Part 2 of 2

By Dallas Burdette January 25, 1998

Thrust Statement: Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, which is your spiritual act of worship.

Scripture Reading: Romans 12:1-4, 9-13


 In Part One, I stressed that the coming of God’s kingdom is a call to worship. In that first sermon, I asked each of you to reflect upon what the kingdom of God means to you in your daily walk with God. Has your consciousness of God’s kingdom made a difference in your life style? Has the kingdom of God made a difference in the way you treat your spouse? Has the kingdom of God made a difference in the way you treat your neighbors? Has the kingdom of God made in difference in the way you treat people in general? Do you still visit the same ungodly places? Do you still speak profane words? Do you still read unholy literature? Are you now reading your Bible more and more each week? Are you meeting with the people of God on Sundays? In other words, has the kingdom of God made in difference in your life? I request that each of you examine your own life and decide what difference Christianity has had upon your behavior.

Do you remember the thrust statement in Part One of this message? I said that the coming of God’s kingdom is a call to worship? What did this statement convey to you? When I said a call to worship, did you immediately think about the service on Sunday morning? Is that what worship means to you? Or is it more? Is worship more than simply meeting during the week as a collective body? Does worship include how you live? When you feed the hungry, do you consider that worship? When you live a godly life, do you consider that worship? Does your concept of worship consist of five-acts of ritual performed on Sunday morning? Does worship start at 10am and end at 11a.m? Does one stop worshiping God after 11am? These are questions that every believer needs to address in his or her own life.

Worship: What Is It?

Today, I want to develop a broader theme of worship than what takes place on Sunday morning. Since this sermon is about a call to worship, then, worship needs to be defined. As previously stated, the dominant theory of worship is generally associated with five acts (singing, praying, preaching, giving, and communion) performed Sunday morning. This opinion is only a part of the misconception of worship. If someone were to ask you to define worship, how would you explain it? If someone were to interrogate you as to where worship takes place, how would you respond? Is worship regulated to a specific locality? Is worship confined to a specific time frame? Is worship like a sink faucet that one cuts on and off at will? Is worship something that you perform once a week? Is participation in preaching, singing, praying, giving, and breaking bread concrete extensions of one’s worship? Is one only worshipping God when he or she is involved in one of these five acts?

In the New Testament, one quickly discovers that worship is never identified with a prearranged period of time, or a set of ordered ceremony. In fact, worship is never defined in the New Testament. So, what is it? It seems, so it appears to me, that worship may be regarded as one’s response to God because of His nature, His attributes, His ways, and His claims upon man. Because of redemption from God’s wrath, from law, from dominion of sin, and from condemnation, then, one honors and serves God. Within every believer there is an outgoing heart of praise and thanksgiving for all His blessings. Worship not only includes homage given to God, but also service to God.

The believer begins his worship by being baptized in the name of Jesus. One begins his Christian life with baptism. For in this sign one demonstrates that he or she belongs to the people of God. It is, in one sense, our entrance into the fellowship of the church. Paul informed Titus that "He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:5). Many commentators identify Christian baptism as the "washing of rebirth." Not only does Paul connect the "washing of regeneration" with baptism, but he also says that this renewal is brought about through the agency of the Holy Spirit. In this same connection, the words of Peter are appropriate here, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38).

Worship an Extension of One’s Worship

One’s way of living is an outward manifestation of his or her worship. Worship must, above all, serve the glory of God. Christian worship is Spirit-filled. It involves every area of one’s life, not just Sunday morning gatherings. Worship is an extension of one’s life. In other words, prayers, singing, giving, teaching are expressions of worship, whether private or corporate; that is to say, worship is an extension of one’s dedication to God through daily communion When Christians assemble as a corporate body to sing, pray, give, teach, break bread, and exhort, these acts are simply a capsulation of what has already taken place during the week. You are here today because you are a worshiper of God.

A classic example of this concept of worship is in Paul’s letter to the Roman Christians. He writes:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to Godthis is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:1-2).

