We have been talking about responding to God’s great salvation. The living hope we have is not just a wish in our hearts, but it needs to be lived out in day to day living. God wants us to respond to His great work in our lives. What should our responses be? We said first of all from 1 Pet. 1:13 that we want to be:
I. Completely fixing our hope in the return of Christ (v.13)
I am sure if you asked Anthony or Vivi what they were completely fixing their hope on the past eight months, they would say it was last Sunday: Vivi’s return. She came back suddenly, like a thief in the night! This is a very biblical relationship. First he prepares a place for her and then she…wait, Anthony, you should have went to Brazil! You messed it up! Jesus returns, not the bride, man!
Believers fix their hope in the return of Jesus Christ. How do you do that? You continually disentangle the things of your mind that intoxicate you and set your thoughts on the things above (Col. 3:1). How often did you think about the Lord’s coming this week? It needs to be intentionally cultivated. As you watch the news and see injustice, you should think about the Lord’s return. As you are tempted by sin and laziness, you should think about the Lord’s return, knowing He rewards the faithful. To give in would allow the world to intoxicate me and tangle up my mind and life. If you are married, the oneness you experience should prompt you think about experiencing the oneness you will have with the Lord one day when it is fully experienced. Look at the children around or your parents and think that one day you will experience fully what it means to be His child. As you see spring approaching, think one day of the sin and corruption of this world will be replaced by the new Heavens and the new Earth. Do you see how everything we have in life is placed by God to help us fix our hope on a better day in a better country waiting for us?
Three more responses to salvation are given in 1 Pet. 1:14-21, but we will look at one more today and two next time, Lord willing. Secondly, take note of this, we want to be:
II. Continually transforming into the image of Christ (vv.14-16)
So you’re saved huh? What are you working on this week? It is this: I am learning to completely fix my hope in His return and secondly, I am continually being transformed into His likeness. This is another way of saying, be holy. I purposely did not say “be holy.” This is because this phrase is often very misunderstood by Christians (I’ll tell you why later). But if you truly appreciate salvation, Peter says, these two points so far have to be on your to-do-list and your to-be-list every day. I am waiting for Jesus and as I am waiting for Jesus, I am working on being like Him.
Read 1 John 3:2-3. There you can see the connection between hope and holiness. If you are setting your hope completely in Jesus Christ’s return, you are also working on purity. God does not just want to forgive me, He wants to change me. If your faith has not changed you, it has not saved you. One of the ways you know your faith has saved you is if it has changed you and is continuing to change you. Author Jerry Bridges writes, “I am aware that a vast number of professing Christians display little or no commitment to spiritual growth or discipleship, and for them the Christian life is no more than the mere formalities of attending church and avoiding scandalous behavior." We think we are doing alright because we have not committed any “big” sins. Or we think the Christian life is trying hard to please God. Or we think since we got our “get-out-of-hell free” card as fire insurance, we can coast spiritually. But Peter says here, no, God is committed to so much more for us. He wants to continually transform us into the image of Jesus Christ!
But what does it mean to be continually transformed into the likeness of Christ? It has three components according to 1 Pet. 1:14-16. It means:
Notice Peter going back to the father-child imagery here. A better translation of “obedient children” might be “children whose spirit is obedience.” Unbelievers are called “children of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2). It is in their nature to disobey, but believers have it in their nature to obey. Remember the same Father who chose us, birthed us (gave us life), promised us an inheritance is now calling his children to obedience. He says in 1 Pet. 1:14, “as obedient children.” “As” could be translated, “In as much as you are” or “because you are.” Children all have different character traits; parents often marvel at how different each of their own children are. Yet despite the many differences among God’s children, we ought to all have one characteristic in common: We are obedient.”  You are part of the family of God when you became a Christian. Though this comes with a great privilege, it also comes with a great responsibility for now you, out of love, have to live out the family relationship by being obedient to the Father of the family.
