It's Not What you Know, It's Who You Know

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There are many people who have taken that man’s advice. Haunted by a constant stream of failure, they’ve cashed in their effort and settled for an uneasy defeat and a guilty conscience. I don’t know about you, but I find real change very hard sometimes. In fact, I think everyone does.

I’ve been taking some classes at seminary and in one of those classes I remember the professor writing some definitions of leadership on the board. You know, he wrote, “Leadership is influence.” You’ve probably all heard that one. But if I were to tell you my favorite definition of leadership, many of you, who know my favorite football team would not be surprised. I’m a Dallas Cowboy, Tom Landry fan. It was Tom Landry who defined leadership like this: Leader-ship is getting someone to do what they don't want to do, to achieve what they want to achieve.

That is so true isn’t it? We know what we want to be. We want to be holy. We want to serve God, or at least a part of us does, if we really belong to Him. We want to know the Word of God and we want to be a consistent witness for God. We want all those things, but we just have trouble going from desire to reality. And, if I can be so bold, I think I know what the problem is. The problem is that our desire for change just doesn’t overcome the aggravation, effort, and sacrifice it takes to change.

When I was in high school, I remember I was all enamored with being a great piano player and the next great musician to make it big like Barry Manilow. Ok, I know some of you just lost all respect for me, but the truth is the truth. I got it into my head that I was going to do it, and since Barry was a great piano player, I wanted to be a great piano player to. So I started taking piano lessons. I had done that when I was in the fifth grade, but I had quit to take band. I remember driving to Boca Raton, Fl. once a week and paying for my own lessons out of my own money. I would get up in the mornings and practice an hour before school, then I would try to practice at night for another hour. I was totally committed . . . for about three months. Then all the practicing started to get to me. My desire for change couldn’t overcome the aggravation, the effort, and the sacrifice it took to change.

I bet you’ve had the same thing happen in your life. For many it happens in January. You set a goal that you’re going to lose twenty pounds and look like j-lo, ladies (no, I didn’t say “jello” I said “j-lo”) Anyway you get that goal in your mind. You can just see everyone looking at you and saying, “Wow, you’ve lost weight, you look great!” You can just hear your doctor compliment you on how healthy you are. You’ve got the picture in your mind of what you want to be and you go to the gym. You join and pay your money and you’re all excited for about one week. But about the second week in January, you catch a cold, you don’t feel good; the kids are sick too and you’re staying up till 4 am in the morning taking care of them. Then your husband has to go out of town on a business trip so you can’t go and, before you know it, its March 1 and you’re heavier than you were at Christmas. Now what’s the problem? Well, we can make all kinds of excuses, but if you’re really honest, the problem is that your desire for change couldn’t overcome the hassle, the aggravation, and the sacrifice it took to change. So what’s the answer?

Well the answer is for you to increase your desire to change. This is true in every area of life, but it is especially true in our spiritual lives. Peter writes about what can only be described as very drastic change in his first letter. He said in 1:14-16

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; 14 as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.

Now this really is drastic change! God is holy, that is, He is absolutely and totally different than any being you can ever think about. When I become holy, as He is holy, my friend that means I’m going to change and change drastically. The question then becomes, how can I change in my spiritual life, I mean really change? How can I stop losing my temper with my family when they make me so angry? How can I stop watching inappropriate material when I’ve developed such an addiction that it controls me? How can I stop robbing God of His tithe and myself of the blessing of giving when my heart’s not in it? How can I look at that Sunday School class of elementary kids and stop dreading Sundays? How can I really change? How can I, in a practical way, be holy as He is holy, not because I feel guilty, but because I really want to change? Well, the answer to that question lies in what you know . . . or maybe I should say, who you know. There are three people you must know well if you are to have the motivating desire to change. First:



Peter says something, right at the beginning of v14, that stacks the deck, you might say. He’s got a view of these folks that pigeon-holes them. He presupposes their holiness when he says in v14, “as obedient children.” There’s a lot in that title folks. There’s the situation of the title. He calls them “children.” That means they belong to a father somewhere, and, in this case, that Father is God. Calling them children also says that they are dependent. They don’t call the shots themselves, they are waiting for instructions from their Father. And calling them children also says that they are loved, because God is seen not as the majestic potentate of the universe, but their close intimate dad, their papa, their Father God.

Then there’s the obligation of the title. They aren’t just children. He calls them obedient children. That’s what they are supposed to be. In that culture, obedience was presupposed. It was commonplace in that day that children should have the character of the father and that they were in submission to their father. If they were not, they brought great shame on their family.


