Guarded Christian Living: A Strong Faith at the Right Time
1 Peter 1:13-17
Turn to 1 Peter 1. This morning we are going to take a look at vs 13-17. And anytime we take a passage of Scripture, it is important if we are able to find a significant theme, which is really a goal of mine each week as we work through these 2 books of Peter. So, as I read our passage this morning, see if you can pick out the overriding theme.
13 Therefore, having girded your minds for action, being sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, not being conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your conduct; 16 because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 17 And if you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your sojourn.
What is it? What truth statement dictates this portion of Scripture? I would suggest that it is found in vs 16, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” In fact, if we were looking for the truth statement, I would suggest that it is simply, “for I am holy,” as the “you shall be holy” is really a response to the truth statement that God is holy. Now the importance of this truth statement to the Christian is paramount concerning his or her salvation, and this truth statement is also a lost truth in the eyes of the culture. For when a culture loses the concept of the holiness of God, it results in a number of falsehoods.
First, it begins to question its origins. It questions the origin of the world. It looks around at a Master Designer, it sees the intricacies of creation, yet it decides on evolution. It also questions the origin of our sexuality. I mean what kind of society would actually allow young children to question their sexual identity or the sexual identity of anyone for that matter.
Secondly, when a culture loses the concept of the holiness of God, it begins to determine its own truth and rightness. And why wouldn’t it? For it has lost confidence is a Supreme Holy Being, so somebody has to make up the rules. In other words, if God is not the Judge, someone else must become the judge. And by the way, don’t ever let someone tell you that Christians do not have the right to judge. For when we might share with someone what the Bible says, we are not judging, we are only stating what God has already said, as God is the Judge, not us. And no matter what they might say, the world judges all the time, as society has unlimited assumptions that they expect all to believe.
Thirdly, when a culture loses the concept of the holiness of God, it must rationalize away its sin. The bar is lowered, and holiness and perfection become unrealities. That’s why we have sayings such as, “well no one is perfect.” In other words, if no one is perfect, including God, then sin becomes the norm and optional. And where does that leave man? It leaves him to self-determine his own level of character and goodness.
Finally, when a culture loses the concept of the holiness of God, man becomes sovereign. This is why we believe that we will destroy the earth someday and not God, we are going to do this, not God. Global warming? God has already said He will burn up the world. In other words, if there is a dilemma, it must be man who solves the dilemma, not God, for man has become the sovereign. So we need to heed the words of Peter this morning, as he is addressing topics that are front and centre to our situation today, as we live within the culture around us.
Peter begins by highlighting the need (vs 13), “to gird your minds for action, being sober in spirit.” Peter is really saying, “prepare!” In other words, if God is holy and righteous and sovereign, and He is; then prepare yourself to react properly. And we can read into Peter’s passion as he commands us to prepare your minds for action! You know there is nothing more frustrating in sports to have someone on your team that doesn’t hustle. Those who don’t give it all they’ve got. We can sympathize with the athlete who gives it everything he has and still loses. But the guy who doesn’t work hard, who doesn’t skate hard coming back, who doesn’t run his whole route, who doesn’t run hard to first base, that drives you crazy, doesn’t it? But man, the guys you want on your team, are those who work hard, they sweat, that have the attitude that we are going to do our best!
So too in our spiritual lives, prepare yourself for action. Make sure that you are spiritually ready to get going, investing spiritually into the lives of others, being a studier of God’s Word, earnestly asking God to direct you in a particular ministry, and asking God to stretch you. Yet unfortunately, that is not the way many people live their spiritual lives. They may go to church on Sunday, but they really do little else unless they feel like it. Spiritually for them there is no planning, no preparation, no readiness for spiritual growth. The writer of Hebrews said this:
“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. [he goes on to say, you are still infants and not mature].”
Heb 5:12-14 (LSB)
Without a preparedness to act, you and I are going to remain spiritual babies. So, Peter says to prepare. And then he says (vs 13) to be sober in spirit, to be sober-minded, to think clearly, to know what the Word of God says, and to clearly determine God’s best and decide what you are going to do. Matthew Henry says to be humble in your judgment, which means that I will be very careful to keep my opinions and emotions underneath the wisdom of God. That I will be humble myself under His lordship. So vs 13a is the pep talk, as Peter has not really given us any firm direction yet, it is more of a wake-up call. “Therefore, having girded your minds for action, being sober in spirit.” Get going guys! It is like me coaching first base and saying to the batter, “get mad out there.” It doesn’t really tell the batter what to do, it just notifies the batter of the seriousness of the situation.