Paul issues practical advice for every believer. Even though Paul develops the scheme of redemption in extremely delightful language, he never losses sight of the earthly responsibilities of every believer. He shouts, as it were, "offer your bodies as living sacrifices." The Christian believes that the body as well as the soul belongs to God. In fact, the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Paul captures this truth in his first letter to Corinth:

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body (I Corinthians 6:19-20).

When Christians, as a whole, think of worship, they think of a building designed by an architect and built by laborers. It then becomes a shrine where men and women congregate to worship God. This building is a product of the mind and the body and the spirit of some man or woman. But Paul is saying something different.

Paul appeals to the Christians to "offer your bodies a living sacrifice." In other words, take your everyday task to your work. Your work may be as a school teacher, a mailman, a secretary, a nurse, a hair stylist, a supermarket employee, a disk jockey, and so on. The word for "service" in verse one is "latreian," which is also translated as worship. The verb form of this word originally meant to "work for hire or pay." It later came to mean to "serve." But it also came to mean that "to which a man gives his whole life." For Paul, true worship is the offering of one’s body to God. Real worship is not offering to God a liturgy that consist of five-acts performed on Sunday morning, but real worship is the offering of everyday life to Him, not simply something performed in a church building once a week on Sunday morning.

Perhaps, a man may say, legitimately, "I am going to church to worship," but he should also be able to say, "I am going to the factory, the shop, the office, the school, the garage, the restaurant, the nursing home, the hospital, and so on, to worship God." Let us begin each day by surrendering our bodies to the Lord. Let us spend time with his word; let us transform our minds and prepare our thinking for the new day; let us present our bodies a living sacrifice which is our spiritual act of worship.

Since the Kingdom of God has invaded time to bring individuals the blessings of the age to come, then, a person must make a decision that is so radical that it involves turning his back, if necessary, upon all things to follow Christ. This may involve turning one’s back upon one’s own home:

Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Matthew 10:37-39).

What is Jesus saying? He is simply stating that any tie or human affection that stands in the way of one’s decision for the Kingdom of God and for Jesus must be broken. A person must be willing to rupture any loyalty when he or she renders a determination for God’s kingdom. In the words of Jesus: "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness" (Matthew 6:33). In the presenting of one’s body to the Lord, one must be ever conscious that he or she is not to let sin dwell in his or her body. Remember that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Paul deals with this idea in the Roman letter when he writes:

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace (Romans 6:11-14).

As Christians we are to let God’s word fill our souls, our hearts, and our minds. This is not restricted to a Sunday morning meeting, but it envelops the whole of your life. Paul reminded the Colossians:

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:15-17).

If we do not offer our bodies as our spiritual act of worship, then, what we do on Sundays is nothing to God. The nation of Israel, in the time of Isaiah (739 BC), relied upon their rituals to make everything all right. But God was not pleased. How do we relate to the poor, the naked, the hungry, and so on? Is a so-called worship service sufficient? Is fasting sufficient? Is teaching a Bible class sufficient? Israel thought so! Listen to God as He questioned Israel:

"Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for a man to humble himself?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? (Isaiah 58:3-5).

When you think of fasting, what do you think of? Is fasting simply doing without food? When you think of worship, what do you think of? Can fasting be caring for the poor? Can worship be caring for the poor? I want you to listen again to God’s response to all their rituals:

"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? (Isaiah 58:6-7).

Does this sound like the parable of Jesus in his last week of ministry on earth? You remember the parable, don’t you? Yes, it is in Matthew’s gospel (25:31-46). Almost eight hundred years after Isaiah, the religious leaders still had not learned what it was all about. Have you? In closing our message today, I call your attention, once more, to Paul’s admonition following his call to offer one’s body as his spiritual act of worship:

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality (Romans 12:9-13).

Preached: Grassy Church of Christ, Arab, Alabama
January 25, 1998, 11 am