We have spent the past three weeks focusing on the unprogrammed nature of the Church, hence the title of the short sermon series Unprogrammed. We’ve looked at the Bible, at prayer, and at the Church. Today we keep on by looking at the theme of holiness. Why? Because so much of holiness is unprogrammed in our life together.
Can you imagine what it would be like here at SonRise if we did program holiness for all of us? If we made a kind of SonRise holiness code that we then enforced? You must dress like this and not like this. You must talk like this and not like this. You must watch these kinds of TV shows movies and not those. You must only listen to this kind of music. You must only read these kinds of books. You must only vote like this. You must only drive this kind of car. You must only be this kind parent, do this kind of education, play these kinds of board games, work this kind of job, have these kind of friends, marry that kind of person, and on, and on, and on, and on. Can you imagine how busy we’d be passing out demerits? People would either be breaking all kind of rules around here, and everyone would simply stop coming here.
To a large degree then, holiness isn’t and must not be programmed. But if that’s the case, and knowing the Bible makes great commands on us concerning holy living, what does holiness look like? Enter today’s sermon, where we’ll will ask and answer two questions. First, what is holiness? And second, what does it look like?
What is Holiness?
Our text will be 1 Peter 1:13-16…
Holiness is a Response to Future Grace (v13)
“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Notice that it’s the grace we’ll receive at ‘the revelation of Jesus Christ’ that moves us to do certain things here and now. v13 calls us to ‘prepare our minds for action’ and to be ‘sober-minded.’ Literally Peter says here to ‘gird up the loins of our minds’ or something like ‘roll up your mental sleeves.’ For most of Biblical history men and women wore robes in daily life. Even the soldiers would wear robes with armor on top. As you can imagine when the common person ran around or when the soldier went into battle these robes would get in the way. So, they would literally pull them up above their knees and tie them or fasten them in place with a smaller belt to prepare them for agility and fast movement. Peter uses this image to call his readers to a certain kind of mental activity. Now it’s true that just thinking the right things cannot get you into heaven, but it’s also true that God has created us in such a manner that the route to the heart is through the mind. We cannot love deeply that which we do not know truly. Which means when God comes into view you cannot leave your mind behind, it must come with you and be prepared to be active and engaged. This is how Peter begins addressing his readers.
He then adds ‘set our hope fully on the grace to come.’ This isn’t positive thinking or fanciful wishing (like I hope next year will be better than this year, or I hope my team will win it all this season), but a Christ-centered boast of what He has done in the past and what He will one day do in the future. Or to say it yet another way, because we have a hope in God for the future we should set our hope on God now. Which reveals an underlying principle at work here – what we ultimately hope in changes how we live day to day. If you live in a war zone you hope for peace. If you’re single you hope for a spouse. If you’re unable to have children you hope for kids. If you’re sick you hope for healing. All of these are good things but when we make good things our greatest hope those good things become functional saviors. And when they don’t deliver our misplaced hope will be crushed. Peter is reminding us to do the hard work of using our minds to place our hope where it ought to be, in Jesus, and specifically in His grace to come.
These phrases ‘prepare your mind for action’, ‘be sober minded’, and ‘set your hope fully on’ are not terms of inaction. They’re not passive phrases. They’re terms describing discipline, effort, and work in regard to spiritual living. Or to say it another way, these phrases are a call to work hard at becoming holy. But see the direction we work hard towards? The grace in view here is both past tense and future tense. The verses leading up to this passage, particularly v1-7, make it plain that in Christ we have received grace; and v8-13 make it plain that we will one day receive more grace when Jesus returns. Grace behind us and grace before us, changes how to live right now. It’s like a springtime flower. As the flower’s natural response when it feels the suns warmth and light is to open and blossom, so too, the Christian’s natural response when it beholds and basks in the pure light of the Holy Christ is to live a holy life.
So, holiness is first and foremost a response to future grace.
Holiness is a Rejection of Former Sin (v14-15)
As Peter continues he says in v14-15, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct…” v14 and v15 say the same thing in different ways. v14 says it negatively “…do not be conformed to ignorant passions…” and v15 says it positively “…be holy in all your conduct…” When you combine the commands in v14 and v15 you have a clear picture of what the pursuit of holiness looks like. As God’s true children we’re called to be obedient children who turn away from something and turn towards something. We turn away from who we used to be and what we used to do. Formerly we walked around in ignorance hating God and hating one another. Now, being saved, God expects us to walk differently. How so? We turn towards a holy life. Peter is saying if you’re a Christian, you’ve been saved and reborn by the power of the Holy Spirit, who’s given us a new heart. This new heart produces new desires, new loves, and new aspirations that change the way we live daily life.
We’ve seen this in OT Israel. They were set apart and made distinct by God from the surrounding nations to be holy. After God redeemed them He gave them His Law to reorder their lives to be different from how they lived before. Today Christ’s Church, full of converted men and women, is similarly set apart from sin and the surrounding world to be holy herself. Israel, though in the world, was to look different from her neighbors, and now the Church, though in the world, is to look different from the world. Our boat, if you will, is to be in the ocean but none of the ocean is to be in the boat, lest we sink.
