Holiness is Necessary
1 Peter 1:14–16 – Holiness: Becoming Like the Father
Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost – September 22, 2019 (am)
Scripture Reading: 1 Peter 1:13-17
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. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.
Father, we want to draw near to you today. Your Word is truth. Sanctify us by the truth of your Word this morning that we may do just that. Amen
Good morning, it’s good to be back with you this morning – though it is a bit quicker of a turn around than usual. This morning we begin a three part series on the topic of holiness
Why a series on holiness?
1. To highlight the necessity of our own personal holiness
2. To explore the process by which we are to become holy
3. To cultivate a love for holiness
Our title for this morning is “Holiness is Necessary.” Now your first question might be “for what?” This is a crucial question but is not the one we’re going to begin with. But I will give you a hint on how I’d answer it. The answer begins with the letter “s” and ends with the letter “alvation.”
The question I want to begin with is this: What is holiness? What are we talking about? What comes to your mind?
Many things could come to mind that are unhelpful. Perhaps images of high religion – robes and cathedrals and rituals that are all in worship of a God who feels far away and distant. Perhaps it calls to mind those who are focused on all the things you’re not allowed to do – and who condemn anyone who does them. Perhaps it is seen as an incredibly high standard, only required of the most spiritual among us. Perhaps it is viewed as legalistic or judgmental, and is something that Jesus died to save us from. I hope that by the end of our series we will see the flaws with each of these definitions of holiness.
What does the Bible say about holiness? Throughout Scripture, “Holy” is used to describe God as well as God’s dwelling place . “Holy” is also used to describe anything that is tied to God - God’s tabernacle and temple, the items in the tabernacle and temple, the day set aside for God is called Holy, and God’s people are called holy.
To be holy means to be set apart and what sets apart something that is holy is its purity. Something that is holy is set apart from that which is impure, or that which might make it impure. So for God’s people, the call to holiness is a call to be set apart from the World around them by embracing that which purifies them and forsaking that which makes them impure. As such, we can see that the topic of holiness is found throughout Scripture.
Any of God’s commands, like the ten commandments, are a call to be holy. Any list of virtues we are told to seek and attain is a call to holiness. Like the fruit of the Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control in Galatians 5:22-23. Any list of vices to be forsaken is a call to holiness. Like evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness from Mark 7:21-22. In the gospels, we see that Jesus lived the perfectly holy life so holiness is the basis on which we are called to imitate Jesus. The call to Christlikeness is a call to holiness.
But moral purity is not the primary purpose of holiness. We are not to be set apart for purity as if living a sinless life is the ultimate goal of holiness. The ultimate goal of holiness – is God! The reason God’s people are to be set apart is to be set apart for God. So holiness, first and foremost, should be understood not in moral terms, but in relational terms. It is a call to right relationship before it is a call to right living. Better yet - it is a call to righteous living for the sake of our relationship with God. Which is why the subtitle to our series is Holiness: becoming like the Father.
This is exactly what we see in our passage from 1 Peter. Holiness is being commended from God’s people, and it is being commended using relational language. Beginning in verse 14 we read, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile.” Father, Children, as he is holy, so you should be holy!
1. Becoming Like The Father
Now, while I know this isn’t true for all of us, I can say that I was raised by a good father. He was and still is a surgeon who provided well for his family, he’s humble, he’s kind, he’s generous, he loves sports, and he loves Jesus.
And as a child I wanted to be like him, we have pictures in our family photo albums documenting this. Two photos come to mind from my childhood.
The first is one of me two of my two brothers after we’d raided the top drawer of my father’s dresser. I don’t know what you keep in the top drawer of your dresser and lest I embarrass my dear old Dad I won’t say what he kept in the top drawer of his. But I will say that the picture captures three scrawny boys wearing nothing but the item of clothing found in my father’s top drawer, pulled up past our belly buttons, and held up by rubber bands around our mid sections.
