1 Peter 1:13-25
‘Therefore’. Today’s reading from first Peter begins with the word ‘therefore’. ‘Therefore’ is a powerful word. It links what was said before to what is to come.
Therefore, if today’s reading begins with ‘therefore’, then we must remember what came before. We have to think back to the beginning verses of 1 Peter, which we read last week. Those verses were about a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. They were about your salvation being a sure thing, an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept for you in heaven.
The book of 1 Peter begins by telling us that we have a new life in Jesus and that our salvation is secure. God has given you a great gift.
Christianity adheres to a ‘because—therefore’ relationship with God. It is not an ‘if–then’ relationship. I am sure that you have heard this ‘if-then’ relationship preached. It sounds like this: If you are obedient, then you’ll receive Salvation for your souls. If you pray, then God will help you. If you give your life to Christ, then you can go to heaven.
But the book of 1st Peter is not structured that way. It does not start by telling you what you have to do and then telling you what you will get for your good work. Instead it begins by telling you what God has done. And then, because God has done his great work; there-fore, you will also do good works.
God graciously saves you through Jesus Christ; therefore, set your minds for action, discipline your-selves, be holy. You have an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading; therefore, live in reverent fear and purify your souls.
Now, the first question that usually follows is: Why should I be obedient and reverent and holy if Jesus has already saved me and it is free? Why do anything good? Why not give in to the desires that I formerly had and indulge in the old futile ways?
But this is your old dead self asking questions. Those questions come from the futile thinking of the world. Those are not questions of faith.
You have a new birth into a living hope, and you have a new life, and your new life does not question giving God reverent obedience and purity because your new life is holy. God’s people don’t focus on how little they have to do or how much they can get away with. It says, “Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
God is holy. And because God is holy, he then makes you into a holy people.
To be holy means to be different. Holiness means to be set apart. God is holy, which means that God is different than everything else. God is set apart.
The opposite of holy is normal, ordinary or main-stream. The opposite of holy is trying to be like everyone else, to conform to the ways of the world.
God is holy and God forms a holy people. He calls people out of the world, forms them into his people, and sanctifies them. (Sanctify means to make holy).
You do not make yourself holy, you cannot make yourself holy because God is the only one who is truly holy, so God is the only one that can make you holy.
Then Peter continues, by telling us how God sanctifies us, how he makes us holy. It says, “You know that you were ransomed from your futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish.”
You are made holy by the sacrifice that Jesus makes for you. It is his work that draws you out of the world and forms you into God’s people. You are made holy and purified, by the sprinkling of the blood of the lamb.
And then it says, “So that your faith and hope are set on God.” The ordinary way of this world is to have our faith and hope set on ourselves. The ordinary way of this world is live according to our desires, to seek out worldly fame and fortune, and to do things our way. But you are holy, you are different, so your faith and hope are set on God. Your faith and hope are set on the ways of God, and the things of God, and the desires of God. God has changed you, made you different, so that now you are focused on him.
God does this through the word. It says, “You have been born anew…through the living and enduring word of God. God sends his Word into the world to proclaim the good news and the Word transforms you. It changes you. The Word draws you out and draws you up.
So, we cling to the Word. We listen to it by reading and studying scripture. We listen to it when it is preached. We cherish the word because it is the means of our new life and our new hope.
And the word of the Lord endures forever. During this time of social distancing and disruption and uncertainty there is so much change. Many things have faded away like withering grass, but the word of God endures. The word is like a pillar that does not fade or fall. It is solid and sure.
You have been born anew by the living and enduring word of God; therefore, discipline yourselves and set your faith and hope on God. God is holy; therefore, you shall be holy. Amen.