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Living in Holiness

Last Sunday we began looking at the book of 1 Peter. By way of introduction, we learned that this book is actually a letter written by the Apostle Peter to Christians living in exile in five Romans provinces in what is now modern-day Turkey.

Now we’re not entirely sure why Peter refers to these Christians “exiles or foreigners”. It could be that they were literally exiled from their homes around Jerusalem – forced to flee the persecution that broke out around the time of Saul… Or it could be that Peter refers to them as “exiles” simply because they are Christians – because they are citizens of heaven and as such, this world is no longer their home.

Either way, Peter is writing to encourage them in their state of exile. As we read through this letter, it quickly becomes obvious that these Christians are going through some difficult trials in life – and so, in the first few verses, Peter reminds them of the hope and the joy they have, because God, in his mercy, has given them salvation through Jesus Christ. Peter talks about a priceless inheritance that God is keeping for them in heaven – and how God is protecting them through their faith, until they receive their salvation in full! And that’s why, even though they must endure many trials in this present life, they can still be filled with joy because they know three key things:

    1. They have been chosen by God and are dearly loved by him, 
    2. Their trials are only temporary – whatever they are going through – “This too shall pass” 
    3. Because of their hope in Jesus, there is wonderful joy ahead on the day when God rewards them with their salvation in full!

So with those three encouragements in mind, Peter is going to continue (as we are going to see today) to exhort them or urge them to live as exiles in some specific ways.

Peter wants them to know that the Christian life isn’t just about the reward we will get one day in heaven – but it’s also about how we live on earth today! You’ve probably noticed that God doesn’t just teleport us immediately to heaven upon conversion. He leaves us to live as exiles in this world for a time. He’s got a reason for that – there is a purpose for us living here as exiles.

And so in today’s passage, Peter is saying “In light of our great reward that we have to look forward to, in light of who God is and what He has done for us, here’s how God expects us to live as exiles in this world.”

And then we’re going to see Peter beginning to lay out some of those exceptions for us. Actually, two weeks ago we talked about God’s expectations for us as we looked at that passage in Deuteronomy (if you can remember that far back). Well, the book of 1 Peter really builds on that same idea – as well as giving us some very practical applications for what that looks like. But we’ll get into some of that a little bit later.

For now, let’s begin today by starting at 1 Peter, chapter 1, verse 13.

13 So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. 14 So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. 15 But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. 16 For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”

17 And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time here as “temporary residents.” 18 For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. 19 It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. 20 God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but now in these last days he has been revealed for your sake.

1 Peter 1:13-20

So as I mentioned earlier – in this passage, Peter is beginning to lay out God’s expectations for us as as exiles (or as temporary residents) in this world. And it all comes out everything Peter wrote about just prior to this.

You’ll notice that verse 13 begins with the word “so”…. Or other translations might say “therefore”…. And Whenever you see that, you know that whatever you’re about to read hinges on what you’ve just finished reading. 

Because of this…. therefore…. this.

I’ve told you these facts, so…. here’s what you need to do.

And that’s what Peter is saying… Because God has chosen you and adopted you into His family, because God has promised you this priceless inheritance, because you’ve trusted him for your salvation…. here’s what you need to do. Step #1…. He says in verse 13…

13 So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world.  1 Peter 1:13

In the Old King James version, that verse says… 

“Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:13 KJV

I mention the KJV because I love that first phrase “Gird up the loins of your mind”. Girding up your loins is what ancient middle eastern men did when they were getting ready to run or to do some serious work. Back then, everybody had these long robes that went down to the ground, so if you were going to do some serious work, or if you were going to run somewhere, that robe would really be in the way! You’d be tripping all over the place! And so, what they did, is they tucked their robe up into their belt so it would be out of the way of their feet and they would be free to work or run. That’s girding up your loins…  And Peter says to gird up the loins of your mind – in other words – get your mind ready – this is going to take serious work and you don’t want anything to trip you up!

Hebrews chapter 12 actually gives us some very similar instructions.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Hebrews 12:1-2

The point of both of these passages is that we need to set out minds – set our focus – on Jesus and his salvation. Otherwise, we will quickly be tripped up by the cares, and the worries, and the sins, and the many distraction of this life.

Living the Christian life takes work. It takes intentional effort. It takes self-discipline. 

For example:

    • Its very easy to neglect your time with God each day.
    • It’s very easy to miss a Sunday at church.
    • It’s very easy to let bitterness or indifference grow towards others.
    • It’s very easy to become wrapped up in yourself and to forget about others.