Yet I notice from this passage that Peter is now going to relate three definite guidelines for the Christian, if he is gripped by the truth that the Lord is holy, and if he is ready to act spiritually, and if he is willing to think biblically, Now do not miss these, as the Holy Spirit of God considered these three things to be vital in living the Christian life well, and to have the ability to go in a different direction than the culture. “[F]ix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (vs 13b). If the Christian is gripped by the truth that the Lord is holy, and if he is ready to act spiritually, and if he is willing to think biblically then:
- Keep your focus on the grace (vs 13b)
Which grace? The grace that has been brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. The grace at which the angels longed to look. The grace that the OT prophets marveled at. Because the person who faces all that is going on in the world, yet who has his hope fixed on this grace, will be a very different person. In reality, we are eternal optimists, not naïve, but truly eternal optimists. Because we know that though our world is dramatically drifting from the truth, we have great hope in the second coming of Christ. No one else has this certainty. That the Christian will someday face a gracious God, who is forgiving and kind towards him, and that the believer will be showered with eternal blessing. Therefore we are literally optimists of eternal things.
And Peter makes it very clear here what we are to fix our hope on, because most people will have their hope fixed on the wrong thing. They will have trusted in themselves, their parents, their retirement savings, their cleverness in getting themselves out of difficulties, and their belief that they are good enough. But (and this is a long sentence) Peter is direct here, making it clear that there is only one thing that can truly save us and that is the grace, not any grace, not a God who may feel sorry for us, not a grace because we may have acted a little better than our next-door neighbour, no, the grace which is given to all those who have received and trusted in Christ, as it is true grace, something given to us that is undeserved, so that, the recipient, the Christian, understands that he did not earn this, but simply accepted this grace as an undeserved gift from God (period). And notice it says here to fix our hope “completely.” In other words, with everything you got and at all times, where the Christian realizes that his entire hope has been accomplished by Christ, and therefore, it is a hope which seeps into all areas of his life, his entire being, and dominates his thinking.
A few years ago Anne and I were at the Super Store and we bought a one-pound tub of blueberries (1 lb tub is a great big tub). And while we were checking out I went to put it on the checkout, I dropped it. Now my tendency would be to quickly pick things up. But really we are talking blueberries within two seconds being under the checkout, down an aisle, and underneath various carts. And we both laughed as the cashier told me to go get another one. But blueberries went everywhere. Picture firm blueberries on a hard floor, as they seeped into almost every part of that grocery store. See, when I understand that the Lord is holy, it includes His right to rule my life, His right to determine right and wrong, and this truth needs to seep into all areas of my being, everywhere. And the truth thus far in 1 Peter 1, is that God has declared the salvation of mankind through grace alone; first told by the prophets, Scriptura alone; and then fulfilled by Christ alone. This truth becomes life-transforming. This is not easy-believism or some sort of mediocre follower. This is not nominal Christianity. This is a believer who is gripped constantly and “completely” by the grace of Christ. “Fix your hope completely on the grace brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Is that your hope? That someday Christ will break through the clouds and offer you grace. The true believer must keep his focus on that grace.
“As obedient children, not being conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your conduct” (vs 14-15).
Secondly, if the Christian is gripped by the truth that the Lord is holy, if he is ready to act spiritually, and if he is willing to think biblically then:
- Walk close with the Lord (vs 14-15)
There is a two-fold battle for the Christian and sometimes the Christian only fights on one front. Sometimes there is the Christian who could be described as the joyless legalist. He is the Christian who defines Christianity by what he does and does not do. And he has his list of his do’s and don’ts. He may speak about Christ, he may do his devotions, and he certainly attends church. But he lacks something. And it is this, an intimate joy and relationship with Jesus Christ, an excitement with Christ, a fresh, vibrant relationship with Christ. It might be like a spouse who does everything out of duty, but not out of love. Or an employer that does his work, but has little feeling for the one he works for. This is the church at Ephesus as described in Revelation 2. A church that knew its doctrine, that did all the right things but had little love for Christ.
Then there is the Christian who fights only on the other front, who claims to love Christ, yet struggles significantly in his Christian walk. Who tends to make unwise decisions and yet seems to be filled with an emotional love for God? This is like the spouse who speaks of his wife as his best friend, yet fails miserably to provide or care for her. Yet notice in our passage Peter addresses both of these fronts for the true Christian to fight. Verse 14, “As obedient children, not being conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance,” here is the challenge to stay away from sin. Verse 15, “but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your conduct,” here is the challenge to draw near to God. Here is the Christian who is so ready for spiritual action, that he knows what to remove himself from, sin; and he also knows who to attach himself to, God. And Peter is pretty blunt here, as he speaks about former lusts. Are there traps for the Christian in the areas of lusting after certain things sexually, financially, or a desire for popularity? Can the Christian find himself being drawn in here? Are there areas that we are battling against with all our might and mind or are we only willing to condemn the world, or teach our children, yet content to fall ourselves.
I know that in Peter’s day, there was not the problem of the Internet, or television, but I am certain there were places where he could go or wrong thinking he could fantasize in his mind, which would be far outside of what he knew to be right as a Christian. And I do notice here that Peter doesn’t say, listen Christian you need to fight the culture, to make sure that there are no bad places to go. No, he doesn’t do that. No, what does he say? Don’t conform to those things, Christian, young person. And to us today, he would likely say the same thing. Time to pull the plug believer. Whatever tends to suck you in, time to give it up. Notice also he says (vs 14), “in your ignorance.” In other words, he is really saying, you now know better, there is a much greater accountability for you. It was one thing to do when you were not all that smart, but now it is time to smarten up, brighten up, wake up. If you are alert spiritually.
