The Father seeking Worshippers

John 4

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In this chapter we have the blessed ways of God's grace in dealing with a sinner. Jesus is here in a world where sin is, and here to bring in grace which is above all the sin. But it is more: it is the soul brought to worship the Father in the blessed relationship in which the Son of God was here to reveal Him; and not only so, but to worship Him as God, who in His nature is revealed. "God is a Spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." It is thus a soul brought to the personal knowledge of God, in the relationship of grace as the Father, revealed by the Son. It is, consequently, the same knowledge as we shall have in heaven. It is not one kind of knowledge here, and another in heaven. No doubt there is growth in intelligence, I admit all that; but as to what is revealed, and the One who is revealed, there is no difference between what is known now and what will be known in heaven, because it is the same God and Father we shall know for ever.

When we turn to the woman's thoughts of worship, all was confused. She speaks of the Samaritan's worship, and the Jew's worship, and she knew not what she worshipped. In fact, she only speaks of worship to turn the conversation when the Lord began to probe her heart. There must be salvation known before there can be any true worship. You cannot worship a God you do not know, and whose presence would cause you to fly from Him as Adam did in the garden. It is not questioning the fact that God is to be worshipped by His creatures - of course He is. It is due to Him - your duty to Him. Quite right to own and feel the obligation; but the thing is, you are unable to do it because you are a sinner. The only worship that man can offer is Cain's worship, which originated in hardness of heart. He was so indifferent to his condition as one banished from Paradise, and the ground cursed for his sake, that he brings the very fruit of that curse as an offering to God.

Mark, it is quite right to worship, but you must be in a state to do so. But you find some men acting in ignorance of this. They own the duty to worship God, without any sense of their state as sinners before God. It is quite the same with the law. Of course it is a duty to obey the law of God. But if a man takes the ground of keeping it, he has denied his condition as a sinner. He owns the duty, but does not own what God's word declares: "There is none righteous, no, not one. There is none that seeketh after God." "In me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing." It is like a child whose place is to be in his father's arms; but he has been very naughty. Of course he ought to be in his father's arms, but what he ought not to do is to think that he can be there as if nothing had happened. It is hardness of heart if he does not see this.

334 Now, God took care that when man ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, he should get a conscience. Persons talk of the law written in the heart of man, and all that fine kind of thing, but man got his conscience by his fall. It may be terribly blunted, and nothing deadens it more than false religion, but still there it is in every one - a blessed thing that it is so, for God works on it to bring the soul to know what God is, when He deals with the sinner in grace. But it is a mistake to mix up conscience and the law. If there had been no law, man would have known good and evil. Do you not think a son would have known he had done wrong to murder a father, though he had never heard of the commandments? If a boy pilfers from his comrade at school he knows he will get into a scrape if found out, but he knows, too, the thing is wrong in itself. Conscience in a man makes him know good and evil, and the law coming in only tacks on God's authority to conscience.

Before Adam fell he had not the knowledge of good and evil. There was nothing evil in eating the fruit unless God forbade him. There was no harm in the thing itself, but forbidding it was solely an expression of God's will, and he got the knowledge of good and evil by disobeying God and eating of the tree. It is a blessed thing that man has this conscience, for it is what God works upon in grace to bring in the revelation of Himself. Nothing perverts this knowledge of good and evil more than false religion; still, however depraved, conscience is there, and the effect of the revelation of God to the soul is, to bring into the conscience the remembrance of all that wherein we have sinned against Him. Therefore, to draw near as a worshipper, I must know that work whereby God has put away sin, and how I have entirely got freed from sin by the work of Christ. As we read in Hebrews, "That the worshippers once purged should have no more conscience of sins."

335 Now, dear friends, till your conscience is thus purged you cannot worship God. I do not say there may not be craving desires - a going out of the heart after Christ - all that I grant. But there can be no worship till you have salvation. How is it thus with you? Are there not some here whose consciences are not purged? Well, you take up a kind of worship; you profess to draw near to God, but you would fly from Him if He were to come in where you are carrying on your worship. Mark, I do not say He would drive you out; you would run away from Him. Just as with Adam; the voice of God walking in the garden did not drive Adam out; he ran away and hid himself in the trees of the garden.

