Three Steps Towards Holiness
“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.” (1 Peter 1:13)
As I read 1 Peter 1 I’m struck by one of those incredibly high callings that so often evade my attention. I think that we are often desensitized to the radical nature of some of Christ’s commands to us. Maybe it’s the issue of familiarity breeding contempt, we’ve just heard them so often that they don’t strike us anymore. Whatever the case, the Holy Spirit, in his grace, bypassed whatever the obstacle was for me, and I found myself incredibly convicted, but also incredibly encouraged, by the claims and arguments surrounding the call to “…BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.(v. 16)”Prior to this verse, Peter lays out the coming of the Gospel to his hearers, “things into which the angels long to look”. Using this as the spur to encourage the coming instruction, he gives three practical steps for the Christian disciple1. Prepare your mind for actionOr, as the King James reads, “Gird up the loins of your mind”. Or, get ready to do! Whether your task is to fight, to labor, or to go somewhere, be prepared. Your mind is your decision-making center. Be prepared to make decisions that honor Christ. Train your mind to think along the lines of decisive actions for Jesus Christ.2. Keep sober in spiritOr, in other words, calm and collected, or dispassionate, temperate and circumspect. Maybe another way of putting this could be “Be serious and thoughtful.” Christian discipleship is serious business, and, in a very real sense, risky business. There isn’t any room in it for emotional fluff or mere surface devotion. The emotional impetus that we need is one that comes from a real and deep understanding of the serious issues of life. That is the nature of God, the plight of man, the Gospel of Christ, and our own consequent responsibilities. These aren’t laughing matters, and they aren’t side issues. They are the dominant themes of our life, or ought to be. We ought to be characterized in large part by a serious and thoughtful consideration of these major themes. A mind that is prepared for action is willing to obey, come Hell or high water, and a spirit that is sober is deadly serious and earnest in its completion of that duty. It’s a disciplined emotional life that recognizes its priorities and orders them according to the dictates of a mind prepared for action. 3. Fix your hope on the grace of GodThis third step is no less necessary than the first two. The prepared mind and sober spirit can often be led into depression by the very real gravity of the battles they are drawn into. What hope of success can there be when going toe-to-toe with the Prince of this World? When everyone is his sympathizer and no one is yours, it can seem rather a hopeless task. What man could hope to face such insurmountable odds and win? Why, only one, and it certainly isn’t me.I love the hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”. “Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing”. We can’t hope to win the fights that our discipleship promises to thrust us into. But the next line reminds us where our hope ought to rest, “were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing”. Jesus Christ has already won every battle that you and I will ever face. In the Heavenlies, it’s already considered a done deal. If we hang our hopes on anything else, depression and joylessness are inescapable. But when we have as the source of our hopes Jesus Christ, the Man for us, our Great High Priest, the Captain of our Salvation, the Author and Finisher of our faith, how can we help but radiate unquenchable joy? We can’t lose, not because we are anything special, but because He can’t lose, and He is very special! He is the only one that can save us, and He’s chosen to do it!Wrap those all up in a word, and you have holiness. Simple, right? I guess it is. But easy? By no means. I can’t say what holiness as a lifestyle, as God intends, will look like for you. But I can tell you that if you are anything like me, or like the vast majority of the Christian west at least today, it will look very much different than what your life looks like now. It will mean a radical change in our entertainment choices. Is that legalism, to expect our entertainment life to be different, or separate from that or the world that loves sin? It will mean “incorrectness” in our political positions, in a culture that is increasingly applauding evil and denouncing righteousness. It will mean odds with the academic world that teaches godlessness. It will mean ridiculous generosity and self-sacrifice. And these are just the start. But it’s worth it! Doesn’t a holy God deserve holy worshipers.