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Lessons about Worship from Romans 12:1 … and Private Ryan!

Updated: Jun 13, 2023


This week being the 79th Anniversary of D-Day, I find myself drawn to thinking about one of my favourite movies – Saving Private Ryan, and how it challenges me to live my life worshipfully for Christ.


Ok... I know the movie is more than two decades old… not exactly current culture fodder. But, being a history geek, especially of WWII, I love watching anything about that most turbulent and challenging time in recent history and how it still impacts us today. So, when you make a movie about one of the most significant events in that war (D-Day and its aftermath), I have to say that it was an easy sell to get me to watch Saving Private Ryan all those years ago. Since then, I have probably watched it a dozen times, and even though I own the Blu-ray, whenever one of our movie channels has it on, I still find myself drawn to tuning it in. If you ask me why, it's probably because the story is far more than just about the events of a battle or a war. It's a human story set against a theme of ultimate sacrifice - of men doing their duty and giving up their lives to overcome an evil foe and help rescue someone who doesn't realize his imminent doom is upon him.


Worship and a War Movie?


Why the connection between a war movie and worship? Well, I'm sure you can see the similarities here between a soldier’s selfless sacrifice for his comrades and the one that Christ made on behalf of those who could not earn salvation themselves - which is indeed all of us! In fact, if we look through the Apostle Paul's eyes, we can see how he encouraged us to make our worship about living lives of worship - not just the time we spend in song and prayer.


One of the key words that Paul uses in Romans 12:1 is the very first one - "Therefore". It is a key linchpin - a turning point of his grand theological work to the church in Rome. Paul has spent the first 11 chapters informing the reader of the human condition, and what God has done through Christ's sacrifice to overcome our sinfulness so that we can be brought back into right relationship with him. He could have ended it and thought, "Hey, that's some pretty good theology there! Let's let them just chew on that for a bit so that they understand all this weighty doctrine!", but he didn't! Instead, Paul realized that this kind of sacrifice was so world-changing that it requires a response - one that flows from the heart out of the knowledge in our heads.


Back to our movie...


The film is based on the true story of the U.S. army's attempt to rescue the lone surviving son out of four who went to war from a single family - the Ryans. Toward the ending, as the leader of the company, Capt. Miller, lies dying from his wounds, he turns to Private Ryan and, knowing that all but one of the company that was sent to retrieve him have perished, tells him with his dying breath, "Earn this!" In other words, live your life with purpose and make their sacrifice worth it.


So it should be with Jesus' death for us. Paul goes beyond the "therefore" to tell us how we should respond, exhorting,


"Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship (Gk. latreia)" (Rom 12:1, NIV).


In other words, make Christ's sacrifice worth it in your life! Assuredly, his sacrifice is not made worthy BY our response, but if we fail to respond to the mercy that has been shown us, we miss the entire point of it. Our worship on Sunday is nothing if not backed up by a whole-hearted devotion that places Christ at the forefront of all we do Monday through Saturday. It is a response of love and gratefulness that illustrates what our life-worship is. We live because Christ died.


Let us move forward, then, by leaning in to verse 2...


"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."


We are called to live out that rescue by not succumbing to the world's ways, but rather, to plunge ourselves full-on into the task of living for the Gospel. Let that resonate in our hearts and minds as we contemplate the message we sing, read, and hear preached every Sunday - so that we find ourselves becoming 'living sacrifices' the other 6 days - to the glory and praise of God! That is truthful worship.


Johnny Markin - June 6, 2023



Photo by Mathis Jrdl courtesy Unsplash


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