Now, just take the Lord's prayer as a simple illustration. You say it; it is what you have been taught from your childhood - the kind of habits we have all been brought up in. Mark, I do not accuse you of insincerity, but I ask you, when you call God your Father, do you know Him in this relationship? Oh no, you say, I could not take that ground. Then you are none of God's children! Again, with the words, "Thy kingdom come." What do you mean by the Father's kingdom? Why, you have not one distinct idea about it; all is vagueness. Well, if that kingdom comes it will be heavenly glory, but the day of judgment must precede it. Are you ready for that? No! you cannot say you are saved from "the wrath to come." I take the Lord's prayer as a common illustration of what your worshipping God really comes to. You own the duty, but you have got a conscience which would make you flee from the presence of God whom you profess to worship.

In this chapter the Lord had gone away from Judea into Samaria because He was rejected. God was in the world, come there in grace, and the world would not have Him. The chapter opens with His leaving Judea - the place of which He says in this chapter? "Salvation is of the Jews." We begin, then, with a rejected Christ. There is no gospel without a rejected Christ. If you call yourselves Christians you are owning this. For you own that Christ has been crucified, and what does that mean but that the world has rejected and turned Him out. As the prophet says of the way the nation treated Him, "Who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?" "He is despised and rejected of men, and when we shall see him there is no beauty that we should desire him." Put 'Christian' for 'Jew,' and it is just the same story now. I do not say that there may not be the outward confession of His name, and respect, too, to the outward cross. But if you are honest you will say of your heart, 'It does not desire him.' You know this is as sure of you as it was of the Jews. You may have the outward form of Christianity, but you know you have no desires after Christ. When you are alone do you find your heart going out in love for Him? Even a Christian finds it hard to keep this desire for Christ fresh, for he has the flesh in him, and the flesh has no desire after Christ. The Lord says to His disciples when the Comforter comes, "He shall convince the world of sin, because they believe not on me." It is not a class of sinners, but the whole world is under sin, proved guilty all alike of the rejection of Christ; and if an individual is taken up in grace like the woman here, the same thing comes out in detail. She is convinced of her sins in the presence of Christ.

336 Have you been brought to this, dear friends? Not only that you are sinners, but that you call yourselves Christians, and yet have no desires in your heart after Christ? This is a worse condition than the heathen. They never heard of Christ to despise Him; but here we find those who take the ground of being Christians. They say, we believe in Christ, that He is the Son of God, and that He came here to suffer and die. What then? The very one that owns this religiously, goes away and amuses himself as if it were nothing at all. God is not only saying to you now, as He said to Adam, "Where art thou?" (which was man at his best, and yet man got away from God); but since the day of Pentecost the Holy Ghost is asking, What have you done with My Son?; as God said to Cain (where we have man at his worst), "Where is Abel, thy brother?" You have to answer, I have turned Him out of the world. If you say, My fathers did it, but if I had lived in their days I would not have done it, you are a Pharisee. You bear witness to what has been done, and pride yourself on being better than others. Well, the end will be, if you take that ground, you will come off worse than the publican. I grant there are differences. Everybody has his tastes; one follows pleasure, one ease, another money. But the thing is, God has been into the world in grace in the Person of His Son to win the hearts of sinners to Himself, and though you profess to know it all, it has not won yours.

337 The next point is that the grace that is in Christ, thus rejected, rises, blessed be God, completely above and over it all. We see Him in this chapter cast out of Judea, but nothing chills His love. He has come into our circumstances - taken the lowliest place - known by the proud world as "the carpenter's son" for many years. We see him here rejected and despised, and in His circumstances, "wearied with his journey," sitting at the well's side in the heat of the noonday sun (which in that country is terrible heat). But there was no chilling of His heart for the lost - He sat there to save. He stoops to ask drink of a wretched woman, for He had nothing to draw with; and although He had created the water of the well He would not work a miracle for Himself. He never worked miracles for Himself, but for others. He had taken the place of perfect lowly dependence, and He asks drink of a Samaritan - of one belonging to a people which were everything that is bad. They had a mixture of religion, adding the worship of Jehovah to their own idolatries. They were - what shall I call them? - what we should now say were half heretics, half apostates; and the Lord was sitting talking to one of these people whose personal character was all that was evil.

