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What Really Counts for Worship?

In the tribe that I pastored in, creating space for worship was very important.

It typically meant the musical part of the service, where collectively we sang to God in a flow of uninterrupted songs and choruses from one to the next.

In most mainline churches, worship is the entirety of the Sunday service, which might include a liturgy and/or other elements.

In either case, we leaders may have inadvertently neutered the New Testament’s fuller view of worship. For instance, Paul writes:

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 12:1

The previous 11 chapters of Paul’s letter were an attempt to help Jesus-followers understand God’s approach to the human condition, the problem of sin, and an overview of the beauty and strategy of global grace. Then chapter 12 begins with an application point (“offer your bodies”) for everything he has talked about thus far.

To which he adds: “THIS is true worship…”

That word true is where we derive our word logical (Greek: logikos). Paul is saying, “Here is the rational and logical thing to do in light of everything I’ve been telling you: present your whole person to God as a living sacrifice, dedicated to do what He wants, not yourself.”

In other words, why would you not do that? It makes sense, it’s the logical thing to do. Worship is not just some emotional thing we work up…or a one-hour church service. If I told you there was a two-billion-dollar inheritance waiting for you in some far off city, you’d be halfway there now. That would be the logical thing to do.

And so now Paul says: from now on you must present your body—your whole person, your entire you—to God. Your mind, your eyes, your hands, your soul, your everything…and he equates that to true worship.

What he’s explicitly saying is: there’s no real worship without sacrifice.

Worship and sacrifice were inextricable in the Old Testament. Now Paul is reframing that for the New Covenant…where animal sacrifices are no longer needed. But true worship without sacrifice is not possible.

You can go to church every week, you can know all the words to every praise song, you can jump and dance, you can put ten fish stickers on your car, but if it’s not really costing you something valuable, it’s not really worship.

And what is the most valuable thing you have to offer God? You—your whole person. To God, you are the most valuable thing in the whole universe.

You are:

  • the pearl of great price that He gave everything to buy;

  • the lost coin that He got on His hands and knees on the floor to find;

  • the one lost sheep He left the whole other flock for;

  • the returning son He kisses even after you dissed him and blew your inheritance.

One more point: When Abraham was told to take his only son, the child of the promise through whom God said He would bless the entire world, up on Mount Moriah and sacrifice him, I can’t even imagine the discombobulating pain that would cause. But when he got near the mountain, he simply told the servants that were traveling with him, “Stay here…while I and the boy go over there. WE will worship and then WE will come back to you.” The writer of Hebrews said that Abraham’s faith was such that he knew God could even raise the dead.

Worship and sacrifice are two sides of the same coin.

Our people are at a loss if we leaders don’t teach them that principle…and we’ll end up with consumers rather than disciples.

Dave Workman | The Elemental Group


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