Summary: Genuine worship is a matter of serving God by serving others.
One of my favorite books on worship is a short, simple book by Louie Giglio titled “The Air I Breathe”. Toward the end of that book, Louie wrote something that didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me the first time I read it. But in the 10 years or so since I first read those words, I think I’ve come to develop a much better understanding of what they mean. The concept found in those words is also reflected by Paul in the section of his letter to the churches in Rome that we’ll study this morning. I pray this morning that these words will speak to your heart as much as they have to mine. Here is what Louie wrote:
Most of my life I thought that you went to church to worship. But now I see that the better approach is to go worshipping to church.
I would certainly agree with Louie. Like him, I spent most of my life thinking that I was supposed to go to church to worship. After all, I’ve been told by the church that I’m coming to a worship service. That term implies, at least to some degree, that my worship is somehow limited to those times when I gather together with other believers in a building we call a church and attend a formal service in which we “worship God.”
But, as I’ve grown in my understanding of worship, as you may noticed, I’m trying, as much as possible, to avoid using the phrase “worship service”. The problem, however, is that I’ve had a hard time coming up with a better term to use. In the past I have tended to use the term “worship gathering”, which is probably only a bit better. But as I worked on the message this week, God brought to mind the idea that what we really have this morning is a “gathering of worshippers”. That phrase more accurately describes our purpose this morning. We are gathered here merely to continue the worship that should already be ongoing in our lives.
So my goal this morning is to use the inspired words of Paul in Romans chapter 1 to help all of us understand better how our entire lives are to be characterized by worship and why we are therefore to go worshipping to church rather than to go to church to worship.
Open up your Bibles to Romans chapter 1 and we’ll pick up where we left off last week. I’ll begin reading this morning in verse 8.
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God's will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine. I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
(Romans 1:8-15 ESV)
My guess is that right now some of you are probably thinking that I’ve completely lost it. After all, I introduced this morning’s message by talking about worship, but the word “worship” isn’t found even once in our text. But I’m confident that this morning, I’ll be able to show you this passage is indeed about worship that we can define like this:
Genuine worship is a matter of
serving God by serving others
I struggled a bit with how to approach this passage until I finally figured out that the first part of verse 9 is the key to this entire passage. Once I understood that, it was much easier to see that what Paul is telling the people in the churches in Rome is that he wants to go to church with them so that he can continue with them the worship in which he is already engaged.
Let’s look at those key words from verse 9:
…For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son…
The key word here is the verb “serve”.
“serve” = Greek “latreuo” =
“to render religious service” or “to worship”
In Greek literature, this term can be used to describe service of any kind, even working for money. But in the New Testament it always refers to service to God so in several places it is appropriately translated “worship”. We’ll see this down the road when we get to this familiar verse in Romans 12: