The 5th Sunday of Lent March 17, 2013
1 Peter 1:13-16
157, 56, 408, 412
Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” [ESV]
In the Name of Jesus Christ, who said, “I go to prepare a place for you that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3), dear fellow-redeemed:
Renowned 19th century preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon once told of a wealthy patron who wanted to bestow a large sum of money on a country pastor who was quite poor. Thinking that the amount was too much to send all at once, the benefactor mailed a portion of it. Enclosed was a note that said simply, “More to follow.” In a few days the man received another envelope containing the same amount and bearing the same message, “More to follow.” At regular intervals there came a third envelope, and a fourth, and so on for many weeks until the entire amount had been disbursed, and each one was accompanied by the cheering message, “More to follow!”
Spurgeon noted that the grace we receive from God always comes with a similar message: “More to follow!” When God forgives our sins, there’s more forgiveness to follow. When God bestows upon us the righteousness of Christ, there’s more to follow. He adopts us into His very family, but there’s more to follow. He prepares us for Heaven, but there’s more to follow. He gives us grace, but there’s more to follow. He helps us even to old age, but still the very best is yet to follow.
Today, the Apostle Peter reminds us that, out of all the grace that our God has lavished on us to this point, the greatest grace is yet to come. He’s speaking, of course, about eternal life in Heaven. He also asks some very pointed questions about how we Christians ought to live in view of this fact. For drowsy Christians, it’s a great wakeup call! Our theme today: THE GREATEST GRACE IS YET TO COME. I. So prepare for action, II. So practice childlike obedience, and III. So strive for holiness.
If you ever listen to radio or television evangelists, you may have noticed an interesting pattern. Most of them tell you how to live, but very few tell you why. What I mean is, you’ll hear an awful lot about what the Christian life should look like, but little or nothing about the reason that prompts people to live like Christians.
Peter doesn’t make that mistake. Before talking about the Christian life, he lays out the motivation for the Christian life in the clearest possible terms. A little earlier in chapter one he says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3-5).
Peter was encouraging them to think about that great grace that was to come—the incorruptible inheritance of Heaven that Jesus had earned for each one of them.
They needed this encouragement. Why? He said, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials” (1 Peter 1:6). They were going through trials, and persecutions and difficulties in their Christian lives. Does that sound familiar? Maybe that sounds a lot like your life right now!
But Peter didn’t want his hearers to be paralyzed into inaction. He didn’t want them to be discouraged by these trials, and you shouldn’t be either. “The greatest grace is yet to come,” he says, “so prepare for action.” “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” [v.13]
What does it mean to “prepare for action?” The King James and New King James translations say, “gird your loins.” In Bible times, people customarily wore long flowing robes. If there was any kind of action coming—if you were a soldier going into battle, or if you had to be ready to move quickly at a moment—you would “gird your loins.” You would use a belt to tie up the ends of your loose flowing garment so you had free use of your legs and you were unimpeded. When the Israelites were preparing to leave Egypt, the Lord told them to “gird up their loins” and be prepared to move.
What about you? Are you prepared for action? Are you ready to buckle down and do some effective work for your Savior during the time you have left in this world? Or are the “loose ends” of life getting in your way and threatening to trip you up? Clear them away. Put first things first. The writer to the Hebrews says, “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). Remember the incredible reward that is waiting for you! The greatest grace is yet to come! Live and behave in a clear-headed and sober-minded way, Peter says, and “set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
“Hope” is another one of those words that is used somewhat differently in the Bible from the way we use it in ordinary speech. “Hope” for us is something tentative, something we’d like to happen, but we’re not sure it actually will. “I hope the Seahawks make the playoffs” is a good example of something I’d like to happen, but I’m not at all sure it will actually take place. But when the Bible speaks of the Christian’s hope, it’s not talking about something tentative. It’s talking about a sure thing, something we have every confidence in, something we can eagerly look forward to, because it’s going to happen. For those who trust Jesus as their only Savior from sin, Heaven is definitely going to happen. That’s what Peter means when he says, “set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
“The greatest grace is yet to come,” he says, “so practice childlike obedience.” “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance.” [v.14]
Ouch! That must have hurt! Most often Scripture tells Christians not to be like the unbelievers who live around them, but here Peter uses his hearers themselves as the bad example! “Remember the way you used to be before you came to faith?” he says. “Remember the shameful way you used to live and the kind of things you used to do? Don’t be that way now!” “Do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance.” A little later, in chapter four he says, “For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles [the unbelievers]—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries” (1 Peter 4:3). But now you’re believers! Now you’re on your way to Heaven! The greatest grace is yet to come, so in the meantime, why not live like Christians? Why not practice childlike obedience.
