Hopeful Holiness

1 Peter 1 :13-21

October 11, 2014 | Brian Bill

After listening to a long and drawn-out sermon, a boy walked out of the service with a big frown on his face.  He had a rough morning because his dad had corrected him several times to keep him from fidgeting.  Seeing his long face, one of the members came up and asked, “What’s the matter, Johnny?  You look so sad.”  The frustrated boy responded quickly, “I am sad.  It’s hard to be happy and holy at the same time.”

It’s hard to be holy and happy. 

Johnny speaks for many of us, doesn’t he?   It’s hard to be holy and happy.  Some of us think that to be holy means that one will never be happy.  Others think that they have to be unholy to be happy.  Actually, the way to happiness is through holiness.  Or, to be more accurate, the pathway to joy is strewn with trials and struggles but the only way to get to where you want to go is through holiness.

I like what C.S. Lewis said, “How little people know who thank that holiness is dull.  When one meets the real thing…it is irresistible.  If even ten percent of the world’s population had it, would not the whole world be converted and happy before a year’s end?”

Last week we discovered that since the prophets predicted salvation, the apostles proclaimed it, and the angels prize it, how can we be bored by it?  Peter is helping us to see that when we suffer we must lock into our salvation.  As we come to 1 Peter 1:13 the mood of the letter changes as it goes from the indicative (what is true) to the imperative (what we need to do).  We see this in the very first word: “Therefore…”  After establishing what it is that we believe, now we’re challenged to behave accordingly by living it out before a lost world.  We could say it like this: When going through problems, remember your position in Christ and then practice what you have in Christ.

Listen.  Our behavior results from what we believe about who God is and what He’s done for us.  We do what we do because of who we are.  We do who we are.

Since the section we’re studying is longer than in previous weeks, I want to first draw out the three main imperatives, or commands.  

  1. Be hopeful.  We see this in verse 13: “…rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
  2. Be holy.  Drop down to verse 15: “But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.”
  3. Be wholehearted.  This is spelled out in the last part of verse 17: “…conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear.”

We’re going to look at each of these commands and then study the supporting Scripture surrounding the imperatives.  Peter doesn’t just tell us to be hopeful, holy and wholehearted; he tells us how to do so.

Be Hopeful

The first thing we’re called to do is to be hopeful in verse 13.  That’s not easy to do when our society seems to be imploding and many Christians are caving in to culture. We’re called to consider the second coming of Christ when we’re being clobbered by news reports and when we’re going through personal struggles and trials: “And rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  To “rest your hope fully” means to set your hope completely, totally and utterly.  Hope refers to the absolute certainty of future good.  It’s the idea of eager expectation.

Someone put it like this: “Other men see only a hopeless end, but the Christian rejoices in an endless hope.”  Things are bad now but hang on because the best is coming.  Romans 4:18 holds up the example of Abraham to help us have hope even when it seems hopeless: “who, contrary to hope, in hope believed.”

Do you see what we’re to set our hope on?  We’re to focus on the grace that is coming when Jesus returns.  Sometimes we get so caught up in fear about what’s happening in our world today that we forget that Jesus is coming again and when He does, He’s bringing undeserved blessings with Him…for those who are born again.  I like how John Ortberg puts it: “God sees with utter clarity who we are.  He is undeceived as to our warts and wickedness.  But when God looks at us that is not all He sees.  He also sees who we are intended to be, who we will one day become.”

Friends, I fear that many followers of Christ have lost their longing for His return.  Events are lining up for the imminent rapture of believers and we should be looking for it every day.  Titus 2:13 says, “Looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”

When I think about the threats of our world, my mind goes to what Jesus said in Luke 21:10-11: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven.”

1 Timothy 4:1 says “in latter times some will depart from the faith” and we’ll see more and more people controlled by their lusts and passions according to 2 Peter 3:3: “Scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts.”  A terrible story broke years ago out of Montgomery, Alabama in which a pastor confessed from the pulpit that he had full blown AIDS and had committed adultery with several church members.  There are also many groups of pastors from a major denomination that had blessed a gay wedding are not going to be disciplined by that denomination.

I believe that we are in the last days described in 2 Timothy 3:1-5: “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: for men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.  And from such people turn away!”

When we set our hope fully on His appearing it will have a purifying effect on how we live right now.  We see this in 1 John 3:3: “And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”  And when we back up a few verses we read these words in 1 John 2:28: “And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.”

Peter now gives us two ways that we can remain hopeful.

  1. Be intentional in your mind.  Verse 13 begins with an unusual phrase in the King James and the New King James: “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind…”  Here’s the background.  In the first century, men wore long flowing robes.  When it was time for work, war, running or wrestling, they would tuck their robe into their belts so it wouldn’t get in the way.  The idea is to be ready to respond with instant obedience. 

In Exodus 2:12, God’s people are told to be ready to move during the Passover: “And thus you shall eat it: with a belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. So you shall eat it in haste.”  Nothing was to hold them back when it was time to go forward.  In 1 Kings 18:46, Elijah “girded up his loins and ran ahead of Ahab…”  Jesus told his followers to be ready for the master’s return in Luke 12:35: “Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning…”  And in Ephesians 6:14 we’re told to tie everything together with the belt of truth, which is the Word of God, so that we can fight spiritual battles: “Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth.”

John MacArthur says that girding up our minds is like tying up our loose thoughts.  Spurgeon refers to it as “pulling ourselves together.”  We might say, “It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work.”  Mental laziness leads to moral laxity because loose thinking leads to loose living.  

2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us to take every thought captive; we’re not to just let them run free in our heads.  We must guard against letting garbage come into our minds and instead focus on those things that will build us up.  That’s why Scripture memory is so important.  

  1. Don’t live inebriated lives.  Notice the next two words: “Be sober” or literally, “Be wine-less.” While Scripture warns against getting drunk (Proverbs 20:1; Ephesians 5:18), Peter’s main concern here is that we don’t live under the influence of the world around us or become intoxicated by our emotions within us.  To be sober means to be “clear headed, to keep all our faculties fully operational.”

A friend of mine told me a story about him and his dad. They went to a Packer game and were surrounded by fans who were inebriated.  Beer was flowing almost as fast as the rain was coming down.  As the game progressed, a drunken guy behind us was thrown out by two police officers.  Several others needed help walking down the stairs as they headed out to get some more beer…or to use the bathroom.

His dad then told me something he didn’t know before.  He told his son he quit drinking beer about two years ago because that’s when he became a bus driver.  My friend could hardly believe it because growing up he had a bar in the basement with a half barrel always on tap.  His dad told him he didn’t want to do anything to put the kids in danger and that he wanted to always be ready to drive if his boss called him at the last minute.  He wants to be fully operational at all times so he can serve when and where needed.

Are you clear-headed and sober minded so that the Savior can call on you for service?  Jesus warns us in Luke 12:31: “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly.”  Are you alert to the dangers around you?  We live in enemy territory, don’t we?  Look at 1 Peter 5:8: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”

I read a blog post called “The Cult of Culture: How to Get Out of this World.”  

“Watch out for the world.  It’s after you.  It wants you in its cult following, wooing you with pleasures and power, fame and fortune, the nexus of excess.  The cult of our culture provides the perfect distraction from what’s really important, and lures us with empty lusts, beliefs and religions.  It may not seem like an organized cult, but behind the apparent chaos and disorder is an enemy pulling the strings to entangle our mind, body and soul.  It’s easy to overlook that we are targeted and marketed with endless desires to capture your time, energy and money.  The world wants your worship, so you don’t worship the one who deserves it.”

We’re called first to be hopeful.  Secondly, we’re commanded to be holy.

Be Holy

We see this in verses 15-16: “But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’”  The word “But” indicates a contrast.  We need to be hopeful by being intentional in our minds and by not living inebriated lives.  But there’s more than that.  We must avoid sin but also delight in pleasing God.  Our standard for living is not those around us but God himself.  Since He is holy, we must be holy.  To “be holy” has a sense of urgency behind it.

The holiness of God is the only one of His attributes elevated to the third degree.  We never hear Him referred to as love, love, love or as omnipresent, omnipresent, omnipresent (that’s what I’ll be preaching on tonight) but according to Isaiah 6:3 the angels declare: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!”  

The phrase, “Be holy, for I am holy” is found in Leviticus 11:44 and several other passages. Sandwiched between “He who called you is holy” and “for I am holy” are two imperatives: “you also be holy in all your conduct” and “be holy.”   Unfortunately, not only do some think that it’s impossible to be holy and happy, many equate the word holy with being a ‘religious nerd.’  Some see holiness as a vice, not a virtue.

It’s hard to get our hands around holiness but essentially it means that we’re to reflect who God is.  And it should affect all of our conduct or as J.B. Phillips puts it: “Be holy in every department of your life.”  Holiness is not to be compartmentalized.  Let’s flesh this out.

    • Be holy in your voting.  As citizens of heaven and of earth, we have the privilege and responsibility to vote three weeks from Tuesday.  I would never tell you who to vote for but I can give some advice on how to vote: Cast your ballot for men and women of integrity and vote according to your biblical values.
    • Be holy in your gaming 
    • Be holy in your TV watching 
    • Be holy on the web 
    • Be holy on your phone
    • Be holy in your dating relationships – only date a believer and be pure
    • Be holy at your homecoming dance 
    • Be holy in your marriage
    • Be holy where you hang out
    • Be holy in the kind of music you listen to
    • Be holy in your sports
    • Be holy at home 
    • Be holy in your neighborhood 
    • Be holy at work 
    • Be holy in your thoughts
    • Be holy in everything you do

We’re given two ways to grow in our holiness in verse 14.  You won’t drift toward holiness.  You’re going to have to go after it.

