In Spirit and in Truth

We’ve been talking about culture, religion, technology, and our picture of God, and getting closer and closer to some concluding ideas. We’ve noted that culture, religion, and technology are highly charged subjects, not easily understood and not universally accepted. It takes many passes sometimes to get our minds around these new ideas and concepts and strong emotions are tied to them—sometimes extreme anger, sometimes overwhelming joy. 

I’d say this: No argument can be made that God limits his grace based on culture. God is the God of all mankind. God’s grace is open and free to all. But does culture influence how we see God and therefore influence how we see grace, how we accept grace, and how we influence others when we try to share our grace with them? To study this further, we turn again to the story of the woman at the well for possible new insights. 

Immediately preceding the story of the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4) is the story of Nicodemus (John 3) and his visit to Jesus in the night. Both Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman ended up being among the earliest converts to Christianity. Even before the term Christian was coined, they were followers of Christ. They represent the early Christian church. Yet they were practically polar opposites. 

Nicodemus was a Jew—and not just any Jew but a Pharisee, a Jew of the Jews—educated, wealthy, highly moral, and male. If he lived today, he would be in the 1%. Moreover, he was a seeker. He came to see Jesus at night. Those of us who call ourselves believers might identify with Nicodemus. We are educated, we’re moral, we’re seekers. 

The woman at the well, in contrast, is a woman, a Samaritan, uneducated, poor, and immoral. She does not seek Jesus, but Jesus seeks her. And he seeks her not at night but at high noon. Although we see ourselves as Nicodemus, we are in truth more like the Samaritan woman—without religious pedigree, poor, immoral and outcast. 

What the Samaritan woman and Nicodemus have in common, however, is first, that they both need grace, and second, that neither understands what grace is all about. Both end up being schooled in grace by Jesus. 

The story of Nicodemus shows that those of us who are good—even very, very good—still need God’s grace. Grace produces a new spiritual birth. Born into the Father’s house, Nicodemus doesn’t understand this at all. He talks about crawling back into his mother’s womb. Jesus taught him the most important lesson about grace: That it has to do with what God does, and not with what we do. For God, Jesus says, “so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” 

The passage about the woman at the well contains the longest recorded discourse that Jesus has with anyone in the entire gospels. More than any discussion that he had with the Pharisees, more than any discussion he had with his disciples, Jesus talked to the woman at the well longer than anyone else. Here is that discussion, because it is important for understanding where we’re going today: 

So then, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that He was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus Himself was not baptizing; rather, His disciples were), He left Judea and went away again to Galilee. And He had to pass through Samaria. So He came to a city of Samaria called Sychar, near the parcel of land that Jacob gave to his son Joseph; and Jacob’s well was there. So Jesus, tired from His journey, was just sitting by the well. It was about the sixth hour.

A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” For His disciples had gone away to the city to buy food. So the Samaritan woman said to Him, “How is it that You, though You are a Jew, are asking me for a drink, though I am a Samaritan woman?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) Jesus replied to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who is saying to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” She said to Him, “Sir, You have no bucket and the well is deep; where then do You get this living water? You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well and drank of it himself, and his sons and his cattle?” Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never be thirsty; but the water that I will give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up to eternal life.”

The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water so that I will not be thirsty, nor come all the way here to draw water.” He said to her, “Go, call your husband and come here.” The woman answered and said to Him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this which you have said is true.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and yet you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one must worship.” Jesus said to her, “Believe Me, woman, that a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, because salvation is from the Jews. But a time is coming, and even now has arrived, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I am He, the One speaking to you.”

And at this point His disciples came, and they were amazed that He had been speaking with a woman, yet no one said, “What are You seeking?” or, “Why are You speaking with her?” So the woman left her waterpot and went into the city, and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is He?” They left the city and were coming to Him.

Meanwhile the disciples were urging Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat something.” But He said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.”  (John 4:1-32) 

God is a Spirit and His worshipers must worship him in spirit and in truth. We’re asking that question today: What does it mean to worship God in spirit and in truth? 

