Have you ever been at the checkout of a shop and handed over a £20 note and had that awkward moment where the cashier holds it up to the light, rubs it with their fingers and then uses some kind of invisible pen on it? These are all small tests to see if the note is genuine, or if it is a fake. Banks use some of the same methods to see if a note is genuine or not, and the way they are trained to spot a fraudulent note is by studying a genuine note for hours on end. To spot the fake you need to really know the real deal.
In my personal devotions in the mornings I have just finished reading through the book of Romans and one of the verses that has always challenged me in Romans 12:1.
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.
So often we talk about worshiping together on a Sunday, and by that we usually mean things like singing, praying, reading the Bible and listening to God’s Word being preached, and that is right because all of these things are elements of our worship of God, but they are not the whole of our worship.
The true and proper worship that Paul is describing to the church in Rome is all encompassing, every day worship that is centred on God. As I’ve been thinking about this I’ve always asked two questions; why worship? And what is true worship?
Paul says that the motivation for true and proper worship is to be God’s mercy. The book of Romans so far has been describing the greatness and mercy of God in His plan of salvation that is promised in Genesis 3 and which finds its fulfilment in Jesus on the cross. Paul summarises the teaching of Romans 3-11 and says that it’s all about God’s mercies, God’s undeserving favour to needy sinners. The amazing things that Paul has been discussing; love, grace, joy, glory, righteousness, sanctification, freedom, identity in Jesus, the Holy Spirit, forgiveness… All of these marvellous things and more are gifts from a great God to an undeserving people and this should lead is to be in awe of and worship our great God.
What is true worship?
Paul describes true worship as the giving up of our bodies as a living sacrifice, this means a complete surrender of ourselves to the will and purposes of God. This means giving all to God regardless of the cost, basing our decisions on His Word and submitting to His will. Sacrifices would have made the original readers think of the death of a sacrificial animal, but Paul urges them and us to be living sacrifices both physically but also spiritually (Rom. 6:13).
This does not come naturally to us, it’s difficult, and this is only possible by our minds being renewed as Paul goes on to say in Romans 12:2. For true and proper worship to take place we need to be a transformed people, and the only way for our minds to be renewed is through the truth of God and the work of the Holy Spirit. That is why it is so important that our lives are built upon the teaching of the Bible, that we preach the Bible, that we read the Bible for ourselves and that we encourage each other with the Bible. The Bible lifts our eyes to God it helps us keep our focus on Him and it fills our minds with truth about God and about ourselves.
True and proper worship matters as Bob Kauflin, a well-known songwriter says;
“It [worship] matters to God because he is the one ultimately worthy of all worship. It matters to us because worshiping God is the reason for which we were created.”
My prayer is that as we go through Christian life together and as Christians meet together on Sundays all over the world and as we meet in each other’s homes that we will be able to encourage our fellow Christians and say that we can see true and proper worship in the lives of our church family.