The second picture is of my younger brother and I playing make believe. In it, my brother is lying on the couch with his shirt pulled up and I have my father’s stethoscope in my ears. As I pretend to be his doctor, I’m holding the end of the stethoscope that amplifies the sound of a heart beat on his nose. Not surprisingly, neither one of us went into the medical profession. The point though, is that we imitate those we admire.
Another example comes from later in life. My family had always drove fairly modest cars but my Dad always had his eye on a red convertible. Someone in our household was not a fan though and used to say, “We can’t show up at church in a convertible!” But in a surprising turn of events, this same member went out one day and bought my Dad the red convertible he’d been eyeing and had it parked in our driveway. The first thing he did was take the keys and turn to his sons and say, “Who would like to drive it first?”
As an adult, I’ve come to appreciate my Dad’s faithfulness to my mom, to our family, and to the Lord. He can still be found reading the Word, praying, and sharing the gospel with his patients. And I remember how he used to come home after long days of work to read the bible to his children before heading back to the hospital for more operations.
I love my Dad, and I want to be like him.
Whether that is your relationship with your Dad is not the point. The point, is that the call for Christians to be holy is first and foremost a calling for us to be like our Father. To imitate him who has shown his love and mercy and grace to us. I want us to grasp hold of this image, lest we mistakenly think that this series is about legalistic rule keeping or all the things we’re not supposed to do
If the call to holiness is a call to be like our Father – what is our Father like?
2. The Holiness of God
Our answer is right in front of us in1 Peter 1:15 -16 “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.”
Our Father is holy. That is who he is, when we seek to become like him, that is what we’re aiming at. What does it mean when it says God is holy? It means he is completely separate from sin. We see this in 1 John 1:5 “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” It means he hates evil and sin as evidenced in Zechariah 8:17 “. . . do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, declares the LORD.” It means he is perfectly pure as Habakkuk 1:13 calls God, “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong.” God does not even look upon evil with approval.
As we study God’s holiness in Scripture we see that rather than being one of his attributes, all of his attributes are in accordance with his Holiness. His love is a holy love. His power is a holy power. His mercy is a holy mercy. And his justice is a holy justice. Holiness is at the core of who God is.
Jerry Bridges, in his book The Pursuit of Holiness, says that God always does what is right, he is always just and fair, he always knows what is right, and he never vacillates between doing what is right or wrong, he always acts without hesitation, it is against his very nature to hesitate. “It is His holiness more than any other attribute that makes Him worthy of our praise.” (Bridges, 25)
The Bible Project has also made a video on God’s holiness. In it, they teach that God’s holiness is what makes him utterly unique and they compare God, in his holiness, to the Sun. They point out how God’s holiness is so good – it radiates out from him - but it is also dangerous. It is dangerous toward impurity just like the Sun is dangerous and harmful to darkness and things that are not able to survive its incredible heat. So God’s holiness is dangerous and harmful to anything impure and nothing impure can stand come close to him
This idea is displayed in God’s laws for the temple and the tabernacle. In the instructions for its construction, there are increasing levels of holiness as you get closer to the center of the building. At the center of the building is the Most Holy Place where God dwells. Then outside that room is the Holy Place, then the courtyards, and beyond them the region where God’s people live. The book of Leviticus gives us the regulations and rituals about who can go where in the temple, and when they can do it. It teaches us how impure people are to make themselves pure before a holy God before approaching his holiness. And it lays out the danger that awaits those who try to approach him in their impurity.
So approaching God’s holiness is like approaching an extremely hot fire. The biggest bonfire of my life was the one we made on a mission trip to Mexico. My youth pastor had gone out to get dinner for us and we had stacked wood pallets about 10 feet high. When lit in that dry, desert climate, it didn’t’ take long for the flames to roar up to 20 feet in the air.
