Romans 12:1-2 (NLT) And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
“This is truly the way to worship Him.” Backing up, “let them be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind that he will find acceptable.” What is acceptable worship? What if I am going about it all wrong? Does my life and love please the Lord? Does it copy the behavior and customs of this world? There is a fine line in the new church culture. In the good intention of reaching the nations rather than releasing an outpouring of God’s Spirit, there has been a watering down of the Gospel. Church is not a social club or civic organization. It is a fellowship of believer’s whose intent is becoming one with Jesus Christ…or at least, that is what it should be. I want to know that my worship reaches and blesses the Heart of God the Father and His Son, my Lord, Jesus Christ.
His Grace is sufficient for me. It fills me with the transforming power that brought Jesus from the grave when He handed me the Keys to the Kingdom. What will I do with such power? How will I handle this responsibility? God’s Love has reached me. Will it be without purpose? Will I remain powerless? Will my salt become salty? Will the Light of His Love burn brightly within me? Will I be established as a “city on a hill”? Worship is the rising platform that takes me from this world into the Presence of God. It is the very thing that transforms me and changes me for His Glory. It changes my mind, attitude and the way I think. Worship allows me to know God’s Will which is good, pleasing and perfect. I must find my way to acceptable worship so that I may be a living and holy sacrifice.
Psalm 118:24-29 (NLT) This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it. Please, Lord, please save us. Please, Lord, please give us success. Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord. We bless you from the house of the Lord. The Lord is God, shining upon us. Take the sacrifice and bind it with cords on the altar. You are my God, and I will praise you! You are my God, and I will exalt you! Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.
Growing up in a Southern Baptist Church, it was not acceptable to lift one’s hands in worship. In fact, there was not much emotion put into the hymns of the red-bound book that were used each Sunday to usher in the Presence of God. Since that time, I have watched services in the same church and know that it has changed completely as the Lord has answered their cry to know Him more. The first time I heard “How Great Thou Art” in a congregation that did find such worship acceptable all I could do was cry with outstretched arms throughout the entire song. I don’t know why lifting my hands created such a release in my life. Maybe it was to experience freedom to worship the Lord responding as my heart indicated rather than what doctrine specified. There are still churches today that do not allow worship to be expressed certain ways. It makes me sad.
This is the day that the Lord has made. He woke us up today. He continued to allow His Breath to flow through us maintaining our natural life. For those who are filled with His Spirit, hearts were quickened to make it count for Christ. We prayed for Jesus to save us and give us success. The Lord God has His Eyes on you. He is shining upon you. With what purpose? Is He waiting for your sacrifice? Is He watching for worship? Will I take the sacrifice of my life, convenience, comfort and bind it to the altar with commitment? The way that we live expresses our intent to worship the Lord. Our pursuit of Jesus. Our passion for Him. Our persistence in seeking Him with our whole heart. This is acceptable worship. Nothing less will do. Finding new ways to express our love for the Lord as He desires.
Psalm 51:15-17 (NLT) Unseal my lips, O Lord, that my mouth may praise you. You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.
If only worship were a song, but its not. If it were some tangible gift or offering, how much easier that might be? The only thing that the Lord desires is my heart. All of it. God desires a repentant heart intent on receive His Grace. A heart that continuously turns from sin to seek righteousness. A heart that is intent on the Light of His Love rather than sneaking back into the darkness. This is not human nature therefore requires a change. In response to our repentance and the breaking of our heart, God gives His Grace to us. The moment that we identity our overwhelming need for Jesus and respond to it, we have fulfilled the Lord’s Desire for us. (Matthew 9:13) Though many flood the altars each week, few will leave with the realization of the magnitude and complete necessity for God’s Grace and Love each day. Our heart must change to provide acceptable worship to the Lord. Our worship is expressed in faithful obedience. It responds only with love, grace, and forgiveness no matter how grave the offense choosing not to take hold of it. (Matthew 5:23-24) Until our life emanates worship beyond the three or four songs sung each Sunday and the occasional Wednesday – it is worthless.
I Chronicles 21:21-25 (NLT) When Araunah saw David approaching, he left his threshing floor and bowed before David with his face to the ground. David said to Araunah, “Let me buy this threshing floor from you at its full price. Then I will build an altar to the Lord there, so that he will stop the plague.” “Take it, my lord the king, and use it as you wish,” Araunah said to David. “I will give the oxen for the burnt offerings, and the threshing boards for wood to build a fire on the altar, and the wheat for the grain offering. I will give it all to you.” But King David replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on buying it for the full price. I will not take what is yours and give it to the Lord. I will not present burnt offerings that have cost me nothing!” So David gave Araunah 600 pieces of gold in payment for the threshing floor.