It is not that judgment against sin will not come - it must come. But before it is executed, we have in Christ love, that is above all the sin, come into the place where the sin is. It is God displaying Himself in grace, and not revealing righteousness in judgment. This was the error of Job's friends. They were looking for God bringing in righteousness in this way in punishing iniquity. That day has not come. Not that God does not restrain the evil passions of men. We can thank Him for the magistrate to keep down the evil, and prevent the world being an impossible place to live in through the violence of men. But God has not revealed Himself yet in judgment. God has been in the world in grace. As we read, "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them." It is not judgment, but God come into the evil, and come there active in love. And so it is still; for though Christ has been cast out, the Holy Ghost has come down to carry on the testimony of God's love - love that goes after the lost. You may reject the love and be lost, but there the love is. You may be like the elder son, who will not go in to share the love bestowed on the prodigal, even when the father went out and entreated him.

338 Is there only a true want in your souls, dear friends, towards God? There is Christ to meet it. If man had no heart for Christ, Christ had a heart for man. He had come into a place where He could say, Salvation is not of Samaria; but that was not saying, Salvation is not for Samaria. There was nothing but sin in the woman, but He creates a want in her heart. She had lived a shameful life, it was the result of her character. Doubtless there was natural energy and self-will in her, and as it always is where this is the case, it brings more misery; and she was miserable. Her sin had isolated her; she came alone to draw water, not wishing to be with the other women, and hear their gossip. She was too miserable for that kind of thing, and she came alone. But God, too, was alone there! and she was to meet Him, and have her tale told out in His presence when He was come to meet her in perfect grace. And, beloved friends, it must be so with us. Our tale must be told out to God some day. If not now, in perfect grace, it will be by-and-by in judgment. How wonderful! How blessed! All the sin brought out in the presence of One who brings in the love and grace of God now, which is above all the sin.

Yet, alas! she does not understand a word about it. "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God." The Lord tells her of the gift of God. God was there to give salvation. It was not a question of salvation being of the Jews. It was the grace of God bringing salvation to the lost, as the Lord said to Zacchaeus, "This day is salvation come to this house." So here, "If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water." Christ was there, and He was there to give eternal life. It is not God come requiring that we should labour for it. He comes to give. If you are labouring you have not got what God gives.

But you may say, If God gives to a vile woman like this He makes nothing of morality. It offends your good opinion of yourself that He should talk thus to such a woman. Ah! you are a Pharisee, and the publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of God before you; so yours, after all, is a poor case. You must toil and die, because you will not stoop to Christ's gift. He had come to reveal the Father in grace, and He gave that which springs up in joy to the Father. It is a well in us, which springs up to God in joy, who has brought us to know Him, as revealed in grace and love. Do you know God thus? Do you know what it is when no eye but His sees you, so to have that knowledge of Him in grace as the Father, in your heart, that joy and gladness springs up to Him?

339 The woman understood not one word about it. Christ had to go on with her in patience. She had not this new life, and so she had no intelligence about it. Now, dear friends, God deals with you in patience, but is there a want for Him in your soul? Or are you like this woman, who did not know what Christ and heaven could give, and had only known the misery of sin? I do not ask you about your lives; hers was a shameful one. I doubt not yours may be outwardly proper. But every one who does not know Christ, has either a disappointed heart, or a heart seeking what will disappoint it.

It was contrary to man's thoughts that God should stoop so low, as to sit thus talking to a vile Samaritan woman. The disciples marvelled that He talked thus with her. It was not fit, they thought, for a Rabbi. Very likely! But it was fit for God in grace.

The woman's heart is closed to all He had said. She cannot get above her daily toil. "Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw." But the Lord goes on. And now we come to the next instruction. Her conscience must be reached. "Go, call thy husband." A little word will do when He speaks. The Lord was not dealing with her as a judge. He was there in perfect grace; but grace tells terribly when sin is on the conscience. Like the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden, and Adam hides himself. God had not spoken to drive him out; God was there, and he fled from Him. So here with the woman. "Go, call thy husband." Immediately sin is before her, and she tries to evade by answering, "I have no husband." The Lord's reply made her know that He knew all about her. Immediately she perceives that He is a prophet. I am Master of what I know. Here was a stranger who knew all about her, and God is known thus by the conscience. She was exposed in the presence of One who knew all that ever she did.

