“Be Holy, For I Am Holy” 1 Peter 1:13-21 May 15, 2011
SCRIPTURE INTRO: We’re studying 1 Peter this summer.
The theme of this letter is Christian suffering.
How as a Christian, you can live in such a way that the troubles, pains,
and sorrows that inevitably come, don’t crush you, but make you better.
We saw last week that Peter says you have to start by looking at the Gospel.
You have to see that your salvation is all of God from first to last.
God the Father chose you in grace before you were even born.
If he foreknew you, he also foreknew your troubles. Part of his good plan.
God the Son lived life you should have lived, died death you should have died.
He’s the hero of every story, so you can rest in him, even in your failures.
God the Spirit is working in you, sanctifying you in your troubles.
Every positive motion of your soul, no matter how slight, from him.
Peter says over and over—your salvation is all God, all grace, every part.
So does that mean that when it comes to life and suffering
you don’t have anything you have to do?
You just sit back and let God work it out? Absolutely not.
If you want to come out of the furnace like gold—then you have some
incredibly hard work to do.
Nobody can do it for you. You have to do it.
INTRO: Allison had a doctor’s appointment this week.
He was very pleased with her X-rays. He was very pleased with his surgery.
Said that the plate in her wrist was a textbook operation.
That it was perfectly screwed into place. Couldn’t have been better.
He said that the bone is healing just has he had planned.
But he was not pleased with the condition of her hand.
He said that she needed to move it more or there would be causing problems.
He said that there are cases where surgery is a success, bones completely heal,
but because the patient quits using his hand, it curls up into a useless claw.
So he prescribed therapy and Allison has been doing her exercises vigorously.
They hurt. Her exercises hurt.
But she knows her bones are healing and she doesn’t want a claw.
She wants a useful hand. So she’s totally devoted and pushing herself.
She knows she can’t say: The doctor did his part, so I don’t have to do anything.
That is a great illustration of these verses in 1 Peter.
Peter has just said that God has done everything for your salvation.
It’s all grace. It’s all God. Christ is the hero. The Holy Spirit is sanctifying.
The expert surgeon has done his work on your soul.
Without his work there would be no fundamental healing.
But after God has done his work of grace, you have to move.
You have to work and stretch and even do things that are hard and painful.
You have to be completely committed and push yourself.
If you don’t, you’ll curl up into a useless claw of a Christian.
And when troubles come, instead of refining you and making you great,
you’ll seem barely different from an unbeliever.
Look at verse 13 again:
“Therefore, prepare your mind for action, be self-controlled . . . and so on”
Therefore, in light of all the great things I’ve said about God and grace
and how our salvation is all of Jesus Christ . . .you have to do something.
Prepare your mind for action. If any of you are reading the old King James,
you will see the literal translation which is very vivid.
The Greek text says: Therefore, gird up the loins of your mind.
In the ancient Roman world, people wore robes, not pants.
It’s hard to run or do anything strenuous in a robe.
So what you would do is gather your robe, pull it up between your legs,
and tuck it into a belt or girdle that you wore around your loins—lower waist.
So the expression “gird up your loins” was a way of saying—
get ready to work, get ready to run. You’re going to do something strenuous.
We might say: Roll up your sleeves.
So Peter tells these Christians who are suffering:
God has done great things for your salvation,
he is doing great things in your suffering, he’s refining you, sanctifying you.
And because of that, you have work to do. Very hard work.
So get ready, roll up the sleeves of your mind.
You’re going to have to think this through and then work it out.
He gives general instructions here—be self-controlled, have a living hope,
do not conform to evil desires—then spells out in detail later in letter.
And the verses that sum up Peter’s point here are 15 & 16. Where we’ll focus.
“But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written,
‘Be holy, because I am holy.”
If you want to go through suffering and come out like refined gold,
come out a better and more beautiful person—you have to be holy.
And it can’t be a part time hobby, something you dabble in.
Something you say—I’m going to leave that to the Holy Spirit.
No, you have to roll up your sleeves, gird up your loins,
and prepare for a lifetime of strenuous effort.
You may say to yourself: Hey, I liked last week’s sermon better—
how the Christian life is all grace.
There is no contradiction between the Bible’s teaching about grace and faith
and the Christian life being all Jesus, and the Bible’s teaching that salvation
requires us to obey all God’s commands and pursue holiness with all our might.
The Holy Spirit makes the Christian life possible,
but you have to live that life. That’s what Peter is saying.
Just two points for your note-takers.
1. God’s holiness
2. Your holiness
Credit where credit is due: Sermon by Dr. Tim Keller on this passage.
MP#1 God’s holiness
Peter says: “The one who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.”
Remember I told you last week that God’s sovereign grace is all through this book.
Here it is again. The one who called you. He called you first.
He took the initiative in your salvation. He loved you before you loved him.
This one who called you to salvation is holy.
Because of that you are to be holy in all you do.
Then Peter quotes from Leviticus when Lord told the Israelites:
“Be holy, for I am holy.” Peter is writing to Gentiles.
Writing to people who have no background in the Old Testament—
so he’s reaching back and he’s educating them in basic Hebrew thought.
He’s giving them a lead here—To understand God’s holiness, have to look
into the Hebrew Scriptures, have to look at what he has revealed.
So what does the Old Testament tell us about God’s holiness?
Well, prepare your minds for action, gird up the loins of your mind.
This will require you to think and meditate.
Throughout the Bible, God’s holiness has two aspects—
it refers to his moral purity and to his being.
It’s the first aspect, his moral purity, that usually comes to mind.
God is utterly pure. God is light, in him there is no darkness at all.
God’s holiness is utterly intolerant of sin.
He hates it with a holy hatred. He cannot tolerate it in any form.
Earlier in the service we sang the hymn Holy, Holy, Holy.
Do you know what passage of Scripture that hymn is based on?
Isaiah 6. The prophet Isaiah has a vision. He sees the Lord on his throne.
His glory is filling the temple. Angelic beings are singing—
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty, the whole earth is full of his glory.”
Do you remember Isaiah’s response? He cried out, Woe is me! I am ruined!
Because he was struck with terror and dismay at the moral purity of God.
He said: I am a man of unclean lips, live among a people of unclean lips.
And my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty. Though was going to die.
My dad had an amazing ability of explaining difficult theology to me as a boy.
Once I asked him what it means when the Bible says—
No one can see God and live. Why?
He said, Imagine you are at school, in empty classroom, nobody around—
You decide to go through the teacher’s desk. Pull out the top drawer,
start to dig around, take things, just then you look up.
Your teacher is standing in the doorway watching you.
That would give you such a shock, your heart would start pounding.
A terrible feeling of fear and shame and would overwhelm you.
Now, multiply that feeling you get when you look up and see your teacher
by ten thousand, multiply it by a million.
When a sinful person sees God’s holiness unshielded,
that shock and fear would kill you.
So why didn’t Isaiah die? You know the rest of the vision.
Lord reminds him that he has been forgiven by the sacrifice of Christ.
Reminds him by having one of the angels take a burning coal from the altar
and press it on his lips. Way of saying, you’ve been purified, sins burned away
through the sacrifice on this altar.
Now let’s get back to Peter’s point. Focus on the holiness of God.
His moral purity. His absolute holy hatred of sin.
How does this apply to suffering? Remember that this is the theme of Peter.
How a Christian can go through the furnace of trials and troubles
and come out purified instead of burned to a crisp.
Well, Peter is going to say, this moral holiness is to be your goal.
This is what you are going to be aiming for and hoping for in your suffering.
This is the sort of person you want to be turned into—
one that reflects the holiness of God by loving what is good, hating what is evil.
You should hope and strive to become more and more a person who is
dismayed by the sin inside of you, just as Isaiah was. Woe is me!
As Peter says in this passage, it’s a view of the holiness of God that enables you
to see certain desires in your heart as evil desires, to see certain goals and drives
as an empty way of life. To see your identity in terms of being a redeemed
and forgiven person.
Will get into more specifics later in the letter, but Peter is laying it out here.
If you are going to be purified in trials, you have work to do—
focus on the holiness of the Lord so that imitation of that becomes your goal.
