Therefore, Be Holy
Therefore, Be Holy
Text: 1 Peter 1:13-2:3
Therefore ... Our text this morning begins with this connecting word. And the rule of interpretation is this: Whenever you see a “therefore”, you need to what the “therefore” is there for. We cannot go forward without a quick look backward.
Just one quick example: It has come to distress me when we quote the Great Commission from Matthew 28:19 - Therefore go and make disciples of all nations ... Most of the time, we have completely ignored the “therefore” and seem to forget that it actually means something. The “therefore” gives us a vital foundation to the command. It is connected with Jesus’ words just before: Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go ...” That is, we go because Jesus, the ultimate authority has commanded us. And, we go as his divine messengers. And we go in his name. And we go with his authority. We do not take the gospel to the world in our own strength, for our own purposes. It is not a clever saying, or a great church motto. Because Jesus holds all authority, we are sent by him, in his name, for his purposes. The “therefore” is how and why we are even able to be witnesses of Christ. It is not our clever formulas, our Four Spiritual Laws, Roman Road, or Evangelism Explosion. The disciples didn’t have any of that sort of training. All they had was their experience with Jesus – and the commission of Christ to go in his name and his power to tell what they knew. And if we go in the name and under the authority of Jesus, what more do we need?
We need a quick recap of the first verses in order to see where Peter is taking us. The “therefore” connects what comes after with what came before.
Last week we talked about the situation of the Church. As they faced persecution from Nero, Peter reminded them of some vital points. First, remember who you are: the chosen of Christ. Who you are changes how you face those trials. Peter reminded the Church that they were sanctified by his Spirit and sprinkled with his blood. They belong to Jesus. They were not to see themselves and victims of Nero, but as victorious through Christ. We are not to see ourselves as victims of our circumstances, but as more than conquerors through him who loved us (Romans 8:37).
Peter reminded the church of what they possessed - the new birth, the living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, an inheritance that can never perish. They were heirs of the Kingdom. He reminded them that trials come to prove the genuineness of our faith, to refine us and clarify our identity in Christ. And he reminded them that it should come as no surprise when we face trials and suffering. Therefore ...
Peter begins with an interesting phrase. In Greek this reads – with the waist of your mind being girded. Think of the long cloaks they wore. When they needed to hurry, they pulled the ends of the robe up into their belt, freeing their legs to run. The concept here is preparation. With minds that are alert and sober. Think clearly about what’s going on. Don’t let the world around confuse you. Instead, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. Who you are and what you possess in Christ helps you to look beyond the present circumstance to the glory of the restored kingdom.
As obedient children, do not conform to the old ways of thinking. Instead, set your minds on being what God has called you to be. The focus of God’s people should be simply this – to be God’s people, imitators of Christ in this world. Peter, quoting from Leviticus 11:44-45, calls on the Church, corporately and individually, to belong to God: But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do, for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy”. We might suggest that Peter is telling the Church to be the Church in an ungodly world. Don’t quit representing Christ in your lives. Live righteous lives. Be what God has called you to be. Because we represent a holy God, it is vital for us to represent him well, by reflecting his character. The NASB renders this, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves in all your behavior. It is Christ-likeness. It is to be truly Christian.
And, since you call on a Holy God, an impartial judge, how you live matters. We should have a reverent, holy fear of misrepresenting Christ. Peter reminds us that we are travelers, passing through this world, in a sense strangers in a strange land, where the pressure is on to conform and to adapt. Again, we are urged to remember the source of our salvation. We did not purchase or earn God’s grace. We did not buy it with gold, or earn it with good works. We did not even inherit our standing with God. You are not a Christian because your parents were. It is rightly said that there are no second-generation Christians. We didn’t buy it, earn it, or inherit it. Salvation is more costly, more precious than that: it comes to us by the blood of Christ. You were redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. You salvation came from a cross. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.I’m struggling with this because American Christianity seems to be a “have your cake and eat it, too” kind of religion. We want Jesus. But we also want to continue to do things our own way. We want to claim to be holy without actually being holy. We want to claim that we are committed to Christ without actually being committed. American Christianity is two-faced, and speaks with forked tongue. We don’t have revival because we aren’t willing to pay the price. We would have to actually give up our sin. We live in the most prosperous era of the most prosperous nation on earth, and we grasp and grapple for more and more. We aren’t willing to give up much of anything for God. We want a convenient religion that doesn’t interfere with things we have decided are more important. Worship takes its place behind Little League, summer Soccer League, or the afternoon football game. Through the years, I’ve heard people say – to me – that they would be in church so long as they could be home in time for ... (Fill in the blank!). Our gold hasn’t been purified. Our commitments are conditional. Peter gives instruction to the church beginning with now that you have purified yourselves ... How do you think he would address the church today? When we haven’t purified ourselves? When we aren’t obeying the truth?
