“Be holy, because I am holy”
1 Peter 1:13-16.
13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (NIV)
This is the first Sunday of 1999. What are your hopes and dreams and plans for the year ahead? Do you have any or do you simply expect the next year to be more of the same?
If you had a blank cheque from the Bank of Life what would you choose to fill in? Wealth? Success? Happiness? Health? …….
How would you rate the following three things in order of preference?
If the Apostle Peter were here today he would make a strong appeal to us as he did to his original readers – a plea concerning our lifestyle.
His appeal would be to ‘Holiness’ for a very simple reason; because the One who called us is Holy. This was not Peter’s idea but God’s. It is a quote from the OT book of Leviticus – a book full of rules and regulations about how Israel was supposed to live, after God rescued them from slavery in Egypt.
Leviticus 11:45 I am the Lord who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy because I am holy.
God adopted Israel to be his people and took them to the Promised Land. Basically God was saying to Israel, “Now listen, I rescued you and I am holy, and now you belong to me. I have chosen you to be mine and therefore I have some expectations of you. They can be summarised like this, ‘Because I am holy you are to live holy lives’.”
Peter takes this OT picture and applies it to Christians. In the same way that God rescued Israel from Egypt, God has rescued us, saved us from slavery to sin and brought us into his kingdom and he now expects you and me to be holy.
ILLUS.: I remember as a child in SS being told a story – some of you will know it – about a little boy who made a sailing boat and one day while playing with it the wind took it out of his reach and it was gone. Weeks later he saw it displayed in a toyshop. He went rushing in and told the owner who was not inclined to return it. He went home and raided his moneybox and with some financial assistance from Dad returned to the shop and bought the Sailing boat. As he left the shop with his dad he said, ‘This is my boat twice. I made it and I bought it’.
In a similar way God sees us. He made us but the winds and currents of sin caused us to drift away. He wanted to get back what he had made so at great cost Jesus paid the price to set us free so that we could belong to him.
Everything belongs to God but those who have been redeemed – those who have come to faith in Jesus Christ – are God’s special and precious possession. And he says to us “You are mine twice!” He wants us to belong to him and to be like him – holy.
We may well choose to be happy and healthy above being holy but God clearly calls us to be holy. This is not because God is in anyway unconcerned about our health or happiness but because holiness is far more important.
- Health is at best temporary, as we will all die.
- Happiness is very fragile, as our feelings are fickle and vulnerable.
- Holiness is eternal.
So what then is Peter trying to tell us?
- 1. REDEMPTION / RESCUE – What God Provides.
We have seen that redemption means ‘to rescue’ or ‘to deliver from’. The question that comes to mind is, “Rescued / redeemed from what?”
1.1. Rescued from:
Peter spells out some of the things we are rescued from ……. V18 “… you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you by your forefathers.”
Is it true that we often unthinkingly and uncritically emulate the people who have gone before us?
ILLUS.: A story of a newly married woman who was cooking a ham. When she cut off both ends before placing it in the pot her husband asked why. “That’s the way my mother did it!”
Curious about why he asked his mother-in-law, “That is the way my mother did it!” was the response. When he saw the grandmother some time later he asked her, “Do you cut both ends off the ham before you boil it?”
“Yes, I do” she answered. “But why? He asked/
“Because the pot is too small!!”
It is easy to do what has been done before simply on the basis that “It has always been done that way” what often the reason why it was done that way is long gone.
ILLUS.: Many churches held morning service at 11:00 am long after the reason why it was at that time no longer existed. Some still do! The reason was that in the days when most people lived on the land they needed time to get the cows milked and animals fed before coming to Church.
Empty lifestyles; Misguided Traditions. Peter adds evil / sinful desires that are the result of ignorance in verse 14… “..do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.”
Are there things in our individual or corporate lives that are empty or done in ignorance or as a result of misguided traditions or spring from sinful desires?
We are not usually very good at recognising these things in our own lives – and we are probably making a mental list of all the other people they apply to.
If we are honest we will recognise things in our lives that are sinful, misguided and empty.
The good news is, of course, that this is what God came to rescue us from.
1.2. Rescued by:
In addition to being rescued / redeemed from…. We are rescued by God who is merciful and kind. 1v3 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth [ spiritual birth] ……”
The only reason we can be reconciled to God is because he is merciful. Without God’s initiative it would never have been done.
