Be Holy

Sermon by Joshua Dykes

Preached at Swartz Creek church of Christ on Jan. 22nd, 2023

Good evening! I hope all of you have had a wonderful Sunday thus far. I am grateful to be preaching here again … it seems like every other week that I am gone somewhere else to preach. So it is good to be here preaching in front of faces that are familiar to me. I have been at this congregation for just over a year and a half, I believe I have been here 20 months exactly. And over the course of the past couple of years, I have been very much encouraged by you (the members) and the elders, especially over the past several months, have been great in helping me train and grow in my preparation for the move to Romania. Thank you all.

If you have your Bibles with you, I ask that you turn to 1 Peter 1. We will be in 1 Peter 1, and our focus for this evening is verses 13-16. 1 Peter 1:13-16. 

“Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.””

Tonight, the title of my lesson is Be Holy. Before we analyze this passage and uncover its meaning for us today, I want to give you a basic outline for this lesson. I find that when I lay out the basic organization of this lesson, you – the listeners – are more engaged and less lost if I ever give an illustration. So, our lesson for this evening will be divided into 3 parts.

  • Maintaining a Holy Mind
    • In this section of our lesson, we will examine the value of preparing our conscience, the value of being sober-minded, and where we need to place our mind.
  • Losing Our Unholy Past
    • In this section of our lesson, we will consider the state of sin, and the danger of living in our pasts.
  • Being Holy in the Present
    • In this last part of our lesson, we will discover and analyze the nature of holiness. We will uncover its origin and its calling for our daily walk in the Christian life.

Maintaining a Holy Mind

With all of that being said, let us now discuss the first section of our lesson, Maintaining a Holy Mind.

Verse 13 of our passage for this evening says:

“Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ …”

Have you ever considered what it really means to “gird up the loins of your mind”? Not only that, but have you ever considered why we need to gird up the loins of our minds? Before watching a big football game or basketball game, maybe we see the hype video that comes before the spectacle. Before watching a concert, maybe we see the billboards and many social media ads promoting it. Before going into battle, maybe the soldiers hear an inspirational and patriotic speech from their commander. 

These things are done to “gird up the loins of the mind.” In other words, to prepare one, or, to make one confident and ready. But in the passage that we just read, Christians are told that we need to gird up our minds. We need to prepare our minds and gear our minds up. Why? Because we have an inheritance, a salvation given to us through the Gospel of Jesus Christ as we can read beforehand in 1 Peter 1:3-12. 

However, we know that this life has its distractions. Before we can get to Heaven, the desires of this world are trying to turn our minds away from the hope we have in God. In Matthew 22:37, Jesus states,

“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.

In this statement by Jesus, he clearly states where all of our mind ought to be. Notice how Jesus doesn’t state 20 percent of the mind, 30 percent, 50 percent, or even 90 percent. Right now, even in this worship service, if your mind is not here, then where is it? You are not and cannot gird up the loins of your mind and have it trained on holiness if your mind is somewhere else during worship service. YOU HAVE TO BE ALL IN, because our worship is an act of love and devotion towards God, and it requires everything within our mind. 

In Acts 17:11, it is said of the Bereans,

“These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness (KJV adds ‘readiness of mind’), and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.”

The Bereans, as they were being ministered to, had prepared their minds. They were receiving the scriptures with readiness of mind! If we want to maintain a holy mind, let us be individuals that are ready to receive instruction from the Holy word of God. 

But notice how in our scripture for this evening, that we are not only to gird up the loins of our minds (in other words, preparing it), but we are to be sober. Soberness is crucial to having a holy mind. In Exodus 28:36 and 37, the Priests were instructed by God to make a plate that they should wear on the front of their heads as a garment. And on the plate, there was to be an engraving that said “HOLINESS TO THE LORD.” This was so that the Lord sees the priests and the sacrifices given by the people to the Priest and the Lord counts them as acceptable. However, in Leviticus 10, Nadab and Abihu are struck dead by God because they offered profane fire before the Lord, but look at what it says in verse 8 of Leviticus 10 regarding the conduct of the priests.

