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Don’t Waste Your Life: Live Holy
Living Radically Different
The importance of living holy like our Father
1 Peter 1:14-16
Let me begin by surveying you with three simple questions:
#1 How many of you have ever looked directly at the sun for longer than you should have?
#2 How many of you have ever seen something so beautiful that it wildly took your breath away you gasped?
#3 How many of you have ever had an x-ray or sonogram or an MRI, and it exposed something in you that should not be there?
Now, how many of you have experienced all three? Combining all three of those experiences at one time would be the closest physical illustration to understanding God’s holiness.
Scripture reveals God’s character, but there are certain aspects to God’s qualities that are beyond description, past full understanding, and outside total comprehension–and God’s holiness is one of those attributes.
God’s holiness is so radiant, it’s like looking directly at the sun–to stand in His presence would extinguish you. God’s holiness is so beautiful, it would stop your heart–no item or creature or person is more beautiful than God. God’s holiness is so pure, it looks right through you like an x-ray exposing every one of your sins, and would kill you in disgust.
Do you have an accurate view of God’s holiness? A.W. Tozer said, “What comes to our mind about God is the most important thing about us–do you think of God as holy holy holy?”
Open your Bibles to 1 Peter as the apostle tell us that our heavenly Father is holy, therefore His children will be holy. For 12 verses, God has been reminding us of the amazing salvation all of us who are God’s children have freely been given. And for 12 verses, Peter has given us no command until now in verse 13. On the basis of verses 1-12 and our amazing grace salvation, now I command you to do three things. Read starting in verse 13, and as you do, remember the original audience is struggling. They’ve been sent to the Roman frontier near the Black Sea as a punishment for gathering as Christians, sharing the gospel, and offering people a new life in Christ.
So Peter motivates them by sharing with them the greatness of their salvation in verses 1-12, and now in verse 13 Peter commands them and us to live a radically different life. Verses13-17, “Therefore, gird your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’ And if you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each man’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay upon earth.”
Underline these commands:
Verse 13 to fix your hope–A Focused Life
Verse 15 be holy yourselves–A Holy Life modeled after God
Verse 17 conduct yourselves in fear–An Accountable Life
On the basis of everything God has done for us in salvation we are to be saturated with a certain hope of future grace, we are to be made uniquely holy in every area of our lives, and we are to live accountable to God in everything we do. Ready?
As we dive into verses 14-16, it breaks down this way–the main verb is be holy yourselves. What is Peter telling us?
Verse 14 we live uniquely as obedient children, patterned after our Father
Verse 15 we’re made holy, and it will affect everything we do
Verse 16 we are not ignorant, but are certain of a holy life
Back in verse 13, Peter started with a therefore–and when you see a therefore, you have to ask, “What is it there for?” It’s telling us, on the basis of God’s amazing salvation by grace in verses 1-12, Peter commands us to focus our lives on God’s coming grace.
The only ones who are hoping in Christ’s return and the grace He brings are the ones who are daily overwhelmed by His saving grace now. And Peter’s point is, the more we focus on His coming and our future grace, the less we will be discouraged by our current suffering and trials. Verse 13 commands us to hope.
Now in verses 14-16, Peter commands us to be holy. But don’t miss an obvious truth–our lives are to be God-centered. When you are hoping, you are God-centered as you hope in God. When you are holy, you are God-centered as you focus on the only one who is truly holy.
Peter is telling us genuine Christian living is permeated by God. God in the morning, afternoon and evening. God as our motive, guide, standard, comfort, strength, truth and joy. Christians are to live ever aware of God, submitted to God, trusting in God, guarded by God and hoping in God. The most frightening truth about the Church today is the insignificance of God and the magnificence of people. Peter shows us the insignificance of people and the magnificence of God.
In contrast to the norm, the hope of our gathering each week is for you to leave here with awesome thoughts of God and a heart full of praise for God. Our focus is God alone, God-centered We preach God’s Word alone, we sing praises to God alone, pray, give, meditate and honor God our Father, Christ our Savior and the Holy Spirit our Helper alone.
Consider three aspects of God’s holiness:
#1 Its Purity
Sadly, the God most Christians imagine is like an indulgent, old man who is not impure, but is so lenient, He winks at our sin. But the Bible says God is holy, and with that comes a hatred for sin and impurity. Psalm 5:5b, “Thou dost hate all who do iniquity.” And Psalm 7:11b KJV, “God is angry with the wicked every day.” And Habakkuk 1:13a, “Thine eyes are too pure to approve evil. And Thou canst not look on wickedness with favor. “ That’s why holiness scares us–it threatens us and makes us want to hide . . . and for good reason. God must punish sin, and we are sinful.
Most people, church-goers, and even a few Christians, refuse to believe in the God of these verses; but holiness demands we do. But holiness is more than a hatred of sin.
#2 Its Beauty
1 John 1:5b declares, “God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” Light is considered a thing of purity and beauty–nobody praises the beauty of a pitch black room. No, the beauty of the night is seen in the sparkling lights God has placed in the sky.
A beauty contest winner is never wearing a soiled dress. Coal miners are never considered beautiful after a day in the mine. Beauty is usually associated with that which is clean, pure and bright. And the radiant pure light of our holy God is beautiful.
Steven Charnock put it this way–“Omnipresence is God’s arm, omniscience is His eye, mercy His bowels, eternity His duration, but holiness is His beauty.” I agree. Another aspect of God’s holiness is this . . .
#3 Holiness is God’s uniqueness
God is also holy because He is set apart from all that is evil, defective and impure. And God’s holiness is set apart for Himself. The holiness of God tells us God is utterly unique and in a class by Himself–that is His set apart-ness.
No being, no human nor thing, ever compares to Him. There is no other creator, no other sustainer, no other final measure of good and evil–holiness is a part of His uniqueness. 1 Samuel 2:2a says, “There is no one holy like the Lord, Indeed, there is no one besides Thee.” God is in a class by Himself–God is unequaled and unrivaled. God is without beginning or ending, and without improvement. He’s never gonna improve.
God is holy, and the command of verses 14-16 is for us to be like Him–holy.
And now Peter tells us what that looks like. If we have the hope of God’s coming grace (at His return, verse 13), then we will live holy (verse 14-16).
I remember when Jean would play the trump card. She’d say to the boys, “Wait ‘til your father gets home!” That created a huge change in their behavior–though I felt like Darth Vader walking through the door.
And the soon return of Jesus Christ (verse 13) should produce a purity and holiness in our lives (verse 14). 1 John 3:2-3 affirms, “When He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” Are you hoping in Christ’s return? If you are, then you will live a holy life. What is that like?
#1 Living holy means you live uniquely as a Christian
Verse 14, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance.” Some cultures placed boards on their babies’ heads to flatten them since they considered flat heads attractive. Others elongated their necks, lengthened their ears or puff their lips. When God makes us His children, He intentionally makes us to be obedient.
First Living uniquely means you obey your Father
Verse 14 begins, “As obedient children,”–this is an unusual phrase. It literally means children of obedience; children whom obedience was born into; children whose very nature is obedience. Obedience was fused into all genuine Christians at their new birth.
Christians are obedient, yet people are confused over this, but Peter is not. We are born again to be obedient. Do you remember verses 1-2? The end of verse 1–who are chosen why? The middle of verse 2–“that you may obey Jesus Christ.”
And here in verse 14, Peter is pointed; if you are a child of God, then you obey your heavenly Father. The entire world of humanity is in rebellion to God. They’re disobedient to their Creator, they’re ignorant of their God, but genuine Christians are unique, they obey their Father.
You’ve seen defiantly disobedient children–possibly you or your kids. As soon as you see some kid screaming, stomping, pouting, angry; one of the things you think is, “who are his parents?”
When people look at us Christians, they should observe us being obedient to our heavenly Parent. If not, it’s not only a poor witness, but also a deep concern. Why? Because verse 14 states, Christians are made to be obedient. Only non-Christians are called the sons of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2). And Ephesians 5:6 even warns that the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
John 3:36 makes this sobering comparison–“He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” And 1 John 2:4, “The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” You, genuine Christian, are a slave who obeys His Master, and you are a child who obeys his Father.
Peter has already told us in verses 1-12, we were called, secured, born again, protected and empowered in salvation. The Bible tells in Romans 6:17 that, “In saving us, . . . you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed.” In making us new, God gave as a heart of obedience, a heart to want to follow, please and obey Him–even when we don’t.
