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Call to Holiness

A Living Hope  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Upsetting the Equilibrium
I want you to think of three words that describe yourself. Any three, doesn’t matter. Before you answer, I’m actually going to ask your spouses, your family, children. I’ll ask your co-workers, former bosses, restaurant workers, the person who made your day bad at the bank. Would they give the same three descriptions of yourself? Last week we talked about part of our hope, part of our inheritance, is our salvation. Our very souls have been saved; but are we living in a way that reflects such a great salvation? Will you please turn to beginning in verse 13 and stand for the reading of God’s Word.
1 Peter 1:13-25
1 Peter 1:13–25 NRSV
13 Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed. 14 Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. 15 Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; 16 for it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 17 If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile. 18 You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. 20 He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. 21 Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God. 22 Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart. 23 You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord endures forever.” That word is the good news that was announced to you.
The Word of God for the people of God: you may be seated.
Analyzing the Discrepancy
Peter just finished explaining in this letter about the hope these exiles have in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; which subsequently gives them hope for their salvation. Now, in this section, Peter changes his tone. He no longer speaks of things that are certain (their hope for salvation), but instead implores them to a better way of living.
In verse 13, Peter tells the Gentile Christians:
1 Peter 1:13 NRSV
13 Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed.
He is telling them that this hope must be placed on the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and the grace that he will bring for all who believe. First, though, they must prepare their minds for action. This literally means “when you have girded the loins of your mind.” This is great imagery. It was customary at this time for a man to tuck the front of his robe into his belt in order to free up his arms and legs for quick action or fast running. It is equivalent to our modern expression of roll up your sleeves or tighten your belt. It means to be ready for anything; it isn’t about physical strength. They must be ready to exercise their minds in serious thought and reflection.
Second, they must also discipline themselves; be self-controlled; be sober. They must maintain a continuing attitude of level-headedness. These two exhortations provide the background for Peter’s call to set all their hope on Jesus. Not, set some of your hope in things of this world, some of it on the people in your life, and then some on Jesus. No, set all your hope. Christian hope is not half-hearted or lukewarm.
In the first part of the letter, Peter reminded them of the hope they have based on what Christ had already done (through his death and resurrection), but now they have confident expectation of Christ’s second coming and should prompt a reorientation of their lives.
This hope also causes them to act as obedient children. Peter says in verses 14 through 16
1 Peter 1:14–17 NRSV
14 Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. 15 Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; 16 for it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 17 If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile.
1 Peter 1:14–16 NRSV
14 Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. 15 Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; 16 for it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
Peter is using the word children to echo what he said previously: those who are in the inheritance are children of God and they have new birth. They are people reborn with God as their father; they should be obedient to Him. These believers are being called to reorient their lives to conform to the will of God, not to the ignorant desires or expectations of the world. Once one is empowered by hope and grace, they are asked to abandon the destructiveness of their evil desires.
Thus, in verse 15 Peter calls them to “be holy yourselves in all your conduct.” Why? Because the one who called you is holy. The holiness of God is the primary motive for human holiness. Peter is telling them that true Christ-followers will imitate the God whom they worship. They will form their character in accordance with God’s character. And, since God’s nature and character is holy, His people should also display His holiness.
The word “holy” carries a double meaning. It means to be set apart for sacred use and also means to be morally pure, blameless in heart and life. Well, we know that these readers are already set apart: they are literal exiles in their land. But, are they morally pure in heart and life? Peter isn’t just telling them to do it sometimes. He tells them to be holy in all their conduct. The phrase “in all your conduct” is derived from a verb meaning to move or turn about. So, in every move, with every turn, these Christians need to be holy. There is no aspect of believers lives that does not fall under the command to be holy.
Then, Peter quotes , “You shall be be holy, for I am holy.” Peter wants to emphasize that the character of God has not changed from the beginning. Indeed, that is the narrative of the entire Bible. A holy God is calling His people to holy living.
In verse 17, Peter identifies the basis for Christian holiness and issues another call to live rightly:
1 Peter 1:17 NRSV
17 If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile.
1 Peter 1
This is a message to all who would call upon the Lord. God shows no favoritism in judgment, so then live like exiles in reverent fear of the Lord. Any talk about holiness must balance the idea that God is Father and also that He is judge. We want to downplay this in our culture. Although God is their father, they cannot think that disobedience and sin will go unnoticed or undisciplined. Their behavior will have consequences. And the Father judges each one impartially. Thus, if these Christians really call God their Father, they should remember His character and live in an appreciative fear of His impartial judgement. They should not allow familiarity and being His children as an excuse for doing evil.