This comes into sharper focus when we consider second aspect of God’s holiness.
Remember I said that his holiness refers to his moral purity and his being.
Now, this really forces you to think.
It’s fairly easy to understand why Isaiah reacted the way he did to God’s holiness.
After all, he was a sinful man. Forgiven man, but still sinful. He felt that.
But what where the angels doing in that vision? Do you remember?
They were a certain class of angels—seraphim—the burning ones.
Told they have six wings, two fly, two cover feet, two cover their faces.
Never stop crying out Holy, Holy, Holy.
Now, this is profound. The seraphim are perfectly pure beings.
Not a speck of sin—but they cannot look at God.
Cover feet as a sign that they are not worthy to stand in God’s presence.
What’s going on here?
God’s holiness refers primarily to his separation from all creation.
He is completely different, he is absolutely above, he is transcendent.
He’s not just all powerful and all knowing—he’s off the scale.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my
thoughts than your thoughts.”
We don’t know much about the realm of angels, only know names of two—
Gabriel and Michael. Michael is called the archangel.
Seems to mean that he is the highest angel. Most glorious created being.
But do you know what his name means? It’s a question.
Who is like God? Obviously it’s a rhetorical question.
Here is this being who is glorious and his name declares—
the Lord is in another class altogether.
He’s so completely above me that even in my glory, I am nothing compared to him.
So to see God has holy, and to worship him as holy, is to understand
that he is completely different, completely separate, completely above
all of his creation.
How does this apply to suffering. Very profound.
When you don’t think of God as holy, you end up just thinking of him as
a bigger and stronger and smarter version of you. And so you try to figure out
things he is doing, and think you have them figured out.
Then the next step, very easy, you say—I would have done it differently.
But God’s wisdom is holy wisdom. His power is holy power. Off the scale.
That means that in the sufferings of life there are times when you need to put
your hand over your mouth and worship. Just cry out. Holy, holy, holy.
This was pressed home to me vividly the morning after the tornado.
Was downtown and saw Rev. Strandlund at Christ Lutheran.
He was picking through the rubble. Come up here and look at sanctuary.
When I did, there on the top of all that ruin was a carved piece of oak that had come
off their altar and it said: Holy, Holy, Holy.
Why does the Lord do this or that? What does he destroy some and spare others?
Why does he deliver some, take away others in death?
Why is he putting you through a trial and not somebody else, or vice versa?
He’s holy, holy, holy. Even seraphim do not question, but cover faces and worship.
Do you know that the one who called you is holy?
Do you worship his holiness, especially in things you don’t understand?
That leads us to the second point. Peter’s main point . . .
MP#2 Your holiness
Be holy, because I am holy.
If God is totally different, totally above and separate from creation,
how are we to imitate that? The Lord is in a class all his own.
Here’s how—and this is the heart of holiness.
Just as God is separate from all creation, we are to be separate people.
People totally devoted to him.
In Old Testament worship there were objects that were called holy.
Holy pots and pans in the temple, holy clothing.
What did that mean? Didn’t mean they were sinless—inanimate objects.
It meant that they were separated for God.
Wholly devoted to his worship and service.
Here’s Peter’s main point.
You are holy to the degree you have given yourself to God.
To be holy is to be wholly God’s.
So that no part of your heart, thinking, time, resources belong to any but him.
The holiness you are to strive for is total devotion to the Lord.
Now, let’s look at an awesome illustration of this. Story read earlier in 2 Samuel.
David was from Bethlehem. He grew up there.
But after he became king the Philistines came up and took Bethlehem.
Had a garrison there. David and his men were camped nearby.
David said, really to himself, almost a sigh—water from well.
Three mighty men heard him, fought their way in, drew water, fought out—
when gave the water to David, he would not drink, it but poured it out.
This is a great picture of practical holiness, of total devotion. Three points.
1. The nature of total devotion to God.
Total devotion means that for you there is no difference between a
command, a request, a desire, or even a sigh.
David didn’t command these men to get the water. They just heard his desire.
And their devotion to him was so great, that his wish was their command.
You can almost see them looking at each other when they hear David.
