‘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.’ – Romans 12.1From Sam Lomas:
I don’t know about you but when I think about worship, I tend to think of a church full of people singing at the top of their voices. Praise rising upwards towards heaven, the sound almost angelic.
I’m sure that kind of worship pleases the Lord. But it’s not the kind of worship Paul urges in Romans twelve verse one. The kind of worship Paul talks about here is one of sacrifice. This sounds a little bit odd and on face value, almost counterproductive.
The reality however, is that in this short sentence, Paul is expounding greater purpose, understanding and meaning to both our worship of the Lord and an ancient tradition running throughout the Old Testament. Let me try my best to explain.
For God’s people, the Israelites, sacrifice was commonplace in their lives. They understood that sacrificing an animal was a sign of a) atoning (paying) for the sins they had committed and b) an act of worship to their God, as they gave the fattest, best looking, most valuable animal they owned over to Him. This kind of sacrifice was costly.
Now that we live post Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, that sacrifice (atones) pays for all of our past, present and future sins. Thanks to Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice on the cross, we are no longer required to sacrifice the best cow or ram or I guess nowadays, the best cat, dog, or fish we own (can you imagine?!).
Yet Paul does still urge us to make a sacrifice. We are to continue this great tradition of sacrifice, only now it is our bodies that we are to present as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. Paul says that this act is our true and proper worship. But how do we do this?
God doesn’t want us to physically sacrifice ourselves, of course not – in fact God detests the notion of human sacrifice! The kind of sacrifice that Paul is urging here comes from the heart – obedience within our hearts is our true and proper worship. This means that the greatest act of worship you can perform is not based on how good your voice sounds on a Sunday morning, but instead, it is your heartfelt obedience to following Jesus.
We are to be a living sacrifice for God by not conforming to the world we see around us. This means not living by the standards or expectations of our culture, but rather by setting ourselves apart from the world and living by God’s standards, valuing holiness above all else.
This means daily laying aside our own desires to follow Him, putting all the energy and resources we have at His disposal and trusting Him to guide us. We do this out of gratitude that our sins have been forgiven through Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice.