Like the story, “The Little Engine that Could”, Christians sometimes struggle with living lives of obedience by saying, “I think I can…I think I can…” But unlike the story, our efforts usually end in failure and frustration.
Trying to live holy in our own strength, we bounce off the extremes: We can become legalistic, try to keep all the rules to earn God’s love. Or we can give in to license, getting so tired of failing to “do right” that we stop trying altogether and live in ongoing patters of sin.
Thankfully, these are not the only two options. Our text for this Sunday, 1 Peter 1:13-21, reminds us that a heart transformed by God’s grace results in a life empowered to pursue God’s holiness. God’s grace shown to us in Christ not only frees us from the guilt of sin, but it also frees us from the power of sin.
But how can we walk in this everyday?
1. Prepare your Mind (1 Peter 1:13)
We all get preoccupied. We all get distracted. With all that’s going on around us, and all that we busy ourselves with, it should be no surprise that most of the battles we fight will take place on the battlefield of our minds.
What we dwell on, what we think about, eventually affects what we believe. Thoughts become beliefs, beliefs become behavior. Dwell on your problems, dwell on all that is wrong with you and the world, and you will walk in discouragement and defeat. Or, we can try to self-medicate, either with alcohol or food or with entertainment or video games or binge-watching program after program on Netflix that our minds become so numb that we stop caring. Distraction is the first step toward disobedience.
Instead, we are to prepare our minds by being in Scripture, by being in prayer before the Father, and reminding one another of the grace we’ve been given in Christ.
2. Imitate your Father (1 Peter 1:14-16)
Those who are in Christ are God’s children. He is our Father. He is holy. And He has called us to be holy. He not only commands it, but He also gives us the power and the means to obey in the Bible, in the blood of Christ, and in the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.
The God who chose you and saved you is the same God who empowers you to obey and to live holy lives before Him. Notice we are not called to “do” holy, but to “be” holy. Holiness doesn’t start with what we do, but who we are, who we are meant to be and reflect. Holiness is loving what God loves and hating what God hates. It’s dying to our sinful nature and being conformed to God’s nature.
In our battle to live holy, keep your eyes on the example of your Heavenly Father, who not only sets the perfect example, but in Christ, He grants us the power over sin and gives us the desire to live holy lives in Him.
3. Fear your Judge (1 Peter 1:17)
I’m thankful we get to call God “Father”. We can only do that because of our union in Christ – Jesus is in the Father, and we are in Christ. And while that relationship brings much joy and intimacy, we must not let that familiarity become disrespect. Peter reminds us that in calling God “Father”, don’t forget that He is also the Just and Righteous Judge.
The Bible assures us that the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). That fear can mean different things – it can be a complete terror of God, knowing He can destroy mankind at any time. It could also mean a deep and profound respect for God, knowing that He is holy, and deserves reverence and worship. It’s this holy reverence and worship that Peter is reminding the early church of.
Thank God that He is your Father, but don’t let that tempt us to disrespect or irreverence. As faithful exiles, live in the fear – in awe and respect of the Lord, and that will help us to live lives of holiness and obedience.
4. Value your Redemption and your Redeemer (1 Peter 1:18-21)
Before Christ saved us, we were prisoners and slaves of sin. We were helpless and trapped. As slaves, we could not pay our ransom; as prisoners, we could not afford our bail. But Jesus came and freed us – not by paying money, but something infinitely more valuable. He gave His own blood. The spotless, sinless Lamb of God laid down His life to pay for guilty sinners.
Peter knows that what we value, we will pursue. So he is reminding these Christians of the value of our salvation, what it cost Jesus to save us. It cost Him everything. That is meant to help us value our redemption, to value the salvation we have, and to value the Redeemer who paid the price.
We will be empowered and motivated to live holy lives before God, lives that are not led astray and tempted by the shiny things of this world, if we truly see the greater value our redemption by recognizing the highest value of Christ our Redeemer.