HOLINESS IS TO BE WHOLLY GODS
1 Peter 1:13-16 NLT – A Call to Holy Living
13 So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. 14 So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. 15 But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. 16 For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”[a]
A more popular message is around the Lord’s grace. Pursuing holiness and living consecrated might feel jarring, unattainable, overwhelming, and what does it even mean? But here it is – not a suggestion, or an offering, but a command: “You must be holy because I am holy.”
It’s not about choosing between receiving the unconditional grace Jesus offers and pursuing the holiness he commands us to, it’s about living in the harmony of both – the receipt of grace and the pursuit of holiness together.
It’s a tension we might need to sit in as we consider the possibility of grace and holiness working together in our lives—because it’s essential to living a life of holiness.
Rather than being people who are slowly becoming likened to the status quo of the world that surrounds us, grasping grace and standing our holy ground enables us to be effective christians who can bring change in and to the world—not be changed by the world.
From the past weeks of studying 1 Peter, we know that knowing Christ personally and what he’s done for us is the hope and foundation we need to not only handle pain and suffering, but be refined by it.
How we can live in such a way that the troubles and suffering that inevitably come into our lives would not crush us or make us weaker but make us stronger, refine our character and turn us into great people.
Me – when I had an overgrown blood vessel on the inside of my eyelid that the doctor had to cut off. Anyone who has sat in a surgery of any type that is reliant on the surgeon’s steady hand will know that it’s as much about the skill of the surgeon as it is about the stillness of the patient because the same blade that could refine my vision and heal me, could destroy my vision and cause damage to me.
If the surgical tools the Lord uses to refine us are pains and trials, it’s also about how we position ourselves through them. How do we live in such a condition that the surgical tools the Lord uses (the trials of life) don’t destroy you but actually heal you?
The key point of this passage is “You must be holy because I am holy”
What does it mean to sit still on the surgical bed of life?
What does it mean to sit still under the blade of the troubles of life?
That you’re helped and refined by them and not destroyed?
“Therefore” it says:
- prepare your minds for action
- exercise self-control
- Put your hope in eternal life with Christ, not in something else
- Live as God’s obedient children
- Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires
- Be holy in everything you do
In the Greek, it literally says “gird up the loins of your mind” which is an unfortunately picturesque statement.
Men and women of those days didn’t wear what we wear today. They wore flowing robes not conducive to strenuous action – so preparing for action meant pulling together the flowing robes and putting them into a belt that girded them – so bare legs were free to run – the moral of the story is that holy living is all about wearing the right underwear! ready for action.
Paul is basically saying if you want to live ready to be refined by life, and not swallowed by it, you better be positioned – focussed – not distracted (consumed with thoughts about a lot of things- goals/relationships/whatever) so you only have a corner of your mind seeking God and attending to the pursuit of God.
Peter says you’ve got to gird up your loins, give your total focus to seeking God, pursuing God, living ready for action.
The pursuit of holiness is not a hobby, it’s a lifestyle decision, pursuing holiness is to be wholly Gods.
Be holy for I am holy… here are 2 principles:
1/ The Lord is holy
Peter quotes five times out of Leviticus, “be holy for I am holy”. The word holy in the Old Testament is the Hebrew word “kadosh” which actually means to be separate, cut off ‘kadosh’, cut loose.
If we want to see God as holy we have to see him as infinitely above and beyond you and me.
The bible tells us that what makes him God is not that he’s powerful, not that he’s wise, not that he’s loving but that his power is holy power, his love is holy love, his wisdom is holy wisdom. As soon as you put the word holy on God, what that means is God is off the scale.
Whenever God wants to rebuke people in the Old Testament he says things like “you thought I was one like yourself“. It can be confusing because there are metaphors to describe God like “father”, shepherd” etc yet inside all of those metaphors, he is infinitely above and beyond us – not at the top end of scale but infinitely above, off the scale.
What does it mean to honour him as holy?
- He is transcendently unique (Ex 15:11) “Who is like unto thee?”… This is rhetorical. Noone is.
- Isaiah 55, “My thoughts, not your thoughts”. We worry because we compare ourselves to him and think he isn’t handling this very well, or we could run it better. But the reason we are worrying is because we’re not sanctifying him as holy. When we sanctify him as holy, as the passage continues, ‘we will be led forth in peace’.
- An example, if I had a bad father, or male authority figure, I can’t comprehend God as a loving Father. He is a holy father. Not the best version of a natural father. He is off the scale, infinitely above, his love unending, pure, unconditional, perfect. Until/unless you sanctify him as holy you ‘re never going to understand or be comforted by his fatherly love.
