By far one of my favorite verses on worship is Romans 12:1-2:
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. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. NIV
Or, my favorite, in The Message:
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life-your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life-and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
This concept of worship being about the lives we live… it shakes me to the core. The fact that worship is more than songs, more than services, more than intentions – it is action. You can have all the intention in the world, but if we do not carry out our intentions into our actions, we will fail to realize our goals.
Let me break this verse, this concept, down a bit more for you.
I urge you, dear brothers-
If you do any study on the life of Paul, you quickly realize that he knew what he was talking about. Paul suffered more pain in his life than most of us can probably fathom. Oh yea, and he was one of Jesus’ closest apostles. From the entirety of his life’s experiences he writes. What he talks about in this passage is not a simple suggestion, rather an urge which as Dictionary.com describes it is “to impel with force or vigor.” Huh? THIS IS SO IMPORTANT THAT I’D BE WILLING TO FORCE IT UPON YOU. Yea… that important.
-in view of God’s mercy-
God’s mercy (and grace and love and forgiveness and kindness) is unmeasurable and unfathomable. He literally extended mercy to his enemies, the very people who crucified Him and denied Him. No human being is disqualified from receiving His mercy. The key here is to note that Paul is calling us to action because of God’s mercy. Our powerful Creator has done something unthinkable for us… so He deserves this.
-offer your bodies as a living sacrifice-
Worship as an art form is truly an offering to God. There are many references in the Bible to link praise, prayer, and song to worship as an offering act. Of course, the very word offering is taken directly from the Old Testament when the Israelites would literally sacrifice animal offerings. Luckily, for us, Jesus died on the cross so that we don’t have to do that anymore. All He asks of us is simply the sacrifice – the offering – of worship.
But… it doesn’t end there. Songs, dances, paintings – our art is merely an expression of our soul, the REAL THING He desires from us! What Paul is eluding to here is a life, a journey. Every moment of your life should reflect a sacrificial offering of worship. Every word you utter, every thought you entertain, every deed you do – all of it should be acted out and executed as if an offering to God.
The beauty I love about this is that it’s a living sacrifice. This verse has nothing to do with martyrdom. God bless those that die for their faith, but that is surely not the only way to “sacrifice” your life for the sake of Christ. How much more for us to sacrifice our “living” lives, when we are constantly battling our flesh and this world?
Choosing to live – every moment – a life of righteousness, holiness, and reverence to me is the true choice to authentic worship.
-holy and pleasing to God-
No secret here. God is pleased with our worship. There are many scripture references to our worship being a sweet aroma or sound or sight to God. Our worship tickles his senses; it prompts an uncontrollable smile, gleeful paternal giggles. But not just pleasing, also holy. As I stated before, that every word/thought/deed would be submitted to the holiness of Christ, that our lives would reflect His glory and honor, and that ultimately people would see Christ in us. What better way to worship the King?
-this is your spiritual act of worship.
So yes, as it is we humans have so little to offer God in return for the sacrifice of His Son on the cross. And yet, He accepts our lives as adequate, even pleasing. Our living lives, full of God’s holiness and love, to be such an example to the world of the fullness of God’s holiness and love through His Son, there is no greater honor. But why spiritual? Why would Paul choose to give the act such a strong adjective? Simple. As humans, we think we can “live” a certain way, and that somehow counts. We think we can walk, give, sing, talk, dance, and drive a certain way in order to please God.
Let me tell you something… HE DOESN’T GIVE A DAMN WHAT YOU DO. Now, don’t lose me here… I used all-caps and the D-word just to grab your attention. What I mean is this: what makes our words/thoughts/deeds pleasing to God is not them in and of themselves. It is the heart behind those words/thoughts/deeds that pleases God. One man can lift his hands in praise and get nothing. Another man can do the same exact “act” and experience the presence of God in a powerful way. On the outside, they look the same. But on the inside, they are completely different: one has motives of pleasing his pastor and girlfriend, while the other wants to worship God with an authentic heart.
Does it matter? Yes. God blesses the poor in heart. He blesses those that admit and assume their dependence on Him.
Funny thing is: We can’t worship God until He gives us the ability (permission) to do so… but that is a whole different blog post!
In verse two Paul goes on urging us to live a life separate and noticeably different from that of the world, choosing to allow God to transform our minds and renew our spirits. And, the more we practice this act of repentance and sacrifice, the closer we will be to God, His will, and His glory. I for one will never be close enough.
So, Sam… why the King of hearts?
Growing up, the King of hearts was my favorite playing card, probably because of its taboo nature, its unofficial title of being the “suicide King” as in most decks of cards he appears to be stabbing himself in the head. Of course, this post has nothing to do with suicide, self-torture, or anything like that… I am no psychiatrist, and would put no relation to godly living and those things. To me, it simply paints a picture… that I thought fit… so there.