And at the same time…

    • It’s hard to love your enemies.
    • It’s hard to ask for forgiveness – harder yet to give forgiveness.
    • It’s hard to break those old familiar habits of sin.
    • It’s hard to sacrifice your wants and desires for the good of others.

The Christian life is hard. And if we aren’t prepared for that, living as exiles in this world will devastate us. We’ll be the most miserable people on the planet. But with our focus firmly fixed on Jesus and with our hope fully in God’s gracious salvation, we can do those hard things with joy! That’s why Peter urges us:

13 So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world.  1 Peter 1:13

We have to live with the end in mind. We have to remember what we have been saved for and saved from. We need to live today in light of our hope for the future! 

It’s a lot easier to do hard things when you know the end result. It’s a lot easier to be self-discipline when you know the reward that awaits you!

It’s like that Biggest Loser tv show that was on a while back. They took a group of people who struggled to lose weight and they promised them a reward of a quarter-million dollars if they could lose more weight than anyone else.

Suddenly, these guys had a lot more motivation to exercise and eat right – even though it was still really hard! But they knew the reward that awaited them – and so they pushed through the tough stuff!

And that’s what Peter is calling us to do. The Christian life is hard – so remember what you’re working towards! Put all your hope in the salvation that awaits you! Live today with the future in mind.

And then he continues in verse 14:

14 So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. 15 But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. 16 For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:13-16

So with our minds prepared for action and all our hope in God’s gracious salvation, Peter says we must live a life of holiness.  

Because God has chosen us, because God has promised us this priceless inheritance, because we’ve trusted Him for our salvation… it only makes sense that we should pursue holiness.

After all, isn’t that our end goal? To one day be holy? To be sinless? Isn’t it part of our priceless inheritance – to live forever in the presence of God completely free from sin?!

Absolutely! We can’t wait for that day! It’s going to be awesome!

So if that’s what we’re looking forward to – why wouldn’t we starting working towards that now? Peter says don’t wait until heaven to live holy lives – start right now! Live today as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. Be holy today!

God’s command to be holy isn’t a burdensome command. It’s not a legalistic “you have to follow all the rules” kinda of command. God inviting us to begin living our “eternal life” today! 

Before we had the hope of Salvation, the only happiness we knew was in the fleeting pleasure of sin – living to satisfy our own desires. But as you know, sin always bring pain and consequences – in the end, it robs us of our joy and fills us with guilt and regret and sorrow. It leads to death.

But Peter is saying, now that we have this priceless inheritance and there is wonderful joy ahead, don’t waste your life chasing after short-lived and consequence-filled sinful pleasure! Chase after holiness instead! Holiness and obedience is what actually gives us what we want the most in life! It gives us joy and peace and true fulfillment!

Thats why Peter urges us to pursue holiness. Be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy.

And maybe this ties in with Peter’s earlier command to ‘gird up the loins of your mind’… You gird up your loins when you’re going to run – when you’re going to chase after something… And here Peter says “Gird up the loins of your mind… and Chase after holiness” – pursue holiness. 

So here’s a question for you today – do you pursue holiness?

We pursue a lot of different things in life. We pursue our career – we pursue different hobbies – at one time we pursued our spouse – (hopefully we still pursue them a little bit)…. We pursue good health, we pursue growthing wealth…

And most of the time, we’re really good at pursuing things. Maybe this is a guy thing – but I think guys really like pursuing things. We love the chase!

Guys, when you were dating your wife before you were married – do you remember how you pursued her? I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that when I was pursuing Heather – man, I was focused! I pursued her very intentionally. I would spend any time with her that I could. I would spend enormous amounts of time writing her letters or talking to her on the phone. I actually built an entire website dedicate to telling Heather how much I loved her! I believe I called it the “I love Heather website” and it was filled with poems and hidden links to secret pages and all kinds of mushy stuff!

Man, I tell ya, I was serious about pursuing Heather! I was going to win her heart no matter what! I was focused and determined to pursue her.

And I think Peter would say we need to have that same kind of focus and determination to pursue holiness. 

We need to gird up the loins of our minds each morning and determine in our hearts that we are going to live as God’s obedient children – being holy as He is holy.

Life is too short to waste it chasing after our own selfish desires. That only ends in disappointment and emptiness. I’d encourage you to pursue holiness. Make it your aim to be as holy as you can today – because that’s our ultimate goal anyway, right? We look forward to one day being in the presence of God – enjoying His holiness and being holy ourselves. So why not enjoy being holy today?

And as further motivation for us to live holy lives, Peter continues in verse 17:

17 And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time here as “temporary residents.”

1 Peter 1:17

You might remember that two weeks ago we talked a little bit about what it means to “fear the Lord”. It’s not that we need to be frightened of him per se, but rather that we recognize who He really is – the almighty God, perfect and holy in all his ways.

