We have learned from our study of 1 Peter about all that God has done for us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus our Savior.  Through Jesus, He has forgiven us of our sin and cleansed us from all unrighteousness through the sacrificial offering of Jesus’ life on our behalf. He has opened the door of reconciliation which none of all could ever open. He has given us an inheritance which can neither perish, spoil, or fade. He has given us a living hope which nothing in this life can ever take from us. The story doesn’t stop there, it does not stop with what God has done on our behalf. God has done all of these wonderful things for those who will trust in Him so that we might walk with Him in our daily lives, through all of the twists and turns of this life. He wants us to experience His intimate presence in our coming and our going, our sleeping and our rising, our joys and our sorrows. How is this possible? Is it even possible for mere mortals like you and me to experience intimacy in a relationship with God, who is holy and righteous? Let me share just a few Scriptures with you and then I’ll let you answer that question. Turn with me to Jeremiah 31:3 where God spoke to His people through the prophet Jeremiah. 

3 The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. (Jeremiah 31:3 NIV)

God says to His people, “I have loved you with an everlasting love;” Is there any greater love than an “everlasting love?” Have you ever known everlasting unending love, a love that can never fade or be broken regardless of the circumstance or situation? Turn with me to our next Scripture, found in Zephaniah 3:17. Read it with me.

17 Yahweh your God is among you, a warrior who saves. He will rejoice over you with gladness. He will bring you quietness with His love. He will delight in you with shouts of joy.” (Zephaniah 3:17 CSB)

“Yahweh…is among you…He will rejoice over you with gladness; he will bring you quietness with His love. He will delight in you with shouts of joy.” Is that intimate language? Can you really wrap your mind around the fact that God delights in you, in YOU? That He will bring you quietness with His love?” Wow! Reading this verse moves me to the depth of my soul. Just one more example for you. Turn with me to John 15:15 where Jesus spoke to His disciples. Let’s read it together.  

15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:15 NIV)

There are those in our society who believe in God, but their idea of God is nothing like what you and I have just read. Because they have not read the Bible their idea of God is of some deity who set the world in motion, but is now detached and far removed from the day-to-day happenings within His creation. These people would fall into the category of those known as Deists. I do not know how a person could read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation and come away with this idea of God. In reading the Bible we learn that God, the One True and Living God, is intimately involved with His creation and desires for all of His people to share in an intimate relationship with Himself, but how? How is that possible? In verses 14-16 of our study of 1 Peter 1, which we will spend our time studying this morning, we will learn that God calls us to “Be holy, because I am holy.” Let’s read these verses together.

14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14-16 NIV)

When a person becomes a follower of Jesus they are to no longer conform to the lifestyle they lived before Jesus came into their life. Or, as Peter puts it, “do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.” This same idea appears in the verses we will study next week where Peter writes that through Jesus’ death we were “redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors,”  (1 Peter 1:18 NIV). In Romans 12:1-2, Paul expresses the same idea when he writes,

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God– this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is– his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2 NIV)

We are not to conform to the pattern of this world. If we grew up in a home that was not following Jesus, then our parents might have been good people, they may have loved us, provided for us, and encouraged us, and we can be grateful for all of those things, but we are not to follow their spiritual example. Edward Clowney writes,

Again Peter reflects the charge given to the Old Testament Israel: they were not to pattern their lives on the customs of the land of Egypt that they had left behind, nor on the customs of the land of Canaan that they were to enter. Rather, they were to pattern their lives on God’s commandments. (Clowney, Edward. 1 Peter. pg. 46)

It doesn’t take too much thought for each of us to recognize how the homes we grew up in and the surrounding culture shapes our thoughts and our behaviors. It doesn’t matter where you grew up, it could be China, Afghanistan, Cuba, Venezuela, Columbia, Haiti, or the United States–your home and your culture molded and shaped what you thought and how you behaved. 

