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What Does It Mean to Worship God?
By David A. DePra
I beseech you therefore, brethren, because of the mercies of God, that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice, which is holy and acceptable unto God. Such a surrender is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Rom 12:1-2)
This passage from Romans not only tells us the nature of true worship, but gives us the results. This is a passage which all Christians ought to meditate upon. It is one of those key Bible passages which should stand front and center in our Christian walk.
Before getting into the passage as a whole, we need to look at one phrase. Paul says that to present ourselves to God as a living sacrifice is our, "reasonable service" -- as it is translated in the KJV. The NIV says something a bit different. It says this presentation of ourselves is our, "spiritual act of worship." Some clarification here is necessary if we are to grasp the sense of the passage.
Generally speaking, the word "worship" in the Bible is translated from the Greek word, "proskuneo," which means, "to do reverence to." You can see that this Greek word is behind our English word, "prostrate" – in the sense of laying face down (prostrating oneself) and worshipping. There are other words in Greek which are translated, "worship," in the Bible, but "proskuneo" is the most common one.
"To worship," really means, "to be devoted to." It speaks of who I serve with my life – of who governs my life. Worship is more than just praising with words – as sincere as those words might be. It means more than just acknowledging God’s greatness. To worship God means to become devoted to God because of His greatness, and to become governed by His greatness to the point where I LIVE FOR HIM.
Here, in Romans 12, Paul does not use "proskuneo," but the phrase, "logikan latreian." The word, "logikan," refers to "thought out," or, "well reasoned," or, "reasonable." "Latreian," means "to serve, to render religious service or homage."
What we therefore see is that Paul is saying, "If you have seen the mercy of God, and truly value it, the only sane and reasonable response will be that you will present yourself to God as a living sacrifice. Doing so IS your religious service – IS your worship. You are responding to the God you worship by giving yourself to Him. This is the only sane way to respond – because God is so good."
Thus, Paul is talking about the WORSHIP which will arise in us if we sanely grasp the greatness of our God, and the magnitude of His purpose. Our response will be worship – yes, but not a passive worship. No. Rather, our "reasonable service," or "spiritual worship" will be that we will present our entire selves to God on the altar of His will. We will unconditionally surrender ourselves to Him.
Paul is, "beseeching," or pleading to his readers, "by the mercies of God." He is telling us that BECAUSE God is who He is, and BECAUSE God has done for us all things through Jesus Christ, "BECAUSE OF THAT" – Paul pleads – "worship God by giving yourself to HIM!" Present yourself to Him a living sacrifice! "If you do," Paul says, "This IS your act of worship. It is the "reasonable" and "sane" outcome of the value you place upon God."
If I truly revere God, it is going to result in a voluntary response from me. Get that: A voluntary response. Not a coerced one. Surrender is that voluntary response. And that surrender IS worship.
Do we see this great Truth? A voluntary, unconditional surrender to God, Paul says, IS OUR WORSHIP – is our sane response to His greatness. Have we realized that the one act of worship that God desires above all others is that we present ourselves to Him in a voluntary, unconditional surrender?
When we think about WORSHIP, many of us think about singing praises to God at church. Or we might simply limit worship to going to church. These things do constitute worship, if our hearts are right with God. But they are the outward. True worship, as we are going to see, is FIRST of the heart. THEN it manifests in our actions.
According to the apostle Paul, the ultimate act of worship is not that I lift my hands to God, or that I sing praises to His name – as good as those things are to do. It is not even that I physically lay prostrate before Him. The ultimate act of worship is that I unconditionally give myself to God – a living sacrifice. In other words, I lay down my LIFE before Him.
The picture He uses of presenting ourselves to God as a LIVING SACRIFICE is a profound one. All through the Old Testament, there are animal sacrifices mandated. But in every case, the sacrifice was killed. And in no case did the sacrificial animal present itself for that purpose.
