So we’ve seen that disciples follow Jesus and having been made holy live with their hope fixed on Jesus return and the kingdom he brings, and so we live holy lives as we pursue God and become like what we behold. But what Peter says next seems to jar. The gears seem to stick and grind.
Peter calls these believers to be fearful.
What do you fear? I don’t mean our small fears like rats or spiders or clowns. I mean what do you really fear? Our deep fears reveal what we love. We fear our children getting hurt or being ill because we love them. We fear losing our jobs because we love the security and identity they give us. We fear rejection or criticism because we love people’s approval. What do you really fear? Let me slightly change the question. What do you fear more; sin or being uncomfortable? People or God?
As Peter calls these scattered believers to be holy, to live in light of their eternal hope, he makes a connection I’m not sure we would. He connects their real life holiness with fear of God. “If you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.”
Fear is up there with holiness in terms of biblical ideas we misunderstand. There are two types of fear of God in the Bible. There’s the fear of the rebel against God, the sinner, who runs away from God because he fears judgment and doesn’t know or want grace. Like Adam, who when he sins runs and hides from God because he’s afraid.
But there’s also the fear of God of the child of God. It’s not a cowering terrified fear of God that runs and hides. But an awe filled amazement that approaches God in wonder that the holy God in all his glory and goodness and justice and grace has made it possible for us to come into his presence as his child. Our fear is a fear that both trembles at the awesomeness of the privilege and rejoices at the grace and welcome that makes being God’s children possible.
Look at v18 we fear “For we know it was not with perishable things such as silver and gold that you were redeemed form the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.”
Fear of God flows from an awareness of the cost of our salvation. It’s to stand amazed at God’s glory and purity and become shamefully aware of our sin and unworthiness, and then to behold Jesus; God’s beloved, righteous, holy Son, without blemish or spot offered to redeem us and make us God’s holy children. And to live that experience on repeat; to stand awestruck again and again, to draw near with both rejoicing and trembling. To fear God is to love God and not want to do anything that might forfeit the joy of knowing him or dishonour him whom we love.
That fear that loves, that trembles and rejoices, is what leads us to long to live holy lives as we wait for the coming of Jesus.
Disciples are called to be holy. How do we pursue holiness? For some of us that will mean reckoning with our wrong fear of God. We’re terrified of him because we know we deserve judgement and we’ve never trusted Jesus. You’re right to be terrified of him. He is the just, holy, perfect judge and you will never meet his standard. But Jesus has met it for you. Only he can make you holy. Will you confess your sin and trust in him?
For some of us we’ve done that but we still struggle with that fear of God that wants to run from him and hide. That fears his finding out what a fraud we really are, the sins that lurk in our past, in our hearts our heads. If I don’t like myself, we think, how can God love me? That fear paralyses us, we never grow, we struggle to pray, we make excuses to not read our bibles because we don’t like the us we see there.
We need to go to the cross again and see Jesus. The holy God without blemish or spot who has redeemed you, knowing everything you’ve done and do and who loves you just the same. We need to come and ask him to remove the fear that makes us want to run and to change us by his grace so that we rejoice as we tremble at the sheer joy of his welcome.
For some of us we need to wrestle with this fear of God. We don’t think about living a holy life, we cheaply excuse our sin because we have a cheap view of grace and an inadequate understanding of the holiness of God. Even God’s blood bought, redeemed children are to fear him. Not a fear of terror that runs from him. But one which stands in awe as we learn more of the holy awesomeness of our God and become more aware of the sheer depths of our sin and it’s staggering cost and yet see the holy love of God which in Christ pays for that sin so that we can be his children. Will we come rejoicing and trembling. That right fear of God leads us to pursue holiness not presume upon grace.
Disciples pursue holiness. We pursue holiness as we set our hopes on Jesus return, as we behold God’s holiness and pursue him and become like what we behold, and as we fear God with that unique fear of the believer that both trembles and rejoices.
Will we pursue holiness? It’s what we’ve been saved for.