What’s the point? When I say that I am a child of God that tells me something about myself. It tells me first of all that I depend on God. I can’t make it by myself. Like a child in a “Home Alone” movie, I may get along for a little while doing it for myself, but I reach a point where I need the Father, and I need help. I am dependent. What does that mean in concrete terms? It means that I don’t take the job just because it gets offered; I seek God about it. It means that when I am facing insurmountable odds and it seems like I’m going down in defeat, I don’t quit because I realize that success isn’t up to me anyway. It means that when Dr. Jones tells me I’m going to die, I may be upset and I may be discouraged but I don’t quit because I realize that my survival doesn’t depend on Dr. Jones, it depends on Dr. Jesus. I am a child and that means I depend on God

But it also means that I belong to the family. I’m not out here by myself. I belong to something that’s much bigger than me. I may be in trouble, but I’m not in trouble alone. I got my brothers and sisters in Christ to help me through. That’s who I am, and because that’s who I am, I am able to make some changes in my life. I’ve got built-in accountability that helps me become that person I always wanted to be. I belong, I depend and

I have a new name. God calls me His child. He stakes His reputation on me, not because He thinks I can handle it but because He sovereignly knows that He is, through His Spirit, going to enable me to bring Him glory. And knowing my new name helps me begins to see myself differently

And its not just some cute mind trick that Jesus pulls on me. He doesn’t psyche me into obedience and manipulate me into His will. O no! I have a new power. When He saved me, He changed my spiritual DNA. There’s something in me now that used not to be there. I can’t sin and really enjoy it anymore. I find myself with a desire, however faint it may be, to do right. My heart is changed. It’s who I am, not just something I’m trying to do. I have a new power; I have a new name; I belong to a new family. I depend on God because I am an obedient child!

And there is this sense in which knowing who we are . . . having a strong sense of our identity gives us strength to do what we are supposed to do.


You see it in many organizations. Join the Marines and the first thing they do, after the “buzz-cut” is issue a uniform. Go to prison and one of the first things that they do is . . . issue you a uniform. Ever stop to ask why? What’s going on with the uniforms? Well, uniforms give you an identity. In fact, many public schools are going to uniforms, and for good reasons.

In 1995, in Long Beach, Calif., decided that putting schoolkids in matching clothes would steer the classroom focus away from sporting the right shoes and hack to learning. The numbers agreed: Since they mandated uniforms five years ago, overall crime in the school district has dropped by a startling 91%. Suspensions are down 90%, sex offenses have been reduced by 96% and vandalism has gone down 69%. Arnold Goldstein, Ph.D., head of the Center for Research on Aggression at Syracuse University, believes uniforms work by promoting a sense of community,, allowing troubled students to feel part of a supportive whole. Says Goldstein: "There is a sense of belonging."

The Apostle Peter doesn’t give these Christians a physical uniform, but he does given them a sense of belonging and identity when he tells them that they are “obedient children.” They are to live up to their identity. Listen, church, the reason we live like the world is that we see ourselves as a part of the world. We act like the devil because we’ve bought into his vision of us. It’s time we saw ourselves the way God does. If we belong to Him we are His obedient Children.

That’s who we are! If we know the Lord, the Bible calls us obedient children and the first step to really being different is coming to understand who we are. If you’re going to change you must know yourself and then



Now before you jump to conclusions, I’m not really speaking of Satan, here. I’m talking about someone else. Read that verse again with me:

As obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts as in your ignorance.

So who’s the enemy listed in this verse? Well, it’s the person who stairs back at you in the mirror. I don’t care how long you’ve been saved. I don’t care how many people you’ve led to the Lord, nor how many you’ve discipled. I don’t care how many Sunday school lessons you’ve taught, nor how spiritual you may consider yourself to be. The same danger that faces the new believer who’s only belonged to Jesus a few hours is the same danger that faces you and will defeat you except for the grace of God. It’s what this verse calls your “former lusts.”

Now “lust” is one of those Bible words that sometimes gets over interpreted. The truth is “lust” simply means “strong desire.” So you’d read that verse like this, “As obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former strong desires you used to have.” Lurking under the grinning skull of every believer is a sinful nature that will sometimes try to exert its influence. When I am focused on who I am in Christ, I can ignore its pull. When I get my attention on this world, it is very easy for me to give into its influence. I am in constant danger as a Christian and the enemy is me.

Why? Why am I my own worst enemy? Peter explains it right here in this verse. If the danger is reconforming to my old desires . . . if that’s the danger, what’s the problem. The problem is that I have still down inside of me a spark of that old rebellion that wants to burst into flame and will burst into flame unless I keep its fodder saturated with the cool water of the Holy Spirit. The danger is my desire; the problem is my rebellion. That’s what that verse means when it says, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts as in your ignorance. That word ignorance, one commentator says, is not primarily an intellectual but a moral and religious defect, nothing less than rebellion against God. It is a willing ignorance. I ignore what’s right because I have a rebellious heart that wants it that way.