The Bible teaches us that when we become a follower of Jesus we are to die to our old life, our old ways of thinking and behaving. This is impossible to do on our own so God gives us His Holy Spirit to come live in us, to begin reshaping our thoughts and behaviors, and to mold us into the image of His Son, Jesus. This process doesn’t happen automatically like if you were to load new software onto the hard drive of your brain. No, it involves both the Spirit of God at work in us and our own efforts to “walk in the Spirit” so that we do not “gratify the desires of the flesh.” Turn with me to Galatians 5:16-25 and I’ll show you what I mean. 

16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:16-25 NIV)

“…we live by the Spirit” so let us “keep in step with the Spirit.” To the brothers and sisters in Rome, Paul wrote,

12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. (Romans 6:12 NIV)

The Holy Spirit is at work in all of those who are followers of Jesus and we are to not let sin rule our minds and our bodies. Those in our city and those in cities around the world who do not follow Jesus cannot understand why we would deny ourselves when it is our desires that used to dictate how we behaved. So, we must answer the question, “Why are we to deny our desires? The answer to that question comes in verse 15-16. Read these verses with me.

15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:15-16 NIV)

It is very important that we notice that God calls us to be what He is, “holy.” What does this look like in our daily life? That’s what we will spend the rest of our time looking at this morning. First, I want us to notice that God “called you.” Peter reminds the people in his day, and each of us, that it was God who called them, they did not call Him. There are four other times in this short five chapter letter where Peter reminds them that God has called them. I want to take a look at each instance briefly. Turn with me to 1 Peter 2:9 and let’s read together.

9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9 NIV)

He called us “out of darkness into his wonderful light.” He has made us a “chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession…” The third example has to do with how to respond when we are treated unfairly, when injustice comes our way. Peter writes,

21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. (1 Peter 2:21 NIV)

No one suffered more injustice than God Incarnate, Jesus our Savior, who came to earth and was nailed to a cross. Paul says Jesus set an example for us, and to respond to injustice in the same way Jesus responded, “to this you were called.” Now, I want you to know that over and over again, throughout the New Testament, when others suffered injustice, Jesus stood up for them and we are to do the same. Jesus defended others, but He did not defend Himself. The fourth example comes from 1 Peter 3:9. 

9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. (1 Peter 3:9 NIV)

How are we to repay evil? How are we to respond to insults? Strike back? Lash out? No, we are to bless those who mean to harm us, who slander us, and desire to bring us down. That makes absolutely no sense whatsoever to those who are not followers of Jesus. It doesn’t even make sense to most people who visit churches every Sunday, but that is because they do not recognize that there is more to salvation than salvation. We are called to live in obedience to the call of God upon our lives.  The fifth example shared by Peter is found in 1 Peter 5:10.

10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. (1 Peter 5:10 NIV)

We have been called “to his eternal glory in Christ…” We will suffer all kinds of hardships and trials in this life, but we are promised that the One who has called us “will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” We have been called by God. When we understand that it was God who called us to Himself and not some great discovery that we made on our own, we will be overwhelmed by His grace and mercy in calling us. 

The God who has called us is described as “holy” throughout the Bible, both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. What does it mean to be “holy?” The Hebrew word, “q?dôwšh,” means “to be set apart, to be morally and spiritually pure, to be consecrated to God.” In the New Testament, in the verse we are studying in 1 Peter, the word for “holy” is “hagios,” and it has the same definition. God is holy. God is set apart, He is unlike us, and God is perfectly pure in every aspect of His character and behavior. 