I had a Swedish friend in my youth group named Hans Robinson, and he had the great idea of roasting a marshmallow in this fire. He began by stretching out a coat hanger but it wasn’t nearly long enough for him to get anywhere close to the fire without getting burned. So somehow, he connected it to the end of a six foot long 2x4, but it still wasn’t long enough. So he nailed the first 2x4 to a second 2x4 and it took all his strength to hold up the weight of it all as he was finally able to get the marshmallow close to the fire without burning himself. Of course the marshmallow was incinerated, but my friend was not. This is what it is like for us, as impure people, to try to approach God in his holiness.
How can we talk about God’s holiness without reading Isaiah 6. So let’s read, beginning at Isaiah 6:3 “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” 4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”
Here we see that God is the most Holy being. In Jewish literature, to emphasize something it was repeated. To say it twice woul be to say something was very holy, but to say it three times is to say it is the most holy, the standard of holiness. And it is in the presence of God’s holiness that Isaiah becomes dreadfully aware of his unholiness. He is heard crying out “Woe is me!” as he is made aware of his impurity before a perfectly pure God. It is the cry from Isaiah’s lips that leads us to our third point
3. The Necessity of Holiness in God’s People
Isaiah’s cry is echoed in the words of Peter’s epistle. In 1 Peter 1:15 we read “but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.” Peter Davids, in his commentary on 1 Peter, writes: “The NT writers were very much aware that just as Isaiah realized his need for purity in the presence of a holy God (Isa. 6), so the purity and holiness of God demands a holy life on the part of Christians” (Davids, 69).
And Peter isn’t the only one who points to the necessity of holiness in God’s people. John does in 1 John 1:6, just one verse after saying – God is light and in him there is no darkness – John says, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” Jesus affirms it too. In Matthew 5:48 he says, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” And in Matthew 7:21 he says to those who have done great things in the name of the Lord, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” James affirms it in James 2:17 saying, “. . . faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” Paul affirms it in 1Corinthians 6:9 when he asks, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” And the author of Hebrews affirms it in Hebrews 12:14, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”
Just as holiness was required of God’s people in the Old Testament, so it is required of his people in the New Testament. There has been no relaxing of God’s demand for our personal holiness. It is required for our salvation. It is demanded of anyone before they enter the kingdom of God. It is even part of the gospel message, Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
So the big idea for today is that holiness is necessary for a relationship with God, he requires it of us, and it is impossible for us to get close to him, to be in relationship with him apart from it.
Now, some here might be thinking, “But wait, how could I ever be holy enough to approach God?” Or, “What about Jesus, didn’t he do something to help make us holy.” Praise God, the answer is yes! And we will talk about those things next week – so please come back.
The question we will close with as we apply this topic to our hearts is this – Does my love for holiness, my desire for it, my view of it . . . Does the amount of time I put into thinking about it, striving for it, working to attain it, suggest to myself and the watching world around me that holiness is as necessary, and as essential, to the Christian life – as the words of Scripture say it is?
Application – Let’s explore 4 questions
1. How much do we care about holiness?
2. What are reasons that keep us from caring about holiness?
3. Why should we care about holiness?
4. What does it say about us if we don’t care about holiness?
1. How much do we care about holiness?
What are we aiming at in life? What do we care about in life? What gets our full attention, our energetic output, our requires our concentration, what gets us up early in the morning or keeps us up late at night? What occupies our thoughts? What are we anxious for?
Is it to be holy – to live a holy life? Is holiness the goal at which we are aiming in our lives?
What are you asking God for on a regular basis? What do you spend your spare time studying? How comfortable are you with your sin? Do you find yourself justifying your sin?
How much do you care? If you find you fall short . . . let’s ask this:
2. What are reasons that keep us from caring about holiness?
Perhaps we’re more worried about what others will think of us than what God thinks of us. We’re afraid of coming off as judgmental, critical of others, intolerant, legalistic, fundamentalist. What will happen if someone says, let’s just turn a blind eye to this and you say, “I can’t do that”? We’re worried that a pursuit of holiness will separate us from those we love.
