Summary: Inner transformation results in outward changes.
The other day a man told me what it is like to change from life as a long-time drug user to one who is drug free. It is not just a matter of quitting the drugs, but of replacing old friends with new ones, old activities with new ones, and old thought patterns with new ones. He said that people who were used to him the old way can’t stand the change. They don’t recognize him anymore and aren’t sure they like it. For example, his wife who has put up with a drug-using husband for 10-15 years, doing without him in family responsibilities, taking care of finances herself since he wasn’t reliable, now sees this man trying to come back home and she isn’t sure she wants him. People trying to make changes like this need encouragement.
Our scripture this morning also deals with change. When Peter wrote this letter, he was writing to people whose lives had changed from what they used to be. They were scattered throughout what we call northern Turkey today. They were different from what they used to be and different from the people around them. People like this need encouragement and that is why Peter wrote to them.
As we learned last week, Peter told them they could stand strong because of the mercy God showed them, the hope of eternal life he gave them, the inheritance he prepared for them, and the joy he put within them. After he underlines all of those foundational qualities, he writes about the changes in lifestyle that should come as a result. Inner transformation changes the outward life.
Note in v.13 his use of the word Therefore, an important step between what he just said to what he is going to say next. He shifts from what has happened on the inside to the changes on the outside. We will focus on three things.
1:13-16 Got holiness?
The first is holiness. Holiness means being like God. It doesn’t mean being an odd person, but a different person. We may have the tendency to think that when God saves us, we become like him instantaneously. God pushes the button and the light comes on; that God is in the driver’s seat and we just go along for the ride.
But that’s not the impression Peter gives. Here is what he says:
1. Prepare your minds for action. Roll up your sleeves, like Jesus did on Passover night when it was time to wash the disciples’ feet. Use your minds as Philippians 4:8 tells us. Do you think about how you should live now that God has saved you? Does it enter your mind each day that you are a follower of Christ?
2. Discipline yourselves. Be sober so you can give your full attention. We know that alcohol and other substances impair one’s abilities to drive, to think, to act. Other things can too. Last week less than a block from here a driver heard his cell phone ring. He reached for it. Next thing he knew he rear-ended the car in front of him. In your spiritual life, give your travel with God the attention it deserves. It may mean re-arranging your priorities so you can take time to meditate on God’s word or so you can gather with God’s people for study and prayer. If you get so busy during the week that you are too tired to get up for church, you are doing something wrong.
3. Set your hope on the grace of Jesus Christ. If you have committed yourself to Christ, you have driven a stake in the ground where you have started from. But that is not the end. Christians live in the future tense, with their eyes on the prize. As teenagers Sue and I dated for a couple of years. Then we announced our engagement. In that next year and a half we dreamed and planned what life would be like after we were married. Just as an engaged couple makes plans in light of their wedding, so as Christians we live with the expectation that one day we’ll meet Jesus face to face and hear him say, “Well done.” One who is holy lives with a future with Christ in mind.
4. Don’t be conformed to former desires. One of the threats to holiness is our past life, the ruts we used to be in. You may be old enough to remember what muddy roads were like. Cars on those roads made deep ruts for the wheels. You may have wanted to drive outside the rut, but because the road was soft and the ruts were deep, the car kept trying to fall into those ruts. You don’t stay out by focusing on the rut. You stay out of the rut by staying on higher ground. Sometimes the patterns from the way we used to live our lives pulls us back into the old ways. Those old impulses keep trying to interfere. Don’t let them do it, Peter warns. Head for higher ground.