“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans12:1
Many things pass for worship these days. We most commonly associate worship with a gathering on Sunday at a building where we sing some songs and then listen to someone speak. Somewhere in between we give some money to that organization. If we have kids we hand them over to a smaller group where they will probably sing some songs, listen to someone speak, likely for a much shorter period and then make some sort of craft item that mom can hang on the refrigerator or place on the table at home.
After that hour or so of time we can feel as if we have satisfied our worship requirement for our religious life.
With this consumer based approach we can be picky about where and how we participate. The ride home afterward can include a critique of the performance. “The music was way too loud today.” “Seriously, if that preacher preaches any longer I can just bring my bed next time.” “Did you see what (fill in the blank) was wearing today?” If we don’t like the music we can choose another place – maybe somewhere that has a cool praise band and a platform that has awesome lights. If we want less formal we can choose a place where the preacher wears khaki pants and a pullover shirt, or even blue jeans. If we want more formal we can find a preacher who wears a suit.
Worship is for Sunday. Sunday is for worship (well at least a part of it).
Paul paints a very different picture of worship. He says that true and proper worship is to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice. To understand this better lets first examine the term sacrifice. In its simplest, lightest form, a sacrifice is when we give up something for someone or something else. I’m going to sacrifice my Saturday to help you move. I’m going to sacrifice the last piece of cake so my son can have it instead. This idea of sacrifice does not rise to the level of what Paul is referring here. Paul’s understanding of a sacrifice is more permanent. I have plenty more Saturdays and there will be more cakes. Paul’s sacrifice is in the sense of the sacrifices offered to God in the Old Testament. For the various sacrifices an animal was brought and offered to the Lord. There was no expectation the animal would be taken back home later. The animal was killed and then offered up by the priest. It was gone, a permanent offering.
There’s two tricky things about what Paul says however. First, with the animal sacrifices, the animal had no choice. It was offered up by its owner. But Paul instructs us to offer our own bodies, ourselves. We, as the sacrifice have a choice. We are not offered without the choice of our will. It is a voluntary offering. Secondly, Paul tells us to offer ourselves as a ‘living’ sacrifice. The animal sacrifices were always killed. They existed no longer. As a living sacrifice we continue to exist day after day. Thus we must continue in our choice. We must continue to offer our bodies as a sacrifice. This is not simply a one time deal. It is on-going, perpetual. At anytime we can take it back. And to be honest, we are tempted at every turn to do so. We like being in control, but submitting ourselves as a sacrifice means relinquishing control. This is what Jesus meant when he told us to follow him meant to deny ourselves and pick up our cross daily. Frankly we cannot do this without the power of the Holy Spirit.
So to truly worship God in the proper way, we must surrender and offer ourselves completely to him. And we must continue to do so.This doesn’t sound like something that can be accomplished solely by gathering in a room for an hour or two, one day a week, singing (or just listening to) some songs and listening to someone speak. It becomes easily apparent that worship is an everyday act; even an every moment act. We offer ourselves and we do not take the offering back. We offer ourselves to be consumed, consumed by God. Out of our adoration for God and subsequent devotion to him we find ourselves in a state of worship, a mind of worship at the very core of our being. We are so thoroughly enamored with God, so in love with him and so dedicated to him that we can be satisfied with no other. We can serve no other. We willingly give ourselves to him to be consumed by him, day after day for all of eternity. We are a living sacrifice. This is worship.