If someone were to ask you to sit down and make a list of the most memorable compliments you have ever received, your list will probably only include commendations from those whom you highly respect. We instinctively know that compliments from those who are foolish, or who do not have our best interests at heart, are insincere. Insincere comments are easily forgotten, but those that are sincere are often remembered for a lifetime.
Since we disdain insincere flattery, how much more does the Lord hate false honor? As Jesus explained to the woman at the well, the Father has always desired people to worship Him “in spirit and truth” (John 4:23). God is not pleased with those who do not have a pure and sincere intent to give Him honor and glory (Isa. 29:13–14). He wants us to imitate Christ who, because He never sinned (1 Peter 2:22), lived every moment with a true desire to please the Lord.
Worship is eminently logical because of the great salvation Jesus has purchased for us when we have not deserved it. This is the point Paul makes in today’s passage. In Romans 1–11, the apostle gives his most detailed exposition of the Gospel and the salvation it brings to those who repent and believe. After expounding the doctrines of sin and grace in these chapters, he makes practical application in chapters 12–16. He begins in 12:1 with “therefore,” a conjunction telling us that what comes before it necessarily produces what happens after it. Logically, the saints worship God because they are grateful for salvation. Paul discusses “spiritual worship,” again showing us that a heart and mind devoted to Him above all else is what the Lord most desires from us. Yet worship is not just an internal exercise. Old covenant believers could not have ignored the temple ordinances and just praise God inwardly. The Lord wanted the sacrifices, but only if their hearts were in it. Otherwise, worship was an insult to His holiness.
Today we must still offer sacrifices out of a desire to please God. Only now we no longer bring the blood of dead animals. Because of Christ and the life He brings us, we offer ourselves as living sacrifices (12:1). We are to surrender to the Lord all that we have, do, and are.
We all know that the remaining presence of sin in our lives makes it impossible to have a perfect desire to please God when we worship. Nonetheless, since we may now approach the Father boldly in Christ (Heb. 10:19–22), we should not let our sin prevent us from offering ourselves as a living sacrifice. Instead, as we come before Him, we should admit our inability to do all to His glory and thank Him that in Jesus He receives the offering of our lives.