There are 3 Greek words used in the New Testament that are translated into our English word, worship. One means, “to bow in submissive lowliness and deep reverence.” A second means, “to look upon with awe.” But the word that Paul uses here means, “to render service for.” That’s why this verse is translated, in the King James Version, “this is your reasonable service.” When we understand the word that is used here, we begin to understand what Paul is saying to us here: True worship is a purposeful activity aimed at pleasing God.
Our worship must be intentional. We don’t worship the Lord by accident; we have to want to do it. We don’t worship the Lord out of form or habit; we have to want to do it. If worship isn’t intentional, then it’s not genuine, and if worship isn’t genuine, then it serves no real purpose. God’s desire for His relationship with man is that whatever we do, we do because we want to, not because we have to. When we give, He wants our giving to be genuine; when we love, He wants our loving to be genuine; when we forgive, He wants our forgiving to be genuine; when we pray, He wants our praying to be genuine; and when we worship, He wants our worship to be genuine. And if it’s not genuine, then it’s worthless.
A second thing to consider about true worship is that, while its aim is to please God, it finds fulfillment in how we treat one another. That’s what James refers to when he says that, “Religion that our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: To look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world (James 1:27)”, and again when he says, “Don’t just listen to the Word…do what it says (James 1:22).” Genuine worship finds its fulfillment in what we do; how we treat one another.
A third thing for us to consider when we take this verse into account is that true worship is a response to what the Lord has done for us. If you look at the verse, Paul opens with a conjunction: “Therefore…in view of God’s mercy, offer your bodies as living sacrifices.” Our worship is the response of the creation to his Creator; our worship is the dramatic celebration of God in His supreme worth; our worship is born from our remembering who God is as opposed to who we are and where we would be without Him.
“Since God has been merciful to us, since God has graciously provided a means of salvation for us; since God placed all of this potential in us, then we ought to live up to our potential; we ought to make of ourselves living sacrifices to the Lord.”