See, the Bible is not a rule book but a relationship book. You are obedient because you are a child of God. All of the so-called rules you see is based in a context of relationship. So when you choose to sin, you choose to suffer. God is not telling you that you cannot have fun. When He says no, he is saying don’t hurt yourself. Don’t dampen the relationship He has with you. It is not that God wants to hurt you if you sin, but that to keep you from hurting yourself and those you love and the Lord. If I slap Abbie’s hand away from the hot stove when she reaches for it, is it because I am mean and don’t want her to have fun? No, it is because I know what can hurt her and harm her and I want the best for her.
When we disobey, we can grieve the Spirit (Eph. 5:30) or we can quench the Spirit (1 Thess. 5:19). What’s the difference? We grieve the Spirit when we do things we are not supposed to do (sin of commission). The Spirit does not leave the believer, but He is pushed to a corner. You no longer enjoy God’s presence. He is grieving because He loves. Now if you do not do what you are supposed to do (sin of omission), you quench the Spirit (or put out His fire). God cannot use you then. Both are disobedience.
Obedience to God is always for our good and for His glory. You can never go wrong when you choose to obey Christ. The cost of obedience is nothing compared to the cost of disobedience. If you are serious about being continually transformed into the likeness of Christ, you must first remember you are not just a slave obeying orders, but a son/daughter wanting to please your Father and disobedience is putting a serious dent in that relationship.
I think part of learning obedience is to call it for it is or what it is not. A lot of times Christians like to call sin a “struggle” or “defeat.” As a result, sin gets tolerated and never truly dealt with. Perhaps we should say when we have sin, “I have been disobedient” instead of “I have been struggling.” Sometimes that will help you see the horror of it and make you want to run from it. So are there areas of deliberate disobedience in our lives that is clearly against God’s Word? Partial obedience is disobedience. If so, you cannot expect God’s blessing or God’s best for you.
In addition, Jerry Bridges in his book The Pursuit of Holiness says, “Our first problem is that our attitude toward sin is more self-centered than God-centered. We are more concerned about our own ‘victory’ over sin than we are about the fact that our sins grieve the heart of God. We cannot tolerate failure in our struggle with sin chiefly because we are success-oriented, not because we know it is offensive to God. Not only do we make ourselves feel better by calling sin other names, we also make it about us and our victory not the fact that it hurts the heart of God and as David says, “Against you and you only have I sinned” (Ps. 51:4).
But what does it mean to be an obedient child? Peter tells us how in the negative aspect and then in the positive aspect. It’s always about saying “no” to one way and saying “yes” to another. So holiness is having child-like obedience by being, notice in 1 Pet. 1:14
Separated from Sin
He says because you are obedient children, don’t let the world mold you into its ways like it did before you were born again. This gives us a clue that perhaps his audience had some Gentiles because “former ignorance” is typical language used to refer to Gentiles (Acts 17:30; Gal. 4:8–9; Eph. 4:18; 1 Thess. 4:5). It is used, however, once to describe Jews (Rom. 10:2-3), so the argument that his audience is either one or the other is still not verified. But Paul says something equivalent: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2). The word “conformed” means “to be shaped by” or to be “fashioned after.”
One commentator notes, “The world has its own lifestyle to which believers often are drawn, but Peter warns them not to conform to the evil desires that are prominent in the world…[they must] reject the ways of the world and to live in obedience to God’s Word.” Another author says, “Conformity is a lack of obedience that adopts the attitudes, mind-sets, and purposes of the culture of which we are a part.” Peter is recognizing that the allurements of the world are powerful and enticing and real, but their obedience to God must take precedence over fulfilling the desires of the world.
I am sure these believers are tempted to go back. Remember the Israelites after they left Egypt and God had miraculously provided manna? They complained and then they craved. Always watch yourself when you start complaining. Complaining can lead to coveting and craving and meeting your needs your way. Anyway, they said, “Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.” (Num. 11:4-6). Isn’t it amazing that they forgot about the whips, the back-breaking slavery and that their sons drowned in the Nile? All they can think about is the food they used to eat? Do you really want to go back to that life? Satan would have us focused on and exaggerate the kicks we enjoyed in our sins and never remind us of the kickbacks or the pain that sin has caused.
