Be Holy As God Is Holy – Part 2

1 Peter 1:13-16 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. 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, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

 

INTRODUCTION
In the way of a reminder or, if you weren’t here over the past few weeks, to bring you up to speed, 1 Peter 1:13-16 is meant to teach God’s people that a true understanding of, belief in, and delight in the gospel of Jesus Christ always leads to action. 1 Peter 1:3-9 describes nature of the gospel of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:10-12 describes the amazingness of the gospel of Jesus Christ as understood by the prophets, apostles, and angels. And then, once again, 1 Peter 1:13-16 teaches and commands two practical implications of 1:3-12: rightly understood, believed in, and delighted in, the gospel will cause God’s people to (1) increasingly hope fully in the grace of God and (2) live holy lives.

Two weeks ago we considered what it meant to hope fully in the grace of God.

Then, last week, we looked at the nature of the holiness to which we are called: as-God-is-holy holiness. That is, we are to be holy as God is holy. Therefore, we considered that God is holy in that (1) he is utterly set apart from all things and (2) he is completely morally pure. Finally, we saw that Christians are by nature already set-apart holy (because God has set us apart by choosing us in Christ), and that it is only on this basis that we are able to become morally-pure holy.

I concluded the sermon, then, by leaving you with the question of how, specifically, we are to obey Peter’s command to be morally-pure holy. And that’s where we pick up today. My main aim this morning is to begin explaining to you how God has ordained that we become morally pure.

Let’s pray that God would make his word clear and strengthen us to obey it.

BE HOLY AS GOD IS HOLY
Once again, the starting point for this sermon is with the understanding that all Christians, by the very nature of being Christian, are already holy in that we are already set apart by God. What we lack, and what Peter is commanding, then (in v.15), is holiness in the sense of moral purity. And the point of this sermon is to answer the question, from where does that (moral purity) come?

To best answer that question I have six points, each of which builds on the previous one. I’ll start by simply stating each point and then I’ll briefly unpack the first three this week (and then the next three next week).

  1. The moral purity which we are commanded to have is conformity to the moral nature of God.
  2. God’s holy word is the only definitive source for knowing God’s moral nature and, therefore, it is the only definitive source for knowing the nature of the moral purity which we are commanded to have.
  3. God’s grace is our only hope for achieving the moral purity which we are commanded to have.
  4. God’s purifying grace comes to his people according to his promises.
  5. God’s purifying grace comes to his people through his various means.
  6. God begins to give his sanctifying grace through his various means immediately upon our conversion and does not stop until we are finally pure at our death.

 

1. The moral purity which we are commanded to have is nothing other than conformity to the moral nature of God.

If we are to be holy—to be morally pure—we must be clear on what type of moral purity we need.

As I mentioned in the introduction, we saw this last week. This is the essence of what Peter means when he writes, “As he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.” We are, once again, to be holy in a manner consistent with God’s holiness.

Many people stumble here. They reason, “Since I intuitively know I’ll never be as loving or kind or patient as God, he must not expect me to be. There must, therefore, be some lesser love and kindness and patience to which I am called.”

It is true that in this life we will not finally reach perfect purity (which I’ll address directly in point #6 next week). It does not follow, however, that our standard of purity is therefore lesser. You and I and all of God’s people are called to be morally pure as God is morally pure.

This is perhaps one of the most important points for us to hear today. Too many of us settle for a just-a-little-better-than-the-world purity. If most go to church only on Christmas and Easter, holiness means going more Sundays. If most watch and look at R+ rated movies and websites, holiness means R- movies and websites. If most are fine with 85% of their skin showing on the beach, holiness means 80% and below. If most struggle to pick up their bibles at all, holiness means reading for a few minutes once or twice a week. If most speak without any filter at all, holiness means staying away from outright lies and the most egregious 4-letter words.

Emphatically, this is not the type of purity to which Peter is commanding his readers to have. God’s people are to have the same moral character is God. Therefore, if we are to become morally pure we must have specific knowledge of the moral nature of God. This leads us to the next point.

2. God’s holy word is the only definitive source for knowing God’s moral nature and, therefore, it is the only definitive source for knowing the nature of the moral purity which we are commanded to have.

If we are to be holy—to be morally pure—we must know where to find moral purity and what, specifically, it is.

At the outset I want to make mention of a crucial point: God’s nature defines moral goodness, the bible reveals it. Telling the truth isn’t good because the bible says it’s good. Telling the truth is good because God is Truth. The bible says it’s good because of who God is. Likewise, loving our neighbor isn’t good because Leviticus 19:18 or Matthew 19:19 says it is. Rather, Leviticus 19:18 and Matthew 19:19 command us to do perform the morally good act of loving our neighbor because God is Love. That’s a subtle, but essential distinction.

This means, then, that in seeking to understand the specific nature of moral purity we are ultimately doing theology. We are studying God. Where we find descriptions of God’s moral nature, we are also finding moral commands, and where we find moral commands in scripture, we are really finding descriptions of God. What an awesome and helpful discovery this is to make.

It is awesome because this means that there are many more passages in scripture describing God’s glory and the good work God is doing in his people than many realized. Where God’s word describes God as patient, we’ve found a command to be patient and a promise of what we will be. Where we find a command to honor our parents, we’ve found a declaration that God is infinitely honorable! Awesome!

And it is helpful because it gives us a powerful incentive to obey. How many of us have been burdened by a particular moral command? It’s hard not to be covetous. Other people have some pretty cool stuff! But not coveting becomes much easier when we realize that God is perfectly content and that by being content ourselves we are reflecting God’s image and growing in God’s character.

With that, then, what does God’s word say about what moral purity looks like? It says a great deal. There are dozens and dozens of passages describing God’s moral nature and giving specific moral commands. It is not my aim this morning to name every one of them of course (although that might be a great idea for you to take a year, read through the entire bible, and make note of each description of God’s moral nature and each moral command). Instead, I want to name two broad categories that catch most of the bible’s specific moral commands for God’s people: the moral attributes of God and the fruits of the Spirit.

Again, because we are to be holy as God is holy, God’s moral attributes are moral commands for God’s people. Wayne Grudem helpfully summarizes the moral, communicable (those he shares with his people) attributes of God. He specifically lists eight of them. I’ll mention just the first two in this sermon but I’ve included the rest in my manuscript which will be online later today.

The first is truthfulness. We see this in passages like Proverbs 30:5. “God’s truthfulness means that …all his knowledge and words are both true and the final standard of truth.” There are, of course, moral commands—including the Ninth Commandment (Exodus 20:16)—for God’s people to be truthful, but again, the root of the command comes from the nature of God. Because this is who God is (True), the moral purity to which Peter calls us includes being people of total truthfulness.

Therefore, if we are to be holy, we must be truthful in all that we do (“be holy in all your conduct”). This means what every kid knows it means: that we must not tell outright lies and that we must not intentionally mislead others. Beyond that, though, it also means that we must intentionally communicate truth in all we do. To truly obey this command our marriages need to constantly, accurately portray the gospel (or we lie about both marriage and the gospel), as ambassadors of God, our disposition and actions must always represent the true character and will of God to the world (or we lie about who God is and who we are), we must joyfully and eagerly submit to the authorities God has placed in our lives (or we lie about God’s right to order his creation), and we must delight wholly in God (or we lie about his goodness).

In every thought, feeling, and action (or lack of thought, feeling, and action) we are either telling the truth about God and his creation or we are telling a lie. To be morally-pure holy as Peter commands, then, means being truthful in all things.

Let’s consider one more of God’s attributes as it relates to obeying Peter’s command to be holy. The second attribute of God mentioned by Grudem is goodness. God is good (Luke 18:19, Psalm 100:5, Psalm 106:1, Psalm 107:1, Psalm 34:8). The goodness of God means…”that all that God is and does is worthy of approval.” In commanding God’s people to be holy as God is holy, then, Peter is commanding us to be good.

Like being truthful, being good means what you think it means: being kind; doing what you are told; not being like Hitler. But also like being truthful, being good as God is good means more than that as well. It means that everything about us must be worthy of God’s approval.

Something is good when it delights God. Consider even your facial expressions toward your friends, spouse, and children. What percentage of them would you say were purposefully formed to bring delight to God? To be good as God is good and as Peter commands means that every facial expression, every conversation, every purchase, every interaction, every relationship, every media consumption, every everything (that’s the “in all your conduct” part) must be pleasing to God (that’s the “as he who called you” part).

That Peter’s command to be holy as God is holy means being truthful and good as God is truthful and good ought to simultaneously overwhelm us and further awaken us to the glory of the cross. It ought to overwhelm us by causing us to realize that we are far, far from this type of holiness. And it ought to further awaken us to the glory of the cross by opening our eyes to the fact that God’s grace has covered far, far more sin than we knew.

Though we are commanded to be these things, we are not these things and yet God has chosen to make us the objects of his love so that we might become these things.

Again, then, the specific nature of the moral purity (holiness) to which God’s people are called is found uniquely in the bible. Since we are to be morally pure as God is morally pure, the bible’s descriptions of the moral nature of God are also moral commands. And, as I mentioned earlier, in addition to descriptions of God’s moral nature, there are also direct moral commands for God’s people (which flow from God’s nature).