And Peter here is reminding us that it’s this God who will judge or reward us. And Peter’s not talking about God judging us as to whether or not we will receive Salvation – that’s already been decided. As Christians we have the promise of salvation the moment we put our trust in Jesus. But the Bible is clear that everyone’s works will be judged.

And since God is impartial – he doesn’t play favourites – we can be sure that he will judge or reward us exactly as we deserve. And it is for this reason, that Peter urges us live in reverent fear of the Lord during our time as “temporary residents”. Live in such a way that God will have reason to reward you! In other words, pursue holiness! 

There is no reward for pursuing our own selfish desires! There is no reward for advancing your career or getting 6 figures in your bank account or enjoying all the pleasures this life has to offer… Not that those things are necessarily bad – but God offers no eternal reward for those types of things. However, there is great reward in being obedient to God and living holy lives. Just for example, Luke 6:35 says…

35 “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High.” Luke 6:35a

God has promised to greatly reward us when we live like Him – as his obedient children. Anything we do outside of that is really pointless. There is no eternal value in living to please ourselves. So Peter says, as long as we’re living here on earth as ‘temporary residents’ – live in reverent fear of the Lord – live in obedience and holiness so that we may be rewarded!

Then in verse 18, Peter gives us yet another reason to pursue holiness.

 18 For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. 19 It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. 20 God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but now in these last days he has been revealed for your sake.

Here Peter reminds us that God paid an incredible price to save us from our empty life! Jesus Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God, shed his blood so that we could be redeemed. God paid an incredible price so that we could be holy! In fact, God’s purpose for redeeming us is our holiness. Christ died so that we could be holy. Ephesians 5:25 says..

25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. 27 He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. Ephesians 5:25-27

Christ died so that you could be holy.

Think about this: God knew us and chose us before time began – he loved us so much that He sent his Son to die in our place. Jesus body was broken and his blood was spilled so that you could be cleansed from your sin and made holy. After all, Christ did for us, how then could we now just continue living in sin?

For us now to live in sin – living only to satisfy our own selfish desires after all that God did for us – it’s like we’re spitting on the gift of God. Where is the fear of the Lord in that? It’s like we’re nailing him to the cross all over again.

No, if God has paid such a great price for us to be holy – then the our only appropriate response is to live in holiness. Anything less is a slap in the face of God. We must live in reverent fear of the Lord and live clean and holy lives.

And you know, I have to admit, that in writing this message this week, I’ve been convicted of my own lack of holiness. It’s painfully clear to me that I don’t pursue holiness like God deserves. After all that God has done for me, my response to God’s incredible gift is lacking to say the least. Far too often, I slip back into my old sinful ways of chasing after my own selfish desires – rather than pursuing holiness.

And if you can relate to that in anyway today, I’d like to give you a little encouragement as we wrap up this morning.

First of all, I’d encourage you to know that, even if you’ve failed miserably at pursuing holiness in the past – God still loves you like crazy! His love for you today has not changed from the love that led Him to die on a cross for you. He still chooses you and he still wants you to be with him and to share in his holiness forever. He is eager and ready to forgive you for your failings and to give you a fresh start. All He asks is that you confess and repent. Admit that you’ve failed and then take action to change. I think Psalm 103 is a great reminder for us today.

8 The Lord is compassionate and merciful,

    slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.

9 He will not constantly accuse us,

    nor remain angry forever.

10 He does not punish us for all our sins;

    he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.

11 For his unfailing love toward those who fear him

    is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.

12 He has removed our sins as far from us

    as the east is from the west.

13 The Lord is like a father to his children,

    tender and compassionate to those who fear him.

14 For he knows how weak we are;

    he remembers we are only dust.

15 Our days on earth are like grass;

    like wildflowers, we bloom and die.

16 The wind blows, and we are gone—

    as though we had never been here.

17 But the love of the Lord remains forever

    with those who fear him. Psalm 103:8-17

Maybe today you need to take some time just to talk to God – to confess and admit to Him how you’ve failed in being holy. God knows all about it already, we knows how weak we are. He knows that we are only dust. And He is compassionate and merciful to those who fear him – slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.

I’d encourage you – to go before that God, confess to him and accept his forgiveness. And then, once you’ve made things right with God, gird up the loins of your mind – and determine in your heart to be holy as He is holy! Live in a way that is a fitting response to our Lord’s sacrifice – live in anticipation of the great reward that awaits us through our hope in Jesus Christ.

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