Peter explains that this rescue / redemption is not achieved through payment of gold or silver but by the blood of Christ.
1 Peter 1:18-19 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were ………19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. (NIV)
The blood of Christ points to the cross where Jesus died in our place to rescue us from eternal separation from God.
I am redeemed from something and I am redeemed by someone but what am I redeemed for?
1.3. Rescued for:
Verse 17 tells us that God is our father. This suggests that when we come to God we come into a family. We are rescued for Family life with God as Father. We find a new identity and new relationship within that context.
This is what we have been redeemed for.
In this family we have been born again into a living hope [1:3] We have been given an inheritance that can never perish [1:4] and all this adds up to the salvation of our souls [1:9].
It is then this Redeemer God who calls us to live a holy life.
- REQUIREMENTS – What God Expects.
2.1. Why should we live holy lives?
Is God being unreasonable when he requires that we live holy lives? NO!
We didn’t invite ourselves but God invited us to have a relationship with.
ILLUS.: If you join the army you are given a uniform and you wear it proudly. If you were to wear the uniform of the enemy you would be considered a traitor.
If one whom God has redeemed continues to live by principles contrary to God’s requirements we could say that such a one is committing spiritual treason!
He who called us is holy and he expects us to wear that uniform.
Also he has called us to be holy. 1 Thessalonians 4:7 7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. (NIV)
1 Corinthians 1:2
2 To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, ……
The very character of a Christian’s life should be holiness.
ILLUS.: 17½ years ago Janet and I stood before a Minster and a congregation and said “For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part”. We promised not only to take each other BUT to keep ourselves “only for each other”. We could see all the benefits of marriage stretching out before us, but there was also a great limitation too.
But for the marriage to be real it had to go beyond vows. There had to be no abandoning in sickness; no giving up if poverty took over riches etc. Status is one thing; behaviour related to that status is another.
Having become married we had to show commitment to be married.
The same is true in the spiritual dimension – we are called to be what we have already become.
Rescued in Christ Jesus – status. This leads on to “called to be holy” – behaviour
2.2. How should we live holy lives?
1:13 Therefore prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.
Some people have the idea that holiness is something you put on for Church on a Sunday. Others think it the exclusive possession of those who live in monasteries.
The whole point of holiness is that it is to be an integral part of everyday living. So we need to speak about holiness, not in an abstract ethereal way, but in a very down-to-earth, nitty-gritty way.
Precisely what Peter does in verse 13.
He talks about having:-
- a well ordered mind
- a well disciplined lifestyle
- a well focussed goal
A well ordered mind.
Prepare your minds for action – “Gird up the loins of your mind” [KJV] Just as a Middle Eastern man would pull up his robes and tuck them into his belt so he could run or work unhindered so we are to keep our minds uncluttered.
How will this work? As obedient Children do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance [v.14]
God has now enlightened our minds – brought us into relationship with himself and he expects us to be obedient to him as a Heavenly Father.
“Oh, I thought God was loving and kind – What is all this about discipline and obedience?” He is a Father to us but look at v.17 “… a Father who judges …”
God is not a soft touch. We must never drive a wedge between God’s holiness on the one hand and his Fatherhood on the other.
A well-ordered mind involves discipline and obedience.
We need to develop a godly mindset. Recognising that God’s ways are not the ways of the world. Understanding that if we seeking to follow God our lifestyle will clash with our culture which often condones and encourages behaviour that is contrary to a holy lifestyle. I may feel like a misfit – so be it if that is what it takes to develop a holy lifestyle.
One of the reasons the church often fails to change our society is that it refuses to be a critic of the culture and becomes too assimilate into it.
A well disciplined lifestyle.
It is so easy to focus on the negative – Don’t do this – Don’t do that.
Control your temper – your drinking habits – your sexual appetites – your determination to get what you want …….
All these are true and necessary.
BUT God doesn’t simply say “Don’t do this or that because I say so!”
Rather he gives a reason – he gives us the positive- 1 Peter 2:12 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (NIV)
While some people will be irritated and critical of you, they will be confronted by the sheer goodness of your lifestyle and the blessing the flows from your life. They will not all give God the glory, but many will. It is tough being a misfit – the odd-one-out, BUT it is great being a life changing agent!
A well focussed goal.
1:13 Set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed
There is a day coming when Jesus Christ will return to establish his eternal kingdom. Maybe in 1999!!
