Motivation for Holiness
Sermon: Sunday, 20th June, 2021 1 Peter 1:17-21
Motivation is an important word if we are to change for the better. If we want to get physically fit, it’s vital we think about ‘why’. We might want to avoid health problems in the future. Perhaps we just enjoy the feeling of wellbeing after a workout. What is our motivation for studying in exams? We know we might need certain grades to be able to do the job we want, and that’s what drives us on. Or perhaps we want to be able to earn a lot of money. That motivates some. I hope as Christians we are motivated to work hard in order to please our heavenly Father.
Anyway, the theme of this passage is that all Christians are called to live holy lives. In other words, we’re not only to avoid that which is wrong, but also live our lives for God’s glory. We must be obedient to the commands of God. But why? What is going to motivate us to living in a different way to those at school and work? What is our incentive, if we are already saved, and have a place in heaven? Peter supplies us with several reasons here.
1. God is holy
We are called live holy lives because our heavenly Father is holy and we’re called to imitate him.
I love what Wayne Grudem says here: “Imitation of God’s moral character is the ultimate basis for ethics. The final reason why some things are right and others wrong, and why there are moral absolutes in the universe, is that God delights in things that reflect his moral character and hates what is contrary to his character.”
‘Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.’ (Colossians 3:9-10)
One of our goals as believers is to ever more reflect the image of God. So often young children want to be like their parents and copy them. Well, in God we have a Father so beautiful in character and morally perfect that we should want to pattern ourselves on him. Is there someone other than Jesus you’d rather pattern your life on?
‘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.’ (1 Peter 1:15-16)
Notice, we are called to be holy in all we do. Holiness at work, when we are on our own, holiness at school and out with our friends, and holiness in church. It is to pervade every aspect of our lives and personalities.
2. Godly fear
Another motivating factor for living a holy life is godly fear. Fear? Isn’t this meant to be a communion service? Isn’t fear an Old Testament idea? Well, no it’s not. Peter says plainly in verse 17 that our Father is also a judge, and is to be feared. We must understand that there is a huge difference between the fear of man, and the fear of God. Listen to what Jesus says; ‘Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.’ (Matthew 10:28)
There is a healthy kind of fearing God, which isn’t about our knees knocking together, but is about holding him in awe, and giving him his rightful place as King, by obeying him. Perhaps we need to recapture that sense of the awesome character of God. Peter says here: ‘Live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.’ (Verses 17)
We need to understand that the Lord is King and we are his subjects. Doing what he says matters. Don’t be so concerned with what others think, but with what God thinks.
‘And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good? To the Lord your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it.’ (Deuteronomy 10 vs 12-14)
In the 2010 film, The King’s Speech, after George VI is inaugurated as king, he comes into the room where his children (Princess Elizabeth and Margaret) are playing. Elizabeth whispers to her sister, ‘Curtsey!’ and both say, ‘Your Majesty. King George kisses them on the head. He is their King and their Father. It’s a bit like that with our relationship with God.
Grudem: “Membership in God’s family, great privilege though it is, must not lead to the presumption that disobedience will pass unnoticed or undisciplined”.
Yes, Christians have already been justified by faith. But God will still examine our lives and reward us in heaven for the things we have done, and discipline us on earth when we ignore him and his ways. Again, how we treat people matters. Having a heart of love for God matters. Holiness matters.
W Harrell: “If God is our one holy fear, we shall be set free from all other kinds of fear.”
But this is a communion service, and so I want to slow down now and look at still another reason Peter gives us as to why we should make huge efforts to live according to God’s Word.
3. The cost of our spiritual freedom
We must live holy lives motivated by the huge price God has paid for our spiritual freedom. In other words, Christ died on our behalf to save us and deliver us, so we must live for him.
Spurgeon: “There is no motive for holiness so great as that which streams from the veins of Jesus”.