  1. Live to please your Father.  Verse 14 begins: “As obedient children…”  In biblical language, to be a child of something is to be controlled by that something.  The word for “obedient” means to “hear under.”  It’s a picture of submitting and serving someone in authority over us.  

It’s not so much putting together rules and prohibitions but instead striving to please your Father.  In Colossians 2:20-23, Paul tells us that regulations like “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle…are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.”

  1. Don’t live like you used to live.  Verse 14 continues: “Not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance.”  The phrase “not conforming” is in the present tense, which means we’re to cease an activity already in progress.  To conform means to fit into a mold; to pattern one’s life and actions after another.  I appreciate how J.B. Philips translates Romans 12:2: “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God remold your minds from within.”  

The word “lust” refers to a strong desire to do or secure something.  James 1:14 calls us to control these lusts: “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.”  I just read a shocking study from Proven Men Ministries that found 77 percent of Christian men between the ages of 18 and 30 look at pornography at least monthly.  That’s a big problem.

Incidentally, remember the context of Peter’s letter is that believers are going through struggles and trials.  When you’re hurting, it’s easy to let your guard down.  Job knew he was vulnerable in this area so in Job 31:1 we read these words: “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl.”

In short, we’re not to go back and do what we used to do because we’re no longer who we used to be.  I like the title to one of Brandon Heath’s songs: “I’m not who I was.”  And this line is penetrating: “I wish you could see my now.  I wish I could show you how…I’m not who I was.”

Let’s be hopeful.  Secondly, let’s be holy.  Finally, let’s be wholehearted in our pursuit of hopeful holiness.

Be Wholehearted

Look at verse 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.”  It’s so great that we’re invited to call on our Father for whatever we need but we also need to remember that He is our Judge.  He’s our Father and we should fear Him.  We have a relationship with Him but we must also revere Him.  We see here that what we do matters because while we’re justified by faith, we’re rewarded according to our works.

Because of that we’re to “conduct ourselves” accordingly.  Go back to verse 15: “You also be holy in all your conduct.”   We could say that God wants us wholly holy!  Leonard Ravenhill once said, “The greatest miracle that God can do today is take an unholy man out of an unholy world, and make that man holy and put him back into that unholy world and keep him holy in it.”

The depth of our devotion will determine our kingdom impact. 

We’re called to live on mission.  We’re to be all in at home, in our neighborhood, on our campus, in the workplace.  We need to be fully devoted to gather, grow, give and go because the depth of our devotion will determine our kingdom impact.  Acts 2:42 says that the first followers had “devoted themselves.”  That’s why their enemies declared in Acts 17:6 that they had “turned the world upside down.”

1. You’ve been redeemed from aimless living. 

Look at verse 18: “Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers.”  To be redeemed means that God has purchased our freedom by paying a ransom price.  We no longer have to stumble around aimlessly in life because we’ve been set free and given new direction. 

2. You’ve been bought with the blood of Christ. 

Look at verse 19: But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”  Jesus is our sacrificial substitute, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.  1 Corinthians 6:20 says that God bought us with the price of His Son.  We must therefore glorify Him with our bodies.

3. God’s eternal plan involves you. 

Verse 20: “He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.”  Did you know that God planned before the world began that He would send His Son to save sinners?  Jesus Himself prayed in John 17:24: “For You loved Me before the foundation of the world.”  Don’t miss the last two words – God’s eternal plan was “for you.”  But it won’t be activated in your life unless you personally respond by believing and receiving Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.

4. Your faith and hope are rooted in the resurrection. 

If you know Christ, you can trust Him in your trials.  Verse 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.”  Since Jesus died for you, was raised for you, and ascended for you, He will come back for you.  You can put your full faith and wholehearted hope in Him.

A country church was having their annual revival meeting.  On the first night the preacher preached a message about repentance and the need to return to the Lord.  During the altar call, a man came down the aisle saying, “Fill me Lord, fill me.”

The next night the preacher challenged the congregation with the need to totally surrender their lives to Christ in complete obedience.  Again the offer to respond was extended; like the night before the same man came down the aisle crying out, “Fill me Lord, fill me.”

The third night the preacher warned the congregation of the evils of sin and urged the congregation to live lives of holiness.  As the invitation was made to give one’s life to Christ, the same man came up the aisle declaring, “Fill me Lord, fill me.” 

To which someone in the back of the church yelled: “Don’t do it Lord, He leaks!”

The truth of the matter is we all leak. But it’s still important to make a commitment to Christ.  Are you ready to hold on to hope?  Are you ready to go after personal holiness?  Are you determined to be wholehearted?

When you make this commitment, you’ll discover that happiness and holiness are not mutually exclusive…even though you might fidget a bit before you get there.

He’ll take you just as you are.  Will you come to Him now?

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?