In Romans 12:1 Paul urges us “in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual service of worship.” The word ‘spiritual’ is translated from the Greek word, logikos, and can be understood as logical or reasonable. ‘Bodies’ encompasses the complete person. God’s mercy, in sending his Son to die on the cross, saves us from what we deserve: death and punishment and instead gives life and forgiveness. When the chasm between what we deserve and what God has done for us is understood, the logical response is to offer him service, to offer ourselves and our lives.
If someone gave me ten dollars, I would be grateful but if someone gave me a million, I would be speechless. I might not feel compelled to respond to the giver of ten dollars with anything but a grateful thank you. But I would feel compelled to express gratitude with my life to the million-dollar giver. God is the million-dollar giver. His mercy and grace fill the separation between what I deserve which is judgment and death, and what I receive: an intimate relationship with my Father God and every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realm. Therefore, Paul asserts that presenting our entire person to God for service is the logical response.
Service is Worship
Though a lifestyle of service seems small, God calls it worship. It is often small. Sometimes the service is no bigger than walking a recycling bin up a steep driveway or sending a text. However, in the words of Francis Schaeffer, “With God there are no little places.” And even in a small offering we are saying to God, this is a little thing you have asked but whatever, whenever, however you ask, yes of course. I’ll do anything for you, my merciful Father and Redeemer. I want to show how worthy you are by my actions.
In addition to the logic of worship, another logical reason to serve God is that everything we have comes from him anyway. David eloquently describes this when he and the people give to the building of the temple.
David praised the LORD in the presence of the whole assembly, saying, Praise be to you, LORD, the God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Yours, LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.
Now, our God, we give you thanks and praise your glorious name. But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. We are foreigners and strangers in your sight, as were all our ancestors. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope. LORD our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you (I Chron. 29: 10-16 Emphasis added).
Paul succinctly expresses the same idea in two sentences: “He himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else” (Acts 17:25). “What do you have that you did not receive?” (I Cor. 4:7). Whether we serve with our time, money, or abilities, it all comes from him. Offering service as worship is a reasonable or logical response to the magnitude of who God is, what he has given, and done for us.
Similar to logic, gratitude is a reason to serve. While the logic of service originates primarily in our minds, gratitude springs from a deeper place in the heart. Logic says “serving God is rational, it makes sense in light of all he has done for me.” Gratitude wells up from the heart when we comprehend his blessings. Gratitude moves us. Hebrews 12:28 expresses the connection between gratitude and service; that gratitude for God’s enduring gifts will issue forth in service. “Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe” (NASB).
An Unshakeable Inheritance
According to this verse, the gift we have received is an unshakable kingdom. Earthquakes remind us that the world in which we are grounded is moving, able to be shaken and passing away. By contrast, the kingdom we have been given is steady, secure, eternal, and unshakeable. The author of Hebrews describes the kingdom as a “heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God…to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven” (Heb. 12:22-23).
Moreover, our permanent inheritance in Christ includes every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3) and eternal life (Rom. 6:23). This inheritance is one “that can never perish, spoil or fade-kept in heaven for you…” (1 Pet. 1:3). Moreover, we do not even have to try to grasp the magnitude of these gifts by ourselves. The Holy Spirit, another gift from God, helps us understand this inheritance. “What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God so that we may understand what God has freely given us” (1 Cor. 4:12). Meditating with the help of the Holy Spirit on our unalterable eternal heritage swells our heart with gratitude to the Giver of all good things and overflows into acts of service toward others for Him.
REPRESENTATION of GOD
While our future inheritance is established in heaven, we serve in the present time and space in the world. In serving, we accurately represent God in our current culture where his true nature and character is misunderstood. The essence of God is love (I John 4:8). The Bible defines love not as emotion but by action. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down over lives for our brothers” (I John 3:16). When we lay down our lives to serve others, we are sacrificing on a small scale like Jesus on the cross. We are expressing love-love as a reflection of the nature of God. We resemble, even if dimly, our generous, giving, sacrificing God and his Son.
Our Service Can Result in Praise to God
Even more amazing is that our service can result in praise to God. “Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else” (2 Cor. 9:13). The immeasurable privilege to reflect the character of God to a watching and hurting world, and the knowledge that our service might result in praise to God, can encourage perseverance in the crosses we willingly bear to love like God.
(Next Post: Part Three: Design, Growth, Reward)