Two of my very best friends are worship leaders. Our son-in-law is also a worship leader. They have dedicated their lives, time, talent and energy into inviting God’s Presence into church services weekly. Our son-in-law writes praise and worship songs sung in congregations. I know the investment that they make to seek the Face of God and invite His Holy Spirit to come into our midst. I have attended many services with each one leading. They are anointed in their gift and called to serve the Lord. This is their sacrifice to the Lord.
“I will not take what is yours and give it to the Lord…” When I read this passage today, I thought about each of these men and women of God who are dedicated to the Lord’s Work. It occurred to me that if I attend services and participate in worship with them singing in unison, it is not necessarily acceptable worship. It becomes acceptable only when I invest my life, time, talent and energy into ushering God’s Presence into my life just as they have. I am not called to music ministry. I am called to lay down my life for Jesus Christ. It is my God-given opportunity to participate in acceptable worship. It is the freedom to be transformed day by day. But if my worship doesn’t cost me something personally – and is only manufactured by another than it is of no use to me. Maybe that’s why when we lift our hands in worship and speak to the Lord in the awkward silences when the voices hush but the music plays on that we feel the Presence of the Lord finally come. He is waiting for us. He wants us. The Lord steps into our life when we offer a sacrifice of something. Anything? He consumes us with His Love even more.
Matthew 21:12-15 (NLT) Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out all the people buying and selling animals for sacrifice. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves. He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!” The blind and the lame came to him in the Temple, and he healed them. The leading priests and the teachers of religious law saw these wonderful miracles and heard even the children in the Temple shouting, “Praise God for the Son of David.” But the leaders were indignant.
Worship without sacrifice is worthless. When Jesus entered the Temple to see the market, He got mad and cleared it like a madman. It would be remiss not to mention that our churches have become convenient. They are comfortable. We package worship on little discs or price it in fancy uploads so that it is easily accessible. This is not the worship that the Lord is after just tools to take us there. What He desires more than anything is the kind of worship that allows His Spirit to come and do the miraculous. Faith that ushers in the impossible. Hope that points to the Heavenlies. When Jesus cleared the temple of its worthless worship, He filled it with His Presence. The Lord was there. People were healed. He messed up their plan. He interrupted their program. He disorganized their order. What happened? The leaders were indignant. True worship wrecks our religion to allow for a relationship with Jesus Christ. It heals our broken heart. Making us complete and whole. New vessels are created to hold His Spirit and dispense it to this world. This is worship. To sacrifice convenience and comfort exchanging the controlled to enter the Presence of the Lord.
Philippians 3:7-11 (NLT) I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!
There is a story in I Samuel 5 that recounts the story of Dagon. The Philistines had captured the Ark of God which carried His Presence. It contained the Spirit of the Living God just like is carried in us. They placed the Ark next to the carved statue of Dagon. The next morning the idol lay on the ground. It did not just fall over but somehow was now positioned facedown before the Ark. So the people hoisted it back into position. The next day, Dagon had fallen facedown before the Lord again except this time his head and hands had been broken off. We carry the same power in us thanks to Jesus Christ who released it to us immediately following His Death. Now think about it, if we have the Power of God in us it would only make sense that by carrying His Presence into our homes, workplaces and, yes, even our churches that worthless idols would begin to fall down.
As our worship becomes internal and intimate, it makes us salty and effective again. It turns our spark into a Light worthy to be placed on a hill for all to see. There is no report in I Samuel of thunder, lightning or earthquakes yet each morning a lifeless idol fell to a Superior and Supreme God. Imagine if all the strongholds, barriers and obstacles along with every chain began to silently fall away and you were free to live in the Promises of God and complete fulfillment – what then? Revival. Radical worship in complete abandonment of self to be absorbed by the Lord causes Resurrection Power to flow from our lives.
Psalm 89:15-17 (NLT) Happy are those who hear the joyful call to worship, for they will walk in the light of your presence, Lord. They rejoice all day long in your wonderful reputation. They exult in your righteousness. You are their glorious strength. It pleases you to make us strong.
My salvation is priceless. It costs God everything. (Romans 3:24-26) The only way that my life is of worth is when my worship is acceptable. Worship is not what we do but rather who we become in Christ Jesus. Our heart should be so full of Him that it spills over into our life. I cannot sing someone else’s song and call it my worship. I must live a life song. I must speak my own words of thankfulness. I must confess my salvation. My life should represent the transformation of my heart in the Lord. What did my worship cost me? What did I do to shine my Light? How much am I willing to give to this thing called “acceptable worship”? Faith is worship. Trust is worship. Obedience is worship. Prayer is worship. The giving of any part of my life to the Lord for His Fulfillment and His Use is worship. Worship is a regular occurrence for those who love the Lord and desire His Presence. “Happy are those who hear the joyful call to worship for they will walk in the Light of Your Presence. It pleases You to make us strong.”
Psalm 50:14 (NLT) Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God, and keep the vows you made to the Most High.