These warriors, they didn’t even have to speak—knew what other’s thinking.
Our king wants water from Bethlehem, we’re getting it.
When you are totally devoted to a person, the pleasure of giving them pleasure
is the greatest thing for you. Their sighs become your commands.
Their desires become your glad compulsion.
Their commands are joyful commands.
Good, I love it when you tell me what you want so that I can do it.
Think of a young man romantically infatuated with a young woman.
When he thinks she might want roses, he buys roses.
But when she tells him she wants roses, he’s thrilled and goes over the top.
Now, here’s the point—To be holy is not a matter of keeping rules.
To be holy is not to say, this is God’s law, I’ve got to keep it.
It’s a mind s that says: Anything God wants, anything he prefers,
anything he delights in, I want to do that. And do as much as I can.
When somebody says: I know I’m supposed to give money to God.
I know the Bible says something about a tithe. But how much exactly?
Does that mean I tithe on my gross income or my net?
Does God want me to give on my pre-tax income or post-tax income?
What exactly do I have to give to stay in good with God?
That’s not a holy heart. The devoted heart says—How much can I give?
What does God delight in? His laws are his desires. That’s what I want.
2. The object of total devotion
Why did David pour out the water? How did it make those men feel?
Did they feel disrespected? No, they were honored.
On the one hand, what these men did was wonderful.
It’s a great example to us of how we should live together as a church body.
This is how it ought to be at Christ Covenant.
That we would be so devoted to each other as a band of brothers in the fight
of the Christian life, that we would constantly be serving each other.
That members of this church don’t even have to ask,
we just hear a sigh, just see a need, and jump in and serve.
Brothers and sisters in Christ ought to be surprising each other with their devotion.
There ought to be a loyalty in a church body
so that it’s filled with self-giving, sacrificial acts.
You might be saying, nobody is doing those sorts of things for me in this church.
Well, maybe somebody is thinking the same thing about you. Cuts both ways.
In the body of Christ their should be no begging for help, no negotiating—
but spontaneous service and devotion.
So why didn’t David just say thank you and drink the water?
Why did he pour it out.
He was saying to these men: I don’t have a right to this level of devotion.
This total sacrifice and giving belongs to one person alone—the Lord.
In doing this David was pointing forward to his greater Son, to Christ.
Saying to these men, I will not take from you the utter devotion you owe Lord.
The object of the sacrifices of your life must be the Lord, not me.
This is so kind of David, showed such great love.
Think how often in personal relationships one person will invest all of his or her
hopes, dreams, devotion into another person. Instead of pouring that out
before the Lord, it becomes an opportunity for manipulation and harm.
Just this week talking to someone about a mother doing this with her grown son.
All her devotion, her life, her sacrifice into him—he was taking it and using her.
So desperate for his approval, for him to think of her as a good mom,
this terribly dysfunctional relationship.
The Lord Jesus Christ must be the object of your devotion—
even as you serve other people, you are doing it for him. Pouring out for him.
That’s what keeps things right and good and healthy.
3. The reason for total devotion
Here’s how you become holy. When read story, don’t just see Jesus in David.
Also see him in these mighty men.
This is such a great picture of his work for us.
He broke through the enemy lines to bring us the water of life.
He fought death and hell and sin. He’s the mighty man.
Says in John 17: For their sakes I sanctify myself.
I’m wholly devoted to you.
He was terribly wounded, wounded to death in the fight.
He brought you a pitcher full of forgiveness, and the love of God,
and adoption as sons, and heaven and eternal life, Holy Spirit.
If David would not drink water because it was too precious—
because it had been gotten at the risk of men’s lives.
How much more precious should the cup that you are about to drink here be
precious to you because it didn’t come at the risk of Christ’s life,
but at the price of his life.
David pours out and says: This is the blood of the lives of these men.
What does Christ say: This cup is the blood of the covenant shed for you.
You’re not going to feel worthy either—but don’t dare pour it out on the ground.
He doesn’t want you to. Think about the price I paid.
Think about how I fought for you, my wounds.
If you do, will want to be holy to. Will turn you into something wonderful.
Be holy, because I am holy for you.