Maybe he would go ahead the same way: For you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. Having been born of God, of the imperishable seed of the word, remember all people are like grass. This life, as much as I want to deny it right now, is temporary. You need to take that into account as you plan your life. Where will you be when this life is over? Have you been born into the kingdom of God? What provision have you made for eternity? This is the word that was preached to you. What have you done about it?
Our salvation results in change. It begins with a change of the mind, a renewing or remaking of the way you think (Romans 12:2). I am always amazed by people who think that faith in Christ should have no impact on the way they live, or who think that their faith is separate from real life. How can you believe in Jesus and go on sinning? How can you believe what Jesus said and live as if it doesn’t matter? Belief is reflected in behavior. A change in thinking produces a change in behavior. Holiness – that is, real holiness – makes a radical difference. It changes you. And you cannot go on as if it doesn’t. Let me say it this way: If there is no change, there is no salvation. If there is no change, there is no holiness. If you are not different – if the only difference is that you have added church attendance to your life – if your priorities and commitments have not changed, then you have not really been to Jesus. Salvation ought to make a visible change in your life.
And here are some of the changes that need to be seen: Rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.
Putting away, as old toys; or setting aside, as something you no longer need; or taking off the old rags; or letting go of things that hold you back. Marsha and I visited Smith Rock in Central Oregon. We hiked along the Crooked River at its foot, and watched climber scaling the face of the rock. It’s a popular location for rock climbers. If you watch a climber, you will notice one thing – in order to reach the next grip, he has to let go of the last one. If we want to progress in our spiritual lives, we have to let go of the old in order to grasp the new. A climber who is unwilling to let go will not be able to scale the rock. Yes, it’s dangerous to let go, but it is paralyzing to hang on. Progress is only made by those willing to release what is behind. Peter tells us that we need to let go of these worldly attitudes, these worldly thought patterns. They have served us well in this world, but it’s time to let go and move forward. You cannot take hold of what God has for you so long as your grip is tight on this world. Let go.
And like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation. Here’s the next grip. Just as you put off the worldly attitudes, so put on Christ. The NASB renders this long for the pure milk of the word. Deeply desire what Christ would teach you through his word. Take every opportunity to grow. We’re watching little Grayson as he grows. And you know, don’t you, that growth is the most natural thing in the world for him. He doesn’t have to think about it. He doesn’t have to try. All he has to do is get the nourishment and growth happens. And Sarah can tell you that Grayson eats every chance he gets – and sometimes demands another. So many times we talk about spiritual growth, but we act as if it were going to happen without proper nutrition. If you crave the word ... If you deeply desire to know the word of Christ ... If you take every opportunity afforded ... Then you will grow. But you will not grow without it.
Peter want to make two main points here: First, our goal is spiritual maturity. We are not in “maintenance mode” as Christians. Salvation is not the end of the journey, but only its beginning. Nor is sanctification the end of the journey, but a step along the way. We will not be fully complete until Christ returns, but we are to keep traveling. We should never be satisfied. I know far too many Believers who think they know enough of the Bible, that they have been in Sunday School long enough, that they don’t need more Bible studies, or that their walk with Christ is close enough. Peter encourages us to be like infants, craving the next meal, always hungry for more. At the end of his gospel, John wrote, Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written (John 21:25). If that is true, and I believe it is, there is always more to learn about Jesus, and more to learn from him. And Peter – Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk ... now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. Hunger for more.
And second, and probably most important, we are to be holy in this unholy world. We’ve often spoken as if the value of holiness was so that the world would see the truth about Jesus, and the world does need that. But the value of holiness is in our own relationship with God. It is making your relationship with God your highest priority. It is belonging to God. I might add that this close relationship with God also makes you desire more of Him. But it is that relationship that keeps you when the world is against you. When suffering comes, when opposition comes, we find shelter in our relationship with God. Peter encourages the church in persecution to draw closer to the One who shields us by his powerful grace. You can’t count on the world; but you can always count on God.
Therefore, be holy.