If you attend church, you have heard this word. You have heard that you are supposed to be holy as God is holy. (1 Peter 1:16)
But why? Does anyone want that?
Two reasons. One, we are called to it as followers of Jesus. All over the Bible we are told to be like God.
The second reason is because it is the path to life and freedom.
Everyone is attracted to Jesus, and in Jesus we see the person who lived the freest and fullest life and did so without sin.
How do we grow in holiness, though?
Once we determine we want holiness and see that as the path to freedom and life, Peter gives some crucial steps in 1 Peter 1.
1. Live out of your identity as a child of God. The New Testament letters contain a lot of commands about how a follower of Jesus is supposed to live. All of those come after the promises and assurances of God’s grace towards us. It happens in the Old Testament, too. Take the 10 commandments. Before giving them, God reminds them that He rescued the nation of Israel and set them free. Then He tells them how to live in that freedom.
Peter does this in chapter 1. He spends the first 12 verses laying out the truth of God’s grace towards us and our redemption found only in Jesus. Then in verse 13 he says, “Therefore.” Because of this, in light of this, be holy.
Live out the truth of your new identity.
Sinclair Ferguson said, “Holiness is a way of describing love. To say ‘God is love’ and that ‘God is holy’ ultimately is to point to the same reality. Holiness is the intensity of the love that flows within the very being of God.”
2. Prepare for it. Holiness does not just happen. In fact, very little “just happens” in our lives. Holiness takes intentionality. So does sinning. You plan for sinning simply by not choosing not to sin. You put yourself in situations that make sinning a possibility or easier to fall into.
To be holy you must prepare for it, choose it and pursue it. This term is a military, athletic term. Training for a sport, a marathon or a long hike does not just happen. You have to plan your training, when it will happen and how it will happen. You schedule your nutrition and your sleep. All those preparations go into it. The same is true for holiness.
And this is where most of us fall off track. It is easier to prepare for sin than holiness. Sin is easier to fall into than holiness.
3. Focus on Jesus and His return. Throughout the New Testament, when endurance or obedience is commanded, we are told to fix our eyes on Jesus, to look toward eternity and the promises of God we have in Jesus. Jesus is our only hope in life and death, and we must through the power of the Holy Spirit and the promises found in Scripture, keep our eyes focused on Him. Peter uses the word “fully” or “completely.”
This means identifying the things that will take our focus away from Jesus. What idols, desires or loves will put our eyes and heart from Jesus? We must know what those things are and continually battle those to keep our eyes on Jesus.
4. Be conformed by obedience, not by your past life. Following Jesus is a constant battle of moving forward. It is easy to fall backwards, to look back. Our past is what we know. It is comfortable, like an old shirt. We know those places and those people and can easily slip back.
Holiness says freedom and life aren’t found there.
Conformed in 1 Peter 1:14 is a shaping word. We are shaped by our passions, by our loves. They determine who we are, who we become and ultimately where our lives end up. Sinclair Ferguson said, “Knowing whose you are, who you are, and what you are for, settles basic issues about how you live.” That is what Peter is talking about here.
If our former passions shape us, they determine where our lives end up. If the holiness of God, the way we are called to live, shapes us, that determines what we love and where we end up.