And the Word of God says, because we are intimate with our Father, and since we are in a love relationship with our Savior, then obeying His commands does not feel like following harsh rules, but embracing the loving protection and caring direction of a Father. 1 John 5:3 says it well, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.” Keeping His commandments is not burdensome because God loves us and we love Him. Every genuine Christian here fails to obey; but anytime there is long-term disobedience to any known command of Scripture, Biblically, it raises a serious question of salvation. How you doing?
The Bible commands baptism, which means by immersion–have you been? Don’t say, oh they are a Christian, but they just don’t go to church. Church attendance is obedience, and continual disobedience raises the question of genuine salvation. No exceptions.
The Bible commands faithful service of your giftedness to the body, regular sacrificial giving of your finances–all commands. Are you obedient? God didn’t say obedience will always be easy, but it is what genuine Christians dependently do.
The first question you ask in counseling, or when someone comes to you in crisis: ”Are you willing to obey the Word of God concerning your issue, no matter what the Bible says–even if it’s difficult?” As elders, we have to ask, “Will you submit to our direction?” In struggling marriages, “Are you willing to do what the Bible says?” With your finances, “Will you follow the Lord’s teaching on money?”
A difficult marriage, challenging finances, strained relationships all show you who you really are internally–do you want to obey?
And allow me to ask you a truly painful question–”Are you God-centered in your obedience? Some obey because they don’t want to look disobedient. They obey only because they want to look good, not to honor God. Others obey from a motive of victory–I want to succeed as a Christian, and not because they love their heavenly Father.
Are you God-centered in your obedience–seeking to please Him first? Living holy, like God, uniquely, means you will live obediently.
Second Living uniquely means you live different than you used to
Verse14, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts.” No one who used to constantly desire liquor and was a drunk, dresses up and pretends to be a drunkard just for fun. And Christians who were lost and enslaved to their own desires, don’t start acting like they used to live as a non-Christian.
The phrase “do not be conformed” is used only here and in Romans 12:2–you remember it. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Do not be conformed means to assume an outward appearance that is not our true nature–it means to look on the outside the opposite of what we are in the inside. If we’re a new creature, we’re not supposed to look like the old, unsaved us. Are you different?
As non-Christians, we used to desire self-indulgence, sensuality, partying, impurity and greed, and now as an obedient child, God tells us to not be conformed to the same desires or lifestyle. Peter is telling us that obedience to God and holiness of life are radically different from a life that follows its natural, normal desires. Holy means to live different, from the heart on out.
Any of you with Pharisaic tendencies, be warned. Peter is not talking about fixing your external behavior–he’s addressing the desires of the heart. Lust means strong desire. You can fix externals with religious discipline, but internal heart desires can only be transformed, changed or removed by God. Stop excusing yourself because you don’t smoke or cuss or chew, or go with girls that do. Stop exalting yourself because you don’t watch TV, drink beer, watch movies–only read good books, have kissed dating goodbye, and daily have family devotions.
Peter says do not be conformed to those strong internal desires you used to have when you were unsaved. What are they? Some of you know the passion of shopping, where you have an overwhelming feeling of–I have to buy this item. Most of you know the strong desire for the opposite sex. Many of you know the pressure of wanting to lie your way out of a bad situation, or wanting to punish someone who has hurt you, or eating something you know you shouldn’t.
Peter says, do not be conformed to those former bad desires, telling us that doing God’s will is the opposite of what remaining sin makes us feel like doing. Christians do not live by their feelings, they live by truth, and are able to because of what God did for us in saving us. That is why Peter adds this phrase at the end of verse 14–“which were yours in your ignorance.”
Before God saved you, you were ignorant of God and His Word. As non-Christians, your passions dominated your way of life. But now as believers, you recognize these desires for what they are, and strive to not let your life be influenced by them. One expanded version says, “Do not let your character be molded by the desires of your ignorant days.”
Now don’t despair, the fact that Peter makes such a statement implies that he knows these desires still remain and have some power in the hearts of genuine Christians. This is why Peter says in 1 Peter 2:11, “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul.” All true Christians battle with bad desires; all genuine believers feel the conflict of Romans 7:15, “I am doing the very thing I hate.”
With the new heart, you get new desires, new passions, new priorities, new direction, but you will battle with old desires too. Do you know that conflict? You should feel that war! But Peter says here you are able to stop obeying the bad desires! Peter implies the Spirit’s regenerating work has broken the dominating force of those desires, and that it is possible for Christians to have a significant measure of control over them. You’re no longer ignorant, you know God as Father, you know the truth of His Word; therefore, you do not have to live by the desire of greed, the emotion of fear, nor the passion of lust.
