1 Peter 1:13-16

Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed. Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:13-16

Oh you have no idea how much I wish this passage was good news in my ears! It is Friday, the weekend lies ahead, much good stuff is right around the corner. I always hope to end the week on a good, high, hopeful note…but….this is the passage assigned to today and it doesn’t feel much like good news to me.

Here is where the difficult lies – in the words “discipline”, “obedient”, and “desires”, all coupled with the injunction to “be holy in yourselves in all your conduct.” Honestly, that is too much for me. I can’t pull any of it off with any consistency.

I know what it means to be self-disciplined. I’ve tried it. I can keep it up for certain things for a little while but I can’t sustain it. My selfishness and self-centeredness overwhelm my intentions and willingness to be obedient. I desire too much of the wrong stuff and too little of the right stuff. And I’m very suspicious of the concept that I am supposed to be “holy in all my conduct.”

I know that I probably shouldn’t have typed that last sentence. It isn’t the sort of thing that pastors are supposed to say. At least out loud. But quite honestly many of the people I have known along the way who live on a quest to achieve personal holiness turn out to be people that I am eager to get away from. Quickly. Their personal holiness sounds like judgmental elitism in my ears and I want nothing to do with that.

Besides, the writer is quoting from Leviticus 20:26 with the words “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” If you like those words, I invite you to go back and actually read that 20th chapter, then write to me and tell me how much you appreciated it.

Be sure to notice especially how the writer of 1 Peter skipped the next words “and I have separated you from the other peoples to be mine.” Which is, I’m afraid, the problem today, not the solution. Jesus sends us into the lives of others, he doesn’t set us aside as a privileged club. Make to also notice all of the things that get the death penalty if applied literally. No thank you, Leviticus 20.

No, I’m not big on the personal holiness quest. Even if I could pull it off, which I can’t, no sooner would I get there then I would take all the credit for it myself. “Just look at me! Holy Pastor Kerry! Ain’t I grand and special!” I KNOW myself, that is exactly what I would do. The quest for personal holiness is my problem, not my solution.

No, there is only one thing in this passage that I can hear as good news, only one thing worth applying the words “discipline”, “obedience”, and “desire” to and that is this: set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed.

Now THAT I strive to do. THAT I surrender my life too. THAT is my only hope.

Let us pray: Loving God, convince us that your grace is enough, that your grace is sufficient, that you are able where we am not. Forgive us our lack of discipline, our disobedience, our wrong-headed and selfish desires. If we are to be holy at all, you alone can make us so for our holiness is a pale reflection of yours. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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5 Responses to “1 Peter 1:13-16”

  1. Debbie George Says:

    I LOVE your honesty! By the Grace of God, there is hope for me too! Have a good weekend!!!

  2. Susanna Lavdas Says:

    Like Debbie, I appreciate your honesty, too, but there is another way to look at this – and other similar – passages in Scripture. Hopefully this will not sound like the “judgmental elitism” you want to get away from (frankly, I want to get away from those people too!)

    God does not expect us to do it in our own strength. In that light, you are right: neither you nor any of us can pull it off with any consistency. It just is not possible…human nature can’t manage it. In that light, it is a discouraging prospect, especially on a Friday, with Sunday coming, when we will likely hear that passage or others like it.

    Instead, He offers us His grace, which is the only means by which we can even hope to come close to what Peter and others suggest we should do. Jesus Himself tells us: “With God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26) Not with ourselves, but with God. Later Paul also reminds us of the same thing: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13) Jesus also reminds Paul, on one of the occasions when he is complaining of the “thorn” in his side, “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

    As for your challenge to read all of Chapter 20 of Leviticus, I did read it and I DO appreciate it, because in it God is repeating, in essence, the Commandments He gave to Moses, with a little more explanation. Being human, we all need some clarification on things, especially rules. Read the 10 Commandments and tell me you can’t think of several ways to circumvent them all by yourself. I know I can! So God, knowing our human hearts (since He made them), gave us some clarification on what exactly He meant. It took several passages in different books, but He spelled it all out for us. If f someone expects me to do something, I appreciate having clarification on how to do it, so I can make my best effort to accomplish it. No different when dealing with God…I like knowing what He means by the list of things I “shalt not” do.

    As for being set aside, I do believe I am set apart – set apart not as superior to others, but as a servant. My field of influence is small and my ministries are smaller still, but I know I am chosen by God – along with many others given the same gifts and talents – to fulfill these ministries as best I can at this time, and in this place. To serve others, not judge them, and to bring them gently to Christ.

    The fact that many Christians think of themselves as set apart (meaning better than everyone not like them) is an unfortunate reality. It’s been going on for thousands of years, and I can’t change them. But I can show those I meet – who have encountered people who think that way – that those folks misunderstand what God meant. And I do that by acting as Jesus did: humbly, as a servant, reaching out, not down. I’m not perfect and I’m certainly no saint (in fact, the more God’s grace changes me the more imperfect I see that I am), but His same grace makes me more willing to share with them the joy of knowing God where they are, not looking down on them from a mountain top, issuing instructions as if I had the right.

    You said, “No, I’m not big on the personal holiness quest. Even if I could pull it off, which I can’t, no sooner would I get there then I would take all the credit for it myself…The quest for personal holiness is my problem, not my solution.”

    I’m with you on this: I am not big on a personal holiness quest that makes me trumpet like a rogue elephant how good I am. Which is human nature. Of ourselves, we indeed can do nothing….yet “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” So I’ll let Him change me and make me holy. Not just “when he is revealed,” but now, in this world, during and in our lifetime.

    Then He will get the glory that is His alone, now and then.

  3. David Armstrong Says:

    Per your request, I read Leviticus 20, In our modern culture, this chapter would be tossed out as not politically correct. After all, who is God to tell us what is right or wrong and certainly no sin deserves the death penalty. For what it is worth, Pastor, I struggle with the issues you do. I am so thankful that God is loving and forgiving for I put Him to the test every day…

  4. Priscilla Kennedy Says:

    Don’t know much about Leviticus, but your reflection reminds me of the famous Woody Allen quote: “I’d never join a club that would allow a person like me to become a member.”

  5. Gloria Smith-Rockhold Says:

    Susanna Lavdas: What a beautiful little essay! I’m also with you and Pastor Kerry. Like Paul, the harder I try, the worse I see myself. But the Good News saves us always. God’s love is real and perfect. His Grace is sufficient. Thanks for all the good posts. Pastor Kerry: your devotions life me up and make me feel one with you, your congregation, and all the people who read your posts.

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