Jesus was going north, from Jerusalem to Galilee. Normally, a Jew going north would take the trans-Jordan route on the east side of the Jordan River to avoid traveling through Samaria. Verse 4 says that Jesus had to go through Samaria: This shows the intentionality of his journey. He was going to find the woman at the well. Like a shepherd looking for his lost sheep, Jesus set out to find his lost soul. 

He arrived at Jacob’s well at noon. The well is the center of a village, a focal point of gathering, but not at noon, not at the hottest time of the day. Midday is a time for rest. Jesus arrives here thirsty and tired. Jacob’s Well is in the modern day city of Nablus on the west bank of the country of Palestine. Today the well is covered by an Orthodox Christian church, but its location is considered authentic, one of the truest authentic sites in the Holy Land. 

He must have been surprised to find a woman coming there at midday. The usual time for drawing water was in cool of the morning or the evening, certainly not at high noon. Finding this woman there is highly significant. There is a great symbolism here. The village well was where you went to find a wife. Abraham’s servant Eliezer went to the well to find a wife for Isaac:

The young woman was very beautiful, a virgin; no man had had relations with her.  (Genesis 24:16)

She might be considered ancient eye candy, and a virgin. She also turned out to be expensive—10 camels plus jewelry and gold—but apparently worth every penny. Maybe she was the first trophy wife in history. Isaac’s son Jacob also found a wife, Rachel, at the well:

… Rachel was beautiful in figure and appearance. (Genesis 29:17)

Today, we might say she was shapely and well built. Moses finds his wife Zipporah at the well as well 

The significance cannot be missed: The well is where you go to find a wife. Throughout the Scriptures, we see a picture of Jesus as a bridegroom looking for a wife, which is known as the church. Unlike the other woman found at the well, Jesus found a Samaritan woman, not a Jew. Moreover, she was neither lovely nor a virgin but more like Gomer, the prostitute about whom we have spoken before. 

She’s a Samaritan, ritually unclean, has had five husbands and is living with a man who is not her husband. God’s bride is a five-time loser and has been sleeping around. You can’t miss this point: We are, you see, the woman at the well. We are outcasts broken down and living in sin. 

Jesus seeks us out not to condemn us but to engage us, to teach us, to call us, to save us. He meets with us where we are, even though we’re morally bankrupt, at the well of life, which is where I work in order to sustain myself. The well is deep and requires much effort to draw. It is my bucket. It is my rope to let it down. It is my implement of water-drawing. It is my role to draw. It’s my muscles that give the precious water quench of my thirst. It must not be missed that the more I draw, the more tired I become and the more I draw the more I thirst. 

The cycles of work and exhaustion and work and thirst must be broken—and that is the miracle that Jesus is offering: The miracle of grace and living water. Jesus sees the woman at the well at this odd time because with her history and her present lifestyle, she doesn’t fit in very well with the rest of the community. He knows everything about her yet he still wants to be her spiritual bride. He doesn’t look on the outside. He sees her work and sees her as a person redeemed by grace. 

“Give me a drink,” he says, and she responds, “You’re a Jew. I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink, for Jews do not associate with Samaritans?” There are, she implies, cultural elements at play here. “How is it that you first wanted me to overlook the culture? And how is it that you on the other hand are willing to overlook the culture as well?” 

Jesus’s request and his action does two things. He’s saying to the Jews: “I am not going to allow you to define who and what the Samaritans are” and to the Samaritans he’s saying: “I am not going to let you define who God is.” Man’s culture seeks to define who we are and who you are. Man’s culture also seeks to define who God is. But Jesus here will have none of it. He is the definer and he is the decider. 

Grace, he says, triumphs everything and then he makes his pitch in verse 10: “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that asked you for a drink,” he says, “you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” “If you knew the gift of God”: this is the universal need—to know the gift of God, the gift of grace. “If you knew what grace was, you would ask for grace” he said. It is very clear she doesn’t understand what grace is. 