Perhaps we don’t think holiness is really possible. Maybe we are thinking, “I’ve been fighting this sin for so long and nothing has changed. Or, “If my righteous deeds are like filthy rags anyways I’m just going to rely on God’s grace.” Or, “Jesus said his yoke is easy and his burden is light and holiness is hard.” So maybe we’ve just given up trying.
Perhaps we have a wrong definition of sin. Maybe we wrongly defined some sins as big (God cares), and other sins as small (God understands, doesn’t really care). We tell ourselves, “It’s just one song, it’s just one look, it’s not wrong to think about it, it’s not going to hurt anybody, it’s just a white lie . . .” And Adam and Eve could have said, “It’s just one piece of fruit.”
Perhaps we’ve come to think that an emphasis on holiness is an attack on salvation by grace alone. We say, “Didn’t Jesus die so we don’t have to worry about holiness?” When we do that, we fall into the observation of Kevin DeYoung, that there is a gap between our love for the gospel and our love for godliness.
Perhaps we’re more concerned about receiving good things from our Father than actually becoming like our Father. Jerry Bridges says that one reason we don’t care about holiness is because, when we sin, our attitude toward sin is more self centered than God-centered. “We’re more concerned about our own victory over sin than the fact that sin grieves God’s heart. We seek success, not God’s pleasure. God wants our obedience, not our victory. Victory is a byproduct of obedience” (Bridges, 16).
3. Why we should care about holiness?
What good is a gospel with saves but doesn’t transform? Have we mistakenly emphasized what Christ has saved us from and thought little of what he has saved us to? Hear what 1 Thessalonians 4:7-8 says, “For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.” Do we realize a disregard for holiness is a disregard for God?
Andrew Bonar said, “It is not the importance of the thing, but the majesty of the Lawgiver, that is to be the standard of obedience. . . .” (Bridges, 19) and David Helm says, “Christians ought to be motivated in holiness by the desire and opportunity to reflect God’s character” (Helm, 61).
We need to hear 1 Peter 1:17 again, “And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile.” Our God is an impartial judge, so “. . . whenever we begin thinking, Oh, I can do this and get away with it. God will forgive me. After all, God is my Father and therefore my friend, we are on dangerous ground.” (Helm, 61)
4. What does it say about us if holiness isn’t our aim in life?
James said faith without works is dead. So what if there are no works? What if you don’t care about there being any works?
Peter said, as obedient children be holy. What if you aren’t holy? Are you showing yourself to be an obedient child? What if you have no desire to become like your father? Are you even part of the family?
We ended our series in 2 Corinthians with this verse in mind, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.” (2Cor. 13:5) Our love for holiness is a worthy test to put ourselves through. And if we fail the test – repent, and believe the good news, and turn to our holy God for whom it is a delight to save sinners – and to make them holy – and come back next week to hear just how He does that.
And recall the first verse we read in 1 Peter 1:13 and know that the call to holiness is a call to hope. There is hope in our pursuit of holiness.
Davids, Peter. H. The First Epistle of Peter (NICNT). Eerdmans Publishing Company: Grand Rapids, 1990.
DeYoung, Kevin. The Hole in Our Holiness. Crossway: Wheaton, 2012.
Bridges, Jerry. The Pursuit of Holiness. NavPress: Colorado Springs, 1978.
Helm, David R. 1 & 2 Peter and Jude: Sharing Christ’s Sufferings. Crossway: Wheaton, 2008.
 “There is a gap between our love for the gospel and our love for godliness. This must change. It’s not pietism, legalism, or fundamentalism to take holiness seriously. It’s the way of all those who have been called to a holy calling by a holy God.” (DeYoung, 21)
 My fear is that as we rightly celebrate and in some quarters rediscover, all that Christ has saved us from, we are giving little thought and making little effort concerning all that Christ has saved us to.” (DeYoung, 11)