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The Holy Image of God

 

1 Peter 1:13-25

 

Jim Davis

 

What is holiness? How is it attained? Is it attainable? Is it perfection? The holiness of God was the dominant theme throughout the Israelís history. Their worship emphasized their need to be holy. Israelís worship emphasized something they werenít. Godís holiness left the Israelites wondering if anyone could stand in his presence.

 

God presented himself as a holy God throughout the Old Testament. He warned the Israelites not to come up on Mount Sinai, because it had been set apart as holy ground because of His presence there.

 

Exodus 19:20-25

20 The LORD descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain. So Moses went up 21 and the LORD said to him, "Go down and warn the people so they do not force their way through to see the LORD and many of them perish. 22 Even the priests, who approach the LORD, must consecrate themselves, or the LORD will break out against them."

 

23 Moses said to the LORD, "The people cannot come up Mount Sinai, because you yourself warned us, 'Put limits around the mountain and set it apart as holy.'"

 

24 The LORD replied, "Go down and bring Aaron up with you. But the priests and the people must not force their way through to come up to the LORD, or he will break out against them."

 

25 So Moses went down to the people and told them. NIV

 

This made a powerful statement about Israelís unholy condition. They were not allowed to touch the mountain upon which God resided. God consistently revealed his holiness through the temple worship. There was the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place only the priest could enter.

 

There were specific laws given to move the Tabernacle from place to place. Aaron was to prepare the articles of the tabernacle a certain way for moving it from place to place as they wandered in the wilderness. The Kohathites were to do the actually moving of the tabernacle. Aaron was to oversee the packing of the articles of the tabernacle. However, Aaron was instructed to pack for the move in such a way that the movers would not so much as touch the articles of the tabernacle. If they touched the articles they would die.

 

Numbers 4:15

15 "After Aaron and his sons have finished covering the holy furnishings and all the holy articles, and when the camp is ready to move, the Kohathites are to come to do the carrying. But they must not touch the holy things or they will die. The Kohathites are to carry those things that are in the Tent of Meeting. NIV

 

 

 

 

Numbers 4:17-20

17 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, 18 "See that the Kohathite tribal clans are not cut off from the Levites. 19 So that they may live and not die when they come near the most holy things, do this for them: Aaron and his sons are to go into the sanctuary and assign to each man his work and what he is to carry. 20

But the Kohathites must not go in to look at the holy things, even for a moment, or they will die." NIV

 

These laws were given to empress upon Israel the holiness of God. There was no sacrifice they could offer that would make them holy enough to even gaze upon a holy God.

 

1 Samuel 6:19-20

19 But God struck down some of the men of Beth Shemesh, putting seventy of them to death because they had looked into the ark of the LORD. The people mourned because of the heavy blow the LORD had dealt them, 20 and the men of Beth Shemesh asked, "Who can stand in the presence of the LORD, this holy God? To whom will the ark go up from here?" NIV

 

Godís holiness is not just an attribute of God; it is who God is. Holiness embraces the totality of God. All of Godís attributes are guided by his desire to be holyóto be righteous.  He can do nothing unholy. Everything he does emanate from his desire for holiness. He has purely holy motives.

 

Godís Holiness Is Unattainable

 

Holiness is not something we attain through human effort, for it is impossible to attain holiness apart from God. God is the one who makes us holy. We consecrate ourselves to God by seeking to keep his decrees, but only God alone can make us holy.

 

Leviticus 20:7-8

7 "'Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the LORD your God. 8 Keep my decrees and follow them. I am the LORD, who makes you holy. NIV

 

Godís call is to consecrate ourselves to holiness. He has called us to live out his holy purpose for our lives. Yet, we are reminded that it is God who makes us holy. It is only through the blood of Christ that we can hope to be holy.

 

When Christ becomes our source of righteousness, holiness and redemption, it leaves us without any room for boasting.

