Why Holiness?

Posted: December 20, 2009 in 1 Peter

1 Peter 1:13-21, “Why Holiness?”
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What do you think of when you hear the word “holy”? Some people think of God (which is good!) – others think of church services – others think of spiritual gurus. It’s not often that we’d think of ourselves & understandably so…one look inside most of our heads, and “holiness” wouldn’t be our 1st description! But yet, that’s exactly what the Bible calls us to be: we are to be holy. Our lives are to be lived in such a way by which we give glory to God – and since He is holy, we ought to be holy.

Before we get too far, we need to keep something very important in mind: holiness is simply not possible outside of Jesus Christ. We can’t wake up one day, decide to be holy & just pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and do it – this is something that begins in what Christ already did for us at the cross, continues in His ongoing power in our lives, and will be completed by Him when we finally see Him face-to-face in heaven. There’s a reason Peter takes 13 verse to get to the exhortation – first he needed to establish what it is Jesus does for us through His grace. Only upon that foundation can we go from there to how we ought to live for God.

And God makes it very clear how He expects us to live for Him: Be holy! Why? (1) God is holy, (2) We were bought at a priceless price.

1 Peter 1:13-21 (NKJV)
13 Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;

A. “Therefore” what? Context… In light of this great salvation we’ve been given in Christ Jesus! In light of the hope we have in our salvation that gets us through our temporary (though grievous) trials – this hope we have that the prophets looked forward to & the angels are amazed at. What marvelous grace we’ve been shown – what a privilege we’ve been given to have been born-again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ! Ok…we know what we’ve been given; now Peter tells us what to do about it. 4 exhortations leading up to his main point, 3 here:

B. “gird up the loins of your mind”: Other translations say something like “prepare your minds for action” & that’s the basic idea, though “girding up your loins” is a more literal translation. In the culture, when someone was getting ready to run or do something quickly, they didn’t want to trip over their robes, so they would gird them up by gathering the loose cloth together in their belt. It became a common expression to use regarding someone’s thoughts – if you’re ready to get something done, you had to prepare your mind – get rid of all the mental distractions & get ready to take action. … Keep in mind Peter’s saying all of this in the context of our great salvation. His point? Our new life in Christ isn’t merely something that’s in our heads, for which we can pat each other on the back in nice intellectual conversation. Our new life is LIFE. Not only life eternal, but life RIGHT NOW. There are things we are to be doing right now simply because we are in Christ Jesus – and we ought to be prepared to do them.

C. “be sober”: this isn’t a reference to staying free from alcohol (though that doesn’t hurt) – the idea here is to be sober-minded; to exercise sound judgment. Goes hand-in-hand with preparing our minds – after all, if we’re to be prepared for action, we don’t want our minds going off on wild tangents. To Peter’s intended recipients of the letter, they were starting to face great sufferings & getting into a time of persecution – it wasn’t a time to panic; it was a time to prepare.

D. “rest your hope fully upon…grace”: Amen! Our hope is not in ourselves & the things we can do. Our hope is not in each other (we’re sure to eventually disappoint). Our hope certainly isn’t in the government. 🙂 Our hope is in Jesus Christ! Our hope is in the grace He’s showered down upon us. Whatever sufferings Peter’s audience was enduring (whatever sufferings we ourselves are enduring), we are to rest our ultimate hope in the grace & promises of Christ Jesus.

E. Don’t miss when it is that we’ll see the full expression of that grace: “at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” When we’re standing face-to-face with our Lord & Savior! …
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14 as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance;

A. Here’s the 4th thing to do: Be “obedient children…” We certainly don’t earn our salvation through obedience – our attempts at obedience outside of Christ Jesus fail miserably! In fact, our hope is to rest in the grace of Christ Jesus – it is through HIS obedience to God that we have any hope at all. … But now that we are IN Christ, we don’t have license to go off & be disobedient – we have even more reason than ever before to live our lives in such a way that is pleasing to our Heavenly Father!