Those OT sacrifices were part of what it meant to worship God. All of them, of course, pointed to Jesus Christ. The OT sacrifices were a picture of His Redemptive work for us.
But here, in Romans 12, we have something entirely different from those OT animal sacrifices being described by Paul: He is describing a sacrifice that is completely VOLUNTARY. I am to PRESENT MYSELF as that sacrifice. I am to be a LIVING sacrifice – which speaks of the fact that I am voluntarily offering myself. I am presenting myself upon the altar, all the while able to crawl back OFF the altar!
As mentioned, no OT sacrifice was voluntary. Neither was it a living sacrifice, because at the very latest, the sacrifice was killed by the hand of another once it was put on the altar. Thus, when consumed, these OT sacrifices were already dead. But here the sacrifice himself – us – must choose to voluntarily get on the altar, and must choose to STAY there. And all the while God accepts the sacrifice, it remains living – able to choose.
Paul says that to present oneself as a living sacrifice – one who voluntarily gives himself to God – IS SPIRITUAL WORSHIP. It is our, "reasonable service," – that is – it is the only sane response we can have if we truly revere God. In short, once we see that God have given all of Himself to us, we will want to give all of ourselves to Him! Doing so IS worship.
Worship is a response in me, towards God, which acknowledges who God is – and who I am in relationship to Him. It is first a heart attitude, but then impacts HOW I LIVE. Or – to put it even more clearly – worship of God results in LIVING FOR GOD. If I want to truly worship God, I will give myself to God. And if I give myself to God, I will no longer belong to myself. And if I no longer belong to myself, then I will no longer live for myself. Rather, I will live for the One to whom I DO belong – I will live for God. THAT IS TRUE WORSHIP. It is what it means to present oneself to God as a LIVING sacrifice.
Living for God
The only kind of Christianity the Bible knows anything about is one where we live for God. Christianity is not a religion we adopt. It is a life we live – or perhaps better said – it is His life in us. Christianity is, "Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Col. 1:27)
Such a Truth should be self-evident. Why? Well, ask: What did you do when you accepted Jesus Christ? Simply give assent to the FACT that He died for the sins of the world? No. Did you merely acknowledge that you were a sinner? No. What you did was repent of living independent of God, and then you turned around and GAVE YOUR LIFE TO HIM. Right? Sure. So what we see is that conversion itself is a relinquishing of our lives to God.
This is basic stuff. To receive the life of Christ as your life, you have to first relinquish the life you owned. This is what it means to come to the Cross. And if you did that, then your old life passed away. You are born again a new creation in Jesus Christ.
The ONLY Christian conversion the Bible talks about is one where I am no longer my own. I now belong to God through Jesus Christ. The ONLY Christianity in the Bible is one where I come to the Cross of Christ and relinquish myself to Him, and then am raised anew IN CHRIST. Again – Christianity is not a religion. It is LIFE – His resurrection life in us.
Notice how the Bible continually speaks of a change of ownership – a change as to the reason for which we are living – once we give ourselves to Christ:
(1 Cor 6:19-20) What? Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which you have of God, and that you are not your own? For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.
(2 Cor 13:5) Examine yourselves, whether you are in the faith; prove your own selves. Don’t you know how that unless Jesus Christ is in you, you are reprobates?
(1 Pet 4:1-2) Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that has suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; so that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.
(2 Cor. 5:14-17) For the love of Christ controls us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live, should not henceforth live for themselves, but for Him which died for them, and rose again. Therefore for this time forward know we no man after the flesh: yes, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
Not only do we have these passages and more, but even the very WORDS God uses in describing to us what He has done through Jesus Christ tell us that we no longer belong to ourselves. For example, the term, "redemption," means, "to buy back." The term, "ransom," means, "to loose." And the fundamental term that God uses to refers to His people, "the saints," means, "holy ones," or "those who are set aside for God’s use." Thus, a saint is one who has been purchased with the Blood of Christ, and now belongs to God.
A Christian is someone who does not belong to himself, but to God. He is set apart for God’s use, and is to slowly become an instrument unto God’s glory. THIS IS WORSHIP. We are to worship God with our lives. We are to be living testimonies to Jesus Christ.
In Spirit and In Truth
We saw earlier that, by definition, a living sacrifice was one that was VOLUNTARY. If I am giving myself to God because I think God will be mad at me if I don’t, then I’m not really giving myself to Him. This is not worship. It is legalism. And if I am giving myself to God because of some reward I think it will earn, such a motive brings me no closer to true worship.
True worship is the outcome of seeing who God is and what He is like. It is the outcome of seeing what my true relationship to God must be. I give myself to Him because I see that doing so is the only sane response I can have – it is the only response which represents the Truth about God, and about who I am in relationship to Him. It is the only response which rightly represents the eternal value and greatness of God. I therefore VOLUNTARILY – out of reverence for God – give myself to Him.
The VOLUNTARY nature of true worship is a concept that is so entirely foreign to human beings, that it is almost impossible for us to grasp it. By nature, human beings live for themselves. We live in a way that will, "cut us the best deal." Most of us, even after we give our lives to Christ, try to bring this motivation over into our relationship with God. We obey God either to avoid some punishment we fear, or to earn some reward we anticipate. But while God is patient with us over these things, none of them really speak of true worship.
Real worship is a voluntary and unconditional surrender to God Himself. Rather than be motivated by what I will get out of it, real worship is the result of coming into TRUE RELATIONSHIP with God. In other words, to worship God IN SPIRIT and IN TRUTH, I must enter into a relationship with God which reflects the Truth about who God is, and who I am. Unconditional and voluntary surrender to God is the ONLY way the relationship between myself and God can reflect that Truth.
Think about the magnitude of that one phrase: Voluntary surrender. What could possibly motivate an otherwise rebellious human being to surrender himself to God – out of a free will choice? Clearly, not fear. Not coercion. Those reasons do not speak of freedom. The only motivation which could result in a truly VOLUNTARY surrender to God is REVERENCE. In other words, I come to the place where I see who God is – and He is real to me. At that point, to echo the words of Paul, the only sane thing I can do is give myself to Him. Nothing short of that will do. And I give myself to Him voluntarily – wholly because I WANT TO.
This is what it means to worship God in Spirit and in Truth. We see this from two passages in the gospels:
(John 4:22-24) You worship what you don’t know. We know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeks such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
(Mat 15:7-9) You hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, This people draws nigh unto me with their mouth, and honors me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
Jesus said that God actually SEEKS those who worship Him, "in Spirit and in Truth." To worship God, "in Spirit," means that we worship Him, not just in the outward, but from the heart. Again – the voluntary nature of worship comes into play. God only has me if He has my heart – my will and my intent.
To worship God, "in Truth," means that my worship is found in a RELATIONSHIP with God that is based in the Truth. I see who God is, His value, and who I am in relationship to Him. This Truth results in a LIFE LIVED – in me presenting myself as a LIVING sacrifice. I am then worshipping God according to the Truth.
Contrast this over and against Jesus’ words to the Pharisees from Matthew 15. There, Jesus tells us what worship is NOT – and again – this gives us teaching as to what worship IS. Jesus says that they are NOT worshipping Him rightly; indeed, they are doing it IN VAIN. Why? Because they honor Him only with their lips. But their HEART – their will and intent – is far from Him. Furthermore, they are not teaching the TRUTH. They are teaching the religious notions of man.
Jesus was telling the Pharisees that they were NOT worshipping God, "in Spirit and in Truth." Rather, they were worshipping God in the outward -- and that their worship was not based in Truth, but in religious notions of man. In order to enter into true worship, we have to enter into TRUE RELATIONSHIP – we have to enter into a relationship with God which reflects the Truth between Himself and us. What is that relationship? Again – one of unconditional surrender. We must present ourselves as a living sacrifice – voluntarily and unconditionally. This IS worship.