 

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

26 Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things ó and the things that are not ó to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God ó that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord." NIV

 

Like the ancient saints, we do well to strive for holiness. Yet none of our efforts will be pleasing to God if they are based on the belief that we can attain holiness through our own means. We ďare being transformed into his likenessĒ through the power of the Spirit, not our own efforts (2 Corinthians. 3:18). (J. Stephen Lang, Discipleship Journal)

Even such worthwhile pursuits as church attendance, Bible study, and Scripture memorization will get us no further with God than living in the trees, if they are not carried out in a spirit of dependence on the grace of God alone to make us holy. Although we are called to obey, for our sanctification we must rely on God to keep us holy through the blood of Christ and the leading of the Holy Spirit. (J. Stephen Lang, Discipleship Journal)

 

Yet, God calls us to be holy for He is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). Peter admonishes us to seek holiness through obedience, but in the same the same stroke of the pen he reminds us pure holiness only comes through Christ.

 

1 Peter 1:13-25

13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy."  

 

17 Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.

 

22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.   23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For,

 

"All men are like grass,

and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;

the grass withers and the flowers fall,

25 but the word of the Lord stands forever."

 

And this is the word that was preached to you. NIV

 

God makes it clear that personal holiness is also something we must pursue. Personal holiness is not just a gift God gives us through Christís atonement for our sins. Peter calls the recipients of this letter to obedience. Obedience is our pursuit of holiness. Obedience has to do with seeking to do the right thingórighteous living. God imparts his holinessóhis perfection, or should we say Christ perfectionóto the spirits of righteous men.

 

Hebrews 12:22-24

22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. NIV

 

We have an ongoing problem with sin. It interrupts our fellowship and usefulness for God. Godís provision for our sins is continual forgiveness. We receive it as we confess our sin intent on striving for holiness. This was to be the motive behind every sacrificial animal offered under Judaism.

 

The sacrificial system of the Old Testament temple was a means of reconciliation through the holiness God provided. But it also demanded Israelís pursuit of holiness. For them to enter into Godís temple without any attempt to live holy lives was to desecrate Godís temple. The very sacrifices they offered at the temple were useless unless they were intent on turning from their sin.

 

Today our bodies are the temple of God. We destroy Godís temple when we use it for unholy purposes.

 

1 Corinthians 3:16-17

16 Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? 17 If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple. NIV

 

When the world comes to Christ their lives are usually characterized by the thinking of an unholy world. Such was the case at Corinth and such is the case today.

 

1 Corinthians 6:18-20

18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. 19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. NIV

 

The immorality of our times is nothing new. Paul admonished the Corinthians to flee from sexual immorality. The elders sent letters to the Gentiles admonishing them to abstain from fornication. Their world continued to have a hold on them after they came to Christ.

 

Acts 15:23-29

The apostles and elders, your brothers,

 

To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia:

 

Greetings.

 

24 We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. 25 So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Pauló 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. 28 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.

 

Farewell. NIV

 

Those preaching to the Gentiles were more concerned about circumcision than they were that they live holy lives. The elders at Jerusalem were more concerned about the influence their pagan gods still had on them.

 

Paul urges us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

 

Romans 12:1-2

12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God ó this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is ó his good, pleasing and perfect will. NIV

 

I heard the preacher of Calvary Chapel over on U.S. 19 speak over the radio one morning. He was talking about the immoral lifestyles of the world. He made a shocking statement about romantic lives of church people. He was pleading with those who just came into his congregation not to pattern their romantic lives after church members. He said when people are converted to Christ today they find the thinking and lifestyles of church people no different from the world. He emphasized that Christians were not setting an example for them to follow in their romantic relationships. He pleaded with his audience not to pattern their lives after church members.

 

The grief and anxiety characterizing our world today is the direct result of unholy lives. Our destructive attitudes are running rampant. Hate embitters, greed eats away like canker, misplaced affections, love is trampled, confidence is betrayed, rich people step on the poor, and the poor seek to dethrone the rich. Prisons, hospitals and mental institutions point to unholy lives.

 

The spiritual darkness we see is merely a reflection of the spiritual darkness from within our own hearts. The darkest part of our world is our spiritual lives. We are out of sync with Godís holy plan for our lives. The Christian is not immune. We are confronted by the pervasive culture of our fallen world.

