Be Holy Like Me
“Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’” (I Peter 1:13-16).
We do live in strange times. Someone has called this the Age of Anxiety, and it seems appropriate enough. I’ve noticed a lot of road rage. People honk at the slightest provocation. Patience is in short supply everywhere.
We live in a hurry-up, get-it-done-now, grab-the-easiness kind of world. All week long even in the beautiful places of my trip I’ve been reminded about the uncertainties of life. Truly we live in dangerous times.
- The Paradox of Our Time
The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers; wider freeways but narrower viewpoints. We spend more but have less; we buy more but enjoy it less. We have bigger houses and smaller families; more conveniences but less time. We have more degrees but less sense; more knowledge but less judgment; more experts but more problems; more medicine but less wellness.
We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry too quickly, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little of God’s Word, watch TV too much, give too little, and pray too seldom.
We have multiplied our possessions but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often. We’ve learned how to make a living but not a life. We’ve added years to life, not life to years. We’ve been all the way to the moon and back but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor. We’ve conquered outer space but not inner space. We’ve done larger things but not better things. We’ve cleaned up the air but polluted the soul. We’ve split the atom but not our prejudice. We write more but learn less. We plan more but accomplish less.
We’ve learned to rush but not to wait. We have higher incomes but lower morals. We have more food but less appeasement. We build more computers to hold more information to produce more copies than ever but have less communication. We’ve become long on quantity but short on quality.
These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion; tall men and short character; steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the more leisure but less fun; more kinds of food but less nutrition. These are days of two incomes but more divorce. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throw away morality, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the show window and nothing in the stockroom.
Every part of that seems very true, but I was especially drawn to this sentence: “We’ve conquered outer space but not inner space.” Everything you need to know about modern life is in that sentence. Everything we build is bigger, stronger, faster, and larger. We’ve come a long way in a short time. The engine of human progress hums right along. We send men to the moon, satellites into orbit, and radio waves to the stars. But inner space is another problem. We’re not even close to conquering that. The human heart seems as unruly as ever.
One thing I learned from my travel is to live intentionally. By that I mean, living life on purpose, and not just drifting through one day after another. It’s so easy to go through a day, and be very busy, and yet come to the end and say, “What did I do today?” Not everything matters equally. Some things we spend lots of time on don’t really matter at all. So here is the first lesson of 2019 we can learn to together what Jesus wants us to live our life.
III. Be Holy Be Like Me
And what is it that God really wants from us? Our text puts it very simply: “Be holy because I am holy.” Simple and clear as those words are, holiness remains a mystery to most Christians. We know what the word means, but we have a hard time explaining what it looks like. So here’s another interpretation. God says, “Be like me.” That’s right. God wants us to be like him. Holiness is at the essence of who God is, and God says, “Be like me.”
In your going and coming, be like me.
In your buying and selling, be like me.
In your sleeping and waking, be like me.
In your thinking and dreaming, be like me.
In your words and deeds, be like me.
In all parts of your life, be like me.
Talk about raising the bar. That’s a high standard. It goes far beyond the usual list of dos and don’ts that we associate with being holy.
To be holy means to be full of God in every part of life. What could be better than that? And how do we get from here to there? Where do we start? What changes do we need to make? Peter suggests five things that we need for our lives to be filled with God. Remember what I have said. “We’ve conquered outer space but not inner space.” If we’re going to be filled with God, “inner space” is where we must begin.
- We Need a New Mindset (13a)
The NIV says, “Prepare your minds for action.” A literal translation would be, “Gird up the loins of your mind.” That sounds strange to us. In the first century men wore long flowing robes with a belt around the middle. Whenever they got ready to do hard work or to go into battle, they would shorten the robe by tucking it into the belt. That made it easy to move fast. That was called girding up the loins. An equivalent expression today would be, “Roll up your sleeves, take off your coat, and get to work.”
Notice he says, “Gird up the loins of your mind.” The mind wanders unless we strictly control it. Spiritual trouble always begins with a lazy, undisciplined mind. All our problems start between our ears. First we think it, then we dwell on it, and then we do it. So it is with anger, bitterness, impatience, lust, greed, and every other sin.
If you want to be holy, you’ve got to control your mind. God has no use for a believer with a flabby mind. We need to learn to think, think hard, and think things through carefully. The Apostle Paul uses a similar expression in Ephesians 6:14 where he instructs us to stand firm with the “belt of truth” buckled around our waist. The only way to “gird up the loins of your mind” is by using the “belt of truth” to cinch it tight with God’s Word. If we are going to be strong in these days of immense moral confusion, we must “gird up the loins” of our minds. And the only way to do that is with the “belt of truth,” the Word of God.