B. In contrast to what? Our “former lusts” that we did in our “ignorance.” Sinners sin (which should be no surprise to us) & we were no different. Prior to that moment when you placed your faith & trust in the Lord Jesus for forgiveness of sin, no matter how much you knew about the Bible, you & I were ignorant of the things of God – and we acted like it! We rebelled against God – we lusted after stuff – we pursued our own selfish desires, etc. Those are the very things that left us condemned before God & those are the very things Jesus died to save us from. Peter’s point? Don’t act like that any longer! God’s called us to something far better & far higher…
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15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”

A. Here’s the main point Peter’s been leading up to: “be holy.” Gird up your minds & prepare for what? Holiness. Be sober-minded & rest our hope in grace for what? To be holy unto God. Be obedient for what purpose? To be a holy child of our Heavenly Father. ‘Sounds nice, but what does it mean?’ Good question. 🙂 “Holiness” has 2 main ideas: (1) sanctification – being set apart; dedicated for a specific purpose away from something else, (2) purity in action, words, etc. Which is it here? Probably a bit of both!
__a. Sanctification: We are to be set apart from the rest of the world…we’re to act differently than the rest of our culture acts. Christmastime is a perfect example of this. When the rest of our culture dives into a month-long fit of materialistic lust, Christians remember that there’s actually a reason for the celebration. We give gifts to each other simply out of celebration of the fact that the best gift has already been given by God: our Savior!
___i. Keep in mind there’s a difference between being set apart from the culture & isolating ourselves away from it. The Scripture doesn’t tell us anywhere to go live in some compound completely walled off from the world around us or never to venture outside our little Christian “bubbles.” We are to be set apart from the world, but we are also left IN the world – for the specific purpose of sharing the gospel. It’s tough to share the gospel with the lost if you’re never around them.
__b. Purity: Not only are we set apart from the world, but we’re to remain unspotted by the world (Jas 1:27). As Peter already wrote, we’re to live lives in obedience to our Heavenly Father – not out of an attempt to earn favor with God, but simply out of gratefulness for what He’s already done for us through Jesus Christ.

B. Be holy when? Always! Be holy in what? “All your conduct.” There’s nothing left out here – everything is included. Have you ever found yourself attempting to compartmentalize your faith? ‘Jesus, thank You for saving me! Lead me in my family & work – I submit myself to you. But don’t ask me about my hobbies & TV time; You just stay over there…’ It doesn’t work that way. Jesus is LORD, which means that He’s Lord over all – and all our conduct is included in what is to be holy. All of our conduct is to be pure unto Him & set apart for His purposes.
__a. What happens when it’s not? Despite what some teach, there’s no possible way any Christian will ever attain a state of “sinless perfection” where you are so holy that sin will never truly tempt you & you’ll never trip up ever again. True, we’re called to holiness in all of our conduct – but when it’s not, we do exactly what Peter did after he failed & denied Jesus 3 times: receive the forgiveness & grace Jesus offered. When you fail, confess it to God, turn away from the sin & receive Jesus’ forgiveness. Holy living is not a call to legalism & guilt; it’s simply a call to walk with Jesus.

C. WHY? Why would we bother acting in holiness? After all, it’s a struggle to do so. To continually deny our flesh & yield ourselves to the Spirit can be hard. There are temptations to endure & spiritual battles to fight. On a superficial level, it’d be a lot easier to simply give in to temptations & try to ask for forgiveness later. Why be holy? Peter’s going to give us a couple of reasons – the first: we serve a God who is holy. There is nothing that is more pure or set apart than God is! He is pure in that He is absolutely unstained by sin – God is the very definition of perfection, and as “sin” is anything that is in rebellion against God, there’s no possible way God could ever sin. In addition, there’s nothing that’s more set apart than God is. Man is made in His image, but God is certainly wholly unlike the rest of creation. He alone is infinite – He alone is perfect – He alone is God. He is HOLY. It’s difficult to overstate this attribute of God…the angels actually sing of it unceasingly in heaven (Rev 4:8).
__a. And because God is holy, we ought to be holy. OT quote: Leviticus 11:44-45 (44) For I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy. Neither shall you defile yourselves with any creeping thing that creeps on the earth. (45) For I am the Lord who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy. [] God was specifically telling Israel that they were to be different from the rest of the peoples around them (hence the diet & many of the other ritualistic requirements in the OT). They were to act in such a way that was pure & set apart – if for no other reason, simply because they were the people of God. They represented none other than God Himself to the rest of the world, and thus they were to be holy, for He is holy. … That was the call for those who lived in the Old Covenant; how much more should it apply to those for whom the Covenant promises are fulfilled in Jesus Christ?

