I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. [Romans 12:1-2 ESV]
God uses a specific word to describe our relationship with Him.
Worship is an act of sacrifice designed and implemented to show honor and respect for God. I do not believe this is what God originally intended. God created man in His image so all might naturally serve Him showing their respect and adoration. Enter sin and with it is corruption, like a drop of poison in a gallon of water, every molecule is affected.
In the Hebrew Scripture, in the Mosaic Law, worship was regulated. Acceptable worship was well defined by God when He brought His people out of Egypt, a symbol of the world, into the Promised Land, Israel, a symbol of His kingdom. He gave the Law, the written code, to teach those who claimed to be His about sin and the need for His grace. They were given severe restrictions on appropriate and inappropriate acts of service and sacrifice. Nothing about the Law was designed it give any a means of earning God’s love and affection. Nothing any could do in following the Law would absolve them of the affects sin had upon their complete nature and person.
God looks at the thinking of the heart. Our actions and motivations are revealed in our worship of Him, or lack of worship of Him. Now worship requires sacrifice.
Yet, it was not through the blood of bulls and goats (see Hebrews 10:4) any would be justified or declared righteous in His presence. Only by His grace, His action, His will, would any be freed from the sentence of death demanded as judgment for sin. Only the sacrifice of His Son in our place would payment for the penalty demanded by God’s judgment by satisfied. His sacrifice is an example for us of the type of sacrifice God seeks from those who are His. “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” [1 Peter 2:21 ESV].
Jesus gave everything for us, setting aside His glory and position to become a servant as we are meant to be as a citizen of His kingdom. He demands nothing less than everything from us. This is not a demand issued by a malevolent dictator God upon a subservient, dehumanized people. This is an expectation of a benevolent God for a people made whole and loved by Him who, in turn, loves Him.
Sacrifice given in love defeats the worldly attributes of sin and its demands filled with unreasonable expectations for some assumed return.
We love Him because He loved us first, showing His love through the total giving of Jesus with no demand for payment or earned merit. Our sacrifice for Him, a total giving of self, is done because of the absolute intimacy shared and had with Him.
Intimacy grows the closer two come to each other. We are to test the world around us and ourselves so we might know ourselves, created in His image and remade in the likeness of Christ at rebirth. He changes us as we seek Him out. Our point of view changes as we change, as we confront and reject the lie of sin which surrounds us in the world, which tempts us though those we encounter, which tugs and pulls our very flesh. He changes the thinking of our hearts giving us His truth, driving us away from the world and drawing us toward Him, the source of eternal life.
Here is the downfall of many who think they know God by following perceived rules devoid of grace. They know the rules intellectually but do not know Him intimately, the One who is the rules, the eternal Law. Following the rules steadfastly, or at least a worldly understanding of the rules, gives a sense of control which is a subconscious manipulation of God, with the assumption God will tangibly reward those who keep them. Instead of sacrificing themselves to God, an act of loving worship and service, which results in freedom from the sentence of sin and intimacy with Him, they sacrifice a relationship with Him for control. How easy it is to lose sight of Him by seeing only the words.