Week of July 24

The Attire that Comes with Holiness

Read: Isaiah 36-37; Psalm 76; 1 Peter 1
"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."
1 Peter 1:13, ESV


At the risk of placing a tune in your mind that you will not be able to erase all day, Steven Curtis Chapman’s song lyric, “Saddle up your horses, we’ve got a trail to blaze,” comes to my mind when I read this passage! Peter calls a hard-pressed group of believers to "saddle up" in faith amid hard times. Charles Spurgeon, the 19th century English preacher, once said, “I have now concentrated all my prayers into one, and one prayer is this, that I may die to self, and live wholly to him.” This commitment to holiness states the essence of 1 Peter 1 and is rooted in the intent of our focal verse today.

Understanding the Bible Context

Looking back to move forward
Peter writes this letter to a group of Christians in the northern part of Asia Minor, our present-day Turkey, to encourage them as they faced persecution because of their faith in Christ. He wanted them to display a Christian lifestyle that would change the “sneers and accusations into appreciation and respect” (HCBC). This time may well have been during the reign of Nero, whose persecutions may have rippled outward to those living in this area. Peter does not advise these believers to hunker down, but to holy up! Let me explain.

When Peter inserts “therefore” at the beginning of verse 13, he intends for us to look to the previous section for the context. The broad aim is for you and me to see that the reception of our salvation must result in a life of “holiness, reverence, and love.” The extra emphasis to lead this sort of lifestyle is motivated by the fact that the prophets and angels take a great interest in this salvation (cf. 1:10-12). Youth groups at sporting events and theme parks are often easily recognized by their neon-colored T-shirts. Peter encourages these believers, who were already under fire for following Christ, to put on the “neon shirt” of holiness. We do well to consider how we have cloaked ourselves in this age.
Wearing holiness in our daily lives
Holiness requires a decisive focus. There has been a significant verb change from the indicative to the imperative in this section of I Peter (1:13-16; EBC). Peter calls for a decisive focus in how we live the Christian life. He uses a rather picturesque expression that the King James Version translates, “gird up the loins of your mind.” The word means the same thing as tucking the folds of a man’s long garment into his belt so that he could move freely and quickly (cf. 1 Kings 18:46; Jeremiah 1:17; Luke 17:8). We may even translate the word as “Pull yourself together.” The Christian life requires us to be nimble in thought, words, and actions. This readiness requires focus.

Holiness requires self-control. I recall translating the entire letter of 1 Peter from Greek to English when I was a seminary student. I will never forget the depth of meaning that I found within this word that is often translated, “be sober.” The word originally carried the meaning of abstaining from the excessive use of wine. In the New Testament the word is broadened somewhat to mean embracing sound judgment in all areas of one’s life. Peter surely offers us sage counsel, whether it be contemporary excessive wine-drinking or intoxication with life's successes. Sound judgment is to be characteristic of all of us at every stage in the Christian life. Peter gives us one further thought to ponder when we consider the significance of holiness.

Holiness requires an end-times view. We are to place our hope wholly in the coming consummation of the grace of God in Jesus Christ. Peter indicates that we are only receiving and enjoying a beginning of that grace at the present. The good word is that we are indeed God’s children. The better word is that we are forever so, which is the power of the Good News of Jesus Christ. When He returns, we will be like Him in holiness (1 John 3:2-3; EBC). We will see brought to full completion all that He has been working in us once He returns (1 Thessalonians 4:13ff.). So, we are to lead holy lives until He comes to take us home!

Applying the Passage to Our Lives

Take a tour of your closet today. You will find hanging there clothing styles that are compatible with various types of weather, seasons, and body sizes. Peter will soon begin chapter two with a look back at chapter one, verses twenty-two and following. Our baptism in Christ leads us to choose to wear the new attire of holiness. We will seek to cloak ourselves in attitudes and behaviors that are compatible with brotherly love (see 2:1).

The call to consistent holiness. Sincere Christians will grow into the attire that reflects holiness (see 2:2-3). The Christian life of holiness is not so much about the pursuit of sanctity, but the growth into it. The gospel planted the seed of holiness into our lives, and we do well to pour our focus into its growth throughout our entire beings (1:13-16). Major Ian Thomas once said, “The moment you come to realize that only God can make a man [woman] godly, you are left with no option but to find God, and to know God, and to let God be God in and through you.”

Reflecting Upon and Discussing the Passage

1. “Holiness, holiness, is what I long for. Holiness, holiness, is what I need.” Have you ever sung this chorus? (I bet you are now because it is a catchy tune!) Begin by following the song’s pledge and pray, “Take my mind, transform it (gird up the loins); take my will, conform it (be sober).” Then live what you sing!

2. For Families: Ask your children to play a game with you. Tell them that you are going to say a series of words, one by one, and after each word, they are to go into their room and find some piece of clothing, or shoes, or a hat, that matches the word, and then come to share why (keep in mind words like, "fair," "mercy," "loving" and "holiness").

Tell them that you will set a timer for five minutes. They are to go to their rooms, find an article of clothing, put it on, and then come back to regroup. Have them share why the item reminded them of the word you said. Then explain how the Bible uses the word, and ask them how our lives can show what the word means. We should be fair, we should love mercy, we should be loving, and we should be God's people with our whole hearts. Commend them for thinking in these very grown-up ways!

May your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock