OPEN: A woman was preparing to cash her husband’s paycheck when she realized her husband, hadn't signed it. So, she sent 4-year-old daughter upstairs to "get Daddy's name on the back of it." Her daughter came back downstairs and proudly handed the check back to her mom, and said, "I knew his name, so I did it myself."
On the back of the check, the little girl had printed, “D-A-D.” (Sheila Schultz, Wilmore, Kentucky, ChristianityToday.com 1/20/09)
The New Testament would often speak of God as our “Heavenly Father.” When Jesus taught His disciples how to pray, His prayer started with these words: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” Matthew 6:9
And when Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount He taught his followers that “the Gentiles seek after (earthly) things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” Matthew 6:32
And Paul wrote: “because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Galatians 4:6
Over and over again the New Testament speaks of God as being OUR FATHER. So when we get to I Peter --- God speaks to us - AS His children - “You shall be holy, for I am holy” I Peter 1:16
Jesus said something similar in Matthew 5:48 “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (See Footnote at end of sermon)
(PAUSE) Yeah right… like that’s going to happen. Yeah, I’m going to holy and perfect like God? I don’t think so!
But God seems to think that you and I can at least TRY to be like Him. I mean it’s not like you or I could ever HOPE to attain the status of being like God, but it should be our target to head in that direction.
ILLUS: When I was a boy, I idolized my dad. He was strong, self-assured, smart. I picked up my sense of humor and my trait of telling stories from him. I wanted to grow up to be just like my dad… but I was NEVER going to get that done. Dad was an athletic man who would often tell me how good he’d been at baseball and basketball when he was younger. In fact, he had once even been considered by Purdue University for a basketball scholarship. By contrast, on my best days, I struggled in little league and I was absolutely hopeless on the basketball floor. I was NOT athletic by any stretch of the imagination.
But my target was to be like my father. I tried to model myself after him. And in a way, I kind of succeeded because that was my goal.
Well that’s what the Bible is saying to us about becoming LIKE our heavenly Father. We should make it our goal/target to be like our heavenly Father. Or another way of saying it – “Grow Up To Be Like Your Father.”
So, here in I Peter we’re being told to be HOLY like my Father is HOLY. Grow up to be holy like your Father is holy. BUT how, do I do that? How could I be holy like God is?
Remember, to be Holy means to be “set apart.” It means to be different than I was when I didn’t belong to God.
Ephesians talks about this. Paul was writing to Gentiles who’d left paganism and had become Christians: “you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But THAT IS NOT the way you learned Christ!” Ephesians 4:17-20
So, they were called to be HOLY so that they would “no longer walk like the Gentiles.”
How were they to do that? Paul wrote “… PUT OFF your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to PUT ON the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:22-24
ILLUS: Have you ever worked out in the garden? You get all dirty, sweaty and grimy. In a couple hours you want to go out to dinner with friends. What do you need to do to get ready for that? Well, you need to TAKE OFF your dirty clothes and take a shower. Now - you’ve stepped out of the shower - are you ready to go?
Of course not! You need to put some clothes on. If you went out to eat right then, you’d be naked. They arrest people for things like that! It’s not enough to TAKE OFF the old clothes and clean yourself up, you have to PUT ON new clothes in their place. In the same way, it’s not enough for a Christian to STOP sinning we need to START doing something else. Take off the sin… put on holy living.
This is the concept of holiness. Take off your old way of living and put on a new, holy, way of life.
Now Ephesians gives us practical tips on how to take off our sinful past and put on holy lifestyle. For example - have you ever gotten angry? Of course you have. We all have. And sometimes we have a good reason to be angry. That’s why Ephesians 4:26 says “Be angry…” It’s OK to be angry once in a while.
But then it says “… do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” In other words, it’s ok to get mad once in a while, but HOLY people don’t let sin take control of their lives. HOLY People refuse to sin against people they’re angry with. In fact, HOLY people refuse to stay angry for very long. And just how long can holy people stay angry? That’s right - until the sun goes down.
And you know… that’s exactly what God does. Psalm 103:8-9 “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and full of faithful love. He will not always accuse us or be angry forever.”
Be holy as I am holy (God says) - holy people refuse to stay angry forever.
And God takes it one step further: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 4:31-5:2
Be Imitators Of God! (Did you catch that)? Take off the tendency to hang on to your anger and hurt, and put on God’s way of dealing with people you don’t like! Grow up to be like your heavenly Father. Love others as God - in Christ - loved you.
When you do that… people begin to see God IN YOU!!!
