Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that confess his name. Hebrews 13:15 (NIV)
I have some favorite t-shirts that I love to wear around the house because they are so comfortable. The collar is all stretched out and doesn’t strangle me. The shirt is nice and loose and doesn’t hug my expansive chest, I mean gut. And the fabric is so thin you could still get sunburned if you wore it out in the sun. But I don’t wear it out in the sun or anywhere else for that matter. It’s really not something I want to wear out in public. It’s strictly a “house shirt.”
Some of us in the church tend to throw the word “sacrifice” around like a comfortable old t-shirt. We can quote memory verses and sing praise songs about bringing our sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord, but doesn’t really translate well outside of church. The word “sacrifice” is part of our church vernacular, one of those words we call “christianese”. It’s used a lot inside the church house, but rarely ever outside of church. I think part of the reason it rarely gets used outside of church is because we don’t really grasp what it actually means to sacrifice in worship.
In the Old Testament, the worship of our Hebrew ancestors was based on animal sacrifices. The worshiper would bring the best of his flock or herd and sacrifice it on the altar. But Jesus changed all that when he offered himself as the ultimate sacrifice on the cross. Because of Christ’s work on the cross, followed by his resurrection, his followers are free from having to offer blood sacrifices as a means to worship.
Today, we are called to bring a sacrifice of praise. Hebrews 13:15 describes that as the “fruit of lips.” We speak and sing our praise by confessing Jesus as the one true God worthy of worship. But then the writer of Hebrews adds this statement in verse 16, “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”
The sacrifices of praise that please God are when we do good and share with others, in other words, when we put the needs and desires of others before our own. When it comes to corporate worship, our sacrifice of praise could actually be the sacrifice of our preferences. Instead of demanding our way, we can choose to live in harmony with our church community and sacrifice our own agendas and desires, so the church as a whole can come together in unity and offer our worship together in one voice and one heart.
Maybe I need to do what my wife suggests and “sacrifice” my old comfortable t-shirts…Nah!