Can we see that to worship God, "in Spirit and in Truth" IS – IS – IS – to voluntarily and unconditionally surrender ourselves to Him? Sure. Towards God, unconditional surrender is the ONLY KIND THERE IS. It is worship.
Jesus worshipped God that way. He said,
(John 10:17-18) Therefore does my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.
Now, when most of us begin to discover some of these Truths about worship, there is likely to be a sense of being overwhelmed. After all, who is sufficient for these things? Unconditional, voluntary surrender? Is such a thing practically possible for a human being? How do we come to such a place?
We can come to it right now. How? By making the simple choice to, "present ourselves as a living sacrifice to God." You and I can do that right now, no matter who we are, or what we have done in the past.
How can it be that easy? Because it cost Christ so much. But you see, we don’t believe it. We still look at ourselves and take inventory to see whether we are worthy to enter into the things of God – and then conclude we aren’t. Let’s get it settled: We aren’t worthy. We get that much right. But God never based our access to Himself on anything about us. He simply says, "Enter into a relationship with Me, based, not upon anything about you, but based upon everything about Jesus Christ."
Such a simple Truth. Yet the one that seems to take the longest for us to grasp. God is telling us that, yes, we have sinned. Yes, we are unworthy. But by faith in Christ – and that is the key – we are to put our qualifications aside and completely out of the picture. We enter into the things of God solely upon the finished work of Jesus Christ.
Not only does this show how simple it is to approach God, but it also shows that we are without excuse of not coming to Him. There is absolutely nothing standing between us and God – except our refusal to believe.
So all we need to do to be saved is surrender our hearts. And if we are already saved, then in EACH situation of life, we need only surrender ourselves by acknowledging we are living from the altar of Romans 12:1-2. And this we can do. Anyone can surrender their will once they see that this is what God requires.
Really? Sure. If you are a human being you have a free will. And if you have any power of choice at all, you can choose to surrender your will. Have you ever realized that? Free will, by definition, carries the power to surrender within itself. If you cannot surrender your will, then you don’t have free will.
Now notice: I did not say you and I have the power to EXECUTE and DO everything we choose to do. No. I said we have the power to surrender our wills – or in other words, you and I can WANT God. We can want to surrender to God, which, if we understood it, IS surrender.
The event of our salvation occurred, not because we DID anything. We were saved because we surrendered our wills by faith to Christ. God never told us to birth ourselves anew, or to do a thing other than that. He simply says, "Bring to me everything you are, right now, just as you are. I know it is all bad. But that is why Jesus died." And once we come to Christ by faith in HIM, rather than in our qualifications, God does the rest through Christ. The Cross of Christ comes to bear upon our old life and nature. We are then raised with Christ to newness of life.
Therefore we see that there is nothing required of us but that we surrender our wills to God – once God brings us LIGHT to that effect. God initiates by bringing the choice. But we must do the choosing – and the surrendering. It is the one thing we can do, and the one thing we must do. God will not choose for us.
So, to go back to Romans 12, you and I are not required to do anything at all except ONE thing: Voluntarily get on the altar. We aren’t told to clean up our act so that we might not dirty the altar. No. We are simply told to get on the altar – right now, just as we are. If we do, THAT is worship. If we do, that is belonging to God. If we do, our heart is single towards God. If we do, we are being holy unto the Lord – we are being set apart for His will.
What does it mean to, "get on the altar?" How do we do that? One way to put it is to say to God, "Whatever it takes, Lord, do in and through me – to bring Yourself glory. I belong to You, Lord, so bring to pass Your will in my life, no matter what it takes." THAT is unconditional surrender. It is faith. And it is WORSHIP.