That’s what we don’t do to be holy–and now Peter tells us what to do . . .
#2 Living holy means you live like God
Verse 15, “But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior.” Talk about contrast–the first word in verse 15 (but) is the strongest single word of contrast in the Greek language. So Peter tells us to flee from conforming to those old desires and now pursue being holy in all your behavior like God. Why?
First You live like God because He saved you
Verse 15 begins with, “but like the Holy One who called you.” Here is something you can’t see in English. The phrase “like the Holy one” is literally “under the Holy One.” In other words, under the One who called you, the Holy One, live holy. Under the influence and pattern of the Holy One, now follow his blueprint and live like Him.
To say that God is the holy One means that means that He is separated from sin and devoted to seeking His own honor. That’s why items in the Old Testament temple were holy, as they were set apart from ordinary use and devoted for use exclusively for God.
And it is a holy God who has verse 15, called you to Himself. That’s shocking, and you just missed it. You and I are not holy; you and I are wretched spiritually. We are dead in our sins, we are children of wrath, we are son’s of disobedience, yet a perfect, pure, clean, righteous and holy God called us to Himself. Perfection saved putrid; holy forgave horrible. The holy One called you. Do you understand the kind of calling Peter is referring to here? This is a call to salvation–to offer someone salvation through Christ.
Theologically here are two kinds of calling:
1) There is the general external call, like Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” This general call can be rejected, like Matthew 23:37, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.” Or when Jesus said in John 5:40, “And you are unwilling to come to Me, that you may have life.” But there’s another calling.
2) The internal efficacious call–this calling is when God awakens His own in time. This is God’s irresistible ministry of drawing men to Himself. John 6:44 says, “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent me draws Him.” Draw is used in the book of James as drag, when someone drags you into court–being drawn unwillingly. Romans 8:30, “Whom He predestined, these He also called.” 2 Timothy 1:9, “Who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace.” Those who respond to God’s efficacious call are the elect.
This is what Matthew 22:14 means when it says, “For many are called, but few are chosen.” And 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14, “God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. And it was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” If we come to Christ, God called us (which none of us deserves), and if we don’t come to Christ, God did not call us (which all of us deserve).
The calling Peter refers to here is the internal efficacious call of salvation. Peter’s suffering readers have been called by a holy God through the preaching of the Gospel–therefore, they should now live holy. Peter is reminding his readers, it was God who initiated their salvation when the Gospel came to them in power, summoning them out of darkness into fellowship with Himself. It was a powerful, effectual calling into the Christian life–which is a calling to live like God, who is holy.
So our holy God called Peter’s readers, so now Peter says. . .
Second You live like God because He commands you to, and He enables you to
Verse 15, “Be holy yourselves also in all your behavior.” Be holy yourselves is the main verb and command of verses 14-16. Peter commands his readers and us to be holy–how’s that possible? As holy, God is separated from his creation–God’s holiness, in part, is His uniqueness. God is separate from all that is impure and fallen–therefore we can’t possibly duplicate His holiness. Yet through personal relationship with God through Christ, we can begin to reflect His character. We’re made holy in the inner person, and our conduct should begin to demonstrate our inner condition of holiness. Since we partake in His nature, and are indwelt with the Holy Spirit, we will like what He likes, imitate Him, and seek to be pleasing to Him.
How will that look? How does verse 15, “be holy yourselves”–look?
1) You will increasingly hate sin. Just like God hates sin, progressively you will hate your own disobedience. You will stop making excuses for sin, and be broken when you do sin. Isaiah is a great illustration of this. When Isaiah saw God’s holiness in Isaiah 6, he didn’t say, “You have got the right guy here God, send me, I am your man! God, you can’t lose with the stuff I use!” No, Isaiah said, “Lord, I am undone, I am an unclean man.” Isaiah was devastated by his own sinfulness when he saw God’s holiness.
But Isaiah was not focused upon his own sinfulness and somehow gaining victory over it, but he was crushed over how offensive his sin was to God–like the prodigal said, I have sinned against heaven, and like David, against Thee and Thee only have I sinned. God-centered holiness is not about sin or your victory over it. Pharaoh, Balaam, Saul and Judas all said, I have sinned! But true, God-centered holiness results in God-pleasing obedience, not self-satisfied victory. Obedience is focused on God. But merely wanting victory over sin is focused on self–pursue obedience to Christ.
