Are you wholly holy? (Part 2)

1 Peter 1v22 – 1 Peter 2v3

Last time we looked at verses 13-21, and we pulled out from that passage the call to action to be holy, to be people that are determined to live to the standards of God and I’d like to expand on that pursuit of holiness 

The American TV sitcom “Friends” centred around the lives of 6 people in their 20s-30s living in Manhattan and it had a title sequence with a song by The Rembrandts called “I’ll be there for you”

When we think of friendship, we tend to think of people that are there for us through thick and thin.  

Someone once said, that friends give you a shoulder to cry on. But best friends are ready with a shovel to hurt the person that made you cry.

You may define friendship as being about spending time with people you like, whose company you enjoy.

There is the story of 3 best friends stuck on a desert island and they discover a magic lamp containing a genie who grants them each 1 wish.  The first one says he misses his family and wishes he was back home. Poof! gone.  The second one says the same. Poof! gone. The third one looks round and says I miss my best buddies, I wish they were here with me.

Now when it comes to holiness, we tend not to think of it in the context of friendship, but I want to suggest, from the passage we read earlier that the pursuit of holiness is very much about friendship because the call to holiness is a call to love.  And the call to love is based on the word of God, which contains the standard of God, which is holiness.

So let’s just briefly remind ourselves of that standard of holiness.  What is God’s holiness? 

Well we can define it as freedom from all sin and complete purity.

We say that a garment is clean when it is free from all dirt or spots. We say that gold is pure when all the dross has been refined from it. We say that an object it perfect when it has no flaw whatsoever in it. This is how we should think when we consider the holiness of God.

1 John 5 says “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.”  John is telling us that God has no darkness whatsoever. He is absolutely pure. He is absolutely free of every defect. He has no blemishes. He character contains no faults. He is completely free of all sin. His thoughts and His actions are holy. Everything about Him is pure. Everything about Him is Holy.

So that’s what, that’s who, holiness is, but when it comes to living a life of holiness, there are two big theological words that are used to describe this.  Justification and Sanctification.

Justification is ‘just as if I had never sinned’.  It’s the moment when we accept Christ into our lives and He forgives us and He declares us to be righteous – the demands of the law for our sin have been met through the death of Jesus on the cross.  Jesus makes us holy.  That’s our position in Christ, because Christ is holy and we are in Christ.  That’s our standing before God. Hallelujah.  But the work of Jesus on the cross did not stop there

J.C.Ryle, a 19th century bishop of Liverpool said “We must be holy, because this is one grand end and purpose for which Christ came into the world… Jesus is a complete Saviour.  He does not merely take away the guilt of a believer’s sin, He does more, He breaks it!”.  

He breaks the power of sin in our daily lives.  Alistair Begg said that while sin may remain it no longer reigns.  Jesus has broken the power of sin in our lives so we can overcome it. Hallelujah, when Jesus comes into our lives and makes us born again by His spirit we are no longer slaves to sin.

Jesus not only justifies – He sanctifies which basically means we are a work in progress, but that is not an excuse to sin for we can know the power of Jesus in us to break the power of sin in our lives day by day making us more and more like Him – as Paul writes we are changed from one degree of glory to the next – we are on a journey to meet the standard of holiness, which remember we defined as freedom from all sin and complete purity.  

As Paul writes to the Philippians – Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 

And we press on to holiness because that’s what Christ has taken hold of us for

Justification means blotting out what was against me: the act of a moment.  Sanctification is a process that starts when we accept Jesus and ends when we see Christ.

Because we are to BE holy, as He is holy, but we cannot instantly become like Jesus.  It takes time, it’s a process.  In Genesis we read that God made man in His image. But sin entered and broke that image, so through Christ, God is restoring broken images to be fit for His purpose and for His glory.  

Remember I said the call to holiness is a call to love.  And the call to love is based on the word of God, who is Jesus – He is our standard, and His standard is holiness.  So let’s look at how the word of God helps us chip away those things in our lives, and how the power of sin that He has broken allows us to become more like Him.

And to do this, I’d like to ask 1 question – how passionate are you about living la life of holiness.

The answer to that question, I would suggest is based on 2 things

  1. Your passion for the word of God
  2. Your passion for putting it into practice

So first of all, our passion for the word of God

The passage we read is very much about the word of God.   In verse 22, it talks about obeying the truth; in verse 23 it talks about us being born again through the living and enduring word of God; in verse 25 it talks about the word of the Lord standing forever and this is the word that was preached to us; In 1 Peter chapter 2 and verse 2 it talks about craving pure spiritual milk; in verse 3 it talks about tasting that the Lord is good.