What then is their motivation for living holy? Peter tells them in verses 18-21:
1 Peter 1:18–21 NRSV
18 You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. 20 He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. 21 Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God.
Their motivation for holy living is first they were bought by the precious blood of Christ. Dead to their old ways, being ancestors of Adam, they could not have saved themselves. God did not buy them with the things of this world, such as silver or gold. Money and precious stones would have been easy for God to make. Instead, God sent Himself and spilled His blood, something infinitely more precious and sacrificed his Son who was like a lamb. An innocent lamb, without evil, without sin, without any spot or defect. This is their first motivation.
Their second motivation for holy living is that their salvation is founded in Christ who existed before the creation of the world and was destined to be humanity’s Savior. Christ was always God’s redemption plan. It was not made in haste or a contingency: God’s son was always to be the Savior of the world. And it was for these exiles, for all believers, that Christ was chosen. Because Christ died on their behalf, they should want to be holy.
Their third motivation for holy living is their hope and faith in Jesus Christ. In verse 13, Peter told them to set all their hope on Jesus and this is the bookend to that section. Your hope is in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because your hope is on this and nothing else, it should propel you to live holy.
What does this look like? What is holy living. Well, in verse 22 Peter tells them:
1 Peter 1:22 NRSV
22 Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart.
Now that you understand the importance of holiness, now that you have the proper motivation, now that your minds are buckled tight and you are obedient children: love one another deeply from the heart. The root of holiness is love for God and love for others. Genuine mutual love that comes from deep within the heart.
Why must they love one another? Verse 23 and 24 says:
1 Peter 1:23–24 NRSV
23 You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls,
1 Peter 1:23 NRSV
23 You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.
Again Peter uses the new birth theme: these believers new birth is a completed event with ongoing consequences. This new birth results in continuing and growing love for one another. They were born initially into perishable seed, but now, with Christ, their birth is founded upon the living and enduring word of God which is imperishable. Those who have experienced new birth will want to love each other more. It is founded upon the enduring Word.
Again Peter uses the new birth theme: these believers new birth is a completed event with ongoing consequences. This new birth results in continuing and growing love for one another. They were born initially into perishable seed, but now, with Christ, their birth is founded upon the living and enduring word of God which is imperishable. Those who have experienced new birth will want to love each other more. It is founded upon the enduring Word of God.
Scripture itself proves that God’s Word, which is the Word by which they were reborn, cannot be superseded. And, Peter tells them, that if by any chance he has not been clear
1 Peter 1:24–25 NRSV
24 For “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord endures forever.” That word is the good news that was announced to you.
1 Peter 1:25 NRSV
25 but the word of the Lord endures forever.” That word is the good news that was announced to you.
It is the Word which was announced to them as Good News when the Gospel was preached to them and they were converted.
This enduring Word which was announced to them as Good News when the Gospel was preached to them is the cause for their new birth. It should prompt love.
Disclosing the Clue to Resolution
Okay. What now? We’ve seen the reason for holiness, we’ve seen that God is holy, we know the motivation, and we know what holiness produces, but what does that mean for us? It means we need to respond. Continue down to chapter 2: I want to begin in verse 3 and work backward:
Chapter 2: verse 3
1 Peter 2:1–3 NRSV
1 Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation— 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
Wow. If you are here today and you know the Lord is good, if you believe in Him, if you long for spiritual milk to grow closer to God then you will rid yourself of all malice, all deceit, all hypocrisy, every bit of jealousy and envy, all lies and evil speech.
Experiencing the Gospel
When you look throughout the Gospel, as Jesus is ministering to the religious people, especially those of the Pharisees and Sadduccees, he rails against these things they have taken up doing. These people claim to know the Lord, to believe and love Him, yet they are full of rank hypocrisy, lies, malice, and even envy for what Jesus could do and they could not. These “religious” people, who like the first readers of this letter were exiles of a sort in their land, had fallen victim to the life and culture around them. They were set apart by God, yet they reflected more of Rome than people who were called by God.
Anticipating the Consequences
Anticipating the Consequences
The church fails in the world largely because there is not enough difference between the people inside the church and those outside. One of the most famous quotes of Brennan Manning is “the single greatest cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”
This sad state of affairs might be remedied if believers would heed Peter’s command to Be holy in all you do. You who know the Nazarene tradition well, you knew this was coming. At some point, I would talk about holiness and will continue to do so. Because I have heard many churches say, “we are not a holiness church; we don’t preach holiness.” I have a bold statement: these churches breed the idea that the Christian faith is either/ or and lukewarm. They are creating disciples of false teaching. But, that was the church I grew up in.
