Submission: The Heart of Worship
Read Romans 11:33-12:2
“Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—This is your true and proper worship.”
There have been times when the music of praise has brought me an overwhelming sense of worship. Hearing 40,000 men resounding the praise of God together while singing the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” or hearing a choir singing the Hallelujah Chorus as the audience stands in honor of God elevates me into the presence of angels. But these moments are few and fleeting. How do we worship God in the mundane of life? It is easy to worship in the thrill of rapturous hymns, but how do we worship God when we are cleaning the muck out of a barn or doing the weekly laundry? If our life is to be a continual anthem of praise, then our worship must encompass both the unpleasant and the euphoric. Worship is a lifelong, moment by moment response to who God is and what he continually does for us. The first question of the Westminster’s Catechism is, “What is the chief end of man?” The answer: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” But this brings us to the question, “How does worship embrace all of life’s experiences and events?”
Paul provides the answer to this question. Leading up to Paul’s anthem of praise in 11:33-36, Paul had outlined the wonder of God’s redemptive work. This doxology of praise is the rapturous response to God’s infinite mercy which he displayed in achieving our salvation for the clutches of sin. But Paul does not regulate praise to just exhilarating moments, rather in 12:1-2 he moves it to the everyday affairs of life. Praise is not a momentary response, but an unending life of worship. To highlight what this means, Paul takes us back to the most unlikely place, the bloody altar of death. In doing so, Paul presents us with a paradox, that we are to be living sacrifice. We are to be continually living in a place where death reigns supreme. This is the paradox that Christ points to when he states, “Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it” (Luke 17:33) The point that both Paul and Christ makes is that true life and freedom is found when we completely surrender our life to God. Just as the sacrificial animal was burned on the altar and thus be completely devoted to God, so now we are to live every day in complete, unconditional surrender to God. We are to surrender our dreams, desires, actions, motives, and thoughts to God’s absolute control. We are to die to ourselves so that we might find life in Christ. Paul points this out in Colossian 3:17, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” In other words, whether we are mucking the barn or listening to a choir, we are to do all things in the context of our service and submission to Christ.
This is the essence and heart of worship. Worship is not a service we attend, it is not an event we participate in, it is not a momentary thrill, it is a life continually lived. It is daily, moment by moment surrendering of our life to God. Instead of conforming our life to the worldview of secular culture, we are to conform our life to the will of God which as revealed in scripture. Worship without submission is false worship. It is only when we have surrendered our whole life, that we truly discover the heart of worship.