************ Sermon on 1 Peter 1:13-17 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on May 2, 2021
1 Peter 1:13-17
As I look over Peter's first letter I find that Peter loves to interrupt himself. Throughout his letter, not just in one spot, he writes about relationships, Christian suffering, and the cross of Christ. The organized part of me asks why Peter can't be better organized. I want to object to this except for one thing: Peter is inspired whereas I am not. What Peter says and how he says it comes from the Spirit of God.
Because of the Spirit's inspiration, we accept how Peter writes as he follows the same pattern in 1 Peter 1:13-25. Over the next couple of weeks we will hear Peter telling us to look in three different directions: upward, outward, and inward. In between he interrupts himself with the absolutely delightful message of redemption -- which we hope to look at next week when we celebrate the Lord's Supper.
On this Preparatory Sunday we start with the first word of our Bible reading: "Therefore." "Therefore" points back to what Peter has already said about who we are and what we have been given:
-we are God's elect, strangers in the world
-chosen for obedience
-ours is grace, mercy, and peace
-by the resurrection of Christ ours is new birth
-ours is an inheritance
-ours is great joy because of a great salvation
"Therefore," says Peter. And, he tells us how to respond to all of these blessings. In verse 3 he gave us another response: "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus!" But now he tells us three commands: hope, holy, fear.
A "Therefore." Therefore what? In his first point Peter says, "set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed" (1 Pet 1:13). Some of you might wonder why I am skipping the first part of the verse: "prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled." Those are participles in the Greek language and participles always modify or explain the main verb. The main verb is "set your hope." "Therefore," because of the greatness of salvation and all that God has done, "set your hope."
What is hope? Hope involves three elements. First, hope has expectations for the future. We don't hope for what is past or what is present. We hope, we have expectations, for what is yet to come. Second, hope involves trust. That is, trust in God. The element of trust means hope is similar to faith; faith, however, trusts God for the present and hope trusts God for the future. Faith believes God has been faithful in the present; hope believes He will also be faithful in the future. Third, hope also implies patience -- the patience of waiting for something you expect.
"Therefore ... set your hope." This is a command. Not a statement. Not a recommendation. Not a word of advice. Not a wish. God wants this. God insists we be people of hope.
"Therefore ... set your hope fully." Completely. Continually. No reservations. No hedging your bets. No on again off again. Continually hope with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
"Therefore ... set your hope fully." We can do this, we should do this, because ours -- verses 3 & 4 -- is a "living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead ... an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade -- kept in heaven for you."
B "Therefore ... set your hope fully." On what? Peter doesn't tell us to put our hope on the Bible. Peter doesn't tells us to put our hope on heaven. Peter doesn't tell us to put our hope in the second coming. Peter doesn't even tell us to put our hope in Jesus (though we do and we should). Peter surprises us by saying "set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed." Put your hope on grace, on future grace, on grace given you when Jesus returns.
"Therefore ... set your hope fully on ... grace." Is that what you do? Is that what you hope for? Too often, I am afraid, our hope has to do with this life and this earth and this body: we hope for things like marriage, children, grandchildren, job, money, new car or truck, new house, vacation, a winning season for our sport's team, and so on. One prospective groom said to me he hoped Jesus wouldn't come until after he was married.
"Therefore ... set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed." When you were born-again it was all by grace. When you were first saved it was all by grace. Your forgiveness and redemption was and is all by grace. This means you aren't worthy. You don't earn it. You don't deserve it. You don't merit it. We hope for that same grace at the second coming. Have you ever thought there is grace in heaven? Don't think for one second, congregation, that now you are somehow worthy, that now that you are a Christian you have earned a right to heaven and its blessings. We no more deserve a place in the heavenly church than we deserve a place in the earthly church. We no more deserve eternal communion with God than we deserve communion with Him now. We no more deserve future perfection than we deserve being treated now as if we are as perfect as Jesus. Just like the present Christian life is all of grace so the future Christian life is all of grace.
C "Therefore ... set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed." How do we do this? Here we come to the first part of the verse and the participles I mentioned before. Remember, participles modify or explain the main verb. So how do set our hope fully on the future grace? Two images are raised by Peter.
The first image: "prepare your minds for action." This is best seen in the language used by the King James Version: "gird up the loins of your mind." People back then wore robes. Now, you can't run in a robe; if you try to run, the robe will trip you so you are forced to walk. So what did they do back then? They would take the bottom of the robe, pull the back end between their legs, and stuff it up and over a belt or sash. Then they could run or fight or push or whatever. Do you remember the first time God commanded His people to do this? At the time of the Exodus from Egypt, while eating the Passover. They had to eat with their cloak tucked into their belt, sandals on their feet, staff in hand, ready to flee from Egypt at any moment (Ex 12:11).
Peter applies this image to the Christian's mind. In your mind be ready to go at any moment. In your mind set your thoughts on things above. Be heavenly minded. Make every thought captive to Christ.
