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TEXT: I Peter 1:13-22
SUBJECT: I Peter #3: Doctrine and Duty
I hate the Los Angeles Dodgers.
I hate noisy restaurants.
I hate mild salsa.
I hate elevator music.
I hate long hair on old men.
I hate belly shirts on women who don't have the belly for them.
There are a great many hateful things in the world, but I'm not sure there's any I hate more than Hypercalvinism.
I hate Hypercalvinism because it takes two of the Bible's most precious doctrines and puts them to a vile use. The two doctrines are the Sovereignty of God and Salvation by Grace Alone. These high truths warm every Christian's heart and encourage us to live lives of sincere and fervent holiness.
In the brains and mouths of Hypercalvinists, however, believing in God's sovereignty and salvation by grace alone makes Christian duty unnecessary if not dangerous. You see, to their way of thinking, 'trying to obey God' is a form of 'trying to save yourself by your good works'. And since no one can do the latter, the preacher had better be careful in calling us to the former.
This is why I hate Hypercalvinism: because it allows doctrine to negate duty, and turns the commands of the New Testament into indicatives, things people do if they're saved, not things we ought to do if we're saved, things we're supposed to do in order to please God.
No one knew the doctrines of God's Sovereignty and Salvation by Grace Alone better than Peter. In fact, he spends the first twelve verses of his Letter laying them out for us.
We are a chosen people, he tells us, and it is God who chose us for salvation and not we who chose Him. Why did He chose us? Because of His abundant mercy, Peter says, and not because we were in any way worthy of it. Does the choice guarantee our salvation? Of course it does, because we are kept by the power of God through faith ready to be revealed in the last time.
When it comes to the Doctrines of Grace, Peter was on the right side: he got it and he preached it without apology or a million footnotes.
But Peter's love of high doctrine did not deny or diminish his insistence on our holiness. He doesn't say, 'If you're saved you'll live this way'; he says, 'Live this way'. Vv.13-22 of the Letter is mostly a succession of imperatives, a list of do's and don'ts. Are we saved by what we do or don't? No, but saved people are responsible to obey God, to do what He commands and to not do what He forbids.
Peter saw the doctrines of Divine Sovereignty and Salvation by Grace Alone, therefore, not as abstractions to discuss and debate, but as--
The doctrine according to godliness.
This is what today's passage is about: It's about doing you duty, not to become God's children, but because you are God's children.
We see this in the first word of v.13--
This connects what Peter is about to say to what he has already said. While doctrine and duty can be distinguished, they cannot be separated. They go together 'like hand and glove', or perhaps it is better to say, 'like cause and effect'.
GIRD UP THE LOINS OF YOUR MIND, BE SOBER, AND REST YOUR HOPE FULLY ON THE GRACE THAT IS TO BE BROUGHT TO YOU AT THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST
And so, in light of what God has done for us in Christ, what are we supposed to do for Him? In v.13, Peter names three things. We're supposed to:
Gird up the loins of our minds.
The imagery is borrowed from the fashions of the day. In those days men wore long robes, and Jews, with tassels attached to the hem. The clothing was perfectly fine for sitting or standing or walking slowly. But for hard work, running, or fighting, it got in the way. When men had to do these things, they'd pull the skirt up to their knees and tighten their belt to keep it in place.
Peter wants us to do to our minds what they did to their clothes. What does this mean? Two things, at least:
Firstly, it means our lives are not going to be easy. The Lord gives us a respite now and then, but most of of the time, we've got to try hard, run hard, and fight hard. A lazy, distracted, preoccupied mind will not be able to do that when we set them on--
The grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
This means godly living now depends on thinking about the future, about the Second Coming of Christ and the lives we will then have. Of course, our present lives will not match the life to come, but they can move in the same direction. How much lust will there be in heaven? How much malice? Envy? Bitterness? There will be none at all. When we meditate on the future state, we become less lustful, malicious, envious, and bitter in this present evil age.
