their conversation in the previous post, which we concluded as the woman has just raised a theological argument with Jesus. She said that Samaritans disagree with Jews about the proper location of God’s house.

How will Jesus handle this?  Look at John 4, verses 21-24.

Jesus essentially says, “Ma’am, the place of worship is not the real issue.  The heart of the worshiper is the issue.”  He affirms that salvation is from the Jews, and the time has come to worship the Father in spirit and in truth. Those are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.

Worship in spirit and truth.  What is Jesus talking about?  How do we worship in spirit and truth? 

First of all, worship in spirit and truth is not connected to a physical geographical location, Jesus says. One of the astounding aspects of a Christian theology of worship is that we do not need a nation, a country, a culture or even any building.  Interestingly, in 1 Kings 8:27, when Solomon built and dedicated the temple he said, “But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!” 

The teaching of the New Testament is that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit.  You can worship God anywhere you go.  In fact, Jesus once taught that “Where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”  He isn’t saying if we are worshiping alone, he’s not there.  God is omnipresent.  Everywhere.  And we, our bodies, as his temples are the home of God. 

No, Jesus said “Where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them,” to emphasize how important it is to gather with other people, in his name!  We Christians have a vital need to gather together consistently in Jesus’ name.  Our worship is not intended to be isolated, alone, individual and personal all the time, or even most of the time. There is nothing, however, in Scripture that commands us to worship in any particular space.

So let’s not call church building’s “God’s House.” That said, if you don’t want kids to run in the church, I support you parents, because chances are that they could knock over someone with unstable balance and people could get hurt. There are many places in life where we don’t want kids to run around, like the grocery store or nursing home or poolside. But let’s not give our kids the wrong idea by telling them church buildings are God’s house.

So worship in spirit and in truth does not require a building.  But next, it does require worship in spirit and truth.  Spirit is the inner part of our lives.  You can call it heart, mind, soul, will, passion, and frankly, there is a lot you can call it.  It is inward, interior, the depths of our lives.  We all have that inner part. 

Have you ever had that experience of being at one place in your body, but a totally different place in your mind?  I’m not talking about out-of-body experiences.  I’m talking about when you’re driving, and you’re thinking or daydreaming.  Usually, this happens to me on a route I drive often.  I’m driving, thinking, and then it hits me, “Woah…I can’t remember the last few miles.”  I was right there driving those miles, but my mind, my thought was elsewhere.  It’s a bit freaky.  You think, “Holy cow…I do not remember the last few minutes, and I’ve been operating an extremely powerful machine that entire time.” 

I wonder if you’ve ever had that experience in a worship service.  I think we can go through the motions in a worship service and barely connect to what we’re singing, reading, praying or studying.  We can be thinking about everything else in life, but barely thinking about God.  For me, this is very easy to do during singing.  As pastor, I often battle with my mind while I sing, because my mind wants to wander onto “What’s next in the service?”  That’s no different, I suspect, than “What’s for lunch? Are we going out?  Which restaurant?  When do the Eagles play?  Oh yeah, they played on Thursday night.  Shoot…I wonder if there are any other good games on today?  Or maybe I’ll just get a nap.”  Or maybe your mind starts wandering to, “Oh wow, look who’s here to today,” or “I wonder why so-and-so isn’t here today?”  Or “I can’t believe what they’re wearing.”  And before you know it, you just sang your way through a whole song, but your mind didn’t engage with any of the words.  Words came out of your mouth, but you probably couldn’t say what they were.

Worship in spirit is when you engage your whole inner being with God, with who he is, and what the Spirit might be saying to you.  That can happen during a worship service, but what about the other 167 hours of the week?  Worshiping the Father in spirit is a life posture, a desire to live a certain way that is described by what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

Worshiping in spirit is learning to turn your mind toward God through all the hours and minutes of your days. Watch for God’s heart, listen for his truth. And truth is what we’ll talk about in the next post.

Published by joelkime

I love my wife, Michelle, and our four kids and two daughters-in-law. I serve at Faith Church and love our church family. I teach a course online from time to time, and in my free time I love to read and exercise, especially running,

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