In Hebrews chapter 9, the writer is discussing the sacrificial system of the first covenant. There were regulations for worship. The tabernacle was prepared according to specifications including a description of the Holy of Holies (the place where the Mercy Seat was, the place where the atoning blood was taken). In English, this discussion of the sacrifice is translated as “worship” (verses 1, 6, 9) from the Greek word latreia. We see this again in Romans 9.4 when Paul is referring to the institutions of
The term latreia has the sense of service or duty to God. Three of the five instances of this term refer to the sacrificial ministry of the first covenant (OT). In the LXX (Greek OT), the term has a sacrificial connotation (Joshua 22.27; the rite of the ritual slaying of the lamb for Passover, Ex. 12.25).
With this in mind we look to Rom. 12.1. Paul encourages believers to offer their bodies as living sacrifices (zosan thusian) as an act of worship or service (latreian). Once again there is the connection of worship with the sacrificial system. Instead of offering animals as sacrifices, believers are exhorted to become the sacrifice. This is manifested as a “living sacrifice of inner life and outer conduct that constitutes…a service of God…” (TDNT).
How is this manifest in the life of the believer? I believe that our living sacrifice is best seen as acts of obedience. As Samuel told Saul, God desires our obedience above our sacrifice (or acts of worship; see 1 Samuel 15.22). A lifestyle that is characterized by true worship is one that sacrifices (worships) in spirit and truth. This is the self denial (and cross bearing) that Christ speaks of in Luke 9.23. You cannot separate worship from obedience.
A succinct summary of this concept from Deut. 10.12-13:
And now, Israel, what does the lord your God require from you, but to fear (revere) the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and will all your soul, and to keep the Lord’s commandments and his statutes which I am commanding you today for your good?