Romans 12:1 “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.”
As we close out our series on worship we come to probably the most popular and also the most profound statement made about “true and proper worship.” It is sad that worship, what God desires, has become so divisive. We have turned worship into war, leaving the church void of its wonder while the enemy gets the victory. Why because we have put our preferences ahead of praise. In the Book of Exodus we find God’s people, the Israelites, in slavery in Egypt, they had been held in captivity for over 400 years. God sends Moses to go to the Egyptian Pharaoh and say, “Let my people go so that they can worship me.” The purpose of freedom then is to pursue God and He knew that His people could not worship him fully and freely if they were living in captivity, held in bondage as slaves. So God delivered them out of bondage and into freedom so that they could worship, in essence He said, “Now you are free to worship me, to live for me, to be with me.” Jesus, later talking to his disciples, conveys the same message in Matthew 16:24, “If anyone would want to truly be my disciple, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” We view the offering of ourselves as giving away our freedom yet what Paul reveals in the sacrifice of self is that we actually become free to serve. Today we are held captive by our wants and cares, yet Romans 12 offers us worship that is free from the weight and worry of living for self if we only:
- Let our behavior flow from our belief.
Every time you come across the word “therefore” in the Bible you should always ask what it’s there for. Here in chapter 12 of Romans, Paul is making a shift from doctrine to duty, from creed to conduct, from principles to practice, from the indicative to the imperative and from beliefs to behavior. You can spend time studying, meditating and even memorizing your way through the first eight chapters of Romans but if all you do is learn it but never live it then what good is it! It is not enough to simply embrace truth, at some point the truth we believe must embrace us. Today you hear people saying that it doesn’t really matter what you believe but it does, because what we believe ultimately determines how we behave. It’s as if Paul is saying, “Based on everything that I’ve just preached, this is what you now need to put into practice.” I find it interesting how the first two letters of “doctrine” form the word “do.” Sandwiched between the doctrine and the go do is the deep doxology found at the end of Romans 11:33-36 “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond finding out. ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?’ For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory! Amen.” After spending so much time discussing doctrine Paul is overcome by the depth of God’s glory. I love Paul’s progression from doctrine to doxology to go do, so is your behavior in sync with your beliefs?
- Answer the appeal.
Based on the reality of everything that God has done, Paul says, “I urge you, brothers and sisters…” This is a call to worship, even though Paul could have used a command here, he instead makes an appeal from love not law. Paul reminds us that worship is built around relationship not rules and he reminds us of this in Ephesians 4:1 also: “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” The term brothers and sisters is a term of warmth that literally means from “one womb” Paul reminds us that we are members of God’s family. He is begging believers to respond to God’s revelation, to answer the appeal. So as a disciple of Christ what will be your decision?
- Are motivated by mercy.
Paul makes this plea “in view of God’s mercy.” It’s interesting that Paul doesn’t say, “In light of God’s grace” but instead focuses on mercy. Why, because God’s grace is demonstrated when we get what we don’t deserve, whereas His mercy is what keeps us from getting what we do deserve. One of the problems with this passage is the translation, the original word for “mercy” is actually plural, referring to God’s multitude of mercies. Like we see in 2 Corinthians 1:3 in the KJV: “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort.” God’s mercy is not a onetime event but an ongoing, overflowing reality that marches into eternity. It’s plural like a parade that He puts on for us, which rolls by through the hours and days into the decades, His mercy that He has put on display each day of our lives. Paul is teaching us a very valuable lesson here for he is reminding us that the prerequisite to worship is mercy, and the prerequisite to mercy is doing something wrong. If you have messed up you qualify for mercy and so you also qualify for worship. When it comes to worship few of us feel worthy, the problem is that we let what’s wrong with us keep us from worshipping what’s right with God. Isaac Watt’s who wrote the amazing hymn “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” understood God’s mercy when he penned the words: “Love so amazing, so divine; demands my soul, my life, my all.” Many of us get this wrong, we think we have to sacrifice or perform to get God’s mercy, because we have it backwards. God gives a multitude of mercies separate from anything we do which should cause us to surrender everything we are and sacrifice everything we have. Sometimes the issue is not one of trying to achieve, we know that we’ve been forgiven, but we overestimate our goodness while underestimating the amount of mercy we have received. Jesus reminded us of this in Luke 7:47 when He said: “But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” Our worship is always a reflection and response to what we value, and if we value God’s mercy we’ll be motivated to give Him our lives. So what are you worshipping and how do you know? Well just follow the trail of your time and your spiritual temperature, what has your affection, your energy, your money and your loyalty? At the end of the trail you will find a throne and what is on the throne is what you value and worship most. God’s mercies have been multiplied to you, they are plural because He is consistently and constantly full of mercy. So where is your worship?