As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 2: 4, 5


These are complex words, I readily admit that; yet, the thought here is fairly straight-forward and direct. Christ is the foundation and the basis for everything that is holy, righteous, and true in our world, and He has been established in this manner by God for our benefit. As we enter into this idea and embrace it as the basis for all that we think, say, and do, Christ works in and upon us to reshape and to form us into people who are ever more fully conformed to the character and the nature of God. We do not become gods as some would believe, but we do live out our days in a manner that brings the presence of Christ into the lives of others.


The primary sacrifice that we bring is ourselves. In following Christ, we are called upon by Him to set aside the rest of our lives with the thoughts and deeds that we hold as dearly important, and we are led into a life of service to God as we respond to the needs of all of His creation. It is in service to God’s kingdom on earth that we are shaped and polished by the Spirit so that the selfish and self-directed form of our previous natures is reshaped and redirected in a manner that is along the lines of the God ordained and righteous beings that each of us has the capability to become. This is how our lives leave the realm of the worldly and earth-bound and begin to dwell as holy priests at the altar of our Lord and King.


As we serve Christ and engage in this new way of living that is for Him and that follows His lead in all matters, we need to keep in mind the fact that this world rejected Jesus and that it did so to the point of brutally murdering Him. Little has changed since then when it comes to the responses of the world to the love, grace, and truth that Christ seeks to apply to life here. Thus, we should also expect to encounter various forms of rejection as we throw ourselves into living out our days in service to Christ. However, in the weakness that comes through being rejected by the world we are entering into the center of Christ’s strength, and so, He becomes ever more our capacity as He leads us into living out His calling for us. The lives that we then live are blessed by God, and we, in turn, bring the blessing of the eternal into direct contact with the brokenness and the lostness of this world.

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.

2 Timothy 4: 6


Paul chooses to set out a rather strange image regarding the value of his life from God’s perspective and in his own. He equates the sum total of his life’s work to a quart or so of wine, the best and the strongest of wine, mind you, but it was still just a liquid beverage. Yet, it was not just any wine. It had purpose, and it had deep and powerful meaning. And that meaning was made real in the act of sacrifice. In one instant it was nothing more than the fluid product of the grape industry. However, as it was taken by the priest and offered up to God as a freely given gift of sacrifice, the end of its existence as it was consumed in the fire of the altar transforms it into a fragrant aroma that rises to heaven. This is the end of earthly life reality that Paul is describing, and it is also the way that he held all of life after he came to know Christ.


Jesus had changed everything for Paul. This is exactly what Christ does for anyone who hears Him, surrenders to His will, and follows Him. We are changed. Transformed from being the ordinary into people who are granted God’s gift of grace that leads to eternity, and we are called into service to God in this world. He provides each of His own children with all that we need to enter fully into that service. We are given gifts of His Spirit, wisdom and discernment, knowledge and the truth of God’s Word, and strength and encouragement from Christ’s Spirit. Also, like Paul, we are adopted into a new family of faith that is comprised of all of the other people who have surrendered themselves into a relationship with God through Jesus. As we accept Christ, we are also accepting the reality of following Him all the way through life and into death. As Jesus gave up His life to be poured out as an offering, so He asks the same of each of us.


This is not a solitary act of sacrifice. Paul lived his life of personal surrender to Christ in the midst of his world. His life of surrender to the cross of Christ was conducted as the Lord dictated and arranged. Paul was nothing more than a willing follower whose body was the vessel that carried the true sacrificial drink that was his entire existence. He gave all and lived out that giving in full view of the world. He also willingly served the needs of those who God brought into his presence. He loved and cared for people without regard for their history, family, status, power or lack of it, or their acceptance of him. Paul spoke the truth of the gospel of Christ in words and in deeds of service. He speaks of an attitude toward life that we all can hold. So, the question is, as we are poured out today, will the fragrance that remains behind be that sweet aroma of grace that is lovely to God?

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.

Romans 12: 1


There are family members and friends who are truly hard to shop for when gift giving occasions come along. They are the people who have everything, or they are the type of person who truly wants nothing. God is one of these hard to shop for types. Still, although God owns it all, has everything, and is the Creator of each and every valuable object in the universe, there is still a gift that we can give to Him.


The Lord doesn’t want us to do things for Him, and He doesn’t desire our words of praise, thanksgiving, and honor. Clearly these are good and worthy endeavors, but this is not the primary way that God wants us to worship Him. We can present all of our wealth and everything that we own to God, and that would not be close to enough, for the Lord of the universe actually desires one thing only from and with each person on the earth. He wants to have a deep and an honest relationship with us.


That sort of connection with God is made possible for us when we are willing to give ourselves to Him. The Lord is never absent and always receptive to us. We are the ones who create any distance that may exist through our stubborn refusal to fully embrace Christ’s transformational work in our lives. We withhold a portion of ourselves. We test the water to see if we will find it pleasing rather than jumping fully into God’s pool of cleansing and healing love. Yet there is absolutely no reason for anyone to withhold anything. Christ is completely trustworthy and totally gracious to receive all of who we are. He treats this most intimate and special of gifts with great love and respect.