“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you” (Romans 12:1-3).

When questioning someone about what they are doing on Sunday how often have we heard the response, “I’m going to worship”? The use of the word going, as opposed to doing or living, concerns me. Worship does not necessarily happen in a place (i.e. an institutional or simple church) or an event but, according to Paul, is a lifestyle that transcends a location or a singular experience. It is an intentional, moment by moment  life experience of sacrifice, transformation, and service. Let’s look at the characteristics of true spiritual worship as an act (not an event) found in this passage.

 •True worship is derived from the ongoing perspective of God’s underserved mercy towards us. A sense of His greatness and goodness must be the prompter of a transformed existence of perpetual reverence. The writer of Hebrews said, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe” (12:28).

•True worship is saturated in sacrificial, holy living and the desire to please God. In short, worship is Godward and Jesus-centered. It is not about us and our wants and desires. Worship benefits us but those benefits are but the residual effects of enthroning Him in our hearts and living and not the purpose behind our pursuit of Him. We worship because He is worthy!

•True worship is primarily a spiritual act (Philippians 3:3). The raising of one’s hands and other physical manifestations may be part of worship but such things must be derived from a spiritual seed. I’ve seen thousands of hands raised at a football game but the fans weren’t worshipping God! In other words, real spiritual worship is not based merely upon fleeting feelings or a sense of excitement.

•True worship involves a lifestyle that is radically different than the lost world around us. It’s easy to be different from the world when we are “doing church” but a worship-centered life necessitates the daily living out of our faith that is juxtaposed against the world’s philosophies and behavior (see Colossians 2:23).

•True worship involves the continual renewal and cleansing of the mind so that we might think as Jesus thinks. Worship engages the mind and thus affects our attitudes and behaviors. It is not built and pure emotionalism. We are to worship Him “in spirit and truth” (see John 4:23-24). Therefore God’s word is always the foundational principle that guides us in all of our endeavors, including worship.

•True worship is the daily living out of God’s will in a manner which truly pleases Him. Pleasing God by acting out His will for us is not an event but a journey. We don’t just do worship on Sunday morning or listening to praise music in the car. Worshipping is doing His will in the real world, not insulated and isolated from the perils and pain of our confused culture.

•True worship is bathed in the sincere humility of a servant. It is not about show but about subservience to God and service to others. This type of paradigm is fueled by the gift of faith that He has given us to see Him in all of His glory and respond accordingly.

So we see that worship is not an event but a perpetual act. It is part and parcel of who we are in Him. It is the daily transformation of a life, moment by moment, spent honoring Him in our thoughts, attitudes and actions. Let’s not think that worship as just an experience or a church service (or even a Christian concert) but, instead, a lifestyle that projects the glory that He is so worthy of. It is a holy, servant-oriented, and love-saturated expression of Him. In a beautiful way this kind of true worship is but a precursor to an eternity of adoring Him. Listen to John describe the scene of never-ending worship:

“Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being” (Revelation 4:9-11).