So when we come to the word of God there is a lot there and we have to get beyond just reading the bible to knowing the author.  Remember that I said at the outset that when it comes to holiness, we tend not to think of it in the context of friendship, but having a passion for the word of God is very much about friendship.  Our friendship to Jesus.

Jesus’ friendship to us is that He knows us, I mean really knows us; because He does not look on  the outside but looks at the heart and He sees what is in our hearts, and yet He still moves towards us – because of His love, because He is holy.

But friendship is a two way thing, so we need to get to know Jesus – if we class Him as our friend. And the way we do that is through reading the bible, but not just reading it because we have to, we read it because we want to get to know our friend Jesus more and more.  Bible reading is meant to deepen our personal relationship with Christ.

John Piper says, “I have a burden for my people right now, just like I do for myself, that we get beyond propositions and Bible verses to Christ. I do not mean ‘get around’ Bible verses, but ‘through’ Bible verses to Christ, to the person, the living person, to know Him, cherish Him, treasure Him, enjoy Him, trust Him, be at home with Him. I want to count Him more to be desired than all other things — wife, husband, children, success in career, leisure, vacations, health, food, sex, money. He’s more precious.”

Paul put it this way – “ … I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord”.  He wanted to know Christ, and Peter encourages us to do the same, because knowing Jesus, knowing His holiness and what we are to strive towards, is a key to living in holiness. Is a key to be Holy.

Jesus wants us to know Him more – He prayed in John 17 – “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you would protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.  Sanctify them by your truth; your word is truth.”

The only way we can pursue holiness is through the truth, Jesus is the truth; He is the living word of God.

One of the great things about friendship is getting to know people – you find out this and you find out that, there are things that you discover all the time that you did not know about each other.  And so it is with the Lord.

Peter tells us to crave the word – let His word be our milk and food – let it be something we simply cannot do without – we simply cannot do without Jesus – of all the things that stand the test of time, nothing can compare to the word of the Lord which stands for ever.   Nothing compares to Jesus. So whatever we hear, whatever we read, nothing, can compare to the word of the Lord, so let’s be people that don’t settle for second best, but desire the best, desire His word, desire Jesus, and the surpassing greatness of knowing him, above all.

The second thing we need to consider is our passion for putting the word into practice.   In effect obedience.  Obedience to the word of God.  We just can’t get away from that one. Peter mentions obedience in verse 2 of chapter 1, then again in v14 and again in v22

Neil Marten MP served as the conservative MP for Banbury from 1959 to 1983. Once he was giving a group of his constituents a guided tour of the Houses of Parliament. During the course of the visit, the group happened to meet Lord Hailsham, then lord chancellor, wearing all the regalia of his office. Lord Hailsham recognized Neil Marten among the group and cried, “Neil!” Not daring to question or disobey the “command,” the entire band of visitors promptly fell to their knees!

Maybe that’s how we view obedience – just blind obedience.  Someone above us says jump and we say how high….But obedience is not just about doing as you are told. Obedience that just does as you are told is more like an employer / employee relationship; more like a master / servant relationship, maybe for some more like a husband/wife relationship, but Jesus longs for us to put into practice what he says because of love – He says if you love me, you will obey my commands.  

When the Israelites failed to obey and enter Canaan, they basically showed they did not love God and spent the rest of their lives wandering aimlessly. Obedience out of our love for Jesus is so important, because if we love Him we will obey His commands.

There are some things that only certain people can get away with saying.  There are some truths about ourselves that we can only take from certain people.  These people are true friends – as the book of Proverbs says – faithful are the wounds of a friend.  These are the people that want what is best for us, who have our best interests at heart, because we know them and because they know us.

So if we love Jesus, if we value His friendship, then when He challenges us through his word about things in our life that are nor right, then we should be able to take it, because we know He has our best interests at heart, because we know Him. Hebrews 12v10 says that our fathers disciplines us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his … holiness.    

Jesus speaks truth to us, challenging us on things not right in our lives but He’s not leaving us on our own to live this life of holiness, He’s helping us – if you like He’s at the top of a cliff, his love is round our waist and while we are hanging on hoping we don’t fall, His love has us secure and, He is pulling us up telling us how to climb.   And because we know Him, we trust Him. Because we love Him, we obey Him. We climb no matter how difficult it is for us, no matter how challenging this next bit is. Because we desire to be like Him, to be where He is, we press on towards the goal through obedience to the word of Jesus.

Maybe you look around and think everyone is way more holier that you,  I mean they may have holes but I have chasms.  How am I ever going to get there. I mean the holes in my holiness are so huge I don’t know where to start.