Then he states the need to draw near to God. Verse 15, “but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your conduct.” In other words, be like God. The emphasis here is to be holy in all your conduct. I was speaking to someone from another church the other day and he was telling me about his new business and how the Lord has been impressing on him the need to deal rightly in his business relationships. Now there is still merit in dealing fairly and right with customers and at the workplace, as fair and right people are still respected in society, and often, not always, receive recognition and promotions. But even to a greater extent, the need to be fair and right because of our walk with the Lord, knowing that at times being fair and right may at times cost you. Therefore, being honest with my income tax, being honest working for my employer, being truthful in my decisions in business, and doing what is right when others do not see me. Why? Because Peter says to be holy in all your conduct. See, this means that the Christian who is ready for spiritual action is a man or woman of integrity, who has nothing to hide, as he or she has both left a life of sin and has attached themselves to God, not in some areas of life, but in all areas of life. Is this your heart as a believer? Is there a corner of your life that you are hanging onto? Is it my desire to be an obedient child of God? Walk close to the Lord. Finally, if the Christian is gripped by the truth that the Lord is holy, if he is ready to act spiritually, and if he is willing to think biblically, then:
- Live with a proper reverence (vs 17)
In this next verse, Peter will bring much accountability. Verse 17, “And if you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your sojourn.” If you address God as Father, in other words, if you claim to be a Christian, a child of God, and therefore your Father is the One who knows all things, who knows the very secrets of your life, and therefore He becomes the perfect impartial Judge. For He has all the facts and knows your heart. And what Peter has been teaching here is a reminder of everything we have in Christ. In other words, I have saved you, though you do not deserve salvation; I have loved you, though you do not deserve to be loved; and I have provided an incredible future for you. Now, live with a proper reverence; or we could say, conduct yourself with fear; or we could say, make your great God look good always and everywhere. Live with a proper reverence.
Now all three of these things: keeping our focus on grace and walking close to the Lord and living with a proper reverence are centred on what? The holiness of God, as somehow my life is to be centred on His holiness. That’s the bar, that’s the level of expectation, the holiness of God. Verse 16, “you shall be holy, for I am holy.” That clearly becomes the basis for the Christian, the holiness of God. In other words, we cannot argue with that, for that is exactly what it says, “you shall be holy, for I am holy.”
Now, that’s puzzling, as the holiness of God is outside of us, as God is completely “other,” “infinitely high,” we cannot even begin to get close to God. Think about that for a moment. We have been called to be something that only God can be. So what do we do with verse 16? “[Y]ou shall be holy, for I am holy.”
What we find in the Scriptures are a number of paradoxes, truths that to our minds do not always align, yet they do in the mind of God. Example, that Jesus Christ JC is both fully human and fully God. Anyone understand that? A paradox. The Trinity, God is 3-persons in One. Anyone understand that? A paradox. That we have been chosen to be Christians, yet our decision for Christ is a real decision. Does anyone completely get that? A paradox. That God had no beginning, He has always existed. I don’t get that? A paradox. See, these are truths that are so deep, that our limited human minds cannot understand. Listen, that we are to be holy like God, no matter how well I might teach this or try to explain this, it will still be a paradox in our minds. Doesn’t mean that it is not true, it just means that I do not understand it.
Now, in our position before God, positionally, God has made us holy as Christ is holy. Christ came as a human and He lived a perfect life and upon salvation, you and I have received His righteousness. So, therefore, positionally, we are righteous. In fact, positionally, we could not be any more righteous because we possess the righteousness of Jesus Christ. But what about in a practical sense? What about in our day-to-day living out of our faith? Now in a practical sense, we will be like Christ in eternity. So, we will at some point live out a holiness after we have been resurrected. Listen to what the Apostle John says about heaven in Revelation 21:27:
“And nothing defiled, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it [heaven], but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
The teaching in this verse indicates that no sin can enter heaven and that we who are written in the Lamb’s book of life will enter heaven. Therefore, we must be made perfect, we must be made holy. So, we are on that road to holiness. True, a pursuit that is not attained in this life, but the true pursuit of the believer in Christ, nonetheless, which will be ultimately fulfilled in heaven. And this goes back to an earlier week in our study, that one of the major characteristics of a true believer is that he or she is persevering in their faith. And the perseverance here is that the true believer in Christ will focus on the grace that will occur at the revelation of Jesus Christ, walk closely with the Lord, and live with a proper reverence for God. For notice that Peter adds these words at the end of vs 17, “during the time of your sojourn.” That’s now, we don’t wait for that. That’s at lunch today with your children. That’s the decision of what you are going to do tonight. That’s the business deal tomorrow. That’s the customers you are going to deal with this week. That’s your interaction with your neighbour across the fence. “[Y]ou shall be holy, for I am holy.”
Let’s pray. Lord, Your challenge to us is clear this morning. We thank You for such a glorious calling. Lord, make us holy, and may we be obedient children. And all God’s children said, amen.