When life gets tough for the believer and you never seem to catch a break and things don’t seem to change, you want an escape and sometimes it is the temptation to disobey. Peter is recognizing this for his audience. It’s true for us as well. Notice the word “passions” or other translations say, “lusts” (NASU and KJV) or “desires” (NIV). This means everything, “that characterized that former life include sinful desires and thoughts, evil longings, uncontrolled appetites, sensual impulses, and all other unrighteous motivations and urges that compel the unregenerate (cf. 1 Cor. 6:9–11; Gal. 5:19–24; Eph. 5:3–5; 1 Thess. 4:4–5).” We often think of “lusts” as referring to sexual desire, but here it is linked “more generally to all kinds of self-seeking, whether directed toward wealth, power, or pleasure.”The world is trying to fashion you, mold you into this image…be careful not to slip back into it!
The Christian life is like riding a bicycle. Either you are falling off or moving forward. If you are not continually changing into the likeness of Christ, you are going to be changing into the likeness of the world. In the spiritual life, nothing stands still. If we are not constantly growing toward holiness, we shall be steadily swelling up and running to seed under the influence of pride.
This is like the adopted child I told you about last week who used to eat leftovers from the dumpster at McDonalds, is now brought into the White House and decides to walk right by the buffet prepared for him to find a dumpster again. Peter is saying if you refuse to eat the buffet God has now prepared for you inside the boundaries of His house, you will naturally crave what you used to eat and that stuff is not for you anymore. Instead, thirdly:
Set apart to God
So the total definition from 1 Pet. 1:14-16 is that holiness is having child-like obedience by being separated from sin and set apart to God. The Christian life is not only a walking away from sin, but also a walking toward God. So instead of giving yourself over to the things that hurt the Lord, give yourself to the Lord because He called you. Look over at 1 Pet. 2:9. God called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. Peter again is telling us that the command is given based on relationship. You were in darkness and God called you into the light. Great has been His grace toward you. So if God called you to Himself by His power, He will also by His power, enable you to live what He calls you to be. God always equips you to everything He calls you.
As a result, notice “be holy.” There is a word that a lot of people misunderstand. I grew up most of my Christian life not understanding what it means to be holy and I am still figuring it out! A lot of people think holy people are not to smile. They are not to have fun. And if they do have fun, they felt guilty about it! It was all about keeping the rules. It was about dressing the right way, not drinking, not dancing and not watching any television or movies. And they love verses like this here: “be holy.” It was all about appearances. As long as you appeared like you are keeping all the rules, you were fine. And you end up being judgmental, mean-spirited and really boring! And then when you hear God is holy, you make God in that same image as well.
That is not what holiness is about. The word “holy” means “being dedicated or consecrated to the service of God.” We get the word “saint” and “sanctify” from the word. It means to be “different” or “totally other.” He is totally separate from His creation.
I like what Ray Stedman says: “I like the good English word wholeness, which also derives from the same root. Everybody wants to be a whole person. The Old Testament speaks about "the beauty of holiness" (1 Chron. 16:29, 2 Chron. 20:21, Ps. 29:2, 96:9), the inner attractiveness that is apparent when someone begins to function inwardly as he or she was intended.
What this says is that God is designing beautiful people! That is what he wants. And not merely outwardly beautiful people like those we see on television, but inwardly beautiful people. He is more interested in inward beauty, in making admirable, trustworthy, strong, loving, compassionate people -- having all the qualities which make for inner beauty. That is what God calls wholeness, and that is his will for you. Isn't it exciting that God wants to make you a whole person?” FB Meyer adds, “Holiness is wholeness--that is, the whole-hearted devotion of a whole nature to God, the consecration of every power to His service. This leads us to lean hard on God, and to seek His companionship and fellowship.” So when you refuse to let the world fashion you, God then puts His hands on you and starts beautifying you. God is not a make-up artist. He is an interior designer!
God is holy. Did you know that “among God’s characteristics, as he has revealed himself, none is more significant than his holiness. Both the Old and New Testaments speak about his holiness more than any other attribute of God.” R.C. Sproul says, “Only once in sacred Scripture is an attribute of God elevated to the third degree. Only once is a characteristic of God mentioned three times in succession. The Bible says that God is holy, holy, holy. Not that He is merely holy, or even holy, holy. He is holy, holy, holy. The Bible never says that God is love, love, love, or mercy, mercy, mercy, or wrath, wrath, wrath, or justice, justice, justice. It does say that he is holy, holy, holy, the whole earth is full of His glory.” When you emphasize something three times like that, it is to show intensity. God is really, really holy!
Man, I wish I had a model or example for holiness. Well, you do! God! Wayne Grudem observes, “As he who called you is holy means ‘according to the way or manner in which God is holy, you yourselves are to be holy, patterning your holiness after his’.”Be holy because He is holy. He’s making us and transforming us into His image. God says I want my personality to beautify your personality, so much so that you start to resemble me in your character. Just like we have heard the common expression, “Like father, like son,” holiness is us, cooperating with God the Father to fashion us in His likeness, like the likeness of His Son. It means to imitate God as Paul says in Eph. 5:1: “Be imitators of God.” John Macarthur says, “And we cannot be…as holy as God is but we can be holy because God is. We cannot be holy to the extent that God is, but we can have the same kind of purity that God has, smaller measure. Not like His in extent but certainly like His in kind.”
Peter quotes, most likely, Leviticus 11:44-45 (or Lev. 19:2 or 20:7). Leviticus is not come in the top five favorite Bible books of Christians. I know this book is where most of us stop reading through the Bible every year. And the key word in that book is “holy” (92X in ESV), by far more than any other book. But do you know what else is repeated in Leviticus more than anything else? And this is what most people do not recognize. It is the phrase “I am the Lord your God.”
It is found 21x in Leviticus with 33% of those times in one chapter Leviticus 19, a chapter full of laws and rules! What it teaches me is this. God’s desire for His people to be holy was always based out of their covenantal relationship with Him. Hmmm, that sounds familiar! Wait, it never changed! God wanted Israel to be set apart and not act like the pagan nations around them. It is the same today. We belong to God as His children, so we too should be what God has said we are.
So holiness it not just about the outward acts and a list of do’s and don’ts. It is not just morality. Spurgeon says, “Holiness is better than morality, it includes it, it goes beyond it. Holiness affects the heart, holiness respects the motive, holiness regards the whole nature of man. A moral man does not do wrong in act, a holy man hates the thought of doing wrong; a moral man does not swear, but a holy man adores; a moral man would not commit outward sin, a holy man would not commit inward sin, and over that inward sin, if committed, he would pour forth floods of tears.” He also said, “I believe the holier a man becomes the more he mourns over the unholiness which remains in him.” This is why a holy man or woman is the most humble person you will meet because the holy person is not sinning less, but is conscious of more sin in his/her life than in anyone else. I hope you are getting a better and clearer picture of what holiness is about!
Can unbelievers look at our lives and see the family resemblance to our Lord? When Peter and John were once before the religious leaders and the text says, “When they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). A better question is what are we doing to put ourselves in an environment where God can fashion us into His image? If your Christian life is about what you do and you don’t do, you have missed it and soon you will be tired and worn out in trying to do it all or trying to avoid all the don’ts.
The purpose of all our activities at Living Hope and when we encourage each other to be in the Word and in prayer and to serve, to give and worship is so that we are putting ourselves in positions for God to beautify us, to mold us to be everything He has intended to be. Being in the Word of God and praying to the God of the Word is so crucial in holiness, because that is the tool God uses to transform us.
Warren Wiersbe notes that, “The Word reveals God’s mind, so we should learn it; God’s heart, so we should love it; God’s will, so we should live it. Our whole being—mind, will, and heart—should be controlled by the Word of God….we do not study the Bible just to get to know the Bible. We study the Bible that we might get to know God better.”And if you are not doing any of these things, how can God change you into His image?
