"He is not a Jew which is one outwardly... but he is a Jew which is one inwardly" (Romans 2:28,29).
"They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted for the seed" (Romans 9:8).
"I am the vine, and ye are the branches" (John 15:5).
"Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, the branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in. Well, because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not high minded, but fear; for if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee " (Romans 11:18-21).
I attended what was called a "Jewish Messianic service" the other day, and it was wonderful. There was an abandonment in praise and worship that was spiritually exhilarating. It was like a breath of fresh air. I asked myself, "What makes this service so attractive?" Was it the Jewishness of the meeting that made it so uplifting? Was it the dancing of the young woman who led the singing? Was it her tambourine ... the hand clapping ... the rhythm of the Jewish songs? Were we getting back to an "authentic" form of worship that is missing in our churches ... a form that should be adopted by all believers who are the new Israel of God?
The more I thought about it, the more convinced I became that "Jewishness" had nothing to do with the blessedness of the service. I have had the same glorious elation in meetings in Africa that were as "un-Jewish" as they could be! I remember with deep feeling the prayer meetings in my parents home where the glory came down and the presence of God was so real that you almost expected to see Jesus sitting on one of the chairs in the circle. I've experienced quiet times, and I've experienced boisterous times ... all with the same sense of "presence" that I felt in the Jewish Messianic service.
What, then, is the "common denominator"? What characterizes true worship? What makes worship, worship?
What makes worship worship? Certainly it isn't the "Jewishness" of its form. It has to be something else ... something that worshipers can experience whether they are Arabs or Jews, whether they worship in tents or temples, whether they are conservative or demonstrative. The more I thought about it, the more grateful I became for the universality of the gospel, and the fact that the centrality of Christ is the common denominator in all true worship.
Christ is the vine.
He has always been the vine. He is not a branch of Israel. Before Israel, Christ was! Israel is a branch of Christ! True, He was revealed to the world through the Jewish nation, and as such, they are the "natural" branches. But we must remember that natural Israel is not the vine. Jews are only branches ... branches broken off by unbelief that can only be grafted in again by faith ... just as we who were of the "wild" olive tree have been grafted into Christ by faith.
This means that true worship is not a matter of "getting back" to a Jewish form of worship. We are not seeking to be grafted into a Jewish vine. True worship is a matter of "getting back" to Christ-centeredness" in our worship. Jewish form in worship does not guarantee Christ-centeredness. Neither does it hinder Christ-centeredness. The service I attended was Christ-centered and therefore pleasing to God.
Any worship that is Christ exalting is pleasing to God whether the form be African, Indian, Jewish, Latin, or Caucasian.
I left that Jewish Messianic service blessed ... blessed by the presence of Christ that I felt in the worship, but even more blessed by the fact that I don't have to "go Jewish" to be blessed!
When Jesus said, "I am the vine and ye are the branches," He was not talking about a national or ethnic entity. He was talking about individual believers, be they Jewish or African. We are not grafted into the vine as nations. No nation is predestined to be saved. It is individuals who accept the predestined way of salvation through the blood of Jesus who are the branches. It is those who are "in Christ"—who "abide in the vine"— who are the "all Israel" that will be saved ... be they Mexicans, Eskimos, or Jews!
So, while believers all over the world worship according to their own culture and national identity, the difference in method and form are unimportant to them because, as new creatures "in Christ," they have one thing in common ... i.e., the centrality of Christ in worship!
This means that wherever I go and with whatever people I worship ... if Christ is central and if He is glorified, I can have the same blessed experience I had in the Jewish Messianic service the other day ... for Christ-centeredness is what worship in Spirit and Truth is!