Well thankfully the Lord tells us.  We have been born again not of perishable seed but of imperishable.  The seed of a man allows him to be fruitful and multiply, but in time those perish and die; but the seed of the Lord when we were born again by the spirit of God is imperishable.  That means because that imperishable seed is from God, it contains the means by which we can be free from sin and completely pure, we know the power of God in our lives right now that break the power of sin, because Jesus is a complete saviour. One day we will be in heaven where there is no sin and where everything is completely holy.  But while we are on this earth we can sow the seed of His word knowing that the holes in our holiness can get smaller, as we seek to know Him more and put into practice what he tells us.

We can sow to living in holiness and that seed will not perish. From wherever we are starting from this morning, we can live to holiness and BE Holy as He is holy.  It’s not an instant fix but as we sow that seed of holiness in our lives, it grows, it develops, it gets stronger, it becomes fruitful and it multiplies because it is born out of a relationship of love, an intimate friendship, with Jesus who is cheering us on, like a best friend cheers us us; and even if we slip up, he picks us up and dusts us down and sets our feet back onto solid ground so that we can run towards him again. Oh the wonders of his grace to us!

One of the outcomes of that pursuit of holiness is not about saying look at how holy I am.  Paul says to the Corinthians if you think you are standing firm, be careful you don’t fall.  An outcome of becoming more like Jesus is expressed in how we love others. 

Verse 22 of 1 Peter says that an outcome of living in holiness is that we will have sincere love for our brothers and sisters, loving one another deeply from the heart.  You know we can say that Jesus and I are like that (fingers together).   We can have a passion for knowing Him, but if we fail to love one another deeply from the heart, then there is a hole in our holiness.  

It’s interesting that Peter tells us therefore to get rid of all malice and deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander of every kind.  Because these are the things that are so often in our relationships with each other.   When we get upset or offended, this is how we react.  We talk behind people’s back, we gossip, we are not truthful with each other – These are things that should not be evident in our relationships with one another, so the evidence of our holiness is outworked in how we are with each other.  In other words as 1 Peter 2v2 says we grow up, we grow up, in our salvation the more we know Christ, the more we put his word into practice. 

The outcome of holiness is to like Jesus and Jesus does not speak malice or deceit to us; He is not hypocritical; He does not envy or slander us.  He loves us deeply from the heart.  And that is the seed He has planted in our hearts when we were born again, so that is the seed that should be sown towards others – for the seed is within itself. We love because He first loved us. 

Conclusion

As we said last time, God demands for us to do more than acknowledge His holiness. He says: “BE holy, for I am holy.”  We are to strive to “BE holy”. We are to pursue holiness.

So often in our lives we look at Jesus and rejoice that we have a friend in Jesus.  He’s always there for us.  We can come to Him; we can learn from Him; He is the friend that sticks closer than a brother.  He is the one we can come to with all our griefs and pains to bear – what a friend we have in Jesus.

Scott Sauls in his book about iron sharpens iron friendships says the true test of friendship is not that you like someone or enjoy their company, he says the true test is when they offend you and you move towards them instead of away from them.  And we offend Jesus, we hurt Jesus by sinning, but because He is holy, because He does not speak malice or deceit to us etc. Because He loves us deeply from the heart. He moves towards us, not away from us.  He decides to stay – He will never leave or forsake us – such is His love for us, because He is holy.

So when when the Lord points out something in our lives that he wants to challenge, or correct.  When he brings in that discipline, do we walk towards him. Do we decide to stay, because that is the true test of our friendship with Jesus. 

How passionate are you and I to live a life of holiness?   How passionate are you and I be more like Jesus? What passion do we have for the word of God, to know Jesus more and more.  What passion do we have for putting what He says, however difficult it is for us to hear, into practice, because of our love for Him.

Are you wholly holy, or is there are hole in your holiness.

Jerry Bridges in his book, the pursuit of holiness, says that we could not take one step in the pursuit of holiness if God in his grace had not first delivered us from the dominion of sin and brought us into Union with His risen son. Salvation is by grace and sanctification is by grace.

We don’t deserve this privilege of experiencing something of his glory while here on earth. But Jesus broke the power of sin on the cross and he gives us the know how of how to live in that power. He not only justifies, but he sanctifies until one day we will see him in glory. What a privilege we have.

1 Peter 1v25, this is the word that was preached to you.

This is the Word of God that has indeed been preached to us. Over and over.  Again and again. Let’s have a passion for His word, a passion for putting it into practice. A passion for pursuing holiness. A passion for Jesus.  He has shown how much He loves us, let’s show how much we love Him. 

Amen.