“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” (Romans 12:1, NASB95)
While at home one day, a couple of young children decided they wanted to re-enact the story of Noah's Ark. They found a cardboard box and went into the bathroom. They rounded up all the stuffed animals they could find. They put the plug in the bathtub. They turned on the shower till the water reached the top of the tub. That was the flood. They turned the water off. They pulled the plug. The water drained. The great flood was over.
They had a good time, but there was a problem. They had learned in their Sunday school class that at the end of the flood Noah presented a sacrifice to God (Genesis 8:20). The little girl reached over and took one of her brother's animals saying, "We'll sacrifice this one." Immediately her brother responded, "No, you won't. That's my favorite stuffed animal." He quickly reached into the box. Taking one of her animals he said, "We'll sacrifice this one." Without hesitation, she responded, "No, you won't! Grandma gave me that one. I would never think of giving it up'" After fighting for a little while the sister ran upstairs. She searched through some old toys. It didn't take her long. She had found just the right animal for the sacrifice. Bringing a toy sheep that had only three legs, one eye, one ear, and a missing tail she said, "We can sacrifice this one. I don't need it anymore."
Sound familiar? Let’s be honest! If you think about it for a moment you can probably see yourself somewhere in that story. Every one of us at some point in time has come before God in worship and hesitated about giving Him our best. We have all struggled with ourselves about what is appropriate. We have hurriedly searched through our inventory of acceptable gifts and presented to God those things we can live comfortably without.
Noah and his family had just been delivered through an event that had wiped every living creature off the face of the earth. Noah had found favor in the eyes of the Lord (Genesis 6:8), so he "in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household." Because of such a great salvation, Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar" (Genesis 8:20) before the Covenant God of Promise.
Noah held back nothing. He gave an offering out of the overflow of a full heart. It was an offering given to express appreciation for salvation full and free. There was no holding back. Giving to God has always been an act of worship. Cain "brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock” (Genesis 4:3-4). That they brought an offering implies that there was a specific place of worship designated as a place of sacrifice. Sacrificial giving was a part of that worship.
Wherever Abraham pitched his tent, he built an altar so he might express his faith through worship (Genesis 12:8; 13:17, 18: 26:25). Calling upon the name of the Lord, Abraham offered first fruits and sacrifice before the Lord his Covenant Keeping God. He brought a tenth as he encountered Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of God Most High (Genesis 14:18-20). This "tenth" was a token of his gratitude for God's deliverance. His grandson Jacob continued this practice of tithing as an act of worship and gratitude (Genesis 28:22). He recognized and proclaimed that all the believer possesses comes from the gracious hand of a God who is Good.
The ritual sacrifices of the tabernacle and the temple give us further illustrations of the importance of coming before God with an appropriate offering. What was significant about all those offerings was not the gift itself but the gift as the expression of the self-surrender of the worshiper. This was what was well-pleasing to God. It was the absolutely essential element of sacrifice. The prophets had to continually remind the children of Israel that sacrificial offerings without the surrender and obedience of the offerer were an offense to the Lord (Isaiah 1 :11; Jeremiah 6:15, 29; Hosea 4:14, 19; Amos 4:4-6, etc.).
Going through the motions of worship without a heart that is totally surrendered to the Lord of Worship is still an abomination to Him. Giving Him those things that we can do without, holding back what we think is too precious to part with, giving God what is second best, is an affront to the God who has freely and sacrificially given us all things.
Every believer should realize that the giving of an offering to God is an act of pure worship. Any other motive for making an offering is unworthy. That's why each Lord's Day morning we emphasize the worship function of the offering we present to Him. I often reminded the congregation here as we gather to worship that having worshiped the Lord by offering up our prayers, and praise, and adoration, we also have the privilege of worshipping Him by giving of our tithes and offerings.
The tithe is a recognition of the sovereign authority of God. The offering is an expression of our deep love and thanksgiving to Him who has given to us such a great salvation, so full and free.
The Apostle Paul says in Romans 12:1, in view of God's mercy that we should offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is our spiritual act of worship. This includes giving tithes and offerings, but it also includes our full unhindered attention to the preaching of the Word.
John Stott said, “There is no greater incentive to holy living than contemplating the mercies of God.”
How could we possibly hold back when we consider what great love our Father has lavished on us through the sacrifice of His Son, our Savior Jesus Christ? The only sensible, logical and appropriate response to him in view of his self-giving mercy is that we would offer our bodies totally and completely worshiping Him with our minds and hearts every day of our lives, but especially as we come before Him each Lord's Day to worship with the corporate body, the local church.
May your time be blessed, serving the Lord sacrificially, knowing that a "broken spirit and a contrite heart" He will not despise. Give Him the first. Give Him the best. Give Him your all!