A Life of Holiness
Topic: English Passage: 1 Peter 1:14-16
Jesus, in what is known as His Priestly Prayer, said this about His true disciples. He prays to he Father: “I have given them Your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.
You have some amazing truths packed into those sentences, and they are truths that mark out the distinctions that Christians have. This world chases after lies, after its own ideas, but Christians have been given the true word of God. This world loves to affirm and applaud its own people, but Christians will be hated by the world. This world is under the dominion of Satan, but true Christians are protected from Satan; they are protected by the Father for an eternal inheritance. Satan can bring affliction, but he cannot bring condemnation.
Jesus wanted His disciples to know that they are distinct from the rest of the world. That distinction becomes a reality at a spiritual and at an eternal level at the moment of salvation. And then, for the rest of a Christian’s life, it becomes more of a reality at the practical level.
At the moment we come to see the reality of our sin, and confess it and turn to the Lord Jesus in faith, we are separated from the world, forgiven of all our sin, and declared righteous by the once-for-all sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus. And then, as life goes on, our practice will be more and more aligned with our heavenly position in Christ. That distinction becomes more visible.
Now, saying that Christians are distinct from the world doesn’t mean that we are all going to look the same, or make the same decisions. God’s word gives us very clear principles about life. And those principles shouldn’t be ignored. At the same time, however, two Christians might apply those principles in different ways. That’s part of Christian wisdom and Christian freedom.
I say this because, with all that’s going on in our world right now, one of the questions you might be thinking, or be asked, about is, “What is the Christian response to all this? What is someone who represents Jesus Christ supposed to do in light of what we see in the world?
That question is not an easy one to answer when we think in terms of the way the world frames it. The world wants to force us to pick a side. And it doesn’t like nuance.
So, is the novel coronavirus or the death of George Floyd an incident that we must give special attention to? In the case of George Floyd, was the officer using excessive force? Was he trying to kill Mr. Floyd? Should the officer be convicted of murder? Is what happened evidence of a systemic injustice and oppression of African-Americans? If so, are we compelled to do something about it? And if so, what should we do to fix it? How do we bring about a change in the right direction?
Well, with the way it’s portrayed in the media, it seems like there are only two options, and you are going to be vilified or villainized by one side or the other. That’s not a helpful way to view things, nor is it one that is going to help us move toward practical unity.
Those opening words I read to you came out of Jesus’ prayer in John 17. Listen to what else Jesus prayed for at that time. He said, “Holy Father, keep them in Your name, which You have given Me, that they may be one, even as We are one.”
And then He added this: “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”
Jesus didn’t just want a people separate from the world. He wanted a people united to Himself and united to one another. That unity occurs spiritually when someone comes to salvation, and it occurs practically as we make it more visible in our lives together.
So, how do we take steps to guard and to express our unity, even if we disagree on some of the questions I mentioned.
Unity isn’t going to come by ignoring issues. Even if a topic is going to bring about a disagreement, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about it. And that might be a helpful conversation to have if we have the right attitude toward one another and the right attitude toward God.
We don’t want to have conversation or debates for the sake of conversation and debate though. These discussions should affect our lives in some way. Otherwise it’s just talk.
Proverbs 14:23 says: “In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.”
Proverbs 26:16 says: “The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly.”
Those are warning against laziness. Just talking about something isn’t going to fix it. If you believe this is a problem worth addressing, then you should have conversations to that end. If you don’t believe it can be fixed, then you can have conversations about how to love others who have been affected by it. But either way, it’s a conversation that should edify.
Well, in light of all that’s going on, I’d like to equip you today for some of these conversation you might have, or at least might be thinking about. Like I said, the Bible gives us very clear and fundamental principles, and then it gives us freedom to act within those principles in a way that we believe best glorifies God.
This morning, I’m going to be talking about some of the broader principles, and my hope is they will serve as a good framework as you think about or discuss these kinds of issues.
First Peter includes principles that apply to Christians in every walk of life. Peter, however, is specifically emphasizing them during a time of great trouble. It’s a time of unrest and uncertainty. It’s a time when the sin in this world is clearly visible.
As a summary of Peter’s message, I think we have three principles that should guide how we respond to sin and pain in this world. And I don’t want you to think about these principles as options, like sometimes you’re in category number 1, and sometimes you’re in category number 2. All three principles are operating all the time.
The first principle, I’ll call the principle of heralding. To “herald” means to proclaim. A long time ago, royalty would have a herald who would give messages on its behalf. A herald made announcements on behalf of the king.
That’s so important for us to remember. We are here for God’s glory. And we are here, as First Peter 2 puts it, to proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
Don’t forget that as you make decisions about your everyday. Your life has a direct impact on your evangelism for God’s glory. People should hear us proclaim the truth of the gospel in love, and they should see our lives bearing witness to that message. The sin in this world shouldn’t make us indifferent or apathetic. It should compel us to urgency in proclaiming the truth of Jesus Christ. We are here as heralds of the King of kings.
Principles number two is the principle of hope. This is all through the book of First Peter. Christians should become righteously indignant and grieved by sin, but that is not supposed to turn into a despair or a hopelessness. This world is going to pass away, and we have another home waiting for us.
This is the principle we specifically talked about last week in First Peter 1, verse 13. We are called to fix our hope, fix our eyes, and fix our attention on the life to come. And our Lord Jesus modeled that for us as He went to the cross. First Peter 2:23 tells us, not only that He didn’t sin, but it tells us what was going on in His mind. It says He continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges rightly.
Jesus placed His hope in His heavenly Father. He knew that this would all turn out for His good and that God would be just. He lived with hope.
Well, the third principle which I think summarizes how First Peter calls us to live is the principle of holiness. So, there’s the principle of heralding and the principle of hope and the principle of holiness.
This world, the letter of James tells us, appeals to our sinful desires. First Peter chapter 2 says that those sinful desires wage war against our soul. When we think about some of the major expressions of sin, we tend to think that they are beyond us. And there’s a sort of comfort in that, if not a sense of pride or confidence.
But when we see the sin in the world, we need to be careful. We need to recognize that even though our sins are forgiven, we are still living in a body of death, as Paul calls it. And seeing others sin is dangerous because it can tempt us to make less of our sin, and even tempt us to respond with more sin.
If someone sins against you—let’s say they do it with their words—you are going to be tempted to respond with sin back. The lie of sin is that the other person’s sin justifies my own sin.
So, if I believe that my parents are being unfair with me, then I feel justified in not obeying their rules. I feel justified in dishonoring them as I vent my frustration. Do you get that? We are tempted to sin when other sin against us. Our sinful nature does not help us when we are a victim. And that’s why you have a command like Paul’s in Romans 12—"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Well, that kind of attitude for an individual comes right out of what Jesus taught concerning personal relationships. Jesus said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”
That comes out of Luke 6, verses 27-30.
Well, Peter says the exact same thing in his letter. And I would encourage you to read through the letter this week. You’re going to see the principle of heralding. You’re going to see the principle of hope. And you’re going to see this principle of holiness.
Peter talks about loving others. He talks about submitting to the governing authorities. He talks about submitting to an unjust boss. He talks about submitting to a disobedient husband. He talks about showing honor to an unbelieving wife.
And then in chapter 3, verse 9 he says what Jesus and Paul said: “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.”
Peter connects our future hope with our current holiness. Our hope of what is to come should lead us to a present holiness. The Apostle John says that when we hope in Christ we purify ourselves. The hope leads to the holiness.
And what I want to do today, very briefly is equip us with three ways to be empowered for holiness. If someone sins against you, whether it’s your spouse or your kid or your boss, why should you respond in holiness? And how can you be strengthened to do so?
Let me walk us through three foci, three focuses that will strengthen you for holiness, even as we experience sin and pain in this world.
Number 1: Focus on your relationship with your heavenly Father. Focus on your relationship with your heavenly Father.
Look again with me at verse 14 of First Peter 1 and notice that first short phrase. It says there, “as obedient children.”
You don’t just pursue holiness by trying harder. You have to keep remembering that you are in a relationship with God. He is the Father and you are His child. Children are supposed to receive protection and provision and instruction from their parents. And that’s what God provides for us.
What is a child expected to do? He’s expected to obey, to submit. And that submission is an expression of love which pleases the Father. The submission is supposed to an expression of the relationship. That might seem like a minor issue, but that’s a key principle for spiritual growth.
You don’t just flex your spiritual muscles and try harder to be holy. You draw strength by focusing on the relationship.
Let me ask you a pretty basic question—are kids more likely to make foolish decisions when their parents are watching them, or when there is no adult supervision? Which is more closely linked to foolish decisions? I think we all understand that principle. When the cats away, the mice will play. Children rebel more when there’s no direct contact with those in authority.
Well, God wants you to always maintain direct contact with Him as your heavenly Father. He loves us. He’s watching over us. And the more we focus on that relationship, the more we’ll be empowered to walk in holiness.
Do you remember what Joseph said when Potiphar’s wife was tempting him to commit adultery with her? He didn’t just say, “Oh no, that’s wrong” or “That’s going to make me feel guilty.” What did he appeal to? What kept him from going through with it? He said to the woman, “How could I do this great evil and sin against God?”
Joseph knew he had a privileged position in that household, and he knew that was part of God’s blessing on his life. So he viewed his sin as a direct act of rebellion against a God that had loved him and provided for him. That’s the sanctifying power of focusing on a relationship. We are called to be God’s obedient children.
Let me give you a second focus that’ll help strengthen you for holiness. Number 2: focus on your separation from your former life. Focus on your separation from your former life.
