1 Peter 1:15–16


Sermon preached on November 10, 1996 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 1996. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.


A couple of years ago I saw a documentary on TV about a Canadian farmer who did something really unusual. I don't know how it happened, whether he did it on purpose on not, but when some geese eggs were hatched he was the first thing they saw so they thought he was their mother. So they would follow him everywhere and he had a great time with them. When winter approached these geese were supposed to fly south. But of course they wouldn't go without him. So he got a little ultra-light plane and guided them south. It was incredible. He flew right along side them and got them safely to the southern part of the states. He had a camera on the plane and he got some of the most incredible shots of flying birds that I've ever seen.

But if he had not guided them south in that little plane—they never would have gone. They would only do what he did.

And that's somewhat like what we Christians are to be like. We are to be like our Father in heaven. Peter writes,

"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.'"

And the main thing we learn from this passage is that

you are to be holy.

We Christians are called to be holy. In Ephesians 5:1 the apostle Paul wrote,

"Be imitators of God..."

We are called to be like God. Nothing less than that is in view. We are called to be holy. According to Colossians 1:27 people are to see Christ living in us. When people look at us they are to see nothing less than the attributes of God. We are to show them what God is like. We are to be 'blameless and pure, children of God without fault', shining like 'stars of the universe as we hold out the word of life'. (Philippians 2:15f)

And what we see here is that in our quest for holiness God is the standard by which we are to judge ourselves.

God is the model for all holiness.

One of the great mistakes in regard to holiness that we make is that we sometimes act as if other human beings are the standard of holiness. We measure our conduct against others. And there are at least two great problems with that. One the one hand we can look at others that are worse than ourselves and we end up feeling very good about our attainments in holiness when in fact we should not. On the other hand, there's the problem with using that to excuse our behavior. People say, "Well, so and so did it so I figured it was all right." They justify their behavior by comparing it to someone else.

But we should never do either of those things. The only standard by which we are to judge ourselves is the holiness of God Himself. Peter here takes a quotation from the Old Testament and applies it to us. Three times in the book of
Leviticus God commanded his people with words similar to this. (11:44, 19:2, 20:26) God said,

"Be holy because I,
the Lord your God, am holy."

We are called to be like God. God is the model for our holiness. What Peter says here reminds me of Matthew 5:48 where Jesus said to His disciples,

"Be perfect, therefore,
as your heavenly Father is perfect."

And if you look at the context there in Matthew 5, you'll find that Jesus is urging people to exhibit characteristics like God has exhibited in dealing with sinners. Jesus said, (Matthew 5:43f)

"You have heard that it was said,
'Love your neighbor
and hate your enemy.'
But I tell you:
Love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.
He causes his sun to rise
on the evil and the good,
and sends rain on the righteous
and the unrighteous.
If you love those who love you,
what reward will you get?
Are not even the tax collectors doing that?
And if you greet only your brothers,
what are you doing more than others?
Do not even pagans do that?
Be perfect, therefore,
as your heavenly Father is perfect."

We are called to be like God. Matthew 5 is about how God treats sinners. We are to treat others like God treats them—rendering them good for evil. And what Jesus tells us there is that we are to treat others that way as well. We are to forgive as God forgives. We are to bless as God blesses. We are to love those who do not love us. We are to be like God.

And this is particularly true with holiness. God is holy and we His people are to be holy. According to
Hebrews 12:10, God saved us in order that,

"we may share in His holiness."

And if you look at Romans 8:29 you'll see that one of the great purposes in our salvation is that God predestined us,

"to be conformed
to the likeness of His Son..."

Our goal is to be like Jesus, to be like Him in holiness.

Now the first application I want to make from this is that this means that

in this life, you ought never be content with your attainments in holiness.

Are you holy enough yet? No! Are you as holy as God? No. Obviously we have much work to do.

Neither pride nor complacency have any place in the Christian life. We dare not be proud of our success so far. John Calvin has said that none of us are 1/100 of what we should be. There is still a vast difference between the perfection of our heavenly Father and each one of us. So what place has pride and attitudes of self-righteousness in us? They ought to have no place at all.