- Take seriously that he is holy, reflect on it, read what Jesus said about his holiness.
- His love and wisdom is beyond anything we know, or could ask or think or imagine.
- We will never have peace and really relax until we receive who he is and what he’s done.
- My process of salvation – receiving Christ – his grace, his presence, his peace. Later, experienced his holiness – a miracle in our family – revelation of the holiness of God.
2/ We must be holy
Holiness is different when applied to the ‘creatures’ and the creator. We are not of infinite holiness, but we are called to be set apart.
In the Old Testament, there were a lot of inanimate objects set apart for the exclusive use of the tabernacle that were holy.
To be holy means to be wholly Gods.
No area doesn’t belong to him.
No part of our heart does not belong to him.
Why is tithe holy? Because it’s completely used for God’s work, totally at God’s disposal
None of us can be completely holy or perfectly holy but it’s what we’re aiming at and called to pursue.
God hasn’t called us to be something we can’t possibly be.
The Holy Spirit empowers us to live Holy.
OT story which shows us perfectly what it is to be called to be holy
2 Sam 23:13-17
13 Once during the harvest, when David was at the cave of Adullam, the Philistine army was camped in the valley of Rephaim. The Three (who were among the Thirty—an elite group among David’s fighting men) went down to meet him there. 14 David was staying in the stronghold at the time, and a Philistine detachment had occupied the town of Bethlehem.
15 David remarked longingly to his men, “Oh, how I would love some of that good water from the well by the gate in Bethlehem.” 16 So the Three broke through the Philistine lines, drew some water from the well by the gate in Bethlehem, and brought it back to David. But he refused to drink it. Instead, he poured it out as an offering to the Lord. 17 “The Lordforbid that I should drink this!” he exclaimed. “This water is as precious as the blood of these men[a] who risked their lives to bring it to me.” So David did not drink it. These are examples of the exploits of the Three.
David murmured…“Oh, how I would love some of that good water from the well by the gate in Bethlehem.”
He was hot, discouraged and tired. He was likely thinking, “Will I ever be able to resist the Philistines?”, “Will the Lord ever give Israel back into my hands? Or Bethlehem?”
He would have had a well there. He had to have had a well there or he wouldn’t have been able to have a camp. This was a yearning for water from that well. It had tasty water, with sweet minerals in it. Perhaps he was mostly yearning for the day he’d have Bethlehem back and he was anxious and wrestling with the idea… “Will God protect me, honour me, help me, aid me?”
He wasn’t giving anyone a command, or asking for help, or even talking to anyone, just sighing deeply and expressing a desire.
Three warriors overheard his wish – they looked at each other – said nothing – belted on their swords – picked up a water pitcher – went to Bethlehem – fought their way into Bethlehem – fought their way up a hill through the scores of Philistine soldiers – perhaps fight their way in the gate because we know the well was inside the city. They probably had to fight people off whilst they were filling the jug – then fight their way out – then go through the desert carrying the water instead of drinking it. Finally, they came into the presence of their King David and said, “Here’s the water that you desired”.
David was thunderstruck – looked at water and refused to drink it – instead he poured it on the ground before the Lord and poured it out on the ground before the Lord saying, “The Lord forbid that I should drink this!” he exclaimed. “This water is as precious as the blood of these men who risked their lives to bring it to me.” So David did not drink it.
What do we learn about holiness / total devotion in this passage?
A/ The nature of total devotion is that the difference between a command, a request and a sigh is nonexistent.
When we are devoted to our King, His wish is our command.
Total holiness goes way beyond the rules. It’s a whole orientation of the heart that goes way beyond God’s commands and requests and stretches us to see anything that God prefers and wants, his wish is our command.
It’s not ‘how much do I have to do/change/give?’, it’s pouring out all we have to fulfil the desires of his heart?
How did those guys feel when David poured out that water they risked their lives for?
On the one hand, the men’s attitude toward David is wonderful because that’s how we should all be loving each other. The bible says “be devoted to each other” – we should be watching, listening for each other and serving one another in love.
But David poured it out because he said he didn’t feel he had the right to this level of devotion. Maybe you’ve given your total devotion to people who haven’t have the theological smarts and godliness to pour it out on the ground like David, but they’ve taken it from you.
The only object of total devotion to which we should be separated is Jesus.
We don’t just see Jesus in David, but in the mighty men. He is a warrior king. He broke through enemy lines to bring the water of life. He looks at us and says John 17 “for their sakes I sanctify myself”. This means he’s wholly focussed and wholly devoted to us. He’s the warrior King, he hears our sighs and goes up the hill and fights through enemy lines to bring us the water of life. And this came at the price of his life.