The word “worship” has two definitions:
the noun: the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity.
and the verb: show reverence and adoration for (a deity)
When it comes to understanding words, it is a lot easier to choose the noun over the verb. For example, it’s a lot easier to attend a dance than it is to actually dance. One is a solitary idea. The other involves movement and real action. Another example is the word “mother”. It is one thing to simply BE a mother, and another far more complicated idea to actually MOTHER a child.
A sad reality is that Jesus followers often choose the noun over the verb when it comes to worshipping God. But then again, what does the verb form of worship even look like? Because worship these days is so strongly attached to singing songs, most assume that the verb form of worship is JUST singing. However, the Bible defines worship quite differently:
“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing 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 them?” For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.
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.
-Romans 11:33-36, 12:1 (emphasis added)
Notice that last line. In view of such an incredibly powerful yet merciful God, THIS is your true and proper worship. It doesn’t say to raise your hands the highest during the worship songs. Or sing the loudest. Or the best. Or the most on key (but most of us fail at that anyway so who are we kidding). It simply says living SACRIFICE.
Now if we are being honest with ourselves, this is NOT what we want to hear. Nobody really grows up liking the idea of self-sacrifice. That means giving up our own desires for the desires of someone else. I can almost see it now. Imagine your 8 year old self when a guest comes over to stay at your house. They take your bedroom for the WHOLE weekend- *gasp*. You are forced to sacrifice the comfort of your snuggly bed for a couch that may as well be the equivalent of cuddling with a wooden plank. Add in the stench of the dog and you are able to make yourself right at home. This is self-sacrifice in its simplest form.
But what probably scares people most about this passage is the phrase “offer your bodies”. My pastor explained this to us one day as not the physical hurting of our bodies, but rather the mental and spiritual offering of our lives and hearts to Jesus- which is far more powerful than animal sacrifice ever was before Jesus put an end to that practice.
Now you may be wondering, “If Jesus already made the ultimate sacrifice on the cross to free us of our sins, then why do we need to sacrifice ourselves too?”
Here’s the thing about you and Jesus. He already completed the excruciatingly physical part for you. That’s DONE. It is the greatest form of sacrifice that has and ever will exist.
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. –John 15:13
However, something really important in scripture that just cannot be ignored is how we are to live and walk as Jesus did.
Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. 5But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: 6Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. -1 John 4:2-6
And what Jesus did was sacrifice His entire life for us in order to glorify our Father in Heaven. His life was THE sacrifice to God. If we are to live like Jesus in any way, we too should follow His example and give our lives to God too. However, since the physical part has already been completed, we just need to worry about SPIRITUAL sacrifice. But now we have come full circle. What even is spiritual sacrifice?
For us, it translates to one simple word that is the verb form of true worship: surrender.
Surrender is giving up the fight. It is abandoning your pride. It is putting your freedom into someone else’s hands. It is releasing your power and influence because you know that you are losing the battle. You and the people you’ve tried to recruit to help just aren’t enough. You can’t handle the pressure of the world anymore. You surrender. Now the war is over.
However, this is not a war played out on a battlefield in the middle of the forest. The battlefield exists within your own heart. Within each of us lies something called spiritual warfare.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. –Ephesians 6:12
But just because it’s inside of you doesn’t mean that there still aren’t armies. Armies of lies from the world are continually trying to fight against God’s truths. If we let these lies consume us, we allow our souls to be further penetrated and conquered by deception.
But what we forget is that there is a much larger war raging.
Your heart is simply a microcosm for the ongoing war between God’s truth and the world’s lies that has been playing out at a global scale for ages. It has influenced everyone that has ever existed. This is because we all make a choice- to believe or not to believe in God. To follow Jesus or refuse to accept the love He offers. To do what’s right in God’s eyes or allow evil to rule our actions. It is a constant world war. We see its impact on everything, even if it is not directly pronounced. It leaves a mark on politics, education, business, science, parenting, and overall morality. This small battle that plays out in your heart simply determines what side of the war you are fighting on. So here comes the question of your allegiance:
Are you living your life fighting for God’s truth? Or the attractive lies that often bomb your soul?
Ok, now before you answer that question, consider that word surrender again. Wouldn’t it be a lot easier to fight for God’s truth at a global scale if the much smaller battle in your heart had already been settled? Don’t you want peace? Of course you do. It is human nature to want problems resolved and worries to die. That’s why we like vacations.
It’s time to surrender. It’s time to give up the fight that is raging in our hearts. Give your life to Christ. Why?
Because true worship isn’t about raising your hands while singing in church. It’s about raising your white flag.
That is self-sacrifice. That is giving up your life fully to God’s will and purpose for your life. That is trusting that no matter what tries to shake you, nothing with God by your side can break you. That is how God is able to take over your heart and seal it from the armies of lies that try to lay siege to it daily. THAT is true worship.
And one last thing…when we surrender to God and join His army of truth, we have complete certainty that we have also joined the army of VICTORS. In the end, no matter who or how many joins the army, God WILL WIN this war. The end has been written since the beginning. But in order to enlist in God’s army of victory, you must first surrender to Him in the battlefield of your own heart….and raise your white flag.