The following is a post I wrote for the Harvest Bible Chapel – Naperville Worship Blog:
Most of us have been in a corporate worship setting where the worship leader says something to the effect of, “God we come into Your presence this morning…We surrender ourselves before You in this time…so, let’s sing to God, and offer up a sacrifice of praise in this place….” Whether all at once, or over the course of the service, most of us have heard similar statements.
While many of the things being said are deeply biblical, at times, in the minds and hearts of many worshippers (and, perhaps, worship leaders), they can just become commonplace jargon. So the question is, what does it truly mean to “offer up a sacrifice of praise,” “surrender,” or “come into [God’s] presence” corporately? And, why is it important that we understand?
The answers, I believe, are found within the atmosphere of the gospel. Briefly, let’s look at how the reality of the gospel (i.e., the work that Jesus has done for our salvation) sheds light on these common phrases…
“God, we come into Your presence this morning…”
Truthfully, it is what Jesus has done that allows sinful people to be justified (forgiven and made righteous before God), and have the ability worship in the presence of a holy God. The finished work of Jesus on the cross was such that for those who helplessly receive it in their place, His finished work graciously ushers them in to the very presence of God, continually.
Because of what Jesus has done, as His followers, we do all of life before the very face of God. We continually live, because of Jesus, in God’s saving presence. Our location there is based on His performance for us, not our own. So, it’s not that during the week we’ve been apart from the presence of God, and only when entering the doors of a church do we come into His presence; but having trusted in Christ, we worship in His presence together on the weekend, and scatter to individually worship in His presence during the week.
This begs the question, “If I’m always in the presence of God, why should I bother gathering on the weekend…can’t I just replace that with a regular time of individual worship…or maybe tune in to a streaming church service online?”
We can’t let the significance of the weekend gathering lightly slip by. The Scriptures are clear that God is saving individuals from every nation under heaven, but those individuals make up the community of believers that will worship Jesus for all eternity (see Rev. 7:9-12). As we come together we’re remembering together what Jesus has done (life & death), what He’s doing (in His resurrected, exalted state), and are encouraged again by His promised return! The weekend gathering, then, is a foretaste of the joy we’ll experience for all eternity in the company of the redeemed, testifying to the saving grace of God in the gospel of Jesus.
“Let’s offer up a sacrifice of praise to God in this place.”
In the Old Testament, the people of God were required to offer sacrifices to make atonement (pay a required price) for their sins before the Lord (see Lev. 16-17). These sacrifices pointed toward the ultimate sacrifice of Christ Himself for the final and full payment for the sins of His people. Because Jesus has done all that is required by God the Father to pay for our sins, we now offer up a different kind of sacrifice to demonstrate our thankfulness for what He’s done.
The author of Hebrews says, “Through [Jesus] then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” (Heb. 13:15, emphasis mine). The sacrifices of praise that we “offer” today, because of what Jesus has done, aren’t animal or grain offerings, rather they are the true declarations about God and what He’s done for us in Christ (i.e., “…the fruit of lips that acknowledges his name.”). Offering up a sacrifice of praise has to do with what we, from renewed hearts, say/sing about God because of His saving work in Jesus. Thus, we should be serious about the words we sing and speak about God. Are they biblical? Are they timely? Are they offered in faith?
“Let’s surrender ourselves before the Lord as we sing this next song.”
When we gather to worship as a church, we are responding to who God is and what He’s done for us in Christ. That response to His greatness and goodness should move the worshipper to an accurate view of himself/herself. In light of the immense righteousness of God and the unworthy state of the worshipper, the only thing we can rightly do is stop trying to be “good enough” (self-righteousness), admit we’re sinners, and helplessly receive the work Christ has done in our place to forgive our sins and make us righteous.
When we “surrender”, we acknowledge that there is nothing we can do, ourselves, to earn any favor with God. In light of the gospel, we worship God by surrendering our state of “self-trying” and then rest in the fact that our only hope for rescue, redemption, and righteousness is in helplessly receiving what Jesus has done for us.
So, as we gather together this weekend, let’s not let these phrases easily slip by. Rather, allow them to be pointers back to the great truth of the gospel, which gives us grace to stand and sing (loudly!) as God’s people in God’s presence!