Monday, October 22, 2012

Be Holy

Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” - 1 Peter 1:13-16 NIV
I love this passage while at the same time finding it to be one of the most challenging to follow.  Peter tells me where my hope should be as well as how to live while waiting for it.  I really like the hope part.  But that part about being holy is kind of scary.

With Alert and Sober Minds

How much of the time do we wander around in a daze, especially concerning spiritual matters.  All too often I find myself preoccupied with meaningless things.  And as a result I often find myself lost.  A few years ago I was out on the trail and was listening to my music player as I hiked.  Eventually I came to and realized that I was not where I thought I was.  I had been so engrossed in the music playing in my ears that I lost sight of the trail and got myself turned around.  I find I do that in my spiritual life as well.  I end up focused on some trivial thing to such an extent that I end up losing my way.  I waste way too much time backtracking and starting over again.

Peter tells me here that I should have a mind that is alert and sober.  Don't let the music playing in your ear distract you from life.  Be focused on the goal and don't let anything distract you from that.  If you find yourself wondering 'What am I doing" or "Where am I going", then you need to get refocused on the goal; tune out the distractions; and march down the path that will get you where you need to go.

Set Your Hope on the Grace

What is the goal I need to focus on?  Peter tells me that it is the grace that will be brought to me at Christ's return.  Grace is God's favor that is given to me.  Sometimes it refers to my salvation.  Other times it refers to the way he equips me for service in his kingdom.  In this passage it is referring to the life, and work, that I will be given at Christ's return; when I move from the earthly realm and into the heavenly one.

I have a goal of hiking the entire Pacific Crest Trail over the course of the next few years.  But that won't happen by accident.  Nor will it happen if I do not consciously work toward it.  It requires advance planning and preparation; mentally, physically and materially.  This is not an all consuming goal, but it is one that requires me to be focused and working toward it.

I have another goal in my life that is much more significant than walking through the woods for a few months.  I want to stand before my creator and hear him say "Well done, good and faithful servant!"  And that also will not happen by accident.  It is something I need to consciously work toward, with my mind alert and sober; keeping focused on the goal.

Not Conforming to Evil Desires

Peter gives two broad directives in how to stay focused on the goal, one negative and the other positive.  The first is do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.  This passage may well be offensive to many, especially those who consider themselves to be wise and well educated.  But anyone who lives without God is living in ignorance.  Is it not ignorance to live without knowing your creator, his purpose for you, and his provision for your life?  What is more important in this world than knowing him, and why you were created?

Before I came to know God I lived in a certain way.  While there were definitely some rough edges, by and large I lived in a way that many would have considered to be good.  But I was generally living and following my own desires: I did what I wanted to, at least as much as I could.  But those desires were not God's desires, nor did they bring me closer to him, or glorify him: they focused on making me happy.  And so they are evil, self-centered, causing me to fall short of God's expectations for me.

Are those desires gone now that I have been a follower of Christ for 40 years?  I can't say that they have.  Many of those self-serving desires I had as a young man are still with me as I transition into senior adulthood.  And I have come to accept that it is likely they will hang on to the end.  But that does not mean that I need to fulfill those desires.  Peter tells me not to conform to them.  I may have the desire to get back at the person who cut me off in traffic; but that does not mean I have to act on that. I do not have to respond to the desire that is aroused by ads I might see on-line.  I do not really have to have the latest and greatest phone, car, house or clothes.

Being Holy

Instead, just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.  God is holy, and we in turn are challenged to be holy.  But really, who wants to be holy?  Don't you have to live in a cold damp monastery, wear a burlap robe, take a vow of silence, and have no fun to be holy?  Not really!

Think of the word holy as meaning 'set apart' or 'special'.  In my house there are two cabinets where we keep dishes.  One of these cabinets is in the kitchen and it contains the plates, bowls, cups and glasses that we use every day; the Corelle and plastic stuff.  The other cabinet is in the dining room and it has all of the fancy stuff, at least as fancy as it gets in my house.  This stuff is reserved for company or special occasions: it is, in a sense, holy, while the stuff in the kitchen is common.

Now personally, I prefer to drink out of a cheap plastic glass rather than a crystal glass.  But I am called on to be like the crystal glass; set apart for God's use rather than being plastic, or common, like the rest of the world.  Being holy does not mean I am perfect.  It does not mean I cannot have any fun.  It does not mean that I have to quit my job and be a missionary someplace far from the world I know.  It does mean that I have committed myself to do what the master wants of me.  It does mean that I am going to be different than the world around me.  It does mean that I should value the things of God above the things of this world.

Being holy in the midst of a world that has little interest in the things of God can be challenging.  Being holy instead of following my own desires can be challenging as well.  But if my hope is set on the grace to be brought to me when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming then I will be choosing to keep an alert and sober mind, will not conform to the desires I had in the past, and will set myself apart to serve my master as he sees fit.

How will you answer the master's call to be holy, because I am holy?  Will you dare to be fine crystal, or are you satisfied with being plastic?

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