“The Holiness of the Christian”Categories: M. W. Bassford, Sermons
The other day, I was chatting with my brother about all sorts of things, and the conversation turned to religion. Even though he is not a Christian, he observed something that I also have noticed throughout the years. You would think that the religious groups that would do the best would be the ones that make the most accommodation with the irreligious world around them.
However, exactly the opposite is true. Religious traditions that compromise end up dissolving into meaninglessness. By contrast, the religious traditions that take a stand for something, that draw clear lines between them and the world, are the ones that thrive.
The lesson for us is clear. Despite all the voices clamoring for us to go with the flow when it comes to women preachers, the instrument, toleration of homosexual activity, and so on, that is the one thing that we must not do. We must take our stand on the word of God and stay there. If we do, that will ensure our survival for years to come, but even more importantly, it will find favor with God. This morning, then, let’s consider what the Scriptures teach us about the holiness of the Christian.
Our text this morning will be the second half of 1 Peter 1, and in it, Peter begins by setting out THE STANDARD OF HOLINESS. Look at 1 Peter 1:13-17. The first thing that we see in this context is that we seek holiness because of our hope. Indeed, holiness must begin by setting our hope completely on the grace that will be brought to us. That’s not “half-heartedly”. It’s not “kind of”. It’s “completely”! If we are hoping in anything else other than Jesus, Satan will use our double-mindedness to turn our lives aside from holiness. We are holy because we long to inherit eternal life, and there is no other way.
Second, there can be no compromise when it comes to holiness either. Peter doesn’t tell us that we are to be holy like other Christians, or even holy like a respected religious leader. Instead, we are to be holy as God is holy. His holiness is to be evident in every aspect of our conduct. We don’t get to negotiate with God about our favorite sins. Either we hate those and strive to exterminate them from our lives, or we abandon the commitment to holiness that He expects.
Finally, because of our commitment to holiness, we are to think about ourselves and live in a certain way. First, we are to view ourselves as strangers, exiles on the earth. We often sing “This World Is Not My Home”. I think that’s a fine hymn to sing, but we can’t just sing it on Sunday. We have to live it out Monday through Saturday too, and if the world isn’t our home, then we’d better not be living like we expect to stay here forever!
Instead, Peter says we need to walk in reverence. Some translations say “fear” here. We need to look suspiciously at everything in our lives to make sure it won’t cost us our souls, because it is certain that Satan is trying something with every one of us.
However, we can’t hope to attain holiness through our own righteousness. Instead, we must seek HOLINESS THROUGH CHRIST. Here, consider 1 Peter 1:18-21. We walk in fear not merely because we are concerned with losing our hope. Instead, we walk in fear also because of the staggering price that was paid for us.
As Peter points out, we weren’t redeemed with human money. We were bought with the precious blood of Christ. Every one of us who is a Christian has that blood anointing our souls right now. The value of the lifeblood of the Son of God is beyond human comprehension. It should awe us to think of how much God paid to ransom us!
Once that blood has been applied to our souls, there is nothing we can do to get rid of it. Be as righteous as we want to be, be as wicked as we want to be, the blood is still there. The only question is what it will say about us in the judgment. If we have been faithful, it will speak up to justify us, but if we have been unfaithful, it will cry out to condemn us. We will be guilty of that precious blood, and in His righteous wrath, God will condemn us to the lowest depths of hell. We need to walk in fear, brethren, because we have been bought with a price.
However, there’s a flip side to that coin. Precisely because the blood of Jesus is so precious and powerful, we can put our trust in Him. As Peter says, God raised Jesus from the dead and gave Him glory so that our faith and hope would be in Him. Our faith and hope is not in ourselves, in our flawed human righteousness. We must walk in fear, yes, but we never should think that we are doing the justifying. Instead, we are justified by blood, which has the power to erase the record of our crimes so completely that it is as though they never happened. If we remain faithful, that blood will do its great work.
Finally, Peter describes THE FRUIT OF HOLINESS. Consider his words in 1 Peter 1:22-25. Here, I think Peter offers us an important insight into what holiness looks like. From somewhere, maybe the idiom “holier-than-thou”, we’ve got this idea that holy people are a bunch of stuck-up snobs that wander around looking down their noses at all those wretched sinners like the Pharisee in Luke 18.
Peter, though, wants us to see that exactly the opposite is true. When we purify ourselves through obedience, that’s so that we can fervently love one another from the heart. Holiness doesn’t reveal itself through contempt. It reveals itself through compassion, kindness, and love.
This makes perfect sense once we remember that we are to be holy as God is holy. That’s not only a how-much statement. It’s a how statement. God isn’t a contemptuous, judgmental jerk. Instead, even though He is perfect, He paid a tremendous price so that we could be perfected. Holiness cares deeply about others.
However, this doesn’t mean that we get to freelance our idea of love like the world does, declaring evil good because we already have declared it loving. Instead, if indeed we have been born again, that is through the seed of the word of God. Just like the word defines holiness, it also defines love. Just like an acorn contains the instructions to make an oak tree and a grain of wheat the instructions to make a wheat stalk, the Bible contains the instructions to make a disciple. That word endures forever, so what a disciple looked like and did 2000 years ago is the same thing that disciples look like and do today. If we move away from the pattern of the word of God, we only can move toward unrighteousness.