“Brothers, I call upon you because of the compassion of God to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy, pleasing to God as your reasonable/logical worship, and not model yourselves on this aeon [age], but be transformed by the renewal of mind, for the determining of what the will of God is- the good and pleasing and perfect.” -Rom. 12.1-2 (translated by Ben Witherington III)
The call to worship is far more thoroughgoing and exceeds our greatest claims of how radical and “on-fire” we are for the Lord. Worship, as expressed in the Scriptures, is all-encompassing, touching our lives down to the marrow of our souls. We think ourselves radical because we fast for a day, place a bold bumper sticker on our cars, or engage in a lively form of praise at a Christian gathering. True worship leaves no room for religious boasting, for it leaves the soul awe-struck at the majesty of God. It converts us from self-conscious spirituality to a God-conscious, God-suffused, God-focused mode of being. The call to true worship is much more profound than surface-level expressions of “radicalness.”
Worship is requiring. It places us on Holy Ground “because of the compassion of God,” and on any other ground we would wilt and blow away. In light of His great mercies, the revelation strikes us that we are but dust and that the One who is preeminently worthy of the highest adoration has redeemed us unto a life of obedience and communion with Him. This is most staggering; beyond comprehension. The Christian life has everything to do with being swallowed up in that great reality so that our entire lives are offered up to Christ as worship.
It is remarkable, and quite unfortunate, that our generation has such a low view of God that “worship” has been reduced to an industry for those who would have successful religious careers. I appreciate true psalmists, both ancient and modern, but worship needs to be restored as a God-centric and quintessential part of who the Church is, and not so much as something She performs. This was the cry of Paul’s heart to the churches in Rome, and it is the cry of God’s heart for us today.
Those who have presented their bodies to God as a sacrifice belong no longer to themselves but to God. The offerer no longer has the final say over his behavior. He or she is God’s property and must behave according to God’s dictates. But God does not want a dead human sacrifice but a living and lively one. He does not want something from us; he wants us.
Worship is where the creature recognizes that he or she is a creature and God is the Creator. It is an act of submission or ordering oneself under the Divine. It is also by implication a denial of one’s own divinity, a denial that one is lord of one’s own life. If one does what this verse says, then it follows that one has committed himself to obeying the commandments and exhortations that follow. But, more than this, Paul is suggesting that all of life should be doxological, an offering up to God, an act of worship.
(Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, Ben Witherington III; Eerdmans, 2004; pp. 284-285)
This touches everything, right down to the marrow of our souls. To offer our “bodies” is not some ascetic and ethereal concept, but a very down-to-earth, nitty gritty call. Because of the compassion of God, and by the renewing of our minds, we are blessed with the gift of discernment regarding the influences and ways of this present evil age. When at once we surrender our bodies and minds unto Him, we are enabled and empowered to live in Babylonian places, and amongst men of unclean lips, without conforming to their patterns at all. Has our American Gospel brought us to this remarkably glorious place? Or are we conforming to this age?
Worship touches the way we handle our money (are we greedy, irresponsible, or materialistic?), the way we treat strangers and friends alike (do we have humility and love towards all men?), the manner of our choices regarding food and entertainment (are we gluttons, addicted to overeating, given to compromised entertainment- or even excessive ‘clean’ entertainment?), and the way we view life altogether (have we got a God-centered and God-conscious life, or are we still trapped in a self-absorbed mode of being?).
Down to the ‘marrow’ of our thoughts and affections we need to ask: “Are we living a ‘doxological life?'” Are our minds being offered up as a worship unto Him? Are we presenting ourselves as a “living sacrifice” unto the Lord, or are we circumventing the totality of worship and presenting a portion of our lives that we consider the “spiritual” segment? We cannot offer only a portion to Him. “He does not want something from us; He wants us.”
God has graciously given His Son to redeem and cleanse us. He will lead us through the morass and mazes of this age and right into the clarity and soundness of “the will of God…” “the good and pleasing and perfect.”
No wonder Paul urged us in this manner: To be conformed to this world is to be ensnared and entrapped on every side. To be “transformed by the renewal of the mind” is to see the nature and character of God Himself, and that is most chiefly to be desired. Paul doesn’t give us an imperative that can only be met by spiritual superstars and famous reformers. He issues the call to every child of God. A life of authentic worship is the inheritance of all the saints. A “doxological life” is the delight and privilege of all who find themselves on the pilgrimage to Zion.