Like Nicodemus, who is literally trying to climb back into his mother’s womb, she envisions her own private well, her private source of water; no hauling of hard-earned water back to the house. My own personal well, my own personal stash is what we all want from God. Our own personal well, our own personal blessing, blessings for my own family, blessing for my health, blessing for my business, blessing for my relationships, blessing for my bank account. What I want from you guys is to make my life less of a burden for me. 

Like us, the Samaritan woman and Nicodemus completely missed the point. Being not spiritually wise, we completely misunderstand grace. When we first hear about grace it goes completely over our heads. It takes almost a miracle for us to comprehend the lavish gift of God’s grace. We’re so focused on personal blessings we miss the point of grace. 

Jesus then drops the bombshell in verse 16: “Go get your husband,” he says, “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands and the man that you now live with is not your husband. What you have said is quite true.” The woman replies “I can see that you are a prophet”.

Here we see no condemnation of the woman at the well, no call to turn from sin. We see only the power of grace, which turns work into worship. Living water bubbles up and flows all over everywhere. The woman then tries to engage Jesus in theological debate, in cultural studies, and in doctrine, but Jesus turns aside the doctrinal debate. 

In verse 28, she leaves her water jar behind. This is significant: She is setting aside her own works and her implements of work. Living water changes everything. Grace turns work into worship in spirit and in truth, known as the work of Jesus here. It should be our work as well that is to teach and to tell the story of grace. 

But what does it mean to worship God in spirit and truth? In John 4 Jesus says that we should worship Him in spirit and in truth. And in his conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well, he makes the point that to worship God in spirit means that we worship hm with our whole being, our heart, our soul, our inner strength; not just with our outward actions. It means that we worship him from a place of sincerity and truthfulness. 

To worship God in truth means you worship him according to his nature and character as revealed in the Scriptures. It means that we worship God in the way he has commanded and not in ways contrary to his nature and will. True worship is grounded in the truth of God’s word, not in human tradition or cultural preference. But I believe it is more than that: It provides the basis for our understanding of culture, religion, and our view of God. 

To understand what it means to worship in spirit and in truth takes us back to the concept of living water. Living water has five characteristics, described in the passage, that provide a clue as to how the passage is to be understood. 

First, the living water is a gift from God. Jesus tells the woman: “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that asked you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water” (John 4:10). This indicates that living water is not something that can be earned or achieved, but is a free gift of God. That is the biggest clue. 

Second, living water satisfies spiritual thirst. Jesus tells the woman that whoever drinks it will never be thirsty again (John 4:14). This suggests that living water is not a physical substance but a spiritual reality that satisfies a deep spiritual longing in the human heart. 

Third, living water is the source of eternal life. Jesus says: “The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). This indicates that living water is not just a temporary fix for spiritual thirst, but the source of eternal life, and it never runs dry. 

Fourth, living water is available to all who believe. Jesus tells the woman: “Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty again.” This indicates that living water is not limited to a specific group of people at a particular time, but is available to all. 

Finally, living water is a spiritual reality. Jesus tells the woman that God is a spirit and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth. This suggests that living water is not a physical substance but a spiritual reality that can be accessed through worship in spirit and in truth. 

The living water described in John 4 is therefore a gift. It’s free. It’s the source of eternal life. It’s available to all.

As Jesus speaks to the woman at the well and tells her about a kind of water that will quench your thirst forever—about the living water—we begin to recognize it as having the characteristics of God’s eternal grace. We’ve listed those characteristics: It’s free, it’s a gift. It’s free to all, it’s essential to life. It reminds  us of the way grace is metaphored by oxygen. Here we see it metaphored by water. 

It’s important to note that the living water Jesus refers to is not a physical substance but a spiritual reality. Jesus tells the woman that whoever drinks it will never be thirsty again. This is not a promise of physical hydration, but rather a promise of spiritual satisfaction. Living water nourishes the soul, not the body.