- We Need a New Focus (13b)
Peter’s next instruction is very simple: “Be self-controlled” or “Be sober.” The underlying Greek word means “wine-less.” It speaks of the need to be free from the clouding influence of alcohol or any other narcotic stimulant. Alcohol and other stimulants drag us away from God because they cloud our moral and spiritual judgment, causing us to lower our standards and compromise our values. In a broader sense, the Greek word means to be free from anything that clouds your moral or spiritual judgment. If this would include anger. Absolutely, I replied. Anger clouds our judgment to the point where we totally lose control.
What would cloud our spiritual or moral judgment? Any number of things. A wrong friendship could do it. A harmful TV show could do it. A habit you know is hurting you could do it. Certain music can do it. The atmosphere where you work can do it. Certain mementoes from the past can do it. Love of new fads and fashions can do it. Let me put it this way:
There are some people you ought not to be friends with.
There are some books you ought not to read.
There are some TV shows you shouldn’t watch.
There are some places you shouldn’t go.
There are some movies you shouldn’t watch.
There are some Internet sites you shouldn’t visit.
There are some people you shouldn’t date.
There are some relationships that are no good for you.
There are some jobs you shouldn’t have.
There are some habits you need to break.
There are some songs you shouldn’t listen to.
There are some people who only drag you down.
I can’t issue a definitive list of TV shows or movies you shouldn’t watch, or books you shouldn’t read, or places you shouldn’t go, or things you shouldn’t do. The list would differ from person to person. And what bothers you or drags you down might not bother me at all. The point is: You know the truth about all these things because the Holy Spirit lives in you. If you will listen to the Spirit, he’ll give you clear guidance. But even the Spirit can’t help you if you reject his leading.
Keep your eyes open. Don’t let anything cloud your vision. That’s Peter’s message to us.
- We Need a New Goal 13c
“Set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed” (v. 13c). We all set our hope on something. A student sets his hope on graduation, a bride sets her hope on the wedding day, a candidate sets his hope on winning the election. We all set our hope on the true controlling interest of our lives. Peter says, “You will see Jesus when he returns to the earth. Keep your eyes on the prize.” The Christian life is not a 100-yard dash; it’s more like a marathon. Keep on running, and don’t stop until you see Jesus standing at the finish line. The race is so hard, so long, so difficult, and at times so discouraging, you’ll never finish if you don’t keep your eye on the goal.
Sometimes the slightest distraction can be disastrous. Sometimes we aimed in the wrong place. We hear a lot about climbing the ladder of success. That’s well and good, but pity the poor fellow who climbs to the top of the ladder only to discover it’s been leaning against the wrong wall.
So Peter says, “Keep your eyes on the goal.”
- We Need a New Lifestyle (14)
Peter calls his readers “obedient children” and contrasts that with the way they used to live before they came to Christ. The message is simple: Don’t slip back into your old way of life. Peter is talking about your outward life, the part other people can see. That’s what the word “conformed” means. Back then you didn’t know any better. Now you do. So watch how you live. We must make a decisive choice, a character-shaping decision to break with the old life once and for all. We will be exactly what we choose to be.
- We Need a New Standard of Conduct (15-16)
This the ultimate reason for holiness: “Be holy, for I am holy.” We know God and God is holy. Holiness is the essence of what it means to be God. If you are a Christian, there ought to be a family resemblance. God’s children ought to reflect their Father’s basic character to the world.
As a Christian, I bear the name of my Heavenly Father. And so do you, if you know Jesus Christ as Savior. To be holy means to live so that others will think well of him. To be holy means bringing credit to our Heavenly Father by what we say and do. It means living so that those who don’t know him, know him because they know us.
Being holy means living so that others will say, “He serves a wonderful God,” and so that God will look down from heaven and say, “That’s my boy!” or “That’s my girl!”
Notice one final thing in the text. Verse 15 says, “Be holy in all you do.” Phillips says “in every department of your life.” If holiness does not show itself in the small things of life, where, pray tell, will it ever be seen? Most of life is made up of small things. We can’t say, “It doesn’t matter what I do” because it does.
The true standard of living for the Christian, the true model to be copied, is nothing less than God himself. Peter is saying we are God’s children and there ought to be a family likeness. God says, “Be like me.” Holiness is not a set of rules and regulations. Holiness is about God!
If we want to be holy, we must conquer our “inner space.” Begin there, and your life will change, and the world will change around you. And you will be blessing to others and God will bless you. That is what Christian life is. Amen