What does it mean to be holy? I wonder how you’d answer that question? And what does holiness look like in day to day life? Is it just an excuse for weird Christians to keep on being weird? Is it a call to withdraw from everything and everywhere where there’s sin? Is holiness, like some do, following every Old Testament law – no mixed fibres in our clothes, not eating bat (seems worth listening too!)? Is it a list of to don’t’s? Is holiness attractive or repulsive to the world around us? Is it a life filled with joy or drudgery? I think we’re really confused about holiness.
As disciples we’re called to be holy, and yet, when you look at Jesus what do we see? We see someone who was the most holy person ever to walk on the planet, who fought sin resisted temptation was righteous, and yet was intensely attractive to notoriously imperfect people. Someone who was on the guest list for all sorts of parties and accepted invitations from all sorts of people (and wasn’t sat in the corner quietly nursing his lemonade!) and yet who perfectly obeyed and mirrored his Father. What do you make of that? We’re called as disciples to follow Jesus, to be like him. Jesus life shows us we’ve misunderstood holiness. That being holy isn’t a less than life. It isn’t judgemental and angry but loving and welcoming, that true holiness isn’t compromise with sin but neither is it condemning of sinners.
All disciples are called to be holy, but what does that look like? We’re going to explore that as we look at 1 Peter 1v13-21.
Peter writes to believers scattered across an increasingly hostile Roman Empire calling them to live as exiles and foreigners, to be different from their culture. And as he begins to teach them he calls them “Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.”
He wants them to understand when they live and how they’re to live. But before we get into that, what’s the first word, “Therefore”. This call to be alert flows out of what’s gone before. In v3-12 Peter has praised God for all the blessings believers enjoy, blessing they haven’t earned but that are given to them through faith in Jesus. God in his mercy, through Jesus, has given them new birth into a living hope(3). A hope of eternity with him in a new creation and new life as God’s redeemed children now. All a gift of grace.
Everything he writes from v13 flows from this reality. Jesus has done everything necessary to save them, they’re redeemed, made righteous, adopted as children of God, shielded by God, and their inheritance is secure. In light of that new identity and reality this how they are to live.
Sometimes we get this backwards. We think we have to be holy to earn God’s favour, to earn points hoping we get enough for salvation and eternal life. But Peter says the opposite; Jesus does everything necessary through his death and resurrection to make us holy before God. We are justified, declared just as if we’d never sinned and adopted as God’s children through faith in him.
The “Therefore” shows us the change that brings. Being justified and welcomed and adopted by grace, being God’s children with all the blessings that brings transforms who we are and how we live.
They are to have minds that are alert and fully sober. To be alert is to be ready. Literally it’s something like “gird your mind”. It’s the image of someone getting ready for action by tucking their long flowing cloak into their belt so they can run without being slowed down or tripped by their cloak. Think of a great sprinter, they don’t sprint in their dressing gown, they prepare by being ready, by taking off anything that might hinder them. Be prepared in your thinking. Think clearly about who you are and when you live.
Secondly be fully sober. Don’t be intoxicated by the world, lulled into forgetting who you are, don’t be confused about your identity, when you live, and where your home and hope is. Don’t settle for living as if this world is all there is, as if it’s temporary hope is your hope.
Instead “set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.” Don’t get confused and become intoxicated by the world’s hopes and dreams, don’t absorb and adopt them. Instead set your hope on Christ’s return and all that will be yours when Christ comes again. These believers need to understand when they live, that this world isn’t all there is. There’s a heavenly reality. That’s their home. That’s our home, our hope. And so they, and we, are to fix our minds on it.
Disciples are pilgrims. We’re on a journey to our eternal home. We’re saved when we trust in Jesus, we’re being saved as we live day by day listening to God’s word and following Jesus in the power of the Spirit, but our salvation will only fully and finally be realised when we reach our home. When we’re welcomed into Jesus presence with a well done or when Christ comes again and every eye sees him and every knee bows and his people are welcomed into his kingdom come.
That’s our home. For now we’re exiles, we’re sojourners, we’re pilgrims travelling through. Refugees of the heavenly country longing to reach home. Being heavenly minded matters because what we long for affects how we live. We won’t be holy if we think this world is home. We won’t live for eternity unless we think about it clearly and often.
How is our thinking? Are we muddled in where we think of as home? Are we intoxicated by the world and it’s hope? Peter says disciples must be clear on who they are and where they’re going, because that clarity of purpose and identity and hope shapes how we live.
What’s our hope set on? What do you long and live for? It would be easy for the believers Peter writes to to hope for an end to trials. But instead they’re to fix their hopes on Christ’s return and that will mean they endure the trials rejoicing that God is at work in them and through them.
How about us? What are you hoping for? An end to home schooling? A cuddle with grandma or a grandchild? Life without COVID? They’re all good things, and it’s not wrong to pray to God expressing our longing for them. But the danger is that we miss what God is doing if that’s where our hopes stop. God is calling us to long for, hope in his coming kingdom. A kingdom where there will never be a lockdown, never be a pandemic, but also never be a mugging, rape, shooting, or instance of abuse or racism or poverty. Where Jesus will reign and our salvation hope is realised. If that’s our hope we can do more than just endure what we’re currently going through, we can ask God to be at work in us in our trial to refine our faith, to purify it, to burn away the false hopes, to make us holy. We must think clearly about who we are, where we are on our pilgrimage and set our hope on Jesus return so that our hope transforms our living.