The idea of grace as a kind of water is not a new one. The Old Testament has many references to God’s grace as a source of refreshment and nourishment. The psalmist writes: 

As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So my soul pants for You, God.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God;… (Psalms 42:1-2) 

In Isaiah God promises to provide water for the thirsty and grace to the needy:

For I will pour water on the thirsty land
And streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring,
And My blessing on your descendants;… (Isaiah 44:3)

This image of God’s grace as a source of water is echoed in the New Testament where Jesus himself in, identifies himself personally as the person of living water:

Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” But this He said in reference to the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39)

The living water that Jesus refers to in John’s Gospel can only be seen as a metaphor for God’s eternal grace. It is not a physical substance but a spiritual reality that nourishes the soul. The idea of grace as a source of water is not new, and it’s found throughout the Old and the New Testaments. Ultimately, the living water that Jesus promised is a symbol of the gift of eternal life that comes through God’s grace. 

But worshipping God in spirit and in truth sounds like it involves spiritual truth. What is spiritual truth? It sounds like an attribute of God, not of fallen Man. There’s nothing about myself which is spiritual, or there’s nothing about myself which is true. I’m a broken, defeated, evil, sinful Man. Therefore, I’m concluding that whatever worship that we’re called to have in spirit and in truth must be something about what God does and not do. 

God’s worship is to deliver grace. Our rituals and rules are useless before God. Our worship should be centered on God and what he does, not on us and what we do. This is what it means to worship God in spirit in truth. It simply means to accept God’s grace. 

The concept of worship has been central to the practice of religion for centuries. It involves expressions of devotion and reference to deities through various rituals, practices, and beliefs. However, the question of what constitutes true worship is a matter of much debate and interpretation. In the Gospel of John Jesus tells the Samaritan woman at the well that true worship is not defined by physical location or ritualistic practice, but rather by the heart and by the truth. In other words, true worship is centered on God and what he does, not on us and what we do. 

The idea of worshiping God in spirit and in truth suggests that true worship is based not on external acts or observances but on a deep spiritual connection with God. It is not something that can be achieved through rituals and rules, but rather through a genuine surrender of the heart to God. The surrender is characterized by a recognition of God’s greatness, power and mercy and willingness to accept His grace and love. 

The prophet Amos speaks to the idea of true worship, where he condemns the religious practices of the Israelites:

“I hate, I reject your festivals,
Nor do I delight in your festive assemblies.

Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
And I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fattened oxen. (Amos 5:21-22)

Amos is suggesting that the religious rituals and practices of the people are useless in the eyes of God if they’re not accompanied by a true heart of worship. True worship then is not about what we do—not about our rules and about our rituals. True worship is about what God does. It is a response to the grace, mercy and love that God freely offers us. 

This kind of worship involves recognition of our own unworthiness and complete surrender to God’s will. It is not something that can be achieved through our own effort or through our work, but through genuine faith and trust in God’s power and goodness. 

So what does it mean to worship God in spirit and in truth? It believe it means nothing more (and nothing less) than to enter into and accept God’s grace. It is to enter into what God does and not what we do. We so much wish our religion, our spirit, our truth, our worship, to be about us and what we do, about our devotion, about our study, about our piety, about our Bible reading, about our meditation about our prayer, about our self-denial about our sacrifice, about our beliefs. 

But this cannot be about us, because there is nothing spiritual about us. There is nothing truthful about us. Anything that is genuinely spiritual and genuinely true must be about God. How can the Samaritan woman at the well worship in spirit and in truth if this is about her? 

I’d like your thoughts this morning. about technology, religion, culture, God, and above all, what does it mean to worship God in spirit and in truth? 

Donald: Words do matter. And when we think of certain words, at least from my perspective, we have a sense as to what those words might imply. So when I hear the word worship, I typically do not think of worshiping alone, I think of it as being more than alone. 

