Over 2000 years ago, Jesus told an unnamed Samaritan woman that “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.” (John 4:23) How he got there in a conversation with a stranger who not only had a distorted knowledge of God but no knowledge of who Jesus was is a very interesting story. But the statement itself emphasizes the fact that genuine worship should flow from something more than external formalities and must be based on a correct view of God.
Like Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman in which he brought up her marital and moral failures, the Holy Spirit is always at work uncovering the invisible lies in our private worlds and exposing them to the light of God’s revealed word. And God is amazingly faithful to do this – even when we aren’t willing participants and allow these “meta-issues” to go unnoticed and undiagnosed for years. Until we allow Him to shine a light into those dark corners, we stumble around, clueless about what holds us back from spiritual growth.
That is how I would describe myself when, several years ago, I sat in a Sunday night healing service. Noticing a tattooed, pierced, skin-headed guy sitting nearby I thought, “Somebody must have dragged him in here, and he’s probably weirded-out by all the people worshiping in the aisles.” Imagine my surprise when they called him up to the platform as the guest speaker! I don’t recall what he preached on, but I do remember that after the service when I went to the altar for healing prayer, he put his hand on my head and said, “I break off unforgiveness, in Jesus’ name.”
At the time, I found that somewhat amusing. Unforgiveness? If anything, I forgave people too easily, too quickly. I couldn’t stand it when someone was angry with me, and I never wanted people to think I was angry with them. It just wasn’t worth it. Live and let live. Let’s all just get along. All you need is love.
But I was in for a surprise. Apparently I wasn’t nearly as forgiving as I thought because the following week, God brought to my mind all the anger and bitterness I had been holding in my heart toward my husband, my family, people at work and “selected members” of my church. Thus began a long process of exposing this hidden problem to the light of truth.
Learning to forgive people quickly and fully was literally life-changing for me. It lifted the oppression of resentment and enabled me to more fully receive God’s forgiveness myself. But the battle wasn’t finished. Recently God exposed to the light another facet of this problem. I had been experiencing an increase in anxiety about all kinds of things: my children, my husband, my job, my ministry to name a few. I tried to get quiet before God to find out what was going on. Once again, this inner turmoil was related to bitterness and resentment.
But this time I was angry at God for ways He had disappointed me. Instead of being honest about those feelings, I had suppressed them, leading to doubt and a loss of trust. After the Holy Spirit exposed my hidden thoughts, I repented and began to feel the anxiety lift.
How can we be so clueless about what goes on in our own hearts? The answer is that our human nature is not particularly interested in the truth. It’s more interested in survival, in the pathetic survival of fig leaves, hiding and illusion. That’s why opening ourselves daily to the surgical intervention of God’s truth is the only way we can eventually become “the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.”