God revealed His character in the Old Testament and called His people to live in covenant relationship with Him by following the 10 Commandments. In the New Testament, God revealed His character in a way that far surpassed the 10 Commandments–He has revealed His character in a living human being. God became flesh, He became one of us in Jesus our Lord. We are called to live in an obedient relationship with Jesus that sets us apart from the surrounding world in which we live. Karen Jobes writes,

To be holy means that Christians must conform their thinking and behavior to God’s revealed character and in this way set themselves apart from unbelieving society as consecrated to God. (Jobes, Karen. 1 Peter. pg. 113)

When Peter tells the followers of Jesus that they are to no longer conform to the ways of the world. He follows this command with “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;” (1 Peter 1:15 NIV) In the next verse, in verse 16, he writes, “for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:15-16 NIV) Where is it written? Well, we find these words in several places in Leviticus: Leviticus 11:44-45, 19:2; 20:7-8; 26. God was preparing His people to move into the Promised Land and He was calling them again and again to be holy, to be set apart in their thinking and their behavior from the other people they would encounter once they arrived. Craig Keener writes,

A life consecrated to God means a life set apart for his service. In today’s terms, this would not look like a Christian who simply attends church weekly (or monthly) and tithes (or donates a portion of ) her income like a member paying dues to an elite club. Every day and all one’s resources belong to God. This does not mean that one does not work or live in ‘secular’ environments; it means that one functions as God’s ambassador there, treating others and speaking according to kingdom values such as love, gentleness, and concern for the weaker. Separated for God, we are like his consecrated priests (1 Peter 2:5,9) in the midst of a world that we also serve like Christ did (2:12-3:19). (Keener, Craig. 1 Peter: A Commentary. pg. 96)

God has always called His people to live a set apart life, to think and behave in a way that is different from the surrounding culture, no matter what cultural background they find themselves in. Yet, we can read about how God’s people in the Old Testament, in Israel, failed time and time again to be holy, and they instead took on the traits of the unbelieving culture. The pattern follows right on into the New Testament, in Corinth, in Colossae, in Laodicea, and in Rome. We must ask the question, “Have we been living a set apart life? Are we following in Jesus’ steps or are we living in a way that is indistinguishable from those who are not followers of Jesus in our own day? 

I can remember when I first became a follower of Jesus and was presented with this call to live a life set apart from the life I used to live, a life that was different from my unbelieving friends. Along about that time there began to be lots of talk about a new movement that was sweeping across America. It was called the Moral Majority. The Moral Majority was started by some pastors who were upset by the downward trending morality of our nation. They wanted to reestablish a biblical morality for our nation. The movement started in 1979. I’m sure there are some that would say they had a great impact on our nation, but I would disagree. I think the Moral Majority failed because they were a political movement. Their goal was to raise money to get Christians in positions of power so that legislation could be passed which would change our country. All of the legislation in the world cannot change our hearts and it is our heart that is in the most need of change. 

Throughout the history of our nation our ethics and morals have been in a slow, but constant state of change. This is not only true of our nation, but it is true of every nation. Change has come and change is still coming. There is a huge battle in the United States today over which moral path we as a people should follow, but for the followers of Jesus there is no question–we are to be holy because the God who called us is holy. This was true when God called the freed Hebrew slaves coming out of Egypt to pattern their lives after His holiness instead of after the surrounding culture. It was also true for those “chosen exiles” living in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. They were not to live like those who were going with the flow of life lived under Roman rule. Because the followers of Jesus living under Roman rule chose to follow Jesus instead of the ways of Roman culture they had different values and lived different lives. Let me give you an example of what happened. 

In the Roman Empire it was not uncommon at all for unwanted babies to be drowned or abandoned. In an article titled “Infanticide in the Ancient World,” we read,

Roman law, religion and the entire ethos of the ancient world saw nothing morally wrong with infanticide or with abandoning their newborns on the dung heaps or garbage dumps of cities. (Infanticide in the Ancient World. earlychurchhistory.org)

One of Rome’s greatest statesmen, philosophers, and lawyers, Cicero, once wrote, “Deformed infants shall be killed” (Cicero. On the Laws 3.8). “Deformed,” according to Cicero meant, “an unwanted child, a sickly child, a deformed child or simply a wrong sex child.” 

