God is holy. He is perfect, totally without sin. God’s home, heaven, is a holy place. It is made for holy people. The apostle John saw this great truth when God showed him the visions of the end times and eternity that became the book of Revelation. “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city,” John wrote. “But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie” (Revelation 22:14-15). Our sin, which we all have, makes us unholy and disqualifies us from a place with God in His heaven. When that reality truly sinks into your soul, you tremble in fear and cry out for God to give you mercy and spare you from the judgment that you know you deserve. And because God is also love (1 John 4:8), He promises to save all those who turn to Him in honest confession and repentance; “”for whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).
The paragraph you just read describes what happens in a person’s understanding when he or she “gets saved.” As today’s passage shows us, when people truly come to Christ by faith, their lives change. They now hate their sinful ways and thoughts because they have met and now love the Lord, He who is holy and cannot look upon sin. To chase after God is to chase after holiness. If you are not pursuing holiness, then you are not pursuing God. This pursuit is a humble, daily, life-long quest to be like our Lord. We cannot do it in our own strength, but God does not expect us to. We need His power, and He gives it to us when we humbly ask for it. Once you first turn to Jesus Christ in faith, you now have the Holy Spirit living inside you, empowering you to abandon sin and live like Jesus. It is our job to make ourselves available to God by setting our minds on pursing holiness each day through time in His Word and prayer. It is God’s job to use His Spirit in us to transform us into the image of His Son. We won’t ever reach perfection until the Lord calls us home, but we are supposed to keep striving after it. As Jesus said, His disciples must seek to “be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
The Text (1 Peter 1:13-16)
13 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; 14 as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
Background and Observations
• The holiness that God calls Christians to goes way beyond outer obedience. When we read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, we see that Jesus always emphasized that the pursuit of holiness begins with an inner purity of our hearts. You may never have murdered someone, for example, but your hatred, sinful anger, or jealousy toward another person makes you guilty of breaking the sixth commandment in God’s eyes (Matthew 5:21-22). The Sermon on the Mount and similar passages are intended to break our pride and self-sufficiency so that God can then build us up through His grace.
• The pursuit of holiness begins by “girding up the loins of our minds,” which means firmly setting our minds on the hope we have in Jesus Christ. That’s why we need to read the Bible every day. We need to keep letting God’s Word show us our sinful hearts and our need for God’s mercy and love. We need to keep letting Scripture shape our thoughts rather than our sinful desires and the sinful messages of the world. Our minds control our words and actions. “For as he [a person] thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7).
Questions to Think About
1. Do you care about being holy and really chasing after God? If you don’t, today’s devotion should warn you that you are in spiritual danger. Last spring, we brought the message of today’s devotion to our class of 2023, and a bunch of students realized that they didn’t care very much about holiness and that God had a big problem with that. And a bunch of students got saved (31, to be specific). We’ve brought this same message to the class of 2024 since the first day of school, and a bunch of students have gotten saved (33 and counting, to be specific!). My prayer is that if you aren’t following Christ right now, God will get ahold of your heart this year, too.
2. How are you doing with your personal time in God’s Word? Have you ever recognized the connection between your time in God’s Word and your struggle to be holy? D.L. Moody, a famous evangelist from the 19th century, once said, “Sin will keep you from this Book [the Bible] or this Book will keep you from sin.” My prayer is that you will see your battle against sin the way that God does, as a life and death struggle. The call to holiness should motivate us all to stay in the Word and on our knees.