There are many of these throughout the bible. Some are positive commands for righteousness.

Matthew 22:39 You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.

Some are negative commands against unrighteousness.

1 Corinthians 10:7 Do not be idolaters

1 Thessalonians 5:22 Abstain from every form of evil.

And some include commands both to do good and avoid evil.

1 Thessalonians 5:15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.

Romans 6:13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.

Being morally pure (being holy as Peter commands) means obeying all of these, all the time.

Additionally, there are several “sin lists” in the bible.

Mark 7:21-23 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

Colossians 3:5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

Again, being holy as God is holy means avoiding all of these. It is our responsibility to know and obey every moral command in scripture.

It may be helpful to know that God provides a helpful summary of all of them, which serves as a great place to start obeying Peter. As Grudem helpfully summarized the moral attributes of God, Paul helpfully summarizes God’s moral commands in Galatians 5:22-23 with the fruits of the Spirit.

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…

Virtually all of the moral commands of the bible are contained in these nine words. Again, I suggest starting here, if you are to take this sermon seriously and Peter’s command seriously. Begin to pray for each of these fruits to increasingly mark you. Begin to scheme ways to, in all your conduct, show love, be joyful in Christ, create peace, be patient, kind, good, and gentle, remain faithful through trials, and live with self-control.

I want to close this section with a caution: we must be specific in both our understanding of these attributes/commands and in their specific, practical application. Just as we like to lower the standard of holiness below God’s nature or less than all the commands all the time, we also like to make their application mushy and fuzzy. We need a clear understanding of what it means to be good and we need specific, measurable, biblically consistent applications of it.

It is not enough to know that we are commanded to be good. It is not even enough to know the lexical range of meanings is in the original Greek. Our goodness must become incarnate. There must be real, measurable, hold-me-accountable acts of goodness that mark all of our conduct.

It’s easy to agree that goodness is good. It’s even easy to commit to being gooder. However, while doing those two things sounds spiritual and sounds like obedience, if we stop there they are neither of the Spirit nor obedient. The main issue is having our hearts transformed from bad to good. But we only know that this is happening when specific acts of goodness—things pleasing to God—increasingly come out of us.

God’s holy word is the only definitive source for knowing God’s moral nature and, therefore, it is the only definitive source for knowing the nature of the moral purity which we are commanded to have.

3. God’s grace imparted by his Spirit is our only hope for achieving the moral purity which we are commanded to have.

Finally, if we are to be holy—to be morally pure—we must know from where our strength for it comes.

Having seen more specifically what it means to be morally pure, if all of this feels overwhelming, you’re probably getting it. In fact, it’s so overwhelming that, if left to our own strength, our own devices, it would be impossible. But, Grace Church, as you know, the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that the children of God are never left to our own strength or our own devices.

God has promised that all who have received his saving grace will also receive his sanctifying grace. That’s Paul’s point in Romans 8:29-30:

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

It’s also his point in Philippians 1:6:

…he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Grace, we are commanded by Peter in 1 Peter 1:15 to be holy as God is holy in all our conduct. While none of us are perfectly obeying this command now, and while none of us will finally obey this command until we go to be with Jesus, it is nevertheless before us, nothing lesser and nothing mushier. But we fight to obey it knowing that both our increasing and final obedience to it are certain, guaranteed at the cross of Jesus Christ. He is our righteousness and our strength for righteousness. What we were powerless to do, and then too weak to do, he did for us and then does in us. Far from a license to be indifferent or causal or dismissive toward this command, that serves as a call to war on the flesh which resists this command.

CONCLUSION
The main question on the table this morning is how we, as God’s holy (set apart) people are to obey the command to be holy (morally pure). I offered six principles in answer to this question. We looked at the first three this morning:

1. The moral purity which we are commanded to have is conformity to the moral nature of God.

2. God’s holy word is the only definitive source for knowing God’s moral nature and, therefore, it is the only definitive source for knowing the nature of the moral purity which we are commanded to have.

3. God’s grace is our only hope for achieving the moral purity which we are commanded to have.

We’ll look at the last three next week, but let me close this morning by reminding you that God’s holiness is not only the standard, it is also the reason for the standard. Being holy as God is holy is Peter’s command. That God is holy is why the command is given.

…as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

We were made in God’s image. We were made to share in his glory. Being holy as God is holy is how we were created. The reason for our holiness, then, is because (“for I am holy) our maker, designer, imager is holy. There’s power there, Grace. As the poets say, there’s deep magic here. Being holy is being fully human because being fully human means clearly and accurately and joyfully bearing God’s holy image.

This is what we were made for and this is what we will certainly be because of the blood of Jesus Christ. In his name, amen.