This is what John says in I John 3:3. Speaking of God's appearance at the End of Time, he says--
And everyone who has this hope within in purifies Himself even as He is pure.
An illustration: What are you going to wear next Saturday? The answer largely depends on what you're planning to do that day. If you're going to a wedding, you're going to wear a suit; if you're going to the beach, you're going to wear a bathing suit. What you're planning to do affects the way you prepare for it.
The same thins is true of the spiritual level. If we're planning to live in this world forever, we're going to dress for it, you might say. But, if we're planning to live in the world to come, we're going to dress differently. In the words of Paul, we're going to--
Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and mane provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof.
When it comes to problems, we have to live in the present--Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof. But when it comes to holiness, we need to live in the future. People who expect to be conformed to the Image of God's Son in the future, will move that way in the present as well.
In some people Heavenly-mindedness makes them into fools on earth. Peter doesn't want that! And so, in addition to thinking about the joys and holiness of the life to come, he also wants us to make wise decisions in this world. In a word, to be--
This, of course, forbids drinking to excess, but the drunkenness he has in mind is more than the kind that comes out of the bottle. We can be drunk with whisky, beer, and wine, but also with sexual lust, the love of money, or a thirst for revenge. None of these things is consistent with holiness, and so, we've got to make every effort to avoid them; or, if we should succumb to them, to quickly repent and renew our striving for godliness, knowing that what we truly want in life is what we will finally get.
This is the mental aspect of holiness. Loving God with all our hearts is necessary, but we will never do it unless we also love Him--
With all our minds.
AS OBEDIENT CHILDREN NOT CONFORMING YOURSELVES TO AS IT YOUR IGNORANCE.
One part of loving God with all our minds is remembering who we are, v.14. We are His--
This reminds us of both our privileges and our responsibilities. We were not born children of God; we became His children by the New Birth, a miracle of God's Almighty power and grace. Because we are His children, He loves us and hears us and pities us.
But He also expects something from us. He wants us to be--
He doesn't say, 'perfect children'; he says obedient. We're never as obedient as we ought to be, but sincere obedience can characterize our lives--and ought to.
What does obedience look like? For one thing, it doesn't look like the way everybody else is living--
Not conforming yourselves to your former lusts, as in your ignorance
Most people are relatively decent, and we ought to be at least that. But since our privileges and calling are higher than 'most people', we also ought to be more than decent. We ought to be--
The basic meaning of the word holy is separate. Under the Old Covenant, pots and pans were sometimes called holy, not because they were more moral than others, but because they were taken out of common use and dedicated to God.
This is what God has done for us and what we're supposed to do for Him, pursue holiness. In what aspects of life? V.15 says--
In all your conduct.
Not only what you do on Sunday mornings, but every day. Holiness colors the way you work, how you spend your money, what movies you watch, nothing is left out. As Paul says--
Whatever you do, do it heartily as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that of the Lord you shall receive the reward of the inheritance, for you serve the Lord Christ in singleness of heart, fearing God.
And so we submit everything we do or think or feel to the Lordship of God. Instead of saying, 'Is it wrong to watch TV or surf the net?', we say--
Lord, what would you have me do?
At times, He may very well have you watch TV or surf the net or enjoy a million other non-religious, but innocent pleasures.
BECAUSE IT IS WRITTEN 'BE HOLY BECAUSE I AM HOLY'.
Vv.15-16 give us another reason for pursing holiness, in fact, three other reasons--
But as He who called you is holy, you also ought to be holy in all your conduct because it is written, 'Be holy because I am holy'.
We ought to be holy because our Father in Heaven is holy. The privilege of being God's children demands we conduct ourselves as God conducts Himself, in most ways, of course.
What kind of being is He? Many things can be said here, but I'll keep it to three: God is compassionate, generous, and forgiving. His children ought to be like Him, and when we're not, we make Him look bad in the eyes of the world.
