The Root of Worship

One of my favorite passages on worship is Romans 12:1, and I believe that this verse gives us a true definition of what it really means to worship. Let’s read this verse from the NIV and the Amplified Bible.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.

I APPEAL to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship.
(The Amplified Bible)

The first thing that we see in this passage is our motive for worship. “In view of all the mercies of God.” When we worship, the first thing we are asked to do is to take into account the mercies of God. We are to have an “attitude of gratitude” toward His mercies. So the question that we need to ask ourselves is, “Do the mercies of God ever cease to exist?” And obviously the answer is NO! Lamentations 3:22-23 states, “The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.” So if we are taking into consideration the mercies of the Lord, then we must do so every day. The Lord’s mercy is not something that is recycled. It is not like rollover minutes on our wireless phone service. The Lord’s mercies are new for us every day, and as a result, our worship should be fresh and new every day. Worship begins with an encounter of God’s mercy.

I like the classic “pulpit” definition of mercy and grace. Grace is receiving favor that we don’t deserve, while mercy is not receiving punishment that we do deserve. Friends, we are a sinful people. I can tell you that there are punishments that I should have received because of sin, but because of God’s mercy I was spared the punishment. When you think of the mercy of God in this way it should cause an overwhelming feeling of gratitude and humility to rise up within you, and that is the birthplace of worship.

As God’s tender mercies are new everyday, so should our worship be. We should never offer God some recycled prayer and think that we are actually entering into worship. It would also be foolish to think that we could offer worship once a week and be fully pleasing to God. Worship is meant to be an ongoing continual activity. It should never be scheduled, but it should be a part of our daily lives and lifestyle.

The next point that we see from Romans 12:1 is the first activity of worship—offering. Worship is a continual act of giving. Look at this passage from 1 Chronicles 16.

28 Give to the LORD, O families of the peoples,

Give to the LORD glory and strength.

29 Give to the LORD the glory due His name;

Bring an offering, and come before Him.

Oh, worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness!

1 Chr. 16:28-29 (NKJV)

This passage is repeated almost word for word in Psalm 29 and Psalm 96. The interesting thing about this passage is that we are instructed to give or to bring an offering to the Lord four times before we are ever given a reason. When we finally are given a reason for giving the answer is astonishing. We are not told to give because of God’s love or His deliverance or His healing or anything else that He has done. We are simply instructed to give to the Lord because He is holy. God is worthy of our offering and worship simply because He is God, and there is no one like Him.

How many times have you tried to justify and rationalize what you were giving to God. We say things like “Well, God didn’t really do anything amazing for me this week, so I’m going to hold back on my giving.” Maybe we think we can stick it to God because He didn’t come through for us the way that we thought He should. Whatever the reason, there is no legitimate justification and reasoning for not giving to God. He is holy and full of majesty, and that is all the reason that we need to worship.

The final thing that we see from Romans 12:1 is a description of what we should be offering to God. We are to daily offer our bodies to God as a living sacrifice. The Greek word for “body” is soma (so’ mah) which is an all-encompassing word. The Amplified Bible describes it best by breaking the body down into two parts: members and faculties. The members of our body are everything that we can willfully control—our hands, feet, eyes, nose, head, etc., but it also includes our organs: lungs, heart, liver, etc. This tells me that it takes a conscious effort to offer my daily sacrifice to God. It tells me that I have to continually take control of my body and place it under the submission of the Holy Spirit.

The second part of the body is the faculties. Webster’s dictionary defines faculties as “ability, or power”. Our faculties are our natural born gifts. It is the inherent abilities that only God can give and take away. Whenever I hear the terms “ability” and “power” used in a biblical context I am always drawn to the parable of the talents.

14“For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. 15And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey.
Matt. 25:14 through Matt. 25:15 (NKJV)

The man gave talents to his servants each according to his own ability. The greek word for “ability” is one of the most powerful words in the entire New Testament. It is the word dunamis. It means inherent strength, ability, or power. It is where we get our English word “dynamite”. This word is so powerful because it refers to an ability or strength that only comes from God. It is that part of ourselves that we cannot deny, and we cannot manipulate. It is there, inside of us, whether we like it or not. Only God can give it, and only God can take it away.

Now, going back to Romans 12:1, we see that not only are we required to offer our physical bodies as a sacrifice to God, but we are also commanded to offer (to freely give) that inner dunamis that we posses. The parable of the talents in Matthew 25 is such an important passage because it is literally a story of three men given the opportunity to worship.

Each of the three men had a God-given ability to take talents and multiply them, but it was left up to each man to determine if he would be faithful with the ability or not. The servant who had been given the least (one talent) failed to do anything with his talent because he said that he “knew his master to be a hard man, reaping where he had not sown, and gathering where he had not scattered seed.” He had a one-dimensional view of his master. But I believe the other two servants really knew the master. I believe that they had an intimacy with him that the one-talent servant didn’t have. Yes, they knew he was a hard man, but they also knew the rewarding, loving side of him, and that was all the reason that they needed to honor him with their abilities. They understood that offering anything less than everything would be a compromise of their devotion to the master.

We are more than just servants to our Heavenly Master. We are children—sons and daughters, and He is our Father. We know that Matthew tells us that God, our Heavenly Father, would prefer to give us the greatest gifts. God does not just give a gift to clean up the storehouse of Heaven. God knows exactly how he wants to distribute gifts. He gives them according to our ability. Our job as children of God is to become intimate with Him. We are to live so close to His heart that we “know” him. We need to know Him as much more than a God of wrath, but also a God of perfect love. When we understand that, we will see that offering anything less than everything would be a compromise in our worship.

The final thing that we see from Romans 12:1 is the reward of worship. When we engage in true worship we will become holy and acceptable to God, and that is the goal and motivation behind everything that we do in worship. Now you must understand that this does not mean that we can manipulate God. It would be arrogant on our part to think that we can perform certain “worship rituals” to the point the God will give us what we want. The ritual does not please God. Even though there are “rituals” and actions that we do in worship, God still desires a heart that loves Him and is devoted to His calling and leading.

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