D. ‘OK…I understand God is holy, but how does that apply to me? Why should I be holy simply because He is?’
__a. We should want to be like our Lord & King. We’re His representatives…
__b. Because He is our KING, it is a command. Pretty simple.
__c. Not only is it a command, it’s something that the Lord is already doing in us. The moment we received Christ’s forgiveness & were born again, God set us apart and made us holy. … When we’re willfully acting in unrighteousness, we’re working AGAINST the work that God has already done in our lives.
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17 And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear;

A. Why “if”? Peter’s assuming that if we were truly Christian, we’d want to live in such a way that is pleasing to our heavenly Father. Why wouldn’t any born-again Christian want to give glory to God through the way we live our lives? If you don’t care, that’s not a good sign. To be so flippant about disregarding the will of God & ignoring His specific revealed desire for you to be holy is a red flag that you need to get on your knees & examine your heart to see if you’re in the faith! God’s children desire to obey Him – we may not do it perfectly, but it’s our desire to glorify Him.

B. If you do call upon the Father, then you need to have a righteous “fear” of Him. People don’t speak too much about the fear of God any more – it’s a tough concept for our culture to swallow. It’s so much easier to speak of loving God, rather than fearing Him. We ought to love God – amen! (It’s the greatest commandment!) But part of loving God IS fearing Him. To fear God is not to run away & hide (as if we could) by being so afraid to talk to Him that we don’t even pray due to abject terror. To fear God is to have a reverence for Him – to respect Him for who He is – to understand that He truly is the All-Powerful Creator God who has every right to throw every one of us into everlasting Hell. (The fact that He does not is due to His grace & mercy shown through Jesus Christ!) But this is GOD! He is holy – and He ought to be properly feared by His people.
__a. When we do, it has a direct effect on our conduct! There’s a reason the Bible tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Pro 9:10)…when we fear God, our actions change due to the fact we know God is going to judge us. God is our Father, but He’s not only our Father; He’s also our judge. When God brings us to the Judgment Seat of Christ, we will give an account for everything we’ve done as believers in Christ (2 Cor 5:10). For born-again believers, that judgment has nothing to do with our salvation (Jesus has already taken on that judgment & wrath for us at the cross), but we live with the knowledge that one day we will have to tell the Lord Jesus why we did things the way we did them & give an account. That ought to be a great motivation for us to be holy!

C. BTW – notice the temporary tone: “throughout the time of your stay” – as if Peter’s writing to a bunch of Christians in a hotel somewhere. Technically, that’s EXACTLY what we’re doing! This world is not our home – we’re only travelers passing through. People often say “home is where the heart is” – for every born-again believer in Christ, “home is where Jesus is” – we want to be home with Him!
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18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.

A. Here’s the 2nd reason to be holy: we were bought! When Jesus Christ died on the cross & rose again from the grave, an eternal financial transaction took place: we were “redeemed” from death & sin. “Redemption” is technically a word that was used regarding ancient slavery or prisoners of war. When someone was captured or enslaved, the way they were set free was by paying a ransom price. Sometimes the slave could do it himself by working in his spare time – other times someone would be benevolent to them & purchase their freedom for them. That’s exactly what God did for us through Christ Jesus. We were enslaved to sin & death, but now we are redeemed because of the Lord Jesus. He paid the ransom price for us.
__a. And that ought to have a direct impact on our behavior & conduct. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (19) Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? (20) For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. [] We are the children & people of God – but our privileges came at an inestimable price, and we are also God’s rightful servants. Because our bodies belong to Him, we ought to glorify Him with our bodies through holy living.