Now, let’s be honest. Peter’s aware and we ought to be aware that Christians will still feel pulled and tempted to live in certain ways in line with our former selves and the sinful world around us, he doesn’t deny this. What he does deny is the Christian not resisting our former sinful lifestyle after conversion. v14 calls this ‘obedient.’ v15 calls this ‘holy.’ Therefore obedience and holiness means conforming to Christ rather than the world around us. This means holiness is not optional for the Church. Holiness is not just something for mature Christians, holiness is not just something for pastors and elders, holiness is for all Christians, in all times, in all places.
Ecclesiastes 3 said it first and The Byrds said it second in 1965 that there’s a time for everything under the sun, a time to be born, a time to die, a time to plant, a time to tear down, a time to kill, a time to heal, a time to laugh, and a time to weep. You ever notice it doesn’t say ‘a time to be holy?’ This is because there is never a time when the Christian is not to be holy. Out of all the things in our lives, holiness must be the Christian’s main pursuit. Why? Because it is who we are.
So Church, are you holy? Do you know the holiness I’ve been speaking of? I’m not asking if you attend church regularly, or if you’ve been baptized or have taken the Lord’s Supper. I’m not asking you if you wear the name ‘Christian.’ I’m not asking if you approve of holiness in others, or like to read books about the lives of holy people, or like to talk about holy things, or own many holy books yourself. I’m not asking if you want to be holy or hope to be holy some day in the future. I’m asking something more – are you holy? Hebrews 12:14 says, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” Others will see the God in your life if you pursue holiness. You will see the God more clearly if you pursue holiness. More so, the world will see the character of God in our church collectively if we all are turning away from our former sinful pursuits to pursue holiness.
Holiness is a rejection of former sin.
Holiness is a Reflection of God’s Fullness (v16)
Have you ever thought that the moon, though appearing to be very bright, has no light of its own? It only reflects the sun. The same is to be true of us. In and of ourselves we have no holiness, we are mere reflectors of God’s pure light. Peter says this in our passage in v16, “Be holy, for I am holy.” Many theologians of old describe God’s holiness by saying God is primarily holy. To say God is primarily holy is to say God the original pattern of holiness. Or, that holiness originates with Him, such that everything else that is holy is but a reflection of God’s own holiness as well as a partaker in God’s holiness. Or as the kids say these days, God is the OG when it comes to holiness. It’s like the chick-fil-a chicken sandwich. Though the claim is hard to prove 100% it is most likely that they were the first ones to make and sell a fast food chicken sandwich. And for a while they were the only ones that sold chicken sandwiches. Everyone else was doing burgers while chick-fil-a stayed in their lane and grew and grew and grew. Now, it seems you can’t find a fast food restaurant that doesn’t sell a version of the chick-fil-a chicken sandwich. They’re the OG when it comes that sandwich.
In a similar yet far greater manner, God is the originator of holiness. There is simply no holiness without Him, for it came from Him, and will always come from Him. His stunning holiness is the eternal spring that ever flows forth in fullness to fill all other streams. He alone is the holy one, and we do nothing but reflect.
This Church, is what holiness is: a response to future grace, a rejection of former sin, and a reflection of God’s fullness.
What Does Holiness Look Like?
We have now come to the point in the sermon where we ask the all important question, so what? We know God is holy, we know we ought to be holy, but what does that really look like in daily life? More so, if we’re not going to handout a SonRise holiness code and enforce such a code around here, what exactly are we to pursue? A high morality? A good ethical code? Upright actions, or a kind of vague respectability in our private and public life? No, not at all. It’s so much more. What does holiness look like?
First, be who you are
Eph. 5:8, “…at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.”
Second, Look to the cross
1 Pet. 2:24, “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.”
Third, work hard at holiness
1 Cor. 15:9-10, “For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”
This is God’s great design for all His sons. Aaron the priest once dressed in robes made for glory and for beauty (Ex. 28:2), so too holiness is the believer’s glory and beauty now. What else are the sacraments and ordinances for, than to rain down righteousness on us and make us holy? What are God’s promises for, but to encourage holiness? What is the sending of the Holy Spirit for, but to make us holy men? What is all suffering allowed by God in our lives for, but to ween us from the world and whet our appetite for all that is holy? What are God’s new mercies for, but to push us bit by bit toward a holy life? What is Christ’s dying for, but to wash away our unholiness and purchase a people zealous for holy living? What is Christ’s rising for, but to impute a holy righteousness into us? What is Christ’s ascension for, but to teach us how He reigns over all that is holy? And what is Christ’s return for, but to teach us how all that is holy will one say swallow up all that is unholy?
 Boring, page 74.
 R.C. Sproul, 1 Peter – Saint Andrew’s Expositional Commentary, page 42.
 Daniel M. Doriani, 1 Peter – Reformed Expository Commentary, page 38.
 Juan Sanchez, 1 Peter For You, page 44.
 Doriani, page 40.