Our goal – our orientation must be there, not here. It is so easy for us to be more concerned about NOW instead of THEN. About HERE instead of THERE. About ME instead of HIM.
We need to examine our relationships and our lifestyle in terms of Christ’s eternal kingdom.
How would this habit I have fit in God’s kingdom? Would I be comfortable doing this or that if I were in Jesus’ presence?
Remember that we are in his presence!!!
We don’t need to worry that life is meaningless or wasted IF our goal is to please him at his coming.
- 3. RESPONSIBILITIES – What we accept.
3.1. Making the right decisions.
When God put the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden he wasn’t being devious. He wanted us to know one of the distinctives of our humanity – the ability to choose.
There is much emphasis in modern society that humans are the victims of forces outside themselves – although more often these days it is attributed to our genes. Of course, there is true in these statements, BUT these do not cancel our ability to make choices nor our accountability to make right choices. It has even crept into Christian thinking – IF our lifestyle includes things that are incompatible with holy living then we must make the necessary decisions to put matters right.
3.2. Establishing the necessary disciplines.
Unless an alcoholic takes the decision to stop drinking he won’t stop. Decision is not enough. He must take some practical steps. Pour his liquor cabinet down the drain. Don’t take a job as a barman. Join an accountability group.
A Pornography addict may recognise that it is wrong and must stop. Decision is not enough. Discipline need to be built in. Don’t buy Newspapers or magazines that contain porn. Sell the video machine. Avoid beaches where topless bathing is allowed.
These are extreme examples but the principles apply to all manner of situations and the actions needed will be different for each individual.
The point is that if we recognise that a certain behaviour or attitude is inconsistent with Holy living then we need to set disciplines to rectify the situation.
That is the negative side. “What we need to give up.”
Here is the positive.
3.3. Encouraging Proper Desires.
Computer people tell us – GIGO – “Garbage in, garbage out!”
The Bible tells us the same thing. If the input into a life is contrary to holiness the output will not be a holy lifestyle.
“What we need to start up.”
If we fail to feed into our lives those things that are required for a holy lifestyle we will be the poorer.
Without the regular disciplines of Prayer and Bible study, our fellowship with other Christians, of prayer with God’s family, of worship with the Church, of witness to unbelievers, ……. We will never begin to be what God wants us to be and what He knows will bring us the greatest fulfilment and sense of purpose.
I know life is not easy – it wasn’t easy for Peter’s readers – it is never easy – BUT God requires that we live holy lives NOW – in the present world – in the humdrum, nitty-gritty of daily living:-
- raising children,
- financial pressures,
- job frustration
- strain family relationships
- fellow Christians who irritate and hurt us ……………
We can have great plans for our careers, our families, our church BUT if we fail to pursue holiness and seek first God’s kingdom we will fail!
It takes time and effort BUT the rewards are out of this world!!
Our closing hymn captures the themes of what we have focussed on:-
Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord,
Abide in him always, and feed on his word.
Make friends of God’s children,
help those who are weak;
Forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek.
Take time to be holy, the world rushes on;
Spend much time in secret with Jesus alone.
By looking to Jesus like Him thou shalt be;
Thy friends, in thy conduct,
His likeness shall see.
Take time to holy, let Him be thy guide:
And run not before Him whatever betide:
In joy and in sorrow still follow thy Lord,
And, looking to Jesus, still trust in His word.
Take time to be holy, be calm in thy soul;
Each thought and each temper
beneath His control.
Thus led by His Spirit and filled with His love,
Thou soon shalt be fitted for service above.
William Dunn Longstaff (1822-1894)
Hymns of Faith #444
“Be holy, because I am holy”
1 Peter 1
1. REDEMPTION / RESCUE –
What God provides.
empty lifestyles – v.18
misguided traditions – v.18
sinful desires – v.14
spiritual ignorance – v.14
merciful Father – v.3
blood of Christ – v.18-19
God’s family – v.17
living hope – v.3
secure inheritance – v.4
salvation of our souls – v.9
2. REQUIREMENTS – What God expects.
Why should we live holy lives?
because He who called is holy – v.15
because the call is to holiness – 1 Thess.4:7
How should we live holy lives?
a well ordered mind
a well disciplined lifestyle
a well focussed goal
3. RESPONSIBILITIES – What we accept.
(if we are to be holy)
making right decisions
establishing necessary disciplines
encouraging proper desires