And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Luke 2:13-14
Soli Deo Gloria or to the glory of God alone, the last of the five sola statements of the Protestant Reformation. This is a concept that on the surface is instilled into many Christians. The first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism is what is the chief end of man? To glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Paul in his writings alludes to the fact that our lives and actions should be bringing glory to God, in fact he is the one that penned the verse, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) Although I might mention that while a good application of this verse that use does take it a bit out of context, and I would feel uncomfortable applying it in such a way, I blame my seminary professors that hammered in good hermeneutics through exegesis.
So on this fine Christmas day, I figured what better verse to use for talking about to the glory of God alone than the proclamation of the heavenly host to the shepherds that first Christmas morning. You see in God’s plan for salvation the purpose was for His glory. You see this proclamation comes right after the first angel gives the shepherds the good news that a Savior has been born, who is Christ the Lord. This good news is why glory is to go to God, as some might say glory goes to the victor, and since the garden of Eden and the first sin man has been at war with God. It is funny that the Jews in Jesus’s day were looking for a conquering king for a Messiah and got instead a suffering servant. I however believe Jesus did come as a conquering King, it is just he didn’t conquer in the sense they were looking for. They wanted a king that would defeat Rome and reestablish an earthly kingdom for Israel, Jesus is a King that came and defeated sin and brought forth peace between man and God.
Glory is not only a form of honor but also praise and worship. You see in Christ coming as our Savior, he came not to defeat Rome but to bring peace between man and God, before this all mankind was at enmity with God. We were in all out rebellion and wanted nothing to do with Him. Christ’s actions on the cross reconciled the world to God. It opened the door to allow God to offer us grace which we respond to in faith, which without grace we would be unwilling to do. It is once we understand that our salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, and due to the work of Christ alone, that we then realize that our praise and worship, all of the glory, goes to God alone. So remember, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
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
What is worship? How are we to worship God? Looking at Romans 12:1 we see that worship consists of being a living sacrifice. What does this mean exactly, what does it look like to be a living sacrifice? A lot of it comes down to the concept of humility. I know it seems like humility is something that is mentioned constantly, but that is because it is central to our faith. The concept of being a living sacrifice means we are not just day by day but instant by instant laying aside our will and our desires and looking towards God to receive His will and His desires. This means in order to be a living sacrifice we take ourselves out of the equation and place God first in our life.
You see worship is what we place our energy, priority, and focus on. What we worship is what we place first in our life. The problem though is that we often make a list of things in our lives and rank them by priority, yet just like a golf leaderboard something in second place still has the chance of becoming first. You see God wants not just to be first in a list of priorities but He wants to be our everything. This is offering ourselves as a living sacrifice, we take our leaderboard of things in our life and place God at every single ranking. In other words we throw out the leaderboard, throw out the rankings, and seek out God alone.
So do you have a leaderboard of priorities in your life? If so I challenge you to first place God firmly in that top spot, then work on making God fill all the spots, as that is what spiritual growth is.
So last time we started to look at how presenting ourselves to God as a living sacrifice is an act of worship; today we will continue on looking at what it looks like to be this living sacrifice. The passage we have been looking at has been Romans 12:1-2, “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. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” In verse one Paul mentions that we are to present ourselves as a living sacrifice; in verse two he gives us a glimpse of what this looks like.
Do Not Be Conformed
The first thing Paul mentions in Romans 12:2 is that we are not to conform to the ways of this world; this is the biggest part of being a living sacrifice. You see as men we are told by the world we have to live and act a certain way. The world tells us we need to do what we need to do to get ahead. Do you need to lie to get a promotion, the world tells us that it is okay. The world often tells us to do things that are contrary to what is right. This is because the biggest thing that the world tells us is that we are number one. We are told that we should view ourselves as the most important thing around, the world is all about pride.
To do as Paul states and not conform to the world we need to step away from pride, and take on humility. We need to understand that there is someone out there greater than we are and we need to place our focus on Him; for while the world tells us that we are to look at anything other that God as being the most important thing in our lives, God states that He is to be our all in all. The world tells us to look to ourselves and find strength in ourselves; God says to look to Him and find rest as He will be our strength. We live in a society where what God calls us to do is often looked at as weakness; our society and culture states that pride is good, to be humble is weak, and to be weak is bad. This is why not conforming to the world is a sacrifice, because we are willingly making ourselves look weak in the eyes of the world.