“Then the LORD spoke to Aaron, saying: “Do not drink wine or intoxicating drink, you, nor your sons with you, when you go into the tabernacle of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations, that you may distinguish between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean, and that you may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the LORD has spoken to them by the hand of Moses.”

Some scholars have suggested that one of the reasons why Nadab and Abihu offered profane fire is because they had been drunk and intoxicated. This is an assumption. But nonetheless, there is an instruction by God for priests, who are to be a representation of Holiness to the Lord, to stay away from wine. By doing so, they themselves can have their senses trained to distinguish between good and evil (Hebrews 5:14) and they can teach the full instruction of God.

Being sober is a key to maintaining a holy mind. And what we read next in 1 Peter 1:13 is that we need to “rest [our] hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to [us] at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Once we have prepared our minds, then help it to stay sober and trained, we must look to the hope we find in Jesus. Hope is something that exists in the mind. Hope rests on something currently intangible and it looks forward to something yet to have happened. However, hope carries with it the connotation of trust due to something that had already happened. According to Hebrews 6, it is a hope that is an anchor for the soul! Verses 19-20 of Hebrews 6 says,

“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become a High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”

We have a hope that rests on Jesus Christ who has already come as the priest and the sacrifice for our sins, that we can now be in a covenant relationship with God. It was something in the past that had happened. However, the fruit of His action is something we have yet to see. But notice that in 1 Peter 1:13, that Peter is speaking of this grace, not as a possibility, but something that is sure to happen! “Rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Brothers and sisters, it is true that we can fall away from grace and lose our salvation, Hebrews 10:26 states that very plainly. However, if we continue to rest our hope in Jesus Christ, and if we continue to place our mind on the hope we have in Him, then our actions will follow suit. And God is faithful to his promises, and we are sure to have salvation if we are faithful to Him. His saving grace is something we have yet seen in this life, as we are in a physical realm. But, we are sure and we know with certainty that his saving grace is going to be brought to us because of what He did through His Son 2000 years ago.

Losing our Unholy Past

This now brings me to the second part of my lesson – Losing our Unholy Past. Just because we say that we have Christ as our hope, and just because we have a sober mind doesn’t mean that we are holy. We have been called to lose the unholy nature of our pasts.

“Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance

As an Auburn football fan, I must say it can be quite frustrating. Every year, it seems like there is always so much uncertainty around the program, and we never know how good or bad Auburn is going to be. And sometimes, the play-calling is just atrocious. Auburn can have the ball at great field position, about to score. But the coach would call 3 passing plays in a row, even if the quarterback was 9 for 20 passing (not a good success rate). The coach and team never seemed to learn from its past mistakes, and it certainly did not try to fix things. In contrast, Georgia, my least favorite team, has some attributes that I do find admirable. They always find a way to fix their mistakes. It is not a perfect team. They are undefeated and champions, yes, but they are not perfect. But they are a disciplined team. They had lost their last game in 2021 against Alabama in the SEC championship. I was actually happy for Alabama because I dislike Georgia so much. But Georgia rematched Alabama in the National Championship – they had fixed their issues and won the game. And it seemed like they were a completely different team compared to a few weeks earlier. Georgia did not make excuses, they did not put on a mind of weakness, and they did not let the past affect their present or their future. 

In 1 Peter 4:1-3, Peter writes,

“Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles – when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries.”

Christ suffered on the cross so we can have a hope for the future, not to be living in our pasts! And sometimes, I wonder if our attitude is right about this. We are told to arm ourselves with the same mind that Christ had. We make excuses, don’t we??  It’s okay that I went to a bar and got a buzz, life is short. It’s okay for me to put sports, work, or other events before Church, I could be doing worse things. It is okay that I watched this lewd, inappropriate video on an x-rated site, guys and girls have needs. These are excuses! And rather than trying to change our pasts, we excuse them and defend them. 

But the mind of Christ towards sin was one that he was willing to shed His own blood for. In Hebrews 12:3-4, it is written,

“For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.