The precious blood of Christ has been shed for us, and it is in response to this grace that we ought to live each day unto the Lord. Paul puts it this way; ‘… you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies.’ (1 Corinthians 6:20)
‘For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed…’ Verse 18 has this wonderful verb ‘redeemed’ in it. To redeem something means to buy something back by paying a sufficient price. It’s the language of the slave-market. In order to set a slave free, a price must be paid to redeem him. What a wonderful picture of what God has done for us. We were slaves to sin, living lives which were ‘empty’ (verse 18) in the sense that they lacked the very thing we were created for, to live in relationship with God. Let’s make no mistake, we were in a serious predicament, and one in which we couldn’t escape from ourselves. We could never meet the price of our freedom. But God could, and he did!
He didn’t pay with silver or gold (verse 18) which have always been valued so highly by people, but ultimately come to nothing. The price was far greater than one which money could meet. The price was the precious blood of Jesus! (Verse 19)
As we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we are giving thanks for this costly sacrifice. We take the wine and remember this precious gift. We might say to our children, ‘Be careful with that iPhone – don’t you know how much that cost?’ Or when it’s time to vote, we sometimes say, ‘Go and vote – don’t you know how much has been given so that we have the freedom to vote?’ We must remember the cost of things. Perhaps a better example is remembrance Sunday, and the way we remember how much it cost our nation to keep our freedoms. Peter is saying to us here, don’t you know how much your spiritual freedom cost? How then can you not live a holy life? How can you go back to living for empty and pointless things?
Remember the cost. Remember Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane asking if there was another way for his people to be saved. Remember how Jesus was beaten, mocked, spat upon, nailed to a cross. Remember the cry of dereliction: ‘My God my God why have you forsaken me?’
Jesus Christ is our Redeemer. He has set us free, redeeming us with his own precious blood.
Why should I live a holy life? Because I’ve been saved by grace, through precious blood of Christ.
John Calvin: “There’s nothing which ought to stimulate us more to the practice of holiness than the memory of the price of our redemption.”
Think of the transforming power of grace in the musical ‘Les Miserables.’ The protagonist, Jean val Jean, steals silver candlesticks from priest. But the priests forgives him, insisting to the police that the candlesticks have not been stolen but were a gift. As a result of the priest’s grace, Jean val Jean’s whole life changes. Why? Because he has been treated with grace. Now he is motivated to live a new kind of life. This is a picture of Christianity. The priest who pays the price for our debt is none other than Jesus Christ. And in response to his grace we want to live for him.
We sin badly against God, on a daily basis. We have a huge moral debt. But when we believe that Jesus died to pay for that debt instead of us, it frees us to stop living for ourselves and live for God. God wants Christians to live holy lives (without sin and living for him) but not so we can earn anything (we can’t) but rather out of gratitude. God does not say, ‘Once you become a Christian, live any way you want’. Instead, he says, ‘This is what I’ve done for you: this is how I want you to live.’ We must take responsibility to love holy lives.
Let’s end with this mind-blowing thought: ‘He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.’ (1 Peter 1:20)
The Lord is saying to us here that Jesus’ death was no divine after-thought, once Adam and Eve had made a right mess of things. God’s mercy issues from his eternal counsels. His love was set upon us before the foundation of the world. This is mysterious, yes.
But it is also particular, so that we can say, Jesus shed his blood for our sake. ‘… revealed in these last times for your sake.’ (Verse 20) He did it for me. He did it for us. What a privilege! The God who planned our redemption from all eternity is the one in whom we trust; ‘Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.’ (Verse 21)
So, as we remember the Lord’s death until he comes; may his death fill us with a gratitude which will be lasting. We don’t want to have a superficial gratitude, but one which understands the huge, incalculable ransom price which has been paid for our freedom. This can be a springboard for us to live holy lives. Not careless lives. Not lives caught up in the trivial and ephemeral. But full lives. Lives patterned on our holy God. Lives which fear our awesome God. Grateful lives of service to God.