There is a serious problem with the way the worship: we don’t do it right. We try to be living sacrifices for God, but we don’t always do that right. As some have said, the problem with living sacrifices is that they keep crawling off of the altar. Like the people of ancient Israel, our lives are mixed with sin. We do not have the faith that we’d like to have. We do not have as much love as we’d like to have. We do not pray as well as we wish we could. Our songs do not express our emotions as well as we’d like. We would like to present our king with sparkling jewels, but we have only plastic trinkets to give.
How do we face our failure in the area of worship?
We respond in the same way that we respond for other areas of failure: we look to Jesus. He has offered the perfect sacrifice for all of us; he has given his life to God as an act of worship for all humanity. He is our substitute — this is what theologians mean by a vicarious sacrifice. What he did counts for us. He had no sins of his own, and yet he gave himself as a sacrifice for sin — our sins.
Many Christians realize that Jesus was our substitute when it comes to sacrifice. “Christ died for us” is part of the New Testament message. He has given the worship that we could not.
But Jesus is our substitute in other ways, too, because our lives are hidden in him (Colossians 3:2), and he lives in us (Galatians 2:20). The prayers that we offer are not perfect, but we pray in Christ’s name, and he intercedes for us. He takes our defective prayers, removes the parts where we ask amiss, adds the details that we have neglected, and offers those prayers to God as perfect worship.
Because Jesus Christ is our representative, he offers perfect worship on our behalf, and our role is to join him in what he is already doing for us. Whether it is sacrifice, prayer, study or response, he has already been there and done that for us. The worship he gives to God is a vicarious worship, done for us, on our behalf.
We do our best to “get it right,” but part of being “right” is admitting that we aren’t always right (1 John 1:8). So the last word on worship is that we must look to Jesus as the one who is doing it right for us, and he invites us to join in what he is doing.