Does Daoism have a place of meeting? Or is it just a way of living?

David: That is a really interesting question and pertinent to the discussion. There are two branches of Daoism; Originally, Daoism was a philosophy and as such essentially individual, so there was no formal gathering place for those philosophically inclined toward Daoism, though undoubtedly there were informal meetings where they gathered in spirit in a sense through their “Bible” the the Dao De Jing

But of course the human urge is to get together, to club together, so another branch of Daoism formed, now known as religious Daoism, which does have all the trappings—temples and monks and rituals—that go with a religion. 

Both Jesus and Amos were saying “Forget about religion and get back to my philosophy, go back to the individual, spiritual nature of God and go away from the communal approach. That’s a pretty shocking message. 

Donald:  When a third person wants to join two people who have gotten together, they want to know: Are you eligible to be a part of us? Two people can just get along. But once you start organizing you have to start defining who’s in the circle and who’s not. And that is something we really shouldn’t be doing, it seems to me, but we do. We make clear judgments as to whether you’re fit to be a part of our organization.

Don: Maybe you’re asking the question, how many people does it take them to make a culture? Does one person need a culture?

C-J: Humans are pack animals in order to survive. And the idea of bringing the spiritual element into it really was birthed out of living so close to nature. You had to pay attention to the signs and wonders, you knew you didn’t create this humanity or any other living creature that has autonomy and judgment, a sentient being. 

But for me, I believe what that demonstrates is that diversity. God meets us where we are. It isn’t just “I like the way this fits me. I don’t want to have to do all that other stuff. I like these people.” What if you move to another church? I know I like the people in the other place, even though the sign above the door says X. 

I think the thing that we hear in both the story of the Samaritan woman at the well and with Nicodemus is God meets us where we are. And it is in that moment of revelation that God begins, and the journey that led us to being able to receive like, “Who am I talking to? Something is different here. This man knows all about me. But I haven’t spoken a word.” 

Here’s a man who feels that he doesn’t need to say anything, because he’s wearing all of the social things that identify him—his clothes, the way he speaks—all those things. He doesn’t have to tell anybody that he’s a man of privilege. But God just says “None of that matters, because it’s all corruptible. It’s all transient. It’s all on who’s watching you.” If you have 10 people that look like you, it’s not such a big deal. If you’re standing next to the poorest of poor, then it’s quite obvious. And so we measure, we start putting measurements and values into things. But God says even the least among you has great value.

There is no quorum with God. He says if there are two or three in our chart, they are mine. But he stops for that lamb that is lost. “Where are you? Where are you? Do you hear my voice? For my people know my voice.” Sometimes you do hear the voice and then you come to a place where you can only hear God’s voice. So God meets us where we are. God reveals to us at a moment in time what we need in order to get up when we’ve been punched down or when we’re lost. 

I just I think we underestimate God in our own lives and all around us in the chaos so frequently that we want those safety nets that Donald talks about. “I want to know what this means right here and now, and I’m staying in my box. I see what’s out there, but I don’t want to be out there.”  And other people—the Mother Teresas, Jesus, the disciples—go where other people wouldn’t. They sit among the disenfranchised. I think that’s the Great Commission. It’s your neighbor, it’s the stranger on the bus, it’s the person in the grocery store. Not just the people that we’re familiar and feel safe with. And there’s where we find God.

Donald: I do feel like there’s great value in a collective group of people coming together and trying to worship God in spirit and truth. It does draw out of you something that may not happen otherwise. But the challenge for an organization would be that you would want to exclude someone, or make someone look peculiar.

David: There’s an even bigger problem: We are not, in fact, coming together, we are breaking apart. Read the Pew studies of the decline in religion or the spread of different sects, and so on. My technological mantra is that we are increasingly becoming more individualistic. We have a zillion social media channels (groups) to join, but each is becoming smaller and smaller. I think we will end up with the individual—and the technology—forming the whole, disconnected, channel. 

