Summary: Our response to the grace we have received through the risen Christ, new birth and living hope of eternal life, is holy living.
Last week on Easter Sunday we focused on the resurrection of Jesus. We looked at how the resurrection of Jesus changed everything. People who encountered the resurrected Jesus were completely changed. One disciple in particular, Simon Peter, had abandoned Jesus in his hour of need, along with Jesus’ other disciples, and then went on to deny knowing Jesus three times. We shared last week that he likely experienced guilt, discouragement, despair, self-loathing, disappointment, fear. He was defeated, downcast, scared, cowering in a locked room. But when he encountered the risen Jesus his life was changed forever. Jesus forgave him, restored him, and filled him with God’s Holy Spirit. In Peter’s own first letter to Christian believers in the Bible, he is able to say, “praise be to God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth and living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Just like Peter every one of us can receive new birth or new life because Jesus is risen. New birth is more than just a fresh start on life, it is even more than just being forgiven of all our sins, as awesome as that it, God actually transforms us from the inside out. He gives us a new life. It means hatred and bitterness are replaced with love, anxiety is replaced with peace, our sorrow is replaced joy, and our loneliness is filled with God’s presence. And that is just the beginning. Living hope is the promise we have of eternal life with God.
Now that you have tasted this new life, having praised God with this wonderful Good News of Jesus’ resurrection, Peter continues in his letter to share with Christian believers what it means to live (or how not to live) our new life in Christ. Since we have received God’s gracious gift, now what? How should we live?
Be holy Because God is Holy
The first thing he says in verse 13 is “Prepare your minds for action.” He’s saying we need to be mentally prepared. Prepared for what? Prepared for action. We need to be to do whatever God asks us to do—ready to obey, follow, and speak. In the old life, we did whatever we wanted to do, whenever we wanted to do it. In the new life we have in Christ we are ready at all times to go and do what God wants. The Christian life isn’t about sitting back and watching life go by. It’s about sitting at the feet of Jesus, and when he reveals to us what he wants us to do we go and do it. Christians tend to have one of two problems, we either run around being so busy doing things Jesus never asked us to do (even though they may be good things) getting burned out because we fail to sit at the feet of Jesus, preparing our minds, praying, listening, getting ready. Or we sit at the feet of Jesus, and sit at the feet of Jesus, and sit at the feet of Jesus. We absorb his words from the Bible, we pray, and pray, but we never do the action part, actually being the hands and feet of Jesus.
If we are in neither of those camps we are in danger because our life has lost its focus on the one who has given us life and we have gone back to living it for ourselves. We have become a casualty of war by falling back into our old me-first lifestyle. Peter says we need to “be self-controlled” or self-disciplined is another word for this. Self-control means we don’t do everything that is available to us just because we can, instead we monitor and restrain our desires (whether they are material, sexual), anger, and words. I realize this is counter cultural because we live in a society where people would rather live by the motto, “if it feels good, do it,” which is incredibly self-centered and destructive. Without self-control we become pulled around like a horse with a bridle to every temptation that comes along. Two other times in Peter’s letter he writes about being self-controlled, the first reference is so we can pray (4:7), and the second time he says we need self-control because without it we will become a casualty to the devil who prowls around like a lion waiting to pick off the weak (5:8). Why would we desire self-control? It is because we are holding out for God’s best. The world and Satan are always going to work against God’s way, so we better be prepared and self-controlled.
Peter wrote this letter because he was concerned that Christians had received the gift of new life, but because of whatever hardships they were facing, some Christians had already become casualties. They returned to the lifestyle they lived before. Peter warns his readers in verse 14, “do not conform (or return) to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.” In Peter’s second letter he was more blunt and crude. He said, “Of them [the people who return to their old lifestyle] the proverbs are true: "A dog returns to its vomit," and, "A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud." (2 Pet. 2:22)