Paul says that if we will present ourselves to God as a living sacrifice, that this voluntary surrender IS holy, and IS acceptable to God. He says that doing so IS worship. Do we see that? Thus, rather than wonder how we can ever be holy enough, or acceptable enough, to surrender ourselves to God, Paul tells us that it is BY surrendering ourselves to Him that we ARE holy and acceptable. Why? Because we have fallen into the hands of God – and being set apart for HIS use IS the definition of holiness.
So how do we become holy enough so that God will accept our surrender? We are holy enough BY our surrender. For if we surrender to God, we then belong to God. And if we belong to God, then, by definition, we ARE holy.
We think that, "holiness," is the result of living a certain way. Well, that is ok, but the way we live is more the OUTCOME of holiness, than it is the MEANS thereunto. "Holiness" means, "to belong to God." And if we belong to God, it will result in a holy life – a life which reflects that we belong to God. Again – we don’t live a holy life to become holy. We surrender to God to become holy. Then, once we belong to Him – which IS holiness – the holy life will progressively emerge.
Paul is so easily able to say to us, "I beseech you, because of the mercy of God, present yourselves – your whole selves – as a living sacrifice to God. Doing so IS holy and acceptable to God. Doing so IS spiritual worship."
And there is only one way to do this: By doing it. On the basis of faith in Christ. I say to God, "I present my entire self to You, God. I belong to you. Now take over." Or, to put it another way, "Whatever it takes, God. I am at your disposal. Do in me, and through me, whatever pleases YOU."
"But….." No. There aren’t any, "ifs, ands, or buts." The question is whether we will by-pass all of those reasons why we shouldn’t come to Christ, and COME ANYWAYS – based on HIS grace. That is the question – and it is no more complicated than that. The plea, "Whatever it takes, Lord," is what God is after.
God doesn’t merely want our works. He want US. He wants a vessel of worship. He wants a relationship. He wants an unconditional surrender.
That may sound scary. But at first, unconditional surrender always is – for it is a complete and unconditionally relinquishment of control. Yet it is really only the relinquishment of a mirage – the relinquishment of a control we never had. We are simply waking up to the Truth: God is God. We are not.
God does not suffer from an inferiority complex. He is not saying, "Will someone please give me some attention!!! Will someone please worship Me!!!" No. If we surrender to God, and put ourselves on the altar, WE benefit. Why? Because we get God – and everything which comes with the package of Jesus Christ and His Redemption.
Herein we see the penalty for NOT surrendering to God: We don’t get God. We get what we have chosen: Ourselves. We remain in charge. And we will reap what we sow.
Never think there aren’t consequences for our choices. There ALWAYS are. Yet should we surrender to God just to avoid bad consequences? Well, that will keep us, "out of jail." But rather, we ought to seek God for Himself. In time, the Holy Spirit will do a work in us which will bring us deeper and deeper into a true revelation of God, and therefore, true worship.
Just as, "faith without works is dead," so is worship without a life that reflects it. If I trust God, I will worship Him, and if I worship God, I will trust Him. Sure, we are talking about RELATIONSHIP here – between us and God. At some point, it is going to be all or nothing.
Paul actually tells us what is going to happen – in a progressive way – if we will present ourselves to God as a living sacrifice. He says, "Be not conformed to this world: but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."
In other words, you can’t present yourself to God, and still be conformed to the world. Rather, it goes with the package of surrender to God to NOT be conformed to this world, but rather, to be TRANSFORMED by the, "renewing" of our minds.
Why? Because "to be conformed to this world," would be to live like the world lives – to allow the mentality and motivation of the world to shape us and guide us – in deeds, but more importantly, in attitude. And what is the attitude of the world? To live for this life, rather than for God. So we see that being conformed to this world is indeed the opposite of surrendering myself to God – the opposite of living for God.
Anyone who surrenders to God is, by definition, renouncing their right to run their own life. But running ones own life is the very definition of what the world is all about. Thus, it is axiomatic that presenting oneself to God will result in NOT being conformed to this world, but in being transformed through the renewing of our mind to learn how to live for God.
Now it is right here that we must point out something vital for us to see. We are to present ourselves to God as a living sacrifice. But note: Once we do that, are we to say to ourselves, "Ok. I am done. Now that I’ve given God what He wants, I can crawl off the altar and get on with business as usual."? No. The fact is, once I present myself to God a living sacrifice, I am to forever LIVE on that altar. I never get off again. It is my, "home base" – in other words, my worship of God through surrender is the attitude from which I must now live. It must govern all I am.
Sure. But why? Again – it goes back to what did I do when I was saved? I GAVE my life to Christ. But not just to GET something from Him. I got plenty. I got everything! But if I GOT saved, and received eternal life, it was because I surrendered my life TO Christ! Having done that, I never take my life back. I live for Christ forever.
Paul is telling us that, yes, we were saved, "by grace through faith." We did nothing to earn it. "But," he is saying, "You gave your life to God. You must now begin to live like it." Thus, he gives us the metaphor of presenting ourselves as a living sacrifice to God. We put ourselves on the altar and live from there as an act of worship unto God.
In Philippians, Paul accentuates this Truth. He tells them:
(Phil 2:12-13) Wherefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which works in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
Paul is telling the Philippians, not, "work FOR your salvation." No. He is telling them to WORK OUT their salvation. In other words, they gave their life to Christ. They received a new life – something eternal within. Now, Paul says, start working it OUT – through works, attitudes, and your LIFE.
What we are seeing over and over is that OUR LIFE is to be a vehicle of worship unto God. Not just the things we DO. This is why Paul says, "Present your bodies….." In other words, ALL OF US. Sure. Are we not the temple of the Holy Spirit?
Rather than be conformed to this world, Paul says to, "be transformed by the renewing of our minds." The result of this transformation is that we, "may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."
Do you want to know the will of God? Do you want to make sure you are IN His will? Paul says here’s how: Present yourself to God, a living sacrifice. THAT gets you into God’s will. But not only that, it makes it possible, because you are surrendered, for you to have your mind renewed – over to the mind and attitude of Jesus Christ.
What was the attitude, or mind, of Jesus Christ?
(Phil 2:5-11) Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
What was the mind of Christ? To be obedient unto death. To unconditionally surrender to God in faith and worship. Peter echoes the words of Paul:
(1 Pet 2:21-23) For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judges righteously.
Jesus was always living from the altar. He never did anything outside the will of God. And His attitude and heart always belonged to God. The result was that He always knew the will of God.
If we surrender to God, this will result in less and less us being conformed to this world, and more and more us developing the mind of Christ. We will KNOW the good and perfect will of God because we will be surrendered to Him.
Make no question: If you want to know the will of God, surrender to God. Get on the altar. There is no other way.
When a person surrenders to God, a moral barrier – called unbelief – is shattered. It is replaced by faith and worship. It is in that atmosphere that the Holy Spirit can RENEW the mind and do God’s work in us.
Don’t misunderstand. We don’t do this work. We do the surrendering – we fall into the hands of God. He does the rest.
In the final analysis, God not only wants us to DO His will, He wants us to BECOME His will. Again – we are not merely to present our works to God. We are to present OURSELVES – our bodies – to Him, a living sacrifice. This is holy and acceptable to God, and IS worship.
Often we fail to read the Bible in context, and while we may glean some wonderful Truths from it, we miss the overall point. We are brought to Romans 12:1-2 as the outcome of God’s grace and mercy – that is why we ought to present ourselves to God. But then Paul goes on to show many of the results. Not the least of these results of surrender to God is MINISTRY. Paul immediately begins to talk about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and about the relationships we are supposed to have with our fellow human beings.
A thread which runs through scripture is that I need to FIRST be right with God, and centered in Him. And THEN there will be a flow which is the OUTCOME of that. In other words, things start with my VERTICAL relationship with God. And then the HORIZONTAL becomes adjusted by that. It is never the other way around.