B. What weren’t we redeemed with? Silver & gold – whether it’s a reference to Gentile idolatry, or a reference to redemption coins paid by Jews to the temple, either way these are worthless when it comes to our need for eternal redemption. Think of it: this is the stuff we’re told to seek after – gold is trading today at over $1000 per ounce. HUGELY valuable in the eyes of the world! But it does nothing for redemption. All the gold in the world can’t redeem a single soul from Hell (despite what we may hear on TV).

C. What were we redeemed with? The blood of Christ! … He is the Passover Lamb of God sent to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29). His blood is “precious” – there’s an understatement for you! Truly His blood is priceless! Keep in mind “priceless” has a different meaning other than the experience you’re supposed to get when using your MasterCard.  Something is priceless when it is so rare & so valuable, that the estimated cost of the item is truly without measure. That’s how appraisers look at gemstones…diamonds are expensive simply because they are so rare. The larger & purer the diamond is, the more rare it is, thus the more expensive it is. How rare is the blood of the Son of God? Jesus only went to the cross one time in all of history, and He’s the only Son of God in all the universe! …
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20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you

A. Our need for redemption was never a surprise to Almighty God. Sometimes we get the idea that Adam & Eve pulled a fast one on God & He had to rush out & come up with a Plan “B.” Perish the thought! From before the foundation of the world – before He ever created man, God knew exactly what was going to happen (and yet He still created us, which says something about the love He has for each one of us!). God knew that we would be in need of salvation, and He foreordained that Jesus would come as our Savior.

B. But Jesus’ coming didn’t remain words of prophecy to be done “sometime” in the future; He was actually made “manifest” in the fullness of time when God sent Him to be born of Mary (a virgin!) in Bethlehem. This is exactly what we celebrate at Christmas! John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. [] Speaking of the incarnation of God – the eternal Son of God by whom God the Father created the world – the One who always existed as the Alpha & Omega – this very God humbled Himself to put on human flesh & live among us, die because of us, and rise again from the dead in new life & in glorious promise! Praise God that Jesus has been made manifest to us!
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– what about Jesus? He gives us everything!
21 who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

A. Only those who go through Jesus Christ can believe in God. He’s the way, the truth, and the life – no one goes to the Father except through Him. (John 14:6)

B. God raised Jesus from the dead: from Christmas to Easter in one verse!

C. God glorified Jesus forever…right now, the Lord Jesus still sits at God’s right hand in glory & power – sitting in victory until the day in which He’ll receive the church to Himself, and then come back in power & might to reign.

D. Because of what God did through Jesus Christ, our hope of salvation is assured! Our faith & hope rests in God – who proved His promises of grace by raising Jesus from the dead…

Conclusion:
What an incredible Savior we’ve been given! Jesus was foreordained from the beginning of time – foretold throughout the Scripture – made manifest when He came in the flesh as a babe in Bethlehem. He died for our sins, rose from the grave, was glorified by God, and makes it possible for all mankind – even sinful people like us – to be saved & brought into eternal fellowship with God. Amen! What a wonderful gift of grace we’ve been given – it’s no wonder the angels desire to look into these things.

So what’s our response to all of this? Surely there must be some way in which we respond to the marvelous grace of God shown to us in Jesus Christ – and there is: Be holy! Live your life in such a way in which it is set apart & dedicated to God. As Paul writes in Romans, Romans 12:1-2 (1) I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. (2) And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. [] The Lord Jesus gave Himself as a sacrifice for us; so in response we give our lives as a holy sacrifice back to Him.

Why? Simple:
A. God is holy… As His children – His people – we live in such a way that represents Him.
B. We’ve been redeemed with the blood of Jesus. No more precious substance in all the universe was given for us – the only proper response is to live for Him.

Christian: God has already set you apart as holy unto Him…now live that way! What a marvelous gift we’ve been given; we dare not take it for granted! Maybe in the past it’s been easy for you to ignore it, but let this new year be the year all of that changes… Or maybe you’ve been on the opposite end, and you’ve beaten yourself up with guilt over all the ways you’ve failed – take hold of the wondrous gift of salvation you have in Christ Jesus & rest your hope fully upon Him…

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