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Acceptable Worship

If worship can be defined as that which we offer to a holy and perfect God as an expression of his worthiness or value to us, then it is imperative that we ask the question: what kind of worship can we offer to such a God that he will find acceptable?

The bible offers many clues regarding what might count as acceptable worship. But let’s look at just one important element of acceptability. It is quite clear that sacrifice is central to the concept. Consider the story of Abraham’s near sacrifice of his son, Isaac, as a burnt offering in response to God’s command (Genesis 22:1-5). In the story, Abraham obeys God and takes his son to the top of a mountain to sacrifice him. In verse 5, Abraham tells his servants to wait in one location as he and his son go to "worship" God at a location further away. He clearly equates sacrifice with worship.

Just like Abraham, David understood this sacrificial concept, too. In 2 Samuel 24:18-25, David intends to procure a man’s threshing floor in order to build an altar for the purpose of presenting burnt offerings to God as a means of allaying God’s anger with an act of worship. The man who owns the property offers to give the threshing floor to David for free, along with the animals necessary for the sacrifice. David famously responds to him with, “No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing.” Acceptable worship costs something because worship requires sacrifice, and sacrifice by definition is something that costs.

The apostle Paul moves beyond the cheap offerings of animals, and ups the ante when he tells us that an acceptable form of worship is one in which we present our bodies as “living sacrifices” (Romans 12:1-2). In addition to being acceptable, Paul also describes such a sacrifice as holy, which is another way of saying that it is set apart from the world for a God oriented purpose. So an acceptable sacrifice is one in which we set apart our bodies and lives from worldly pursuits, and yield them to God for his purposes. In essence, we lay down our worldly lives! It is reasonable to do this, because he has done a similar thing for us in a much larger and more intense way. All of this makes perfect sense. Those things that we value most – that we see as having the most worth to us – are the things for which we are willing to make the most sacrifice. We do not sacrifice for things that we do not value or in which we find no worth.

But the truth is that God is not interested in any material offerings. What he wants most is all of you – your entire life, and every domain of it. So in this sense, worship is not something that we do on a Sunday morning, but something we do in our living of every day. The best gifts, afterall, are the ones that are the most personal. There is a great and mysterious irony in all of this. When we give our lives to God as living sacrifices, he does not simply burn them on the altar and relinquish them to wisps of smoke. Instead, he heals them, rebuilds them, and adds to them eternal value.

Acceptable worship is a daily living sacrifice demonstrating God’s value and worthiness to your life.

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