I appeal to you therefor, 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

When I consider the ideas of worship and sacrifice, the first thoughts that come to mind tend to be about various forms of Old Testament practices and are generally framed in the context of the temple in Jerusalem. So, they are a part of the rich history of faith that God has laid out for us in His word, but they are significantly disconnected from my world and from this day, and are generally outside of the realm of the experience of the church that I know. So, it is with a sort of eye-opening jolt, like cold-water thrown into my face, that I realize how wrong I am about the contemporary reality of what God actually desires from me and for His church.

In that ancient temple setting, there were no live sacrifices, unless you think in terms of the grain as still being alive before it was burned; yet, even it had been severed from its roots. In fact, the manner and the procedure by which the animals were put to death was an important aspect of the sacrificial system. Yet today, God wants the sacrifices to be alive; in fact, He wants them to be living so that the process of life is on-going and onward developing in light of the act of sacrifice, itself. This is an act of mercy and of grace on the part of the Lord. For He finds that His people, in Christ, are wholly and fully clean, pure and thus acceptable in His sight. If this were not so, then we would not be sacrifices that are suitable to be offered up to God. However, Christ makes us such people, and His declaration of our worthiness allows for us to go directly and personally before God as we offer up the service of our lives to Him.

This is the true heart of worship as we can know it today. Although the expression of our gathered worship can be beautiful and powerful in its sweet lyric and compelling exhortation of the word, any of these practices and all of this ceremony are secondary to the central point and purpose of that worship. God desires for us to each give up our lives in full to Him. He also wants His church as a corporate or a gathered entity to do the same thing. The Lord does not delight in ritual or in inwardly focused experiences; rather, His heart is set on seeing His people and His church drink deeply from the Word of Life and take the vitality that flows out of that source with us into the world where we live so that the truth of the Gospel of Christ would be proclaimed in words and in lived out faith in every corner of the universe. In Christ, there is no price that is too great to pay for the sake of the souls of others, and with Christ, each and every sacrifice that we make is an act of profoundly sweet worship given to God.