God calls us to be holy in everything we do – but do we understand what that means? God doesn’t just want us to change our actions; he wants to change our motivation!
Isaiah, chapters 36-37; 1 Peter, chapter 1
1 Peter 1:13-23 (NLT):
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. 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. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”
And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time here as ‘temporary residents.’ For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but now in these last days he has been revealed for your sake.
Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory. You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart. For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God.
“Be Holy in Everything You Do”
Earlier this week, I reflected on the balance between faith and good deeds in the life of the believer (“Show Your Faith by What You Do!”). Today’s passage provides more insight into this balance. Peter begins this passage with the word “So,” which points us back to the first part of chapter 1. In verses 3-4, he reminds us of the life that we have because of God’s mercy, and the living hope that we have through Jesus.
Because of what God has done for us, Peter calls us to several specific actions:
- Prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control (13a)
- Put all your hope in God’s gracious salvation (13b)
- Live as God’s obedient children (14a)
- Don’t slip back into old ways of living (14b)
- Be holy in everything you do (15)
Many people respond to the idea of being holy by saying, “That’s impossible!” And to some extent, they’re right – we can’t be holy in our own strength. But when God calls us to be holy, we can trust that he has provided a way for us to obey him.
“You Were Cleansed from Your Sins”
Peter gives us the key to being holy: You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth (22). He clearly means us to recognize that God’s cleansing does something in us! God did not simply “declare” us to be holy; he is making us holy. And God expects us to cooperate with him in that process of making us holy.
Scripture uses several words or concepts to describe the effects of Christ’s death for us. God forgives us, pardons us, justifies us, and reconciles us to himself, just to name a few. Peter also echoes Jesus’ phrase from John 3:3: “You have been born again” (23). And, as we noted from verse 22, God cleanses us from our sins. The point is that God means something specific – and different –when he uses these different terms.
We can’t just throw our hands up and protest that we can’t be holy. That would make a mockery of God’s command for us to be holy – as though God were saying, “Be holy, as I am holy; but guess what? You can’t be holy! Ha ha ha!” God does not operate in that way! God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors…And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.
Be Holy in Everything You Do
I think one point that many people miss is the impact of God’s making us holy. It is not simply about doing certain things and avoiding others. The call to holiness does change our actions. Peter urges us not to slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. God wants us to embrace that call to be holy, and to cooperate with him in his work.
But Peter reveals the goal of God’s work in verse 22: You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart. That kind of love is impossible apart from God’s cleansing work. Our old ways of living were directed toward satisfying our own desires. God calls us to live for him and serve each other.
After all, that is the example Jesus set for us. “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25-28).
Father, thank you for reminding us that you call us to be holy as you are holy. While that call necessarily changes our actions, it also changes our motivation. You have cleansed us from our sins and filled us with your Holy Spirit. The cleansing empowers us to live above sin, but it also enables us to love each other as Christ loves us. Lead us in your way, we pray, that we might love and serve each other. Amen.