The Enemy’s biggest lie is, “Why do it when you know you are going to fail?” And you forget that Rome was not built in a day and neither is a holy Christian. Dave Roper notes, “Sometimes we think the Christian life is a Cinderella story. A fairy godmother waves her magic wand, and suddenly we are transformed. But the problem is that when midnight comes, the whole thing falls apart. Then we wonder if actually we ever had been transformed. No, the Christian life is not immediate transformation; it is, rather, a lifelong process.”
It takes a lot of failures. It’s not that we need to perfectly obey God, but increasingly and it happens with all of us coming to God continually and saying you can have all of me. Does God have all of us? Pastor Alan Redpath had two daughters who loved to swarm him when he came home at night. As he came in the door one evening, his little girls ran to meet him. One grabbed his leg and hugged him with all her might. He snatched the other daughter up in his arms. The one squeezing his leg said, "Now, I've got all of Daddy." The daughter in his arms replied, "Yes, but Daddy has got all of me!" Perhaps the question we need to continually ask is, "Does God have all of me?"
Notice that in 1 Pet. 1:15 where Peter says “in all of your conduct.” The word “conduct” refers to your lifestyle. Peter loves this word. This noun can be found thirteen times in the New Testament; six uses are in 1 Peter (1:15, 18; 2:12; 3:1, 2, 16) and two in 2 Peter (2:7; 3:11). Peter wants our response to salvation to infiltrate every area of our life. There is no sacred/secular divide. All of life is sacred. All of it belongs to Him. Basil Hume said, “Holiness involves friendship with God. There has to be a moment in our relationship with God when he ceases to be just a Sunday acquaintance and becomes a weekday friend.”
My spiritual life used to be about how long I prayed and how many chapters I read and how many people I brought to Christ. And I would eventually fail. But as I am getting older and learning some things, I am starting to see it is more about me looking like Jesus more and more. But it requires my intentional, purposeful cooperation with God. It is not what I am doing anymore. It is what I am becoming. That’s the difference between holiness and being a good person. Am I becoming more loving? Am I becoming more honest? Am I becoming more compassionate? Instead of trying to pray two hours, how about surrendering my thoughts and my feelings on a running basis throughout the day? Am I continually dependent? Are you continually asking God for help? How about even in your ministry? Are you doing it because you have to do it? Or is He truly transforming you as you serve here?
I become what I love. If I want to become like Jesus, I must love Him and because I love Him, I obey Him and trust Him. Am I perfect in this? No, still under construction and a long way to go, but I am realizing that it will take all of me and all of God. As John Newton, who wrote the hymn Amazing Grace, says "I am not what I might be, I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I wish to be, I am not what I hope to be. But I thank God I am not what I once was, and I can say with the great apostle, “By the grace of God I am what I am.”
The only kind of church God will use is a holy one. A holy church is made up of holy members. Do you know what the number one enemy to any relationship is? Neglect. Whether it is marriage or the Lord, it is neglect. We hear the Word of God but we allow it to fall on rocky soil and then we wonder why we are not fruitful. One week becomes a few weeks which turns into a few months and then a few years and long before you shrivel up on the outside, you have shriveled up on the inside. Holiness is God’s way to make you whole. Do you want to change? If you do, take note:
1. I must want to change.
2. I cannot change on my own.
3. I must have a plan for change.
4. I will not change overnight.
But first let’s confess our disobedience. Let’s confess we have fallen into the lie that we must change overnight and that fear of failure keeps us from God making us whole and from Him beautifying me into His likeness. Let’s pray to the Lord that we will look more like Jesus as the days go by. Pastor Robert Murray McCheyne said this to a friend who got ordained as a missionary, “How diligently the cavalry officer keeps his [sword] clean and sharp; every stain he rubs off with the greatest care. Remember you are God’s sword, His instrument—I trust a chosen vessel unto Him to bear His name. In great measure, according to the purity…of the instrument, will be the success. It is not great talents God blesses so much as great likeness to Jesus. A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God.”
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