Five times the Bible tells us to ‘be holy’ because God is holy. So how should we live in light of God’s holiness? The book of 1 Peter tells us.
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.”
(1 Peter 1:14-16 ESV)
In this passage Peter reminds us of several truths as we learn to walk in holiness.
Living in light of God’s holiness is possible because God establishes our identity, gives us eyes to see rightly, and allows us to bear the fruit of walking in holiness.
1. Know Your Identity as a Child of God
Verse 14 begins with an identity statement where Peter calls us “obedient children.”
Peter reminds believers of who they are before he calls them to action. In other words, holiness is action based on identity.
So how does our identity as children of God move us toward holy lives?
As sons and daughters of God, we are called to act like our Father. Sons imitate their dads, and the greatest example of this is God our Father and the person of Christ. So if you want to know what it looks like to walk in holiness, look at Christ.
He is our model for love (John 13:34), for humility (Philippians 2:5-8), for fighting temptation (Hebrews 4:15), and for obedience to the Father (John 6:38; 14:31).
When it comes to morality, we don’t take our marching orders from politicians, actors, musicians, or popular authors. We don’t think about sexuality based on popular novels. We don’t mimic the language of our favorite musicians. No, we strive to live like Jesus. We strive to live out our new identity as sons and daughters of our Father who is in heaven.
2. See Things Differently
God calls us and adopts us, then we begin to see things with a renewed perspective. We are no longer blinded by “passions of our former ignorance.”
We are not so easily deceived.
We’ve walked down the path of sin enough to know that we will never find in sin what we enter sin to find. Sin promises pleasure but eventually enslaves. Sin advertises problem-free solutions to your frustration or pain only to pull off a bait-and-switch. Like the great Trojan Horse that seemed like a good idea at the time, we often realize too late that we’ve been sabotaged and already unlocked the door for the enemy to walk right in.
But now we know better. We know the holiness of God. We are not ignorant of God’s infinite value and grace. Once we were blind to the things of God. Now, God’s Spirit has educated our ignorance and we are beginning to see things rightly.
We see that the happiness sin promises is false, but the happiness that comes by walking in holiness is real and lasting.
We see things differently.
3. Pulling Weeds and Planting Trees
Verse 14 calls our ignorance, or lusts, “former” lusts. That is no longer who we are. We see things with new eyes. But fighting for holiness is more than avoiding ‘bad’ things. It also includes pursuing good things.
One of the greatest sermon titles I’ve ever heard is by a Scottish preacher from the 1800’s, Thomas Chalmers, who preached a sermon called “The Expulsive Powers of a New Affection.”
In it he argues that when our heart is overwhelmed by something so wonderful as the holiness and grace of God, it presses out other lesser desires.
It reminds me of a time I was pulling weeds in my backyard with my son. I was teaching him that we needed to pull out the whole weed—roots and everything—otherwise the weed would grow right back and we’d be pulling them out again next week. So I gave him a little shovel and sent him off. I started on my section and about a minute later he said, “Done!” I looked over to find he had cut off the tops of the weeds, but left all the roots in the ground. I asked, “What happened to pulling the roots out?” He just looked at me and said, “I tried, but that was too hard so I just left the roots in.”
This is so often how we approach the battle for holiness. We see the effects of our sin and we want to get rid of the stuff we see and others can see. But it’s difficult to deal with the root of our sin, so we settle for just dealing with the surface without fighting to pull the roots of sin out of our hearts.
The process of walking in holiness is both pulling weeds and planting trees or, if you prefer the Puritan nomenclature, mortification and vivification, killing and giving life. It is pulling out the roots of sin and, in their place, planting seeds that will bear the fruit of the Spirit.
It is putting off the old and putting on the new.
Let’s continue to strive for holiness in all we do by knowing who we are, by seeing things rightly, and by bearing the fruit of right living.