Peter learned something else the night he betrayed his Master. He writes,
You also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ (1P 2.5).
The Scripture uses several metaphors for God’s people. We’re a body (Ro 12.4-5); we’re a kingdom (Re 1.6); we’re a bride (2Co 11.2). Here Peter says that we’re a temple. And individual believers are living stones who make up the temple, as well as being the priests who work in the temple. Peter’s point here isn’t that the stones are beautiful and that together they compose a beautiful building—though that is certainly true. His emphasis is more practical, purposeful, utilitarian than aesthetic. We are a temple, and priests in that temple, for the purpose of offering up sacrifices to God.
So, it turns out, following Jesus isn’t really about us.
Oh, there are benefits to us, of course: forgiveness, eternal life, love, joy, peace, fellowship—and on and on it goes. But it’s primarily about making sacrifices to the one who is ultimately great and good, to the one who planned and accomplished all those benefits that we have reaped. Our focus is on him, not our benefits.
Peter had bragged about his devotion and assured faithfulness. But when faced by public pressure—from a couple of servant girls—he collapsed. He was thinking entirely of his own felt needs—reputation and self-preservation, mostly—and abandoned “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16.16) in his Master’s time of much greater need.
The way someone acts in a crisis tells him what his most primal needs are. Peter demonstrated that he cared more about himself than anyone else.
As do we all.
But with this new birth, this discarding of the old life for the new, this utter reversal of focus, we are called to count “but dung” (Php 3.8) our former fascination with ourselves, our needs, and our desires, and to give what we have, to sacrifice, to God.
That raises a question.
What can we give him? Why should he want our junky stuff? Of what use to him is rifling through our yard sales?
Peter speaks to that. Our sacrifices, he says, “are acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1P 2.5).
How about that.
Our new life isn’t just a chance to start the same kind of life over again; it’s a different kind of life, and it’s a change of both nature and location.
We are, as Paul repeatedly says, “in Christ” (Ro 8.1; 12.5; 1Co 1.30; 2Co 5.17; Ga 3.28; Ep 2.13; Php 1.1; Co 1.2; 1Th 2.14; and elsewhere). And in Christ, the Father is well pleased (Mt 3.17). When we offer sacrifices to God, he sees them as coming from his Son, and he is delighted with them. When we “present [our] bodies a living sacrifice” (Ro 12.1), God accepts and treasures them.
The key here is not what is offered; Peter says we offer sacrifices (1P 2.5), but he doesn’t seem to have any interest in specifying what it is that we offer. The key, I think, is that we offer at all. In the high priest’s palace, Peter wasn’t thinking about Jesus’ benefit; he was thinking merely of himself. That night he learned that our decisions, because we are followers of Christ, need to be focused on him. What will please him? What will advance his kingdom? What will further his purposes? What will enhance his reputation?
In human relationships, we know that the real value of a gift is not in the gift itself; it’s in the fact that it’s given. It indicates that we were thinking about the person to whom we gave it. Our thinking is oriented toward that person.
There you have it. In this new life, Peter says, we live as oriented toward God and not toward ourselves.
So, unlike Peter, we make sacrifices. In the face of public scorn, we point to heaven and say, “I’m with Him.” We take a stand.
No waffling. No hesitation. No regrets.