Summary: Holiness and fear of God seem to go hand in hand in this passage. But why should I "fear God" and what difference does it make when I do?
OPEN: You may have heard the story of some children at a Catholic school who were lined up for lunch at the cafeteria. At the head of the table was a large pile of apples. A nun had made a note: "Take only one, God is watching." At the other end of the table was a large plate of chocolate chip cookies. One of the youngsters had taped a note to the plate that said: "Take all you want, God is watching the apples."
APPLY: The past couple of weeks we’ve been talking about “holiness.” Holiness is the idea that we are set apart for God. When God makes US holy, that means God has set us apart for salvation. When we believed in Jesus, repented of our sins, confessed Jesus as our Lord and Master and were baptized into Christ, we were made holy - set apart to be His children.
And when God says WE should make ourselves holy – He means that He expects us to live differently than the world around us. And that’s what THIS passage is all about.
Notice what God tells us here: "You shall be holy, for I am holy." (1 Peter 1:16) In other words BE DIFFERENT from the world around you. But why should we want to do that? What is it that should MOTIVATE us to be holy and be different from the world?
ILLUS: I recently talked with a young person who asked if homosexuality was a sin. It was obvious that they had accepted homosexuality as their “life-style” and were wanting me to get in an argument with them. I focused on telling them that God loved them, but that lifestyle would hurt them… and that was one of the reasons that lifestyle is called sin.
It occurred to me that this person was NOT a Christian. It didn’t matter to them that God would not be happy with their choice. If they loved God… then this would matter to them and they would stop doing what they were doing because they knew it would upset Him. But they didn’t love God.
Now ideally that’s why we should do what we do in life. We should seek to be holy because we LOVE GOD!!!
I BELIEVE that that is why I John 4:18 says “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” We should be so motivated by our love of God that we want to please Him in all we do.
When that happens… we won’t be afraid of being near Him. Hebrews 10:19 says it this way “… we have CONFIDENCE to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus…”
And yet - here in THIS passage - God tells us that we should “…conduct yourselves with fear…” I Peter 1:17
Fear? Fear about what? Well, let’s look at some other passages in the New Testament.
Revelation 14:7 “(An angel) said in a loud voice, ‘FEAR GOD and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.’”
2 Corinthians 7:1 “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the FEAR OF GOD.”
1 Peter 2:17 “Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, FEAR GOD, honour the king.”
Fear God? Really?
You know, there’s a lot of theologians who have a problem with “fearing God.” They’ll change the word fear – to “REVERE God” or “HOLD HIM IN AWE.” It takes the sting out of the idea of “fearing God” because they just don’t like that idea that we should fear God. It’s kind of intimidating.
So (just for you) I looked the word up in the Greek. In each of those passages the Greek word is “phobos.” That’s the Greek word from which we get “phobia.” What does phobia mean? “Phobia” means “fear.” Phobia does NOT MEAN revere or hold in awe. It means FEAR!
OK, but why should I fear God? Well, here’s the problem. Ideally, I should be holy because I LOVE God, but too often people tend to get lazy in their relationship with God.
ILLUS: One of my friends put it this way: “We must never get so comfortable with our holy God that we forget the important part of our relationship. He was, is, and always will be in control.” (Ryan Llewellyn)
In other words: God is God… and we’re not.
If we forget that, we can begin to think that God will be happy no matter what we do. We’re part of God’s team, so He’ll overlook MY sins. So, I can eat all the cookies I want because God likes ME, and (frankly) He’s paying more attention to the apples anyway.