The second image: "be self-controlled." Again, I appreciate the language used by the King James Version: "be sober." That means, don't get drunk. Now Peter is not talking about wine and beer and whiskey and drugs. Rather, he is talking about the world. Don't get intoxicated by the world, its attractions, its allures. Keep your life and its worldly desires under control. Don't be earthly minded.
"Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled." Do these two images describe you? If you would rather stay on earth than be in heaven with Christ, if fellowship with those on earth is more important than fellowship with Christ in heaven, if the things of this earth take precedence over the joy of salvation, then you do not gird your loins or are sober, then you do not set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.
"Therefore." Peter tells us how we as Christians should live. On this Preparatory Sunday, recognize we fail in the Christian life. Recognize that for this we need forgiveness by the blood of Christ.
A "Therefore." Therefore what? In his second point Peter says, "be holy in all you do" (1 Pet 1:15). Again, there is a main verb and there is a participle. The main verb is "be holy." The participle is "do not conform."
Peter starts with the phrase, "as obedient children." The Greek actually turns this around: "as children of obedience." Children modifies obedience rather than obedience modifies children. Obedience is not simply a description. Rather, obedience is the Christian's parent. Christians are children of obedience; unbelievers, on the other hand, are children of disobedience.
Christians are children of obedience. Yet, when we examine ourselves this week, we all realize that all too often we are disobedient children. The devil, the world, and our very own flesh make sure of this. They never stop tempting us into disobedience. They never stop taking our eye off the prize. They never stop intoxicating us with disobedient desires.
B "Therefore ... as children of obedience ... be holy in all you do." Holy. Pure. Clean. Righteous. Perfect. Undefiled. Sinless.
How? How are we to be holy? Peter answers this negatively and positively. The negative answer comes from the participle: "do not conform to the evil desires you had ...." That word "conform" means to be shaped or molded -- like a pottery maker does with a clay pot or like a sculptor does with marble figurines. Don't act like you did in the past. Don't act like you did when you were children of disobedience. Break the mold of disobedience. Break the pattern of your old life. Make a break with your past. Resist the pressure of the devil, the world, and the flesh to conform to their ways.
The positive answer comes from Leviticus 19: "Be holy, because I am holy." This is, be like God. I sometimes read Leviticus 19 in place of the Law. It calls us to be holy in all that we do. Be like God. Be holy in all that you do.
A "Therefore." Therefore what? In his third point Peter says, "live in reverent fear." There are other verbs, but "live" is the main verb. Live in reverent fear. Of who, of what? Of God. "Fear God," says Peter.
For a Rotary newsletter I was asked to write a blurb/article about myself and my accomplishments. I wrote that raising our three sons in the fear of the Lord was my biggest and most important accomplishment. My Christian friends in Rotary understood what I meant. I was really, really surprised -- even shocked -- when a Jewish friend asked me to explain this. She had never heard this type of language before. She said it sounds like Christians teach their kids to be scared of God but doubted if that is what it really means. She is a Jew. A child of the Old Testament scriptures which uses the expression "fear God" 161 times. How can she not know this and what it means?
Peter is not talking of the cringing fear of a slave before a master or a captive before a guard; rather, He is talking of the loving reverence, awe, and respect of a child before his or her father. Oh, this is so needed today. There is so much carelessness, even flippancy, in the way people talk about God or talk to God. Nearly a century ago, Bishop B.F. Westcott said, "Every year makes me tremble at the daring with which people speak of spiritual things." The godly bishop should hear what is said today! A worldly actress calls God "the Man upstairs." A baseball player calls Him "the great Yankee in the sky." On the Home & Garden network a woman walks into a remodeled house and the first words out of her mouth are, "O God!" An Old Testament Jew so feared God that he would not even pronounce God's holy name; today, people speak of God with carelessness and irreverence. That is, without fear. Without reverence, awe, respect.
Do you fear God? Do you speak of Him and to Him with reverence and awe? Do you worship Him with reverence and awe?
B "Therefore ... live your lives ... in reverent fear." And, Peter tells us two reasons why.
The first reason why we are to live in reverent fear: Because the Father we pray to and worship "judges each man's work impartially." What is this judgment that Peter wrote about? It is the judgment of a believer’s works. It has nothing to do with salvation because when we trust in Christ, God forgives our sins and declares us righteous in His Son (Rom 5:1-10; Col 2:13). Our sins have already been judged on the cross (1 Peter 2:24). The Greek word translated as "judge" carries the meaning "to judge in order to find something good." That's what God will do. He is looking for the good in our life and ministry as Christians. What an encouragement this is for us to live in reverent fear! Give God something good to find when He judges you.
The second reason we are to live in reverent fear: because we are "strangers here." Sojourners. Pilgrims. Aliens. Life is too short to waste in disobedience and sin. It was when Lot stopped being a pilgrim and became a resident of Sodom, that he lost his consecration and his testimony. Everything he lived for went up in smoke! Keep reminding yourself that we are "aliens and strangers in the world" (1 Pet 2:11; cf 1:1). We don't belong here. We are simply passing through. We bring nothing with us into this life and we take nothing with us after this life. So fear God.
Ours is a great salvation. Therefore, set your hope on grace, be holy, and live before God in reverent fear.
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