This is not to say that I have to spend years getting myself right with God, and only then can I have relationships with others. No. But again – I have to live FROM the altar. There is NO ALTAR upon which we offer ourselves to each other. Each of us offer ourselves to God, and then, as the outcome, we have the equipment necessary to live with each other in a relationship that is based in COMMUNION.
All ministry, indeed, all relationships with others, can only be rightly adjusted to the will of God if I am first adjusted to God – and I get adjusted by getting on the altar. I must come there first. Frankly, if I am not living as if I belong to God, how can I expect to live according to His will towards others?
Obedience is the outcome of being rightly related to God by faith. And the only way I can have a right relationship with God is by living from the altar.
Not long ago, on a Christian call-in talk show, a young man voiced his objections to a God who demanded worship. He objected to the notion that we are to worship God, and, to use Biblical terminology, to become, "bond slaves of Christ." He felt that this was a deprivation of our rights. He also stated that it was unfair of God to impose the penalty of hell upon those who rejected Him, and offer heaven to those who accepted Him. To this person, all of this added up to a God who was a coercing tyrant, bent on taking away from us our true right to free choice.
Of course, this entire objection is based on appalling ignorance. First of all, worship of God is not the deprivation of our rights. It is true freedom. Secondly, God does not impose the penalty of hell upon those who reject Him. Hell IS rejecting God, just as heaven IS accepting Him. The locations which result from those conditions are simply the only outcomes possible in any just judgment by God. God simply says, "You have chosen to reject me. Here is your choice: It is hell – which is the separation from Me you desire."
If you listened to this young man, you would quickly realize what he wanted: He wanted the right to reject God, but wanted all the benefits found only in a relationship with Him. In effect, he wanted to live forever – all the while rejecting Life Himself. The irony is that living forever independent of God IS hell. This is what that man was unwittingly demanding as his right.
The Truth of God in Jesus Christ is that the benefactor of the true worship of God is not God. It is US. What? Do we think we are giving God something HE NEEDS when we get on that altar? No. Rather, we are surrender to the One whom WE NEED. What could be better than to fall into the hands of God?
The most destructive thing we can do is run our own life. Actually, doing so is SIN – THE SIN. Being my own god; my own boss – is the very definition of sin.
Man was never made to live for himself. He was never made to live in the independence that Adam declared for the human race. Man was made to be dependent upon God – to live for God and be in a relationship with Him forever. This isn’t just some mandate God imposed. Rather, it is the KIND of creature man is. He is made for God.
Therefore, when man lives OFF the altar, he is living contrary to life. When he gets on the altar he is living at one with Life Himself. It is there that every part of us comes into the fullness that God intended.
"Present yourselves a living sacrifice…." Everything God touches gets BETTER, not worse. Everything given to God finds wholeness and sanity. God is life. And just as everyone Jesus touched was healed, so it is that everyone who opens up to God begins to experience all that God intends.
Paul wrote, "You are complete in Him." Do you want to be a complete person – the way God intended – mentally, emotionally, and in every way? Get on the altar. Jesus said, "He who loses his life for My sake will find it." Do you want to find your true life, and realize your true potential? Then get on the altar. LOSE your life into the hands of God.
Man in his dead, lost condition, is not normal. He is abnormal. But because ABNORMALITY is all we have ever known, we think it is NORMAL. It is not. NORMAL is to live for God. NORMAL is to live from the altar. Through Jesus Christ, God has bought us back from the realm of darkness, where everything is ABNORMAL, and into the realm of His Son, where everything is NORMAL. (Col. 1:13) It takes time to adjust. It takes time to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. But if we are saved, and then, on the altar of Romans 12:1-2, we are in a process of just that. We are becoming what we are in Jesus Christ: New creations.
Paul says, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service," or, "spiritual worship." Paul is telling us that voluntary, unconditional surrender to God IS true worship of God. And it is the only SANE thing we can do once we realize the Truth about the God who made us. *
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