Last night we looked at Romans 12:1-2, two of the most well-known verses in all of Scripture.
Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
This little passage is rife with really important Biblical concepts: sacrifice, conformation and transformation, renewal, God’s will, etc. And yet underneath these themes, Paul is dealing with a question every Christian has to come to grips with: What is worship?
Music is not mentioned, nor is preaching. This is not even about offering material things to God. Rather, Paul says that true worship means consecrating your body to God, which we can restate like this:
Worship is giving God your self.
That is what God asks of us. In the Old Testament all sorts of things were associated with sacrifice and offerings–bulls, goats, lambs, pigeons, grain, and oil to name a few. Jesus came and offered His life as the once-for-all sacrifice that did away with the old sacrificial system. And so there is nothing left for us to give, except for ourselves.
This is the lesson the Rich Young Ruler had to learn. He wanted to know what good thing he could do to inherit eternal life. Jesus’ answer, in short, was that there was no good thing to be done or precious thing to give, except for himself. So he called him to go give away all of his stuff–there would no longer be any need for those things–and to follow Him. Jesus asked for a total offering of the self. Unfortunately, that proved to be more than the Rich Young Ruler was willing to give, and he went away sad. How about you and me? As Jesus asks you for your whole self, how do you respond?
As I shared last night, far too often I find myself struggling in corporate worship, dealing with distractions or hindrances from my own life. I struggle with myself to produce joy where it is lacking or gratitude where there is none to be found. I understand that worship is expressing adoration to God for who He is and thanksgiving and wonder for what He does. But worship is also coming to God to meet with Him, to share His fellowship and joy. Where there is sin to be found in a Christian’s life–whether subtle or overt, of omission or commission–it necessarily disturbs our fellowship with God. David asks this question in Psalm 24,
Who may ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who may stand in His holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood
And has not sworn deceitfully.
In John 4 Jesus tells the Samaritan woman that anyone who would be a true worshiper of the Father must be one “in spirit and truth.” And there is good news for us in all of us:
Jesus came to clean our hands, to purify our hearts, to remove our sins, and to bring us into fellowship with God the Father.
Through Jesus I can be made clean, and so can you. As I hear His call to leave the things of the world behind and to follow Him, He purifies me and brings me to the Father. As my life is consecrated to His, I experience the joy of my Father, and my heart begins to sing.
Worship truly becomes worship when it becomes the outflow of lives lived surrendered to Jesus Christ.