2) You will be set apart for Christ. True holiness is shown in a person who is set apart for Christ–not isolated from the world–God does not want that. He wants you set apart for Christ while you live in this world.
You do all you do for Him–you drive for Him, do homework for Him, have relationships for Him, deepen your marriage for Him, parent for Him, watch TV for Him–all you possess is for Him. If all your time, money, possessions, activities and relationships are not set apart for Him, then as a slave, you are stealing from your Master and you are unholy. You are bought with a price, therefore . . .
3) You will desire Him more than life. God’s holiness is His beauty, and desiring Him as a way of life is to reflect His beauty to others. Holiness is not just hating sin, holiness is super attractive–internal and external purity is a blessing. Those things that are unique to God–when they are witnessed are beautiful. Those who become holy are those who desire more and more of the one who is truly holy. Holiness is not merely avoiding sin. Just like a garden is more than the absence of weeds–a true garden is full of color, plants, fruit, and beauty. When a believer becomes holy, they become a fuller garden.
Now, most of you are thinking, there’s no way I can live holy. And what is so encouraging is, verse 15 anticipates your concern. Verse 15 is my favorite verb type in the New Testament–“be holy yourselves” is a command, but it is in the passive voice, meaning it’s a command you must obey, but it must be done to you. You have to obey the command, but you must rely upon another to obey it.
It’s the same verb “to be filled with the Spirit” and “be strong” or literally “be strengthened in the Lord” (in spiritual warfare). So God commands you to be holy and enables you to be holy. The only way to live holy is to depend upon the Holy One. The only way to live holy is to be filled with the Spirit and follow the Word of God. Peter is literally saying, you yourselves be made holy.
Third You live like God in everything you say and do
Verse 15, “be holy yourselves also in all your behavior.” The original meaning of the Greek word behavior here means turning up and down, and back and forth–the idea of walking. Behavior literally embraces your whole walk of life, every moment and every detail. All your behavior speaks of a pattern of life that transforms every day, every moment, every thought and every action for holiness, to reflect God’s beauty, purity and uniqueness.
The word behavior or conduct is frequently used in Peter to refer to lifestyle, like the believer who lives in a such a way as to lead others to salvation, such as 1 Peter 2:12, “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.”
But take it a step further and realize, to be holy as God is holy also includes a full and pervading holiness that reaches to every aspect of our personalities. It involves not only avoiding outward sin, but also maintaining an instinctive delight in God’s holiness as an undercurrent of heart and mind throughout the day. It’s all of you internally desiring His beauty, purity & uniqueness. And Christian, your holiness is going to be a reality for . . .
#3 Living holy is a certainty for every true Christian
Verse 16 says, “because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’’” Peter concludes this section with the reasons why every true believer will live a holy life.
First A holy life was predicted for God’s people in the Word of God
Verse 16, “because it is written”–this phrase means, it stands written in Scripture and remains valid today. The verb literally states, it has been written in the past, and it has present abiding results today; it’s still on record. “You know what the Old Testament said . . . “ Leviticus 19:2, “Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.’” And 11:44, “‘For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy; for I am holy.’”
God is holy, always has been holy and always will be holy–and God’s people were commanded to be holy in the Old Testament, and now we are commanded to be holy in the New Testament. You and I are no longer in ignorance–it is written, you know what God wants. This command for holiness comes with the permanence and authority of the Word of God. This call to holiness is not new–it was a part of God’s plan from the very beginning.
Second A holy life will become a reality for every believer
Verse 16, “You shall be holy.” The actual phrase here is this–you will, as a fact, in the future, dependently act upon yourself to become holy. And how will you and I become holy?
Third A holy life reflects God continually
Verse 16, “You shall be holy for I am holy.” This phrase actually is God stating–I am factually and continually holy. As we become more like Christ, we will grow more in holiness. Our growth in holiness will come through suffering like Peter’s readers, and holiness will come to us as we spend time with Him, serve Him, and seek to reflect His character, study His Word, depend upon His Spirit, regularly fellowship with other believers over the truths of God’s Word, and hate sin, desire Christ and live set apart in all we say and do in the midst of this world.
Christian, today, grow in your love for God’s holiness, His beauty, purity and uniqueness.