Followers of Jesus, who lived in the Roman Empire, were taught a different ethic, they were taught that God created all people in His image and that gave inherent value to all people, and at all stages of life. A deformed baby, an unwanted baby, was of greater value to the Christians than anything any Roman could see or understand–that child was a child fashioned by the hand of God, created in God’s image. This truth of the inherent value of all people set the stage for Christians rescuing and adopting countless children in the Roman Empire.

It wasn’t just the caring for discarded and unwanted children that marked the lives of so many of those living under the influence of the Roman Empire’s ethic of life. Clement, one of the early Church leaders living in Rome at the end of the first century, records how the Christian community was relieving the hardships of poor widows. Cyprian was the bishop of the Christian church in Carthage when a plague hit the city. During the plague some of those who were not followers of Jesus threw family members who came down with the plague into the streets to protect themselves. Cyprian told the followers of Jesus to hit the streets and care for their suffering neighbors. They not only cared for them in the streets, but they brought them into their own houses to care for them. 

What is really interesting is that Emperor Julian, who came to power in 355 AD, wanted desperately to kindle a resurgence in paganism in the Roman Empire. He wrote a letter to a pagan priest and we have a portion of that letter. In it he writes,

For when it came about that the poor were neglected and overlooked by the [pagan temple] priests, then I think the impious Galileans [Christians] observed this fact and devoted themselves to philanthropy. (Emperor Julian)

The emperor recognized that those the pagan priests neglected were the very people the Christians cared for in their communities. Why were the Christians caring for those who had no value in the eyes of the Romans? It was because all people are made in the image of God and have inherent value. Because God cares, we are to care. Because God is holy, we are to be holy in all that we do. 

Friedrich Nietzsche was a famous German philosopher who is best known for a statement he wrote in 1882. The statement is “God remains dead and we have killed him.” Nietzsche was writing about the revolutionary change brought about by the Enlightenment that swept across Europe. Up until the time of the Enlightenment, it was the Christian ethic which was the guiding authority for truth concerning life and the universe for those living in Europe. The Christian ethic called for people to abide by the rules set forth by God. They were to be holy as God was holy. They were to love God with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love their neighbors as themselves. With the Enlightenment, God was removed from the throne of truth and science and philosophy took His place. 

Nietzsche himself was an atheist and most people hear Nietzsche’s line about the death of God today and think he was celebrating the sentiment when in actuality he knew there would be drawbacks and consequences. Nietzsche knew that without God the basic belief system and ethics of Europe would stand on shaky ground. He wrote, in Twilight of Idols

When one gives up the Christian faith, one pulls the right to Christian morality out from under one’s feet. This morality is by no means self-evident: this point has to be exhibited again and again… Christianity is a system, a whole view of things thought out together. By breaking one main concept out of it, the faith in God, one breaks the whole: nothing necessary remains in one’s hands. Christianity presupposes that man does not know, cannot know, what is good for him, what is evil: he believes in God, who alone knows it. Christian morality is a command; its origin is transcendent; it is beyond all criticism, all right to criticism; it has truth only if God is the truth–it stands or falls with faith in God. (Nietzsche, Friedrich. Twilight of the Idols)

I want to encourage you this morning. Though the morals and ethics of society will continue to change you and I need never worry about our mission and motives. We are to be holy just as the God who called us is holy. We are to love God and our neighbors in a way that honors Him and blesses them. If you are a follower of Jesus then I must ask you, “Is this the life you are living? Are you living a set apart life for the glory of our Savior and the blessing of those He has placed in your path? Or, are you simply living life according to what you want, what you desire?” 

If you are not a follower of Jesus then I want to urge you this morning to surrender your life to Him. Confess your sin to Him and He will forgive you. Tell Him you no longer want to be in control of your life, but you want to follow His will for your life. He will fill you with His presence, set you on a new course, give you His Holy Spirit to begin to make changes in your heart and mind. He will lead you into His holiness in everything you do. Won’t you invite Him in this morning?

Mike Hays

Britton Christian Church

March 10, 2024

“Be Holy, Because I Am Holy”
1 Peter 1:14-16
Tagged on: