These past weeks we've been talking about what it means to be people of God. We've said it means we're strangers on this earth and heirs of heaven. Today we're going to talk about an amazing trait that all the members of God's family have.
I. All of God’s Children are Holy…
Take a look 1 Peter 1:13-16. 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."
Notice that the trait God’s children have in common is not physical. It’s not the color of their eyes, the color of their skin, or the color of their hair. It’s not cultural. It’s not social status. It’s not favorite musical style. It’s not even their favorite football team.
It has to do with morality. God’s people are holy.
Check out verse 16. This is a quotation from Leviticus 19:2 or possibly Leviticus 11:44, vs. 45, or 20:7. Could be any of those, because they all have this same quote. This then is an important truth for us to digest: "Be holy because God is holy!" It's who God is and it’s what God expect his children, you, to be.
What does holy mean?
That's a good question. I’m asking it too. Because we need to see if we have that trait in order to confidently identify ourselves as God's children.
In America today, we have a lot of different definitions for holy. We think it means, “Try really hard.” “Do your best,” “Be better than those awful people,” or “Do more good than bad.” This is why we picture people, who haven’t led lives with very great morals, to be holy simply because they have thousands of dollars to a charity.
Are our depictions of holiness accurate?
Here’s a test. We know that God is holy. Therefore, let’s stack these definitions of “holy” up against God and see if they hold up.
- “Try really hard.” Is that all that God does? Does he simply “try” to do good? This implies that God isn’t all that powerful. That he tries to do good but he fails. The devil and his temptations are too great for God. The truth is that no one is greater than God. He doesn’t need to “try”; he gets the job done. This cannot be the definition of holiness.
- “Do your best.” Again, the implication is that God’s best isn’t quite “good.” It gets really close, but God is unable to pull it off. But God’s best is God level good. It’s miles above any human good. His best in creating the world was “perfect.” Our best might imply failure. God’s cannot fail. “Do your best” cannot be the definition of holiness.
- “Be better than awful people.” This may work to soothe a human conscience, but is God holy just because he is better than awful people? This might imply that God has some bad, but it just isn’t as bad as humans have. Of course, this contradicts the idea of a good God. It’s an impossibility. It means that “Be better than awful people,” cannot be the definition of holiness.
- “Do more good than bad.” This is a popular idea among humans. This is how Catholicism have recognized saints or holy people. It isn’t because they are sinless, but because they some extraordinarily good thing. But if this is the definition of holy, it implies that God has done lots of good, but also plenty of bad. Again God doesn’t do bad. Therefore this cannot be the definition of holiness.
Instead, God’s definition of holiness runs right alongside his definitions of good and righteous. When God is holy, that means he is completely apart from sin. He has no sin in his thoughts, words, or actions. He never does evil…ever…not even once.
This then is the definition of holy that we’re working with. It’s the definition of God’s holiness and it’s the definition of holiness that God requires of his children.
So… Are you holy?
If you are vegan, you don't eat meat or anything that comes from animals. No cheese. No eggs. No milk. Nothing.
So, if you (as a vegan) are wearing a "I'm vegan" t-shirt and head into Wendy's for the delicious Triple Baconator: three all beef patties, slices of cheese, and strips of bacon, then you finish it with a tall glass of chocolate milk shake, you’re not vegan.
Similarly, if you claim to be holy, and then gather with your coworkers to badmouth your boss, say a few swears, laugh at some dirty jokes, look the waitress up and down, and down four shots of Jack Daniels in less than an hour, only to end the night in front of the TV saying, “Well, at least I wasn’t as bad as my friend. He’s such a drunk and a jerk.”
You are NOT being holy. You are not living like God’s child.
In fact, if you are having a pretty good day at avoiding sin, you stub your toe, but don’t say a bad word; you get stuck in traffic, but don’t hold up any fingers; you miss the hot coffee at work and don’t hold a grudge against your coworkers; but when your boss tells you that they are downsizing and you are having your pay docked, and you think just for a second, “I hate him…”
You are not living holy.
This is why Scripture tells us, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Sin makes you unholy. It’s why you don’t get God’s glory.
This is true for all of us!
But is this a big deal? What will God really do to the unholy?
I think we sometimes get this idea that God is a kind old grandfather. We picture him sitting up in heaven with a long white beard and jolly cheeks. When one of us does wrong, he simply lifts us up on his lap, smiles firmly, chuckles and says, “Oh, what a kid.” Then, he hands out some Werther's, sends us on our way, and goes back to napping while watching M.A.S.H.
Is that how God reacts to sin?
Look at verse 17. “…You call on a father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear!" Notice that word “impartially.” There is no grandpa favoritism here. Whether you are new to the church or a longtime churchgoer, God will judge your unholy deeds as unholy! God won't say, "Well, this person has a huge problem with lust, but he was confirmed, so I'll give him a pass." God won't say, "Well, this person hated his neighbor simply because of the color of his skin, but at least he didn't punch him so he's good." God won't say, "Well, this young woman is leading an immoral lifestyle. She isn’t giving any glory to me and in fact bad mouths me on Facebook, but her friends think she’s cool. I want to be cool, too. So…she’s cool."
Our holy God isn’t interested in being cool. Grandfather God is a myth. God judges impartially and he judges to hell any and all unholiness.
If you think differently, then someone has robbed you of God’s holiness. A holiness that cannot tolerate even for a second a smidgens of unholiness.
II. …Declared Holy by the Holy One
What can we do then?
How can we make it up to God?
How can we avoid his punishment?
Read on in what Peter says next, 'You know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty, unholy, way of life handed down to you from your forefathers...”
The point is simple. You can't pay for one unholy life with another unholy life. That’d be like trying to make up for the fact that you knocked over your mom’s priceless vase into a thousand pieces, by handing her the broken pieces of Grandma’s vase that you had bumped into last weekend.
One broken thing doesn’t make up for another.
Neither can an unholy life suddenly start doing more good and change into being holy. A zebra can’t changes its stripes into spots nor can a cheetah change its spots into stripes. In the same way, unholy people cannot change their ways into holy ways.
Holiness can only come from one who is holy.
And that’s God…
What did God do about it?
Scripture says, “You were redeemed... with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect." (v.17)
The Old Testament regulations teach us quite a bit about sin. In those times, the Israelites were to sacrifice a lamb for the forgiveness sins. But not just any old lamb. They couldn’t take the lamb with the deformed leg. They couldn’t take the lamb whose wool was coarse and speckled. They couldn’t even take the lamb who had a cavity in it’s back molar.
They needed a perfect lamb. A holy lamb. A holy lamb had to be sacrificed for sin to be paid for.
Fast forward to the words of the Apostle Peter who had heard John the Baptist say about Jesus, “Look the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Now read what Peter writes in verse 18 again, “You were bought with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”
Do you get what Peter is saying? The payment for our sins is Jesus' holy life. His perfect life. His life “without the blemish of sin nor the defect of unholiness.” This is who Jesus holy. Holy in every last way.
But you might be thinking how is that possible? How can Jesus, a human, be without sin? No human can do that. Only God can.
You’re right...and that’s exactly who Jesus was: God himself.
Look at verse 20. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. He was the Holy One. Chosen because he was holy. Chosen because he would live a holy life. Chosen because his holy sacrifice would pay for our unholy lives. Chosen because he was holy as God as only God as holy can be.
The Holy One lived a Holy Life and gave that Holy life for us Unholy people that we might be declared Holy through faith!
How do you know this is all true?
Read verse 21: Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and your hope are in God. (v.21)
Proof #1 is glorious. It’s the resurrection of Jesus.
Unholy people don't rise from the dead. Even holy people who have taken on the sins of others shouldn’t rise from the dead, they have sin on them!
Unless the One who died is God himself. Because with God all things are possible. With God, our sacrifice makes a complete sacrifice to save us and still returns from the grave. Therefore, the resurrection is proof that Jesus was, is, and always will be God!
Consequently, this leads us to our second proof. Look at what the end of that section says. It says that you're faith is in God. (v.21) God, then, is to be trusted.
If you are having a party and give people directions on how to get to your house, people should trust you. They know that you need to take a left at the McDonald's, drive three blocks, and then look for the cream colored house with the red paneling and the Dodge Ram truck in the driveway.
Shouldn't you trust God then in how to get to heaven? It's his home. When he tells you that you can't get there by what you do and only through faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior (and he is holy so it is impossible for him to tell a lie)...trust him! Don’t trust your own unholy (and impure) thoughts on how to get to heaven. Trust his Holy promises.
What should we do now?
Exactly what God's Word in this section tells us to do. Live holy lives in all that you do.
Be holy in your thoughts. Be holy in your words. Be holy in your actions. Be holy in your typing, your texting, your swiping.
Be holy , not just at church once every other week, but…at home, at school, a work. Be holy in line at the checkout counter, alone at home in front of the computer, stuck in traffic, hanging out with your coworkers on a Friday night, when your kids are testing your patience…in any and every situation, do not sin. Remember who you are. Remember your family trait. Remember that God has made you holy!
Do this not in order to earn the title of holiness, but because God has already declared you holy in Jesus.
What might happen? Someone might notice. Then, they’ll look at your funny, approach and say, “Look at you. You have your Father’s holiness.”
Praise God when that happens.
Praise God for the holy declaration he has made about you.
Praise God for the holy actions in your life.
Praise God for the strength to live in holiness till we see his holy kingdom. Amen.