 

I saw a church sign down the street that says it all Ėit read, ďIf you donít live it, you donít believe it.Ē When Christians reject Godís holy standards, we destroy the power of the gospel to salvage the world. The world sees this as our rejection of God.

 

In Psalms 32 we read Davidís journal entry as he contemplated holiness and sought it. We also see Godís response to his efforts.

 

First David describes the holy life.

 

Psalms 32:1-2

Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven,

whose sins are covered.

2 Blessed is

the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him

and in whose spirit is no deceit.

 

Secondly David describes his efforts to live that holy life.

Psalms 32:3-5

3 When I kept silent,

my bones wasted away

through my groaning all day long.

4 For day and night

your hand was heavy upon me;

my strength was sapped

as in the heat of summer. Selah 

 

5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you

and did not cover up my iniquity.

I said, "I will confess

my transgressions to the LORD"ó

and you forgave

the guilt of my sin. Selah 

 

Thirdly, David describes the deliverance of those who seek to live holy lives.

 

Psalms 32:6ó10

6 Therefore let everyone who is godly

pray to you while you may be found;

surely when the mighty waters rise,

they will not reach him.

7 You are my hiding place;

you will protect me from trouble

and surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah 

 

8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;

I will counsel you and watch over you.

9 Do not be like the horse or the mule,

which have no understanding

but must be controlled by bit and bridle

or they will not come to you.

10 Many are the woes of the wicked,

but the LORD's unfailing love

surrounds the man who trusts in him.

 

Fourthly, David describes the joy of righteous living.

 

Psalms 32:11

11 Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous;

sing, all you who are upright in heart! NIV

 

The Power of Holy Lives

 

Holy living makes a powerful fellowship possible.

 

1 Peter 2:11-12

11 Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. NIV

 

I love it when our optimism leads us to seek to save the whole world through preaching the gospel, but only a fool could believe it could be done without living it. It is our living it that leads others to glorify God in obedience to Christ.

 

1 Peter 3:1-7

3:1 Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, 2 when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. 3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. 4 Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. 5 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, 6 like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.

 

7 Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. NIV

 

We must show the world how to live holy lives; they must see us reaping the benefits of holy living. It is not enough to just teach people the Bible. We study teaching techniques to become more effective teachers. It was no accident that Luke wrote about what Jesus began to do and teach. Doing comes before teaching. Jesus did not ask anyone to do or be anything which first he had not demonstrated in his own life, thereby not only proving its workability, but also its relevance to his mission in life.

 

Holy lives will win the confidence of the world. Personal holiness is the most powerful way to inspire the lost to come to Christ. This was Jesusí method to salvage the world.

 

It was Jesusí living that empowered his message. Jesus came to exemplify a holy way of life with God and man. He recognized that it was not enough just to get people into his kingdom. His disciples needed to know how his experience was to be maintained and shared if it was to be perpetuated. It wasnít his oral presentation. All the disciples had to teach them was the example of the Master Teacher who first lived what he taught.

 

The Bible is an instruction book on how to live. If you donít live it, you donít believe it. Living it is the only way to make it believable to a world lost in sin. It was Jesusí life that drew people to him. He won their confidence. In doing so he opened up the way of salvation to them. Those in the first century observed Jesus in all types of situations, and among all kinds of people, rich and poor, healthy and sick, friend and foe alike. It was his life that drew them.

 

1 Thessalonians 4:3-8

3 It is God's will th0at you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; 6 and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. 7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. 8 Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit. NIV

  

Conclusion:

 

We live in an unholy world that challenges our efforts to live holy lives. It is difficult to always make the correct response to the selfishness of those around us because of we ourselves are selfish. The key to a correct response to an unholy world is found as we strive to make room for Godís holiness to permeate our own hearts.

 

The only way to holiness is to exchange our lives for Christ life (Galatians 2:20). It begins with our desire to die with Christ so that we may live for him (Romans 6:1-4).

 

 

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