Neither should any of us relax in a spiritual sense. Does any one of us have the right to be complacent? Have any of us been made perfect yet? No. As the apostle Paul said in
Philippians 3:12f,

Not that I have already obtained all this,
or have already been made perfect,
but I press on to take hold
of that for which Christ Jesus
took hold of me.
Brothers, I do not consider myself
yet to have taken hold of it.
But one thing I do:
Forgetting what is behind
and straining toward what is ahead,
I press on toward the goal
to win the prize
for which God has called me heavenward
in Christ Jesus."

And then in verse 15 he said,

"All of us who are mature
should take such a view of things."

We dare not relax. Each one of us needs to press on.

So I ask you, are you growing in holiness? Are you making progress in your sanctification? Are you more holy today than you were a year ago? Are you more holy today than you were a month ago?

These are questions that we need to be taking very seriously. We need to be making changes to our lives so that we will grow in holiness. That's our first application.

But what exactly does it mean to be holy?

Separateness

One of the essential elements of holiness is to be 'set apart'. We see this very early in the Bible in Genesis 2:3 we see that God blessed the seventh day 'and made it holy'. The seventh day was different from the other days. It was set apart for rest, for contemplation of God and His works.

We see this idea as well in the Old Testament priesthood. The
priests were separated to God's service, thus they were holy. They were devoted to God. They were separated from the ordinary and the profane.

Ethical purity

Another of the essential elements in holiness is that of ethical and moral purity. Holiness denotes the moral excellence of God. He is separated from all that is morally impure and evil. He is utterly pure, morally upright and righteous. We see this in 1 John 1:5 where John wrote,

"This is the message
we have heard from him
and declare to you:
God is light;
in him there is
no darkness at all."

One of the best illustrations I've heard to express this likens God's holiness to the sun's rays. The sun's rays combine all the colors of the spectrum and come together in the sun's shining and all blend into light. So holiness embraces every distinctive attribute of God, as the outshining of all that God is. Ethical purity is at the heart of holiness. God is holy. He is the opposite of everything that is "common" or "profane."

So what we see is that
two of the elements involved are being set apart to God's service and becoming like Him in character. On the one hand,

you are to set yourself apart to serve God.

1 Peter 2:9 shows this idea of 'separateness'. Peter says to Christians:

"But you are a chosen people,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people belonging to God,
that you may declare the praises
of him who called you
out of darkness into his wonderful light."

When we are called to be holy we are being encouraged to devote ourselves exclusively to God's service. We are to be like the ancient Nazirites, and be (Judges 13:5)

"set apart to God from birth..."

We are to be like the ancient priests and Levites, set apart for the Lord. So when we are told to be holy, we are being commanded to be like God. We are being commanded to separate ourselves from all the corruptions here below. God's people must be distinct, separate from the heathen attitudes and actions which characterized them as unbelievers.

One of the things involved in being holy is for us Christians to realize that we are here on this earth for God, not for ourselves. In 1 Corinthians 6:19f, Paul expressed it this way.

"You are not your own;
you were bought at a price."

You belong to the Lord. You have been bought with a price. You are not your own.

And this means that

we are called to be like God morally and ethically.

Nothing less is in view. The standard to which we are called is very high. You remember what Jesus said in Matthew 5: 20,

"For I tell you that
unless your righteousness
surpasses that of the Pharisees
and the teachers of the law,
you will certainly
not enter the kingdom of heaven."

Our righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. The standard to which we are called is exceedingly high. We are called to be like God. We must not water down this demand.

And the point that needs to be stressed is that we need to be like Him. What we must understand is that
the Pharisees had a false definition of holiness. The Pharisees were not separated from evil. O, yes, they were separated from certain kinds of evil. They were separated from sexual sins.

We see this in
Simon the Pharisee's attitude toward those types of sin. In Luke 7:36f we read that Simon invited Jesus to dinner. While Jesus was there reclining at the table a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

You'll remember Simon's reaction. He said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is —that she is a sinner."