My late mother's maiden name was Stroud, and even though the family was poor and countrified, there was one thing they were not. If you're from the south, you'll know what I mean: they were not Trash. They were not lazy or dirty or vulgar. Trashy people were this way, and my grandmother saw to it that no one thought her family was Trash. She impressed on them to put the family name above their own desires, to not do anything that would make the Strouds look like Trash.
If the Strouds were not Trash, neither is God. He doesn't want His people to make it look like He is. The character and reputation of God, therefore, are two good reasons to follow after holiness.
The other one is the simple command of God. Peter quotes from the Book of Leviticus and applies it to the Church. If you cannot think of any other reason to make a godly choice, think of your duty. As children of God, we are duty bound to obey our Father in Heaven, and, even though He pardons every sin, He approves of none of them!
It was General Robert E. Lee who wrote his son--
Duty is the most sublime word in the English language. Always do your duty. You can never do more, you dare not do less.
AND IF YOU CALL ON THE FATHER WHO WITHOUT PARTIALITY JUDGES EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS WORKS, CONDUCT YOURSELVES THROUGHOUT THE TIME OF YOUR SOJOURNING IN FEAR
Closely connected to obeying God because He tells you to, is the very real possibility of displeasing Him. To say 'God loves sinners' (which is true) is not the same thing as saying 'God loves sin'. To say 'He cares for us when we sin' does not mean 'He doesn't care if we sin'. He very much cares when we sin, and while our sins do not condemn us, they very much displease God.
We ought to fear His displeasure, and we can do this without trying to save ourselves. Again, let me illustrate from own family. No father ever loved his son more than my father loved me. In the fifty plus years we lived together, he never rejected me or hinted that he would. I was an accepted and beloved son.
But I cared what he thought of me. I didn't think he'd hate me or cut me out of his will if he heard me cuss or saw me drunk, but I couldn't bear the though of him hearing me cuss or seeing me drunk. His freely-given approval made me want to be the kind of son he deserved.
I failed to be that son. But that's what I wanted to be, and felt ashamed of myself when I wasn't.
Thus the love God has for us does not nullify our fear of Him. To the contrary! It makes us respect Him all the more and to run from the things He disapproves of. This is seen in that magnificent Psalm--
If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
Who, O Lord, would stand?
But there is forgiveness with you,
that you may be feared.
People today sometimes think 'fearing God' is somehow unworthy of His children, the guilty and cringing fear of a criminal or a slave. This is not what the Bible teaches!
The fear of the Lord is still the beginning of wisdom, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
But even though the commands and fear of God are motives for holiness, there is one higher than they. Peter tells us what it is in vv.18-21 (Read below)--
FOR YOU KNOW THAT YOU WERE NOT REDEEMED BY CORRUPTIBLE THINGS LIKE SILVER AND GOLD FROM YOUR AIMLESS CONDUCT RECEIVED BY TRADITION FROM YOUR FATHERS, BUT YOU WERE REDEEMED BY THE PRECIOUS BLOOD OF CHRIST...
The heartbeat of obedience is gratitude, being thankful to God for all He has done, and especially all He has done in Christ for us.
His great saving work is summed up in the word, Redeemed. This is what Jesus did for us when He went to the cross. He redeemed us from the evil powers set against us, including sin, Satan, and death. and He freed us to be God's eager servants and beloved children.
Had it been possible to redeem us with the best things in the world, God would have used them. But that was not possible: nothing less than the Innocent dying for the guilty could win our salvation. And there's only One Innocent Man who is also God. It was He--Jesus Christ--who redeemed us at the cost of His owl life.
This is the last word on obedience. No one will obey God from the heart unless he has known and felt and tasted the Cross that Jesus bore...for us.
Let us, therefore, believe the great doctrines of Divine Sovereignty and Salvation by Grace Alone. But let's not leave it with 'believing them'. Move on to living them out in real life. God help us to do so. For Christ's sake. Amen.
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