Jesus’ attitude towards sin is that he would resist it to bloodshed, the shedding of his own blood. But is that our attitude? That if our lusts and temptations that have existed throughout our pasts come before us, we would rather resist it and die than to commit sin and live?? It needs to be our attitude. We need to count our pasts as loss before Christ. In Philippians 3:8, Paul writes this concerning his past:

“Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ”

Paul, Jewish standards, had grounds for confidence. By Jewish standards, he was a righteous man who was zealous for the Law. A Hebrew of Hebrews, he calls himself in verse 5. But he was also the one who threw Christians into prison. He, by God’s standards, was an unholy man. But the past was not going to be his present. His entire past was gone to him, because he had chosen Christ. Is that our attitude in our Christian walk?? Whatever sin we were partaking of in the past, have we counted it as rubbish? Or are we trying to cling to our pasts? Are we like Lot’s wife who looked back towards Sodom and Gomorrah as the unholy cities are burning  in Genesis 19:26? She did not count her and Lot’s life in the city as loss in comparison to the safety they were headed towards coming out of the cities. The past ought to be laid aside. Consider 1 Peter 2:1-3:

“Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.”

Tonight, if you have within yourself a kind of malice or anger, if you feel or know you have been living as a hypocrite, or envy and are jealous of someone, or evil speech…you have been called to lay it all aside. Count your past as rubbish, and resist sin as Christ resisted sin.

If we have a holy mind, then we must follow the word of God’s direction to lose our unholy past, however difficult it may be.

Being Holy in the Present

This brings me now to the last part of my lesson for this evening. So you have prepared and girded up the loins of your mind, and you have begun following through in putting away your past sins, now we have to focus on being holy in the present. 1 Peter 1:15-16, the latter part of our passage for this evening, says:

“But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.””

Notice how in this lesson, we have yet to define the word holy. Rather than provide a definition at the beginning of the sermon, I thought it best to define it now, at the end. We have seen that sin and following the lusts of our flesh are unholy. But what is “holiness?”  According to Oxford Languages, the word “Holy” is an adjective that means, “dedicated or consecrated to God or a religious purpose, (and) sacred.” And in simple terms, the state of being holy and consecrated to God means “ethically, spiritually, and morally pure in the sight of God.” And we need to remember and know the He who has called us IS holiness in His very nature. He is the very definition of Moral Excellency, and it cannot be found anywhere else.  And if we fail to know Who has called us, then we will ultimately fail in our conduct, and this is because our conduct ought to imitate the One who called us. And who is the One who called us but God Himself. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:2:

To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be His holy people (NKJV renders saints), with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:

My translation and many others render the phrase “called to be His saints,” however, many translations have also rendered their translations as “called to be holy”, “called to be his holy people”, and etc. And what we see here is that there is a calling by God for the Church to be His Holy People.

In Hebrews 12, before the verses we read several minutes ago, the author tells us to lay the sin aside and run with endurance the race that is set before us (v.1-2), but in verse 3, the author tells us something else.

“Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…”

God through Jesus Christ called us, and He is the model life that we need to strive towards to remain Holy in this life. And in 1 Peter 1:15, we need to consider that there is a standard for us to strive towards. It says “you also be holy in all your conduct.” In everything we do, do we strive to be morally and spiritually excellent? Do we look unto Jesus Christ, and pursue His example? 

So many times, I think we perceive holiness as just being away from sin. But I believe it is more than that. Here in 1 Peter, avoiding our sinful past has already been talked about. But this is something that addresses all of our conduct. James 1:27 says this:

“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble AND to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”

Being a holy person of God isn’t just about being unspotted from the world by doing away with our past sins and lusts, it’s about doing the right thing towards others! In James 1 specifically for orphans and widows; but in Galatians 6, towards everyone. Unlike the Israelites during the time of the prophet Amos, who refused to do good for the poor and were unjust, the Spiritual Israel that is the Church needs to be Holy (morally excellent) in our giving to the poor. Like Jesus Christ, we need to show compassion, empathy, love, forgiveness, patience, and thankfulness in our actions. Those traits are a window into the Holy nature of God Himself. 

In 1 Peter 1:16, Peter quotes a commandment made by God Himself when God had instructed the Israelites to be consecrated and holy before Him (this can be found in Leviticus 11:44-45). Brothers and sisters, just as in the old covenant, those who are in the present covenant (thanks be to Christ) have been called to Holiness.

“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but have now obtained mercy.” 1 Peter 2:9-10

– Invitation –


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