Don shared with me earlier that a survey of people who use ChatGPT as their doctor, asking it questions about their medical conditions, found that many more found the AI to be far more empathetic than their physician. If people look for empathy and will go wherever they can best get it, we’re getting to the point where technology becomes the individual’s most trusted advisor—what teenagers call their BFF (best friend forever). 

Human BFFs tend not to last very long, certainly not forever. Today’s teenager’s BFF is probably not her BFF in adulthood. But ChatGPT is shaping up to be everyone’s BFF, forever. We can trust it always to be empathetic and it’s only going to get better and better and have more and more understanding of the world in general and us as individuals in particular. 

So I challenge the convention that human grouping together is such a good thing that it will last forever. Maybe it is today, maybe it always has been to date, but going forward, is that going to hold?

C-J: And suicide is up. There are more and more problems with adolescents in terms of mental health, self-isolation, and socio-cultural isolation. Not having a clear path, my best friend forever when I’m 12 is not going to be who I would choose as a friend at 22. So these kids are lost. These young people see governments failing, economics impacting them, relationships failing, education failing them, healthcare failing them. An algorithm isn’t going to fix it. They want to be held, they want someone to read to them, they want someone to speak truth that bears witness with them spiritually, instead of like, “That’s a lie.”

Donald: Maybe one way to look at this is like singing solo. That is quite a different experience than singing as part of a group. I can’t sing with ChatGPT. Maybe it will be possible one day, but all I’m saying is, there there is something rich about having a shared experience.

Some of my richest experiences in life have taken place in Africa. They were shared experiences and rich experiences. Why? If I were to do that same thing in Michigan I might not feel so comfortable. But I think it’s important. I do think that there’s something to be said for a shared experience with somebody that you really connect with.

C-J: Isn’t that what public demonstrations for injustice are all about? They are shared experience of oppression or a voice that needs to be heard outside of a single room, “Say it loud, say it proud, you’re going to listen to me, because I won’t stop until you do.” Shared experience doesn’t just have to have a spiritual connotation of what’s acceptable or expected in a particular building. I love group worship. It’s just resonates, it’s like an orchestra. But I also remember some very sweet times just worshiping God at my bedside. They were also sweet. Or walking in the woods. God meets us where we are. 

But we can gain the most when we feel the most uncomfortable. Because it makes me look at something else before it makes me look at something inside myself, that I either thought I had an understanding of, had control of, or made a decision already about. I’d already defined it and categorized it. But when I’m in a place where I don’t feel comfortable, I’m anxious. I challenge that. And I want to see the fruit. 

God always bears fruit. Always, Always adds to the reflection of him and less of me, because left to my own device. I usually don’t make good choices. My timing isn’t really remarkable. But when God shows up, everybody notices, I guarantee.

Sharon: What role does our personality and our culture play in how the Lord meets us and how we meet the Lord? I’m thinking as an introvert. I find the most spiritual moments that I have in my life, for myself, are in the privacy of nature and when I can be totally without the pressure of having the social. 

So what role does the culture that we’re raised in and the social implications of that and our innate chromosomal personality play? Doesn’t the diversity of God meet this whole spectrum in some way? Because we’re not singular in identity, social creatures

Donald: Unfortunately, what we try to do is make people be like us We try to surround ourselves with people of like kind to support us. There’s something of value to that. Why would a violin want to be a harp? We wouldn’t have a symphony if we didn’t have a host of instruments. They’re all different. But we humans really strive to clean the others up, it seems to me.

Reinhard: We are in a comfort zone because we are believers. We only need a little fix now and then–a little tune-up. But to the majority out there, I think it’s a big challenge. Last week it was mentioned that the past two or three decades have seen a decline in believers, from close to 90% who came to church at least once a year, to 39%. 

I first came to this country in the 70s and witnessed the start of televangelism in the ’80s and I saw the culture start to become polarized between liberals and conservatives. The media started getting more and more liberal and hammered the televangelists if they made mistakes, such that by the turn of the century liberal influence turned people against church and towards atheism and humanism. 