This is what we see in the second part of verse 14. ESV says there: “do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance.”
We are tainted by sin, right? And so, we have sinful desires or lusts or passions. Before our conversion, we were powerless over them. We were slaved to sin and to our sinful desires. And we didn’t know any better. We didn’t know that they condemned us to sin. Or at least we didn’t internalize that truth. And that’s why Peter talks about a former ignorance. We didn’t know.
But when the Spirit of Christ caused us to be born again, He came to dwell within us, and He grants us the power to overcome sin. Now, we have the power not to sin and to live for the glory of God.
But that doesn’t mean that all those desires go away, right? Some desires might, if God grants that grace, but a lot of them don’t. Maybe all of them say. And so, it becomes a war. Those former passions, former lusts, are still there pulling you down.
Imagine that you had an old car that didn’t run anymore. And it was just sitting in your driveway. And one day, someone comes along and fills up the tank and puts a new engine and a new battery in there. Now it runs. The car was dead, but now it’s alive.
But, you’ve still got all those old rusty parts in there. And they cause problems. It’s not a perfect analogy, but I hope you get the picture. We were made alive together with Christ, but we still live in a body of death, a body of flesh.
And so Peter is telling his readers, “You can live the old way, or you can live the new way. Your sinful body and mind want to pull you back to the old way. They want to mold you back into what you used to be. Don’t let that happen. Recognize that’s what’s happening and fight against it.
Focus on your separation from that former life. In Romans 6:1-2—What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?
Ask yourself the question: “Is this decision connected to my former life? Or is it rooted in my new life?” You know what your old life was like. And you know the specific temptations that come along with that. But rather than just mindlessly going in that direction, recognize that’s not a part of who you are in Christ. That is going to be helpful for all of us.
Let me just close with one final focus. This will be focus number 3 for holiness. Focus on your union with your Holy Savior. Focus on your union with your Holy Savior.
Look with me at verse 15-16—but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
Don’t just remember that God is your Father. And don’t just remember that your old life is passing away. Remember the character of the One who called you.
Instead of being conformed to your former desires, be conformed according to God’s holiness. The end of verse 15 is the main command here. “Be holy in all your conduct.”
Is that possible in this life? Are we going to be holy in every moment of life? No. We’re going to fail, but that shouldn’t diminish what God is calling us to do. He is calling us to be like Him.
God placed His Spirit within you. And He is conforming you to Himself, to the image of Jesus Christ.
And here’s an important principle to keep in mind. It is not our practical holiness that causes us to be saved. It is our salvation that causes us to be holy. In other words, you’re not earning salvation, though a lot of people think that. That’s the wrong gospel. That’s the opposite of Jesus’ message.
Jesus called you. He forgave you of your sin. And Jesus is holy. And so, because He is holy, and because we belong to Him, we should be holy too. Think about that union with Him. Show the world His holiness.
The quotation in verse 16 come out of the book of Leviticus, which is a message given to the Israelites after God delivered them form Egypt, but before they arrived in Canaan, the Promised Land. God had already redeemed them. He had already promised them the land. But since they had become God’s chosen nation, they needed to act like it. God was saying, “Don’t borrow the evil practices of the Egyptians and don’t absorb the wickedness of Canaan. You need to look different. Look like my people. Be holy because I, the Holy One, have redeemed you and joined you to Myself.”
Paul used the same principle when he talked to the Corinthians about prostitutes. He said, “You belong to Jesus. Are you going to join Jesus Christ to a prostitute?!” It doesn’t make sense.
Since we serve a holy God, our lives need to be marked by holiness. That’s supposed to be the proper motivation in everything that we do, even in times of injustice.
We obey the governing authorities, not because they’re always right, not because we always agree with them, but because our Holy Savior calls us to holiness. And He will use the testimony of our holy lives to bear witness to the truth and the power of His message.
Keep that in mind as you think about how you might respond to anything that’s going on. There is never an excuse for not walking in holiness. There is never an excuse for ignoring the clear commands of Jesus Christ. We’re called to be holy.
There are obviously going to be disagreements between us and the world. And, to a smaller degree, there are going to be disagreements between us in the church. But we shouldn’t allow those smaller disagreements to disrupt our unity.
We should all be committed to the same basic principles of the Christian life. We are here to herald the message of Christ. We are called to live with an evident hope in the life to come. And we are called to walk in the holiness of the One who saved us.
More than being known for any kind of political position, we need to be known for the truth of the gospel, the hope of salvation, and the holiness of Jesus Christ.
Would you pray with me? I’m going to lead us in prayer right now, and then, I’d like us to take about 30 seconds or so in private prayer, either by yourself, or with your family. Pray for our nation. Pray for peace. Pray for wisdom. And pray that the truth of Jesus Christ would be proclaimed and accepted for the glory of God.