Unfortunately, that’s not always the childlike quality we exhibit in our lives, is it? Very often, I’m afraid, we’re guilty of childlike disobedience. Like petulant children, something goes wrong in our lives and we immediately have a little tiff: “How could God let this happen?” “Why doesn’t God love me?” “Why doesn’t God give me this or that item that I’m convinced I need?” Like disobedient children, we rebel against God’s will for our lives. We go our own way, we ignore God’s Word and break His commandments. During this Lenten season we’re reminded to repent of those sins, and to bring them all to our Savior’s cross for pardon. He will surely grant you that pardon for the sake of His sacrifice on Calvary and, in fact, has already granted it. With His own blood He has already written your name in the Book of Life.
So how shall we then live? In childlike obedience. Just as a young child takes his father’s word at face value, let us trust in the unfailing Word of God. The Bible has the answer for any question that may arise to trouble you in your life. Your own human reason and logic and skepticism may lead you astray, but God’s Word never will! So lay aside your doubts, and simply trust your Father’s Word as a child would. That’s why King David said, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).
We know where that path leads, don’t we? It’s the old path, the narrow path that leads to heaven! The greatest grace is yet to come, Peter says finally, “so strive for holiness.” “But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy.” [vv.15-16]
Peter has told his readers what their behavior is not to be patterned on—their own former ignorance. Now he tells them what it is to be patterned on, of course, the greatest example of holiness that could possibly be brought, the holiness of God Himself. “Practice holiness in your life, because the One who called you to faith, who made you into a Christian—He’s holy, and you ought to reflect His holiness.”
You’ll have noticed by now that Scripture often uses passages like this as a thunderous preaching of the Law: “You shall be holy, for I the Lord thy God am holy!” And this is good and proper, for it reminds us of the exacting standard of righteousness to which God holds us, and it makes us despair of ever meeting that standard by our own works. All that is perfectly true, but that’s not the meaning in this verse. For Peter has already laid out very explicitly how we attain that perfect righteousness, namely, by faith in the crucified and risen Lord Jesus. He’s talking to people who have already received the gift of God’s grace. His point is that the greatest grace is yet to come! “You’re approaching Heaven, so let your lives reflect the holiness of the One who earned that Heaven for you!”
Since you’re a Christian, live like a Christian! Strive for holiness. That is, inasmuch as in you lies, let your daily conduct be in holiness.
Preachers are often referred to as “holy men.” That phrase has always intimidated me. But in the very best and highest sense, every Christian is meant to be a holy man, or a holy woman.
When you men refuse to use the harsh language or join in with the off-color jokes in the workplace, when you refrain from engaging in the malicious gossip that’s so common nowadays, when you children—unlike most young people nowadays—are obedient and respectful toward your parents and elders, that reflects the holiness of Him who called you. That just might make someone notice you, and wonder what the Christian faith is all about. You just might find someone asking you about the grace that is exhibited in your life. And then you can tell them about Jesus. Then you can tell them about all the grace that God has poured into your life. And you can tell them the best part of all: the greatest grace is yet to come!
Later on, in chapter three, Peter says, “Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15).
We know little about what Heaven will be like. We may know little, but we do know enough! A. M. Hunter wrote about a Christian doctor who, in days gone by, was visiting the home of a elderly patient who was on his deathbed. The dying man asked the doctor to tell him something about Heaven. The doctor was casting about for an answer to this, when he heard a scratching at the door. “Do you hear that?” he asked his patient. “It’s my dog. I left him downstairs, but he has grown impatient, and has come up and hears my voice. He has no idea what is inside this door, but that doesn’t matter, for he does know one thing. He knows that I am here. Isn’t it the same with you? You don’t know what lies beyond the “door,” but you know that your Master is there.”
That’s a door we will all walk through one day, but we needn’t be afraid. For we know that our Master Jesus Christ is there waiting for us. So while we remain on this earth, let us prepare for action. Let us practice childlike obedience, and let us strive for holiness. For this one thing we know: THE GREATEST GRACE IS YET TO COME. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.