Devotional May 27, 2020
As the month of May draws to a close, we are beginning to see things around us opening back up. There is still a sense of uncertainty as we wait to see how everything plays out over the next few weeks. One of the things that people will be returning to this month is some form of corporate worship services. These will take on different forms then before the pandemic, but it is refreshing for many to have the opportunity to worship with their brothers and sisters in Christ once again.
Throughout the course of this pandemic, we have been forced in many ways to return to the heart of what worship is all about. It isn’t just singing a song on Sunday morning in a church sanctuary. This option for many has not been possible. So we have turned to looking at worship as something we can also do on our own. There are many sources of worship music you can access on your own so that you don’t need to be in a sanctuary with a worship band leading. While these are great things to realize, the truth is that Biblical worship, doesn’t require a band or even necessarily music.
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Romans 12:1
When we think of worship, we often think in terms of music. If you were to ask someone in New Testament times what they thought of when they heard the word worship, they may have included music, but more likely their answer would have had something to do with the sacrifices. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise when Paul connects worship to sacrifices here in Romans 12.
A few things about this passage that can help us to focus on what it means to worship God, even when we can’t do it corporately through music, are found in this passage. First, Paul points out that this is an act of “spiritual worship.” That is because what he has just exhorted the Roman believers to do is not something that can be done half-heartedly. We have all experienced those days when you show up to a worship service, but you don’t really feel like singing. You can still go through the motions and nobody around you will know. You can even get away with not singing and just moving your mouth to the words silently. It is easy to fake this style of worship because it isn’t really worship. Worship doesn’t become true worship until our heart is fully behind it. That is why Paul makes the distinction of this being “spiritual worship” and not “physical worship.” You can’t fool the Holy Spirit! You can’t fake true spiritual worship.
The second thing to notice here is the action of worship to which Paul is calling them. He is not asking them to make music. (There are plenty of places in Scripture, both Old and New Testament where we are commanded to make music in worship, so Paul is not disregarding this aspect of worship, he is just focusing on a different aspect.) He is pleading with them to offer their bodies as living sacrifices. This is meant to reflect two things. For one, it is a direct reflection of Paul’s commands in Romans 6 to “present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” Romans 6:13b The second connection here is the picture of offering ourselves as a sacrifice. Paul is drawing the Roman believers’ attention back to Jesus, who offered himself as the ultimate sacrifice, a sacrifice to pay the penalty for all our sins. We offer God spiritual worship by being obedient and offering our members/bodies to him as instruments of righteousness and by becoming imitators of Jesus.
The third item to take note of in this verse is the word “living.” We are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices. This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense if you have ever studied the sacrificial system in the Old Testament. The animal offered was supposed to be without blemish, which explains the connection Paul makes when he says that our sacrifice should be holy and acceptable to God. The thing is that every sacrifice made in those days was dead. The blood had to be spilled. Even Jesus had to give His life and shed His blood on the cross to pay for our sins. So, this is a departure from the imagery of the sacrificial system. Paul is specifying that our spiritual worship is not a singular act. It is a daily dying to ourselves, remaining on the altar even though it may be painful at times and living for the Lord. If your heart is not behind this, you will abandon this lifestyle of worship when things get difficult. Once again, you can’t fake it. You may have days where it is easier, or you see God more clearly, but it isn’t a momentary offering of our lives to God, it is a continual moment by moment, day by day offering. Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice.
So as many prepare or have already had the opportunity to return to corporate worship opportunities, keep in mind that the most important worship you do is that of worshiping God with your life. This is done every moment of every day, whether you are at home, work, church, or anywhere. Our worship through singing, is a reflection and outpouring of our lifestyle of worship. Therefore, it doesn’t make our corporate gathering to worship the Lord through singing less important. It actually places more emphasis on those times, because when we do get to gather together, our hearts should be overflowing that we can’t help but proclaim God’s holiness, goodness, grace, etc. through uplifted voices, uplifted hands, and uplifted hearts!