The English language is an ever evolving mess of shifting definitions and meanings. For example, when the King James Bible was written, the word ‘prevent’ meant to come before, rather than to stop as we use it now. So passages like, “But unto thee have I cried, O Lord; and in the morning shall my prayer prevent thee,” (Psalm 88:13) are easy to misunderstand, and look just plain confusing.
There’s another word that has shifted meaning, though we still use it in our modern translations: Worship. Understanding the real meaning behind this word is essential to living the life Christ has called us to. We often think of worship, adoration and praise as synonyms. In truth, while adoration and praise are forms of worship, the real call of the Bible goes far beyond singing songs and celebrating God in our prayers.
“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.” (NIV)
I like to think that the, “Therefore,” this passage starts with is encompassing the entire first eleven chapters of Romans. In these chapters, Paul gives his detailed views on the problem of sin and death, and the reconciliation and freedom that can be found in Christ through his suffering on the cross. Now with Romans 12, Paul is calling his readers to act in light of these beliefs. “Therefore… in view of God’s mercy.” Rather, therefore, in view of the cross of Christ and power of His death and resurrection, “off your bodies as a living sacrifice… this is your true and proper worship.”
What other response can there be to Christ giving Himself to us, than for us to give our whole selves to Him? Worship isn’t about select times during the week that we set aside to pray or sings songs. Worship is about the way we live. It’s about turning our goals over to Christ. Its about turning our ambition towards Christ. Its about sacrifice for the sake of Christ.
Listen to how Paul follows this up in the rest of Romans 12:
3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Read through that again! Look at the call this view of God’s mercy puts on the Church! Can you imagine how incredible of a testimony that people who lived like that would be for Christ in this world?
To pursue our gifts and give them to God, to be sincere in our love and devoted to one another, to be humble, to associate with people of low statue, or bless those who persecute us – to live and Christ lived. That is our worship. When we live as Christ lived, we worship Him.
I encourage you this week to spend time and prayer asking yourself this question, “Who does my life worship?”