Closer to our time, the LGBTQ movement and same-sex marriage promoted by the media further changed the culture. To me, these trends are more dangerous than AI because positive things may come of AI in terms of helping us to evangelize and doing God’s work. During the Cold War, Khrushchev said the USSR would win the war without firing a shot, based upon the Marxist view that humanism would prevail by percolating through the colleges and liberal professors and turn US culture into what we see today. 

Today the US is even more polarized between left and right people and this is more dangerous. Most people on the right are believers while most on the left are not. To those on the left, science and evolutionary theory undermine the Bible and its statements about the creation and so on. We are in a conflict zone but we can still deal with one another respectfully. 

It’s worse in Europe, where very few people attend church today. I think that’s the danger posed by a humanistic view: It causes people to not care about God and church.

C-J: I don’t think it’s about the polarization. It’s about the disinformation. It’s enough truth, skewed, that you can’t find your way out of the woods. How to sort the threads that change a balanced perspective? There’s so much going on all over the world. 

I started watching a series on Netflix called The Citadel, which is so current with what you just said. In terms of how that will play out, it’s timing. It’s how many times do you hear that same messaging. It’s the separation of degree. It scared me. If this proposition in terms of a possibility was to be considered, instead of those obvious polls, liberal–conservative, it scared me because I never considered a third player on the field. It’s taken root in my head..

It’s worth fast forwarding to the end credits for the scriptwriters and why they designed it the way they did. It made me pause. But I hear what Reinhardt is saying: When we choose a side on the field it is just as dangerous is being lost. Because we are not either/or: We are humanity and we’ve lost our way. 

I don’t care what border you’re next to. I don’t care what the person looks like or their belief or any of that. Humanity has lost its way and we have a very small window to coalesce into the understanding that if we don’t get this right in terms of preserving the planet, it’s not going to matter. We’re going to destroy the planet till it can not sustain us. 

It just changed the way I viewed so much, the premise in the script.

Reinhard: On the other side of the coin, in Asia, South America and North Africa, there are a lot of people who seek God. For instance, China will not publicly admit that Christianity is fairly widespread, with (if I’m not mistaken) close to 300 million Christians. 

In Asia in general, belief in and worship of God has remained steady over the past 20 or 30 years. It’s different in the western hemisphere, western Europe especially. It’s comforting news that on the other side of the planet there are probably more people seeking God. 

Anonymous: The jewel in today’s discussion is about the fact that to accept the grace of God is to worship God in spirit and in truth. To me that’s the bottom line of Christianity. It’s what Christianity is all about. It’s the true and deep and sincere connection to God’s grace and accepting it. That has nothing to do with culture, nothing to do with personality, nothing to do with technology.

It is something out of this world. I don’t know what to call it. It’s so important, so powerful, so true, so real. I’m very moved that in spite of his health condition, Dr. Weaver is still teaching us and giving us the truth and breaking the bread of life to us. Thank you so much, that means a lot to me. And it means that God sees the importance of this message, to show us how to worship God, in spirit and truth by just accepting his grace, 

You’ve brought out the seemingly minor points of the story of the woman at the well, such as her leaving the bucket behind when she went back to the village. The teaching of Jesus has so many deep meanings that we can apply to our lives and see where we stand, how poor we are, and there’s nothing else that we can do. The grace of God is oxygen available to everybody. There’s nothing to do but to accept it, and in order to accept it you have to have faith in God. 

Faith, as the Bible says, is given from God. Our faith is from God, and the grace of God is also a gift given to us. As soon as we accept it, God considers that as worship in spirit and truth. That’s beautiful. That’s so powerful. You could not put a value on this fact on this truth. Thank you for showing us that.

Don: Thank you for emphasizing it, because I didn’t know if I had made myself clear.

Anonymous: Oh, it is so clear.

* * *  

Leave a Reply