Romans 12:1 says, “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, your reasonable service.” Paul declares that our lives are to be offered as a living sacrifice which is our reasonable worship to God. The word “reasonable” implies a worship that is generated from the inward or reasoning part of man. The word is also translated as “sincere,” and thus a worship that is truly “in spirit” (John 4:24).
Notice that Paul does not say that our worship is only on Sunday morning for one hour when there is a sermon delivered. Our entire lives are to be constant sacrifices before the Lord. There is never a time that I am allowed to “turn off” sincere worship. Solomon teaches his son in the Proverbs that he needs to have a true heart in worship if he is going to live the good life now.
The Evil of an Insincere Heart
“The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is His delight. The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but he loves him who follows righteousness” (Proverbs 15:8-9; NKJV). “A sacrifice brought by wicked people is disgusting to the Lord…” (Proverbs 15:8; God’s Word).
We need to note the language that God uses toward those who try to bring worship to God with wickedness. The worship of those who are not dedicated to the Lord but practice wickedness is an abomination. The worship is disgusting to God. There is no merit to making sacrifices without the heart involved in the worship.
Solomon describes a great way to make one’s life miserable. Live an external religious life that is devoid of any emotion from the heart. Worship God externally; it’s miserable. Worship is dull and boring when the heart is not engaged in the activity. But this is true about anything in life. If the heart is not involved, then Disney World is dull and miserable. Rather than enjoying oneself, you complain that it is too hot and there are too many lines. This is the same thing with God. There is a way to know if your heart is not involved in worship: you think services are boring, you don’t like singing, praying seems worthless, you don’t want to read your Bible, you don’t come to Bible class, you don’t want to come back tonight, you come late, you leave early, in short, you simply do not care. Yet you think God is pleased because you showed up. You think God is happy because for one hour a week you think about God. But is disgusted with these actions.
“The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord, but the words of the pure are pleasant” (Proverbs 15:26). Do we see that God cares about the heart? Do we see that God cares about our thoughts? Insincerity is simply unacceptable to God. The Lord is measuring our hearts. We must see that we are not fooling God with outward actions alone.
“The one who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination” (Proverbs 28:9). The point is that there is no benefit to hypocritical living. The person who does not have the heart desiring to hear the word of the Lord will not have his prayers answered. In fact, those prayers are looked upon as an abomination. God has called us for a sincere heart. How can we have a sincere heart in worship to God?
How to Have a Sincere Heart
Live in God’s presence.
“The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3). We must recognize that God sees it all. God sees how we treat our spouse. God sees how we treat our parents. God sees how we treat our children. God sees what we believe no one else sees. The first way to develop a sincere heart is to accept that God sees our hearts. I am not going to get away with an attitude that shows up on Sunday but has no care for anything else spiritually. God knows my heart and I am wasting my time if I do not have the heart involved. Living in God’s presence does not have to be negative motivation as so often it is. Living in God’s presence also means that the evil are not getting away with what they are doing but will be judged. Living in God’s presence also means that our unnoticed, righteous acts are noticed and rewarded by God.
Make a commitment to God.
“Commit your activities to the Lord and your plans will succeed” (Proverbs 16:3). This proverb describes a person trusting his or her life decisions and actions to the hand of God. Now, we may ask the question what this has to do with having a sincere heart. But this proverb has everything to with revealing the sincere heart. Our plans must be built upon God alone. When we plan, decide, and act based upon our wisdom, our emotions, and our comforts, then we have not committed ourselves to the Lord. This lack of commitment reveals an insincere heart for we confess that Jesus is our Master, but in truth we are our own master. A sincere heart makes a commitment to God and to His kingdom that regardless of the difficulties of life’s circumstances we will trust in the Lord to work things out.
Realize God is testing us.
“The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the hearts” (Proverbs 17:3). Do you see what Solomon told his son? The Lord is going to put you and I in circumstances to test our hearts to see if they are truly sincere. God will create life challenges to see what we will do. How often do we fail the test? We claim to have sincere hearts that trust in the Lord, but when we get into a bind, we do not trust in the Lord to provide but immediately jump to things that reflect our own comfort and wisdom. Sadly, we repeatedly fail God’s tests. We need to see these situations as chances to shine, proving our faith in God.
Train our conscience.
“The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, searching all the innermost parts of his being” (Proverbs 20:27). We must train our consciences according to the word of God if we are going to have a sincere heart. The conscience is supposed to be a tool of God to help us. But we often sear our consciences and ignore them. It is difficult to have a pure heart before God when we are not training our spirit in the laws of the Lord. We must teach our consciences to be upset at sin. We must train our consciences to long for the ways of God.
Be ready to make corrections.
“Poverty and shame will come to him who disdains correction, but he who regards a rebuke will be honored” (Proverbs 13:10). None of will live perfectly. But how foolish it is to ignore our mistakes to save face around others. We need to accept our mistakes so that we cannot make the mistake again and so we can move forward. We need to declare that we made a foolish decision, but we will own up to the error and do all we can to correct the problem. Too often we compound our problems by making another bad decision rather than simply dealing with the problem so we can move forward in our lives.