So what is the spiritual sacrifice that we’re supposed to make in 1 Peter 2? Is it our fasting? Our quiet time? Long hours of prayer each night? Our Sabbath keeping? Our being inside the church building as often and much as possible?
No. It’s none of those things. It’s you. You’re the sacrifice. It’s me. I’m the sacrifice. Our lives are what we sacrifice to God. So, in that sense, it’s absolutely everything we do. From laundry to supper to office work to bedtime routines and yes, our prayers and gatherings and devotions. We do them all with the hands and heart and mind that belong to God and we pour out our lives as a living sacrifice. It’s not the uber “spiritual” things. It’s everything.
Romans 12:1 says it like this:
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (ESV)
This is what the reformation was about. Luther said,
“In the NT there is no sacrifice except the one which is common to all, namely the one described in Romans 12:1 where Paul teaches us to present our bodies as a sacrifice, just as Christ sacrificed his body for us on the cross. In this sacrifice he includes the offering of praise and thanksgiving. Peter likewise commands in 1 Peter 2 that we offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ, that is, ourselves, not gold or animals… in the church there is only this sacrifice, namely, our body.”
So rather than retreating from the world as monks and nuns did, and cloistering into a physical building that is considered religious with a physical altar to offer the mass as a means to greater holiness through private uber spiritual activities, we see the opposite thing. Now, we offer our lives, not in order to be made holy, but because they are holy in Christ. They have been consecrated by his blood. They are for him.
The altar that we lay our lives on is the kitchen counter, the weedy garden, the bed that needs made, the car that needs repairs, the neighbor’s leaves that need raked, anywhere that you have an opportunity to serve in life, that’s your altar. And you’re the sacrifice– your hands, your time, your mind, your feet.
I was trying to figure out how I wrap up all these weeks and all that we’ve learned about the reformation. And there’s one thing I want us to ask ourselves as we end this entire study: how do I interpret the events of my life? And how does that change what I do with my life?
If I go home from here and get in a car accident and face horrible medical problems, what is God telling me? If I face night after night of not enough sleep, what is God communicating? If I leave from here and arrive home in perfect safety with children who obey perfectly and someone has cleaned our house and stocked our pantry. What is God telling me?
How we answer those questions will absolutely direct our lives in profound ways. The reformers discovered, through God’s word, that we interpret everything through the cross. We interpret everything as those who have been united to Christ in his suffering. Sojourners and exiles.
If bad things happen–and they do, all the time–we look to the cross as the irrefutable proof that God loves us in Christ. If good things happen–and they do as well–we look to the cross as the irrefutable proof that we do not earn anything of our own merit.
Unless we are convinced of his love for us and our complete security in him, come disease and death, hell and high water, we will not withstand the torrents of life. And unless we are convinced that his love for us is all of grace, not works, we will not be humble or holy as we ought.
But our assurance of who he is and what he has done for us, our assurance that our names are right now and always have been written in the Lamb’s book of life give us freedom to move about our day, no matter the circumstance. That assurance gives us freedom to pour out in good works done by faith through Christ—whatever form they take.
And more than that, interpreting every event and situation of our life through the cross of Christ is the only way to enjoyment of God. We will not enjoy what we do not believe is ultimately for our good. And the cross of Christ is the proof that God is for us.
How will you have the power to lay down your life, to lay down your living body on the altar of your circumstances as a sacrifice to God if you believe he hates you? How will you do it if you believe all the hardships are coming from his displeasure? But when we know that Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before him, when we know that the most horrible event in history of suffering was ultimately born of love—a spectacle of grace toward us, we will begin to say,
“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (ESV)
The shorter westminster catechism was written over 100 years after the reformation, as Reeves and Chester point out in their book, and the first question captures the essence of so much of what the reformers gained in rediscovering the Scriptures. It goes like this:
Question: What is the chief end of man?
Answer: The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.
That’s my prayer for us. That in whatever we do, whether eating or drinking or studying or praying or changing diapers or caring for aging parents or suffering or walking in a valley–whatever we do, we would do it to the glory of God. I pray that there would be great delight in that—that as God gets glorified you would be set free in happiness and self-forgetfulness in him even alongside the sorrow. And that the truths we’ve learned over the past ten weeks would cause us to glorify God and to enjoy him every day until he comes again.