It doesn’t just stop with turning away from the ways of the world; because as we stop doing what the world tells us and start looking toward God we find that we eventually change. In Psalm 37:4 we are told, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” When we go after God rather than the world God changes our heart, He makes it so that we start to desire more the things He wants. This is the renewal of the mind Paul tells us about. You see we cannot renew our mind to focus on the things of God when we are following the world and being focused on ourselves; this includes even noticing the constant blessings that God bestows on us.
Discern God’s Will
It doesn’t end with us having a renewed mind, renewed desires; as our mind and desires become more in line with God’s we are better able to discern God’s will. This is because as we look more to God and our desires are changed they become more along the lines of God’s will; we start asking how certain decisions will bring glory to God rather than the world’s question of how those decisions would bring glory to ourselves. You see through not conforming to the world and transforming our minds we are offering ourselves to God in an act of submission stating “rather than looking to glorify myself, how can I bring glory to Your name Lord?” This is what it means to be a living sacrifice and this is in one basic sense how we are to worship God.
So this week we are looking at worship and last time we looked at what worship is and why as Christians we worship God. Today I want to look at Romans 12:1-2 and what it says about our worship. “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. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
We see in Romans 12:1 that Paul is telling the believers in Rome that they need to present their bodies as a living sacrifice. The big thing about this statement is that it is an act of humility and submission. I know as men those are two words we do not want to be associated with us, but that is what it means to be a living sacrifice. This is because in most cases a sacrifice was killed before being placed on the altar, but as a living sacrifice we are able to get up and walk off; this is where the humility and submission comes in. We are submissive because as a living sacrifice we are willingly placing our lives into God’s hand, allowing Him to do what he wants with us, to use us how He wills. We show humility because the act of presenting ourselves as a living sacrifice shows we understand it is not about us, that there is someone greater than we are.
Paul then tells us and the Roman believers that the act of presenting ourselves as a living sacrifice is an act of spiritual worship. This is because of that attitude of submission and humility required to first present ourselves as a true living sacrifice. You see as a believer when we submit ourselves to God as a living sacrifice our hearts are crying out to God because of His love for us. We are saying to God that out of our love for what He has done for us, we realize that He is sovereign and greater than we are. That because of who God is we willingly submit to Him, we will never be perfect but we are holy and acceptable to God because out of our hearts we are turned towards Him. So what does it look like to be a living sacrifice? We will look at that next time as we look at Romans 12:2.
Over the last couple of weeks we have been looking at going “back to the basics” in regards to our faith. We have looked at first the most essential basic, that of whether we are a Christian, to then why it is important to study the Bible. This week I want to look at a basic that is often misunderstood; the concept of worship. Today I want to look at what worship is and why as Christians we worship.
So What Is Worship?
When I was in seminary in one class I remember learning that the origins of our word worship comes from an old term worthship or one showing the worthiness of something or some one. So you see in terms of worship we are to be expressing to God how we view him as being worthy. I often think of the scene in the movie “Wayne’s World” where Wayne and Garth meet Aerosmith and fall down saying “We’re not worthy!”
To some people the concept of worship is often closely tied to that of praise music; which wile there is nothing wrong with singing praises, many of the Psalms call for us to sing praises as a part of our worship, that is not all worship is. I often think of the story behind the song “Heart of Worship,” where it was written after the pastor at a church decided the church would take a month of worshiping God without using music. This is because we often look at worship as being the praise music but often do not even take the time to contemplate the meaning of the words or sing the songs without really meaning what we are singing.
You see it is when we take the time to meditate on the words, take them to heart, and sing the songs from our heart when they become a part of our worship; worship is an action that comes out of our hearts and not just a routine. We see this throughout the Bible, Isaiah 1:10-17, Micah 6:8, James 1:26-27, and Jesus through the Gospels point out that this is the problem with the Pharisees; they think keeping a set of rules, following traditions, is more important than a heart yearning for God.
So Why Do We Worship?
So if our worship is from our heart and not just a set of repetitive actions to be checked off a list, why do we worship. The simple answer is because in our hearts we know God deserves our worship; but it is deeper than that. There are many verses in the Bible that tell us why we are to worship God. In Hebrews 12:28 it is because He has given us a kingdom that cannot be shaken. Psalms proclaim it is for the glory due to Him. Psalm 100 tells us that He is good and His love endures forever. In 1 Peter 2:10 we see that it is because we have received mercy. Essentially we are to worship God because of who He is, and what He has done for us; for the mercy and grace He has shown to us through his work on the cross and the free gift of salvation.