Has the word of God ever brought you to this, dear friends? Have you ever seen a man that has told you all that ever you did? Has your memory ever been active in the presence of God? You must be laid bare some day: either in judgment, when mercy is over; or now in perfect goodness in a day of grace. Have you been brought now to God, so that you have taken your place as condemned, and what must come out in the day of judgment has come out now? Has that goodness of God led you to repentance? Not merely outward sorrow for sin, saying, We are all sinners, in a general way. But have you confessed your sins to God from a need you had of being reconciled? Have you ever had a visit from God? I do not mean by dreams or visions; but has God so spoken to your conscience as for you to have known Him and yourself together?

340 The woman now turns to worship. The Lord tells her that salvation was of the Jews; the Samaritans worshipped they knew not what; but the hour was coming, and now was, when the true worshippers should worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for it was no longer a question of what man ought to be for God, but of what God is for the sinner. "The Father seeketh such to worship him." As for man's worship, it was all worthless. You may get a machine to do ceremonies if you only are clever enough to make one. As we read in the prophet of the outward worship of Israel. God calls it, "bowing the head like a bulrush." It is utterly worthless. You must have to do with God who knows you, and whom you must know if you would worship Him in spirit and in truth. It is not God requiring worship - all very true, as man's duty - but the Lord is here in grace, and out of the abundance of His heart He says, "The Father seeketh" worshippers. He is not regarding forms of worship, but He is seeking vile, broken-down sinners to make them worshippers. He is not seeking the Pharisee: his worship proceeds out of himself; he thanks God for what he is.

Here it is God who is revealed as giving living water; going on with the poor dull heart to bring it to repentance, that there might be a want there for what He was giving. It is no longer seeking good in man. God had tried him without law, and He had to drown the world with a flood; He tried him under the law, and he broke it; sent His own Son in grace, and they rejected Him. What was left for the world but judgment? All is over with it. But now when there is the judgment of the world - not executed, but pronounced - "now is the judgment of this world" - God brings in His grace for the world that is under judgment; and so it is when He works in the individual conscience. He brings out all the sins, but He is there to give eternal life. So with the poor woman. Where did He find you? I speak now to believers. He found you in your sins; but the one who has reached the conscience is the One who has come and given Himself for the sins. Directly the woman's sins are out in His presence, as the prophet, she wants to know Christ. "When he is come," she says, "he will tell us all things." He will say who are saved and who are lost. Ah, says the Lord, "I that speak unto thee am he." If He is known to her conscience as a prophet, He will reveal Himself to her as the Christ that she needs - the Christ who could save; whenever the word of God reaches the conscience, Christ has been there. What Christ? Why, the Christ who gave Himself for the sins which He brought to light. The cross puts all the sins away. He puts you into the truth about yourself, that He may put you into the grace which has taken the sins away.

341 There must be the ploughing up of the conscience, and there is God's patience in His dealings with us individually, until the soul is broken down and submits itself to His righteousness: but when once there, it is not a question about making peace - the peace has been made: "Having made peace through the blood of his cross." "Who, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high." Why is He sitting there? It is because, "By one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." He will rise to judgment; but as to the question of our sins, the apostle says, "After he had offered one sacrifice for sins, for ever sat down on the right hand of God."

Are you, beloved friends, thus reconciled to God? We cannot worship Him until we are saved. When I think of what Christ has done, I can say, All is settled. God has given Him in love for my sins, and has accepted Him in righteousness. Thus God is revealed, and the sinner is brought in truth into His presence to know Him there in grace. What a poor thing it is to live in a lie; to have a bad conscience in order to keep up a character. It is always so. Men are walking in a vain show, disquieting themselves in vain. Dear friends, is it always to be so - always to live in a lie? Or is it a good thing to be out in the presence of God, where I find that perfect grace has visited me, to present me in Christ in perfect righteousness to God? What a place to be in! To be thus, in Christ, all out before Him, and all put away by Himself in perfect love, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment, "because as he is, so are we, in this world."

342 Now, what was the effect on the woman? She left her waterpot; what she had once lived for, occupied her no more. She was now occupied with Christ, in contrast with her cares; and as she had had all out before God, she can go out boldly to the men and say, "Come, see a man which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?" She had got Christ, and had forgotten her water-pot. She had everything settled with God, so that she had nothing any longer to conceal. There is no fear of man where there is the fear of God; so she goes to tell the men - before this she avoided the women. This is the practical effect of the revelation of Christ to the sinner.

Is Christ, beloved friends, thus in your hearts? Has He so entered that He has taken the place of the things which kept Him out? The Lord grant that it may be so.