Hope Motivates Character: Holiness
What is Christianity all about?
I read an interesting article recently. It seems a self-proclaimed Muslim man went to Papa John’s for a pizza. He ordered a hamburger pizza, but mistakenly received a pork (sausage) pizza instead. According to Islamic Law, Muslims cannot eat pork. Regarding the event he says, “Right now inside my body there’s a parasite growing that I’ll never be able to get rid of. And I’ve actually sinned in the eyes of God, because I was told not to eat it.”
The manager of the Papa John’s establishment admitted a mistake had been made in labeling the containers. He then offered the Muslim man a free pizza. Rather than accept the apology, the man has filed a lawsuit for $5000.00 plus the $51.50 in court costs. What caught my attention was not the lawsuit…that is rather common in our society; rather it was the man’s statement that Islam is not a religion. It is a way of life.
Islam is all about following the rules and regulations as laid out in their various scripture. Why do I mention this at all?
I have heard it also said about Christianity. The statement is slightly modified. Christians claim that Christianity is not a religion; rather it is a relationship.
Islam is all about being obedient to a vengeful God…a distant God who is impossible to know and who accept a person because of what they do. Christianity is different.
Christianity is all about seeking a personable God who wants to be found. A God of love who reached down to a sinful people and provided the means for developing a relationship.
Christianity has two aspects. The first is entering into a relationship with God by placing our trust in His gift, Jesus, the Christ—our Lord and Savior. The second is a life of service in appreciation of what God has provided for the believer. Thus, a believer is justified by faith in Jesus Christ and a believer is subsequently set apart for a holy purpose (sanctification).
This is what Peter is discussing in chapter 1 of his first epistle.
A review of our living hope
We have previously discussed the first 12 verses of 1 Peter 1. Peter is addressing Christians who have been scattered abroad because of their faith. These people were now facing intense suffering and persecution. Peter encouraged them by describing the living hope we have in Christ—the salvation of our souls. Our hope has three aspects:
- Our future inheritance (a place and responsibility in the Millennial Kingdom).
- Our present experience (an inexpressible joy knowing we are assured of eternal life with Christ).
- Our encouragement through the Word of God (an understanding that the one Son of God, Jesus Christ will come first as a Servant and secondly as a King).
Our living hope should influence the way we live
Yet, this is just the beginning. Trusting in Christ is an absolute necessity. But, we will also appear before the judgment seat of Christ to be rewarded for what we have done in the body (“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)
Christ expects us not only to believe on Him but also to serve Him. Remember we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10). Christ expects us to do work for Him…this work is sharing His love for dying world. We must in actions and words share the gospel of Christ.
We live according to our character. If our character is that of a liar, we lie. If our character is that of a thief, we steal. If our character is that of godliness, we will act godly. In this passage, Peter is commanding followers of Christ conform their hope in Christ into godly living. Peter points out three aspects to which the believer must conform. These include conformity to God (vv. 13-16), conformity to redemption (vv. 17-21), and conformity to love (vv. 22-25). We will deal only with the first of these this week.
Peter says it this way.
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; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 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.” (1 Peter 1:13–16)
Conformity to God
Peter begins by summarizing what he presented in the previous verses. In those verses, Peter was presenting the facts of the living hope we have in Christ. He then says, “Therefore.” Peter is saying that since we have a new life in Christ, we should now live it. Peter commands us to live hopefully (this is a command—rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ). This is a call to the hope we have in the future—at the Second Coming of Christ. This is a blessed hope based on the grace of God.
Peter presents two subcommands for setting our hope on Christ. First, we must gird our minds. This means we are to be mentally serious about following Christ. We cannot be sloppy in our thinking. We need to discipline our minds.
Second, Peter tells us to be sober. Believers must clearly discern right from wrong. Our lives should be characterized by minds that are self-controlled—both spiritually and mentally. Without this mental discipline, the believer is apt to follow every wind of doctrine. The Bible says, “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,” (Ephesians 4:14)
Peter encourages his readers to be obedient children. How are we to be obedient? By conforming to God. Since God is holy, we are called to be holy also. Peters command is, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
Peter is commanding us (his readers) to be holy. How do we accomplish this?
Holiness is a fundamental element in the distinct nature of God as revealed in Scripture and a basic response to His grace on the part of the people of God as they become molded into His likeness (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised). Fundamentally, holiness is a cutting off or separation from what is unclean, and consecration to what is pure (Baker encyclopedia of the Bible).
God’s holiness is reflected in His demand for exclusive worship. “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!” (Isaiah 6:3)
There is no room for other objects of worship. We have a tendency to worship a large assortment of “gods.” These include our personal possessions, our relationships, and our time. In reality, God demands our exclusive attention. Though these things may be an important part of our lives, God still wants us always to view as secondary to our relationship with Him.
Our call to holiness
God’s people are called to holiness, which involves being distinct from other people. In the OT, this is seen in the command to separate from other nations and from everything that can compromise commitment to the Lord. In the NT, believers are called to distance themselves from the ways and values of the world, which can be dishonoring to God and destructive to obedience to him. Prayerfully consider these passages:
If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (John 15:19)
Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4)
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul… (1 Peter 2:9-11)
What about you?
As we look at the “typical Christian” of today in our country, we do not see people who are living the holy lives expected by God. Instead, people are living their “Christian life” and their “Normal life.”
The message preached by Pastor Terry this week included the statement, “Love your neighbor as yourself” from Luke 10:27. I was speaking with a couple after the service and they were concerned about this command. Why? Because their neighbors are unethical “Christians.” These neighbors have their personal life in which they practice Christianity and they have their professional life. In that life, they use any method available to meet their goals. Often times that means acting in a very unchristian manner. We have all been in this situation. How should we respond?
Well we should be different. Imagine if God was to hold us to His standard. Could any of us measure up? Certainly not. In like manner, we should treat others as God has treated us. We need to forgive their sin and hope for their very best.
We should also pray for these people. I have found that if I pray for people I don’t like, I eventually come to a point where I can pray for their very best. This does not mean that we condone their behavior. At times, we should attempt to change that behavior, but few will receive this sort of reproof if they are unwilling to walk with God.
There are certainly people we don’t like. We don’t need to become best friends with them, but we do need to love them. To be holy means that we are set apart as pure vessels for God’s holy purposes. Are you pure enough to be used as God’s holy vessel?
Are you living a life of holiness?