They taught and believed that once you believed in Christ, the journey was done. We could just hang out! The goal was conversion; if that. What it really looked like was an older congregation not willing to cope with the ways they did not conform to the Gospel message; especially that of loving all people and growing closer to God. Besides a new pastor, I don’t remember a single new family visiting and especially staying to engage in our community. How sad! That was the way it was, though, and it shaped how I understood my relationship with God. I can tell you it was not good.
This sad state of affairs might be remedied if believers would heed Peter’s command to Be holy in all you do. I have heard many churches say, “we are not a holiness church; we don’t preach holiness.” I have a bold statement: these churches breed the idea that the Christian faith is either/ or and lukewarm. They are creating disciples of false teaching. But, that was the church I grew up in.
John Wesley had the same issue growing up. He was part of the church of England where everyone was a Christian because they were from England. It was what they were. Yet, they lived like people of the world and not redeemed people of the Gospel. That was the way he was raised. And it took failure, near death, and a slap in the face for Him to understand the very reason we live the Christian life is to be holy as God himself is holy.
This sad state of affairs might be remedied if believers would heed Peter’s command to Be holy in all you do
Too often growing up we talked so much about individual’s sin. So, [insert name] you are a sinner. And there is no question that we are. However, we have a tendency to ignore the way this sin is incorporated into the very structures of our lives. Its the systems, the principalities, the powers that are broken.
We live in a time and place that is deeply broken by sin. Often, the holiest people are the meanest people. We have these people stand up and give testimony that they have been sanctified holy and the visitors and younger people are saying: that’s what holy looks like? I don’t want any part of it. We forget as Christ-followers in this broken world that our entire being has been broken by Christ from the bondage of sin. You can keep no part for yourself. It is all or nothing.
When Monica and I were engaged, I just wanted to be married. I had waited 25 years, she was the only girlfriend I ever had, and I knew that she was the one that God had set on my path. Then, once we were married a couple months, I remember thinking one day, man I am so married. When you get married, you give everything to this one person. They know all your weird isms and likes/ dislikes. They know you well. Now, five years later, with a seven month old girl, I am so much more married than I was back then. I’m sure those of you who have been married much longer would probably say you are so much more married than we are. It’s true. This is a great example of what holy living looks like. I hope in five years I can say, man, I reflect God so much more than I did five years ago. I long to say that I know and love God so much better five years down the road than I do today. I hope I can say I love more now than I ever have before.
Because the center of holiness is love, but there is a lot of work to do. I don’t know how to live a life without engaging with a congregation of Christ-followers. I mean regularly praying together, being honest with one another, meeting together, rejoicing, weeping, loving together. I don’t know how some of you can survive on once a week or once or twice a month. You must be better at living for Christ than me because I need time in community to have a better relationship God. Being and living holy is not done alone; it takes a community to hold us accountable and move us forward.
For me community is vital and preaching to a community is something that God has called me to do. It is a function of my worship to God. It is a part of my living holy; I shepherd others in this way. My hope is ultimately not for you to enjoy it each week. I would like it if you enjoyed it; I don’t want it to be something that you have to suffer through. But, ultimately, I long for each one of you to lead holy lives and reflect God in everything you do. In our spiritual lives, we often ask ourselves the question, do we enjoy it? But, that’s not the question God is asking in our text today. It is are you living a holy life. I would love it if every Christ-follower would stop asking the question “did I like service today?” Instead, I want each of you as the people of God to ask this question: “is this place doing to me what God needs to have done to me?” Or, “Am I allowing God to shape me into His image?” Cause a lot of what needs to be done to you, you’re not going to like. We all need to be formed and shaped by God and that takes sometimes not enjoying it. It takes a community to come together and allow God to mold them into what he would want.
If you don’t get anything out of this morning except for one thing I want you to remember this: to be holy is to love God and to love others. LOVE! That’s it. If you don’t know how to do that, this is why we come together. To figure it out. I don’t have it all together. I don’t love perfectly. But, I have been called and set apart to grow closer to God and love more perfectly each day. Are you ready for that to happen in your life?
In our spiritual life
If you were to take a poll of those you have ever met and asked them to list your top three characteristics, what would they be? If they aren’t [he] loves God, loves others, and strives to be holy, then you have work to do. I have work to do. Perhaps we need to spend some time on our knees before God. Luckily we have a living hope in the Lord who has paved the way for us, saved us, and set us apart for holy living.
“I Need You”
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