February 4th, 2023 - Worship


This week we have contemplated several spiritual disciplines that help us experience the richness of God’s presence. As we go into the weekend, we look at the practice of worship.
Father, help us grasp your goodness and learn how to worship you in spirit and in truth.

Today we examine Romans 12 to gain a better understanding of what it means to worship as followers of Christ.

In Romans 12:1-2, Paul writes:
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

It’s worth noting as we begin, that some other biblical translations may interpret “spiritual worship” as “true and proper worship”. In verse 1, Paul uses the word “therefore” implying the appeal he’s making is a direct response to everything outlined in the book’s previous eleven chapters. That God sent his Son to pay the ultimate sacrifice for our sin through Christ’s death and resurrection, so that we can be reconciled to God and experience everlasting joy is summed up here as “the mercies of God”. In other words, verse 1 tells us that because of the grace and mercy God has bestowed on us, we ought to engage in spiritual worship which happens when we present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.

In verses 3-8, Paul revisits a theme familiar in his other writings, that the body of Christ is made of many members, all with different gifts and functions. In the remainder of the chapter, Paul gives examples of behavioral fruit that should be seen in the Christian life, many of which relate to mercy: “Love one another with brotherly affection…Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them…Weep with those who weep…Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly…Repay no one for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all…Never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God…If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.”

Note that before Paul calls us to live a Christian life showing mercy to others, in verse 1, he first calls for this new life to be worshipful towards God.
In a sermon on this topic John Piper says,
“We must never let the Christian life drift into a mere social agenda. I use the word “mere” carefully, because if God is left out, our mercy will be mere social agenda. We do no one good in the end if we are not worshiping and leading them to worship in the acts of mercy that we do. If our good deeds are not expressing the worth of God, then our deeds are not worship, and in the end, will not be merciful. Making people comfortable or helping them feel good on the way to everlasting punishment, without the hope and the design that they see Christ in your good deeds, is not mercy. Mercy must aim to make much of Christ. No one is saved who doesn’t meet and make much of Christ. And not to care about saving is not merciful.”

In short, only a worshipful life can lead to a truly merciful one. But what does this worshipful life look like?

Romans 12:1 indicates that true and proper worship involves our bodies. God desires visibly expressed bodily evidence that our lives are built on His mercy. Put another way, the purpose of our body is to make the glory of God more visible to the world around us. Worship is more than just singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs though. Showing hospitality to a neighbor, practicing generosity, praying, reading the Bible, meditating on Scripture, preaching, working, fleeing temptation, loving your family well – all these things and more are acts of worship. When it comes down to it, the heart of worship is choosing to do the things God has commanded us to do, instead of things He has forbidden - committing to the Creator over creation, and the Kingdom of God over kingdoms of man.
We worship when we present our bodies as a living sacrifice. Living implies that every action should be drawing attention to His greatness and goodness. Sacrifice reveals there are things we treasure that will need to be given up. In the Old Testament era, this would have been a physical possession – specifically a spotless animal appropriate for the sacrificial ritual. Now under the new covenant, our sacrifice may come in the form of a comfort, pleasure, ease of life, relationship, hobby, or physical possession that we deny ourselves to properly honor God.

Finally, the sacrificial lives we lead are to be holy and acceptable to God. Why? Because God is holy.

“You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.”
– Leviticus 20:26
We are to dedicate ourselves to live in righteousness and not sin. A body is not holy because of its physique or appearance, but rather because of what it does. If we strive to live our lives in holiness, then our spiritual worship will be acceptable to a holy God.
Take a few moments and think about the state of your current life. Are you living with the intent to glorify the Lord daily or is this relegated to only a couple hours every Sunday? Are your good works coming from a place of self-righteousness and ego, or fueled by sacrificial worship? Is the Holy Spirit stirring you to renew your mind in the way you approach worship?
Once you have taken some time to meditate on the role worship plays in your Christian life, consider whether there are any steps you can take to draw closer to Christ daily.

Pray: Lord, you are holy and worthy to be praised! Give me a hunger for You. Help me learn how to discern Your will in my life. Grant me the endurance to deny myself unfruitful pleasures for Your glory. May my lips praise you both in song and conversation. May my hands worship you whether lifted high or toiling in labor. May my desire to live in righteousness be holy and acceptable in Your sight.