You see, Simon wanted nothing to do with her. He had totally separated himself from certain kinds of sins. But he was full of other sins. Read that section and see how Jesus rebuked him. He didn't love Jesus. He didn't treat Jesus as an honored guest. Simon was also filled with self-righteousness. And that was typical of the Pharisees. They did not separate themselves from every kind of evil. They were filled with pride. They looked down upon sinners. They stood praying on the street corners. (Matthew 6) They were not compassionate. (The woman taken in adultery. John 7) They were greedy and worldly. (John 15:5) The scribes and the Pharisees had great flaws. According to Jesus, they majored in the minor things, while neglecting the major matters of the law. (Matthew 23:23)

The holiness to which we are called is far different from what the Pharisees practiced. Their lives were fashioned according to rules made by men. (Matthew 15:8)
Our holiness is to be according to God's Word and it is a holiness that pervades our whole being. For what we see here is that the Holy Spirit tells you that

You are to be holy in all you do.

There should be no part of our life which is not to savor of this good odor of holiness.

This holiness is to flow from the inside out.

Holiness is a part of character that results in holy actions. To use the words of the prophet Micah, we are 'to do justice' and 'to love kindness' (Micah 6:8). This is what holiness is all about--not just doing what God wants, but desiring those things in which He delights. In the Old Testament it was not enough for the Israelites to avoid eating what God declared to be unclean; they were told to 'loathe' what God called unclean. They were to adjust their desires to conform to God's desires. They were to delight in what God found delightful and to loathe what God found detestable.

But to do that, to have the inner attitude, we need to have God change us. We are not nor can we be holy naturally.
Hebrews 11:6 tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God. We need God to make us holy, to work in us. We can only do that through faith in Jesus.

The reason we must be holy is because God is holy.

We are called into fellowship with God. And if we are going to have fellowship with God it is necessary that we be holy. Adam and Eve found knew that immediately after they fell into sin. After they sinned when they heard God coming- what did they do? They hid themselves. They knew that walking with God as they used to do was an impossibility. Sin cuts off fellowship with God. He is holy and He hates sin. It is an abomination to Him.

And it's the same way with the relationship between God and us. You are called to fellowship and communion with God. We are called to live with Him, to have fellowship with Him. We see this clearly in 1 Corinthians 1:9 where Paul writes,

"God, who has called you into
fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ..."

But of course it's not just Christ that we are called into fellowship with. So John writes in 1 John 1: 3f,

"our fellowship is with the Father
and with His Son, Jesus Christ...."

Remember Jesus words in John 14? Jesus gave a promise to those who obey Him, that both He and the Father,

"we will come to him
and make our abode with Him."

And not only do we have fellowship with the Father and the Son- but we also know that when we believe in Christ the Spirit comes into our life. We are intimately connected with Him as well. So you see, when we come to Jesus Christ, we are brought into an intimate relationship with God.

We cannot have fellowship with God if we are not holy. We see this quite clearly at the end of
Revelation 21 where we read,

"Nothing impure will ever enter it,
nor will anyone who does
what is shameful or deceitful,
but only those who names
are written in the Lamb's
book of life."

What it tells you is that if you're ever going to get to heaven- you have to be holy. Why? Because God is holy. Hebrews 12: 14 says,

"Without holiness,
no man shall see God."

Holiness can never be an option with us. It's essential. It is to be one of the great goals of our lives.

So Christians, strive after holiness. Separate from this world. Love God. Love His character. Be like Him.

Unbelievers:

What separates you from God? Holiness. When Simon Peter first met Jesus and he came to know His character, he fell at Jesus' knees and said, (Luke 5:8)

"Go away from me, Lord;
I am a sinful man!"

He saw that he was not fit to be in His presence.

And on the last day you cannot dwell with God unless you are holy.
The holiness you need—the righteousness of Christ. Ask Christ into your life. Ask Him to cleanse you and then work in you with His Holy Spirit. It's your only hope.