And how does all of this relate to changing. Well, if I don’t realize who I’m up against and if I do not admit to the truth about who I am, I will be constantly trying to justify myself in my sin and lying to myself about my vulnerability. I’ll be saying things like, “I don’t need an internet filter. I’m a Christian and I wouldn’t look at the wrong thing.” I say things like, “I can go out alone to eat with my female co-worker. I love my wife and nothing will happen.” I say things like, “I can watch this movie, even though it’s got suggestive scences or gratuitous violence. After all, its just a movie.” I could go on. In fact, you need to go on in your own mind and rewind the tape on the lies you tell yourself about your strength. Peter warns us here. Be on guard. Realize that you are vulnerable to those strong desires that used to hold you and refuse them.


His neighbor found him lying in a pool of blood. He was 19-year old Grant Williams. The pool of blood wasn’t the most disturbing part of the picture however, for coiled around Mr. Williams was a snake . . . a 13 foot long Burmese Python to be exact. They said the snake mistook Grant Williams for food . . . Ya think??

He had purchased the snake at a local pet store for $300 and for five months everything was fine. Maybe at first having a snake of that size around was a little intimidating. But Grant was faithful to feed the snake and, I’m sure, after a few weeks thought that everything was under control. But Grant made a careless error. You see, you’re always supposed to keep animals of prey in their cages when you feed them. Otherwise, they may go into a “feeding frenzy.” The smell of their food sets them off and if that food is close to someone else, they may mistake that person for their food. They think that’s what happened to Grant. He was evidently getting ready to feed the snake, so he let him out of the cage. The live chicken he had brought in to feed the python was in the same room. The snake smelled the chicken and attacked Grant.

You want to know the most bizarre part of this story? The article that I read reporting this went on to “recommend” that “owners of large snakes should feed them only in their enclosures or cages. Under no circumstances should such snakes be fed in an open or in a unrestrained manner.” Hello! Hey how about this? How about we just don’t have snakes for pets?


Now listen, a lot of you will agree with me, and, by the way, if you want to have a snake for a pet, I don’t think you’re less spiritual if you do that. Less intelligent maybe, but not less spiritual! But many of us who would say that having such an animal is having a ticking time bomb waiting to go off in our homes, will allow our “former lust” to live unchecked in our lives. We’ll take the python of pornography out from time to time to feed it. We’ll take the tiger of alcohol out on holidays and give it the run of the house. We’ll take the rattlesnake of our temper out and pet it on occasion just to show everybody who’s the boss. We make pets of our former lusts and we think that when we finish playing with them we can put them back in their cage, but the day is coming when the python of sin is going to eat and his meal will be you! If you’re going to change, you’ve got to say, “no more!” You’ve got to say, I cannot keep living like this. I can’t keep gambling with my eternity.

But if you just say “no” to your lust, you’ll not change. You must not only say no, you must say a bigger yes, for if you’re going to change, not only must you know yourself and know your enemy,



If you’re like most people vv 15-16 of 1 Peter 1 make you a little nervous. Talk about being “holy” and we conjure up the word, well, “weird.” You know bun-hairdoos, long skirts, short hair, no beards, no booze, and long coolots. That about cover it? We think that being holy means becoming a spiritual nerd. Would you take another look?

You see, becoming holy doesn’t have so much to do with action as it does with relationship. Holiness in this passage is related to a person. Can I just give you four things these two verses say about our holy relationship to God.

First, notice the instigation of holiness. V 15 says, But as He who has called you is holy . . . Hey, that’s where it starts. God called me out of this world and made me special. Out of the billions on this planet, He chose me and called me out of darkness into His marvelous light. He called me out and one day He’s gonna call me up! He instigated the whole thing.

But notice not only the instigation of holiness, but also the imitation of holiness. V 15 says But as he who has called you is holy, you also be holy . . . I’m so glad for this! Hey, I don’t have to follow someone else’s rules for my life. My pattern isn’t the legalistic preacher or the nosy Christian layman. My pattern is God! I am to copy Him and Him alone. I imitate Him. That’s the imitation of holiness

And then there’s the application of holiness. He says, But as he who has called you is holy, you also be holy (watch!) In all your conduct. Hey! This is why a rule book won’t cut it! I am not to become holy by getting the independent baptist code of ethics or the Free Will Baptist guidelines or the SBC rulebook. None of those things will make me holy because it’s not about the rules, its about relationship. As I get to know God, that relationship with Him begins to permeate my conduct until everything I do, every decision I make, every habit I develop, and every road I take begins with one question: What does God want? That’s the application of holiness.

But there’s one more: Not only the instigation, the imitation, and the application, there is also the motivation for holiness. You find that in v 16 where it says, For it is written, be holy for I am Holy. That is the only motivation that works! Self-reform is hopeless. Someone wrote of this verse:

Deep in the heart of television, ethical reflection is belief in the essential goodness of humans, or at least a hope that such is the case. If we dig down deeply enough or try harder or discipline our lives, so it is argued, we will find we are capable of making our world better. Then, like an explosion of a bomb in a small room, the host is interrupted with the news of ten-year-olds being shot execution-style by fellow gang members who were not much older. Belief in some kind of goodness quickly falls on deaf ears. Any theory of ethics that assumes humans are somehow inherently good and, if they are simply educated, will begin to behave in morally decent ways is about as believable as the Easter bunny—a great story but it belongs to a previous stage of development. Where then do talk hosts—and they are but representatives of their viewers—get their morals? The answer is that they base their ethics on consensus and on what makes sense to most rational people. But to suggest there are moral absolutes that apply to all people is beyond their capacities to announce.

And God comes along and says, “That’s why you need me! You’ll never find your specialness in side yourself. You’ll never find your value by looking inside. You’ll never clean yourself up by promises to do better. There’s not enough motivation inside you to fundamentally change who you are. NO! You become holy by looking outside yourself. Look to me! Be holy as I am holy!”

You see, something happens when we look to Him. Something changes when we really get a glimpse of God. It happened to Job. You remember, Job was a good guy. Even God bragged on him. Then Job lost everything and, for a while, lost his focus. He accused God, basically, of not be just and playing fair. His friends tried to convince him that he was the one with the problem, but Job, looking at himself, justified himself and demanded an audience with God. O, but something changed when Job finally glimpsed what God was really like. He said in Job 42:5:

“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, And repent in dust and ashes.

Glimpsing God will fundamentally change you. Seeing Him in His majesty and learning to love Him is the one thing and the only thing that can permanently change who you are.



Circling above your head, constantly are things like you’ve just seen. Unbelievable sights at unfathomable distances just waiting to be grasped. Joshua Harris says,

“I knew a girl who used to think the stars were tiny specks of light just over her head. I'm not kidding. And she wasn't in grade school when she believed this. She was in college. She was a really sweet, kind, redhead who spoke almost perfect Spanish. She was intelligent in many ways. But one day in a conversation she mentioned that she had just learned that stars in the night sky were actually really far away. I asked her what she meant. She said, "You know, they're not just right up there. They're not just tiny dots. They're really far away."

Joshua was dumbfounded. He asked her

"What did you think they were before?"

"I thought they were, you know, just right up above us." (I suppose like Christmas tree lights poked through a black cloth)

He went on to say that it is important that we understand who God really is just as it is worth knowing that stars are not tiny pinpricks of light just above our heads. When we know the truth about God, it fills you with wonder. If, however, you fail to understand his true character, you'll never be amazed by him. You'll never feel small as you stare up at him. You'll never worship him as you ought. You'll never run to him for refuge or realize the great love he's shown in the measureless distance he bridged to rescue us. When you really glimpse who God is, it motivates you to be like Him.


“That’s good,” you might be saying, “but what does it mean really. I can’t physically see God. I can look through a telescope and see stars, but I can’t do that and see God. How can I come to appreciate His holiness and see him for who He is?”

Well, you first can know you belong to Him. You must know your calling. You see, before you come to know Jesus as your Savior, your eyes, the Bible says, are blinded to Who He is. You might have some kind of spiritual experience that you like to think gets you closer to God, but you’re just kidding yourself. Experience cannot substitute for reality. Until you experience the call of God and respond to His offer of salvation through faith, you can’t see Him and you really cannot permanently change. The first step is to know your calling.

The second step is to believe that He is there. Hebrews 11:6 tells us that the very first step to experiencing the reality of God is this right here. The Hebrew writer says that “He who comes to God must believe that He exists . . . It begins with a leap of faith. I decide to accept the evidence for the existence of God and that leads me into a knowledge of Him. I believe He is there. Life change begins here. I believe He is there and I experience His calling on my life.

And, last of all, I come to grasp what He’s like. I make it my first ambition not to just waste my time here on grasping the finer points of basketball, or the latest electronic gadget’s software, or even mastering my job. My first ambition; my driving ambition is to know Him. So I don’t just read His Word, I devour it; I don’t just repeat a prayer, I seek God on my face; I don’t just live to survive, I survive to witness and to pour the God I’ve discovered into the lives of others. I give back to Him What He’s spilled into me. I am holy because He is holy.



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