ILLUS: A proud father gave his 6-year-old daughter a great big hug and he looked in her eyes and he said “You know, you're cute--just like your father.” His daughter was silent for a moment. “You mean my heavenly Father… or you?” (Jane Stanford, Fort Fairfield, Me. "Kids of the Kingdom," Christian Reader)
The Bible tells us that when we imitate God, people can see Him IN US. Jesus said “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16
Now, the world doesn’t think like that (because God’s not their Father). When it comes to believing in Holiness (where God is the measure of what is holy) worldly people have been attacking that concept for generations.
The Bible teaches that there is an ABSOLUTE morality, and that absolute morality is based on God’s holiness. It’s not based on a set of rules and regulations. God’s holiness is based on HIM!!! He is the standard of holiness.
But many, in the intellectual ungodly world, reject God’s holiness (because they reject God) and try to substitute something called “MORAL RELATIVISM.” Have you ever heard of “Moral Relativism?” Moral relativism is the idea that there is NO absolute set of moral principles. What is right for YOU… may be different from what is right for ME. And YOU should not try to impose YOUR morality on ME. And I shouldn’t try to impose my morality on you. You’ve heard of that haven’t you?
ILLUS: A few years back when I had an email conversation with an atheist who believed that. He proudly stated that there were no moral absolutes. So I shared a story from US News and World Report where a college professor told of the problems he’d had with students who believed that. The professor was troubled that "10 to 20% of his students... acknowledge the Holocaust but can't bring themselves to say that killing millions of people is wrong.... 'Of course I dislike the Nazis,' one student said, 'but who is to say they are morally wrong?'"
Then the article went on to note that “some students are unwilling to oppose large moral horrors, including human sacrifice, ethnic cleansing, and slavery, because they think no one has the right to criticize the moral views of another group or culture." (John Leo, “US News & World Report” 1998)
And (I kid you not) this is how the atheist responded to me: “This is what makes it hard to condemn certain behaviors from certain points of view. From OUR point of view, Nazism was horrible. I live firmly in our point of view. But from THEIR point of view, it was acceptable. In fact, had they won the war, it would be the prevailing point of view. As they say, the victors write history, but they also write morals, values, and truths. After all, Christian morals and truths were once historically and socially insignificant, but when those people became predominant in certain parts of the world, their morals and values became predominant in those places. Nothing more, nothing less. … We live in our world, they live in theirs.”
Now how daffy is that?
What my atheist friend hadn’t realized was that Hitler wrote: “I freed Germany from the stupid and degrading fallacies of conscience and morality. …We will train young people before whom the world will tremble. I want young people capable of violence – imperious, relentless and cruel.” (Adolph Hitler posted this at Auschwitz - quoted in “Can Man Live Without God” by Ravi Zacharias, p. 23)
When you remove God from morality - that’s what you end up with.
ILLUS: When I was at Purdue University I discovered that many of my philosophy professors would attack Biblical morality by asking a student to give an example of a moral principle that was absolutely true all the time. And then they would systematically humiliate that student by proving that their moral statement was not absolutely true. Now, intuitively… I knew there was something wrong with that. But I just couldn’t figure out what it was. Then I realized that what these professors were saying was this: “There are ABSOLUTELY no moral ABSOLUTES.” In saying there were no absolutes, the professors were making an absolute statement of what they thought was absolutely true. And so their statement was absolutely absurd.
Now WHY were these professors so determined to undermine Biblical morality and holiness? Well, as long as students clung to their God and their Bible, these professors couldn’t REPROGRAM them to accept the professor’s viewpoints on life. Their view of life was diametrically opposed to God’s holiness and so, they had to undermine God in order to reshape the thinking of their students.
It’s kind of like what Satan did with Eve in the garden. Do you remember what Satan asked Eve? He asked: “Did God really say…?” Once he got eve to question God, then he could change her thinking… and the rest is history.
CLOSE: Did you realize God never argued with His people about right and wrong.
Someone once said: “The Ten Commandments were written on stone, not in metal, clay, or mud which can be melted, shaped or molded. None of the commandments, like the tablets on which they were originally carved, is malleable. Each can be broken, but not altered.” (Timothy P. Buchanan, “Christian Standard” 9/2/01)
In other words – when God set up HIS holiness, it wasn’t open to debate. God wasn’t going to argue with us about it. In fact, when God gave His commandments at Sinai the sky was filled with thundering and lightning… there was a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled.” The people were terrified…
Why would God scare them that way? Because God was saying: “these commandments aren’t YOURS… they’re mine. You don’t get to vote on them. You don’t get to haggle over which ones you like and which you don’t. I AM A HOLY GOD, and I HAVE CALLED YOU TO BE A HOLY PEOPLE”
God says, “I AM the standard of what is HOLY and what is not” and He then he tells us to be holy like He is holy. And if we love Him, that’s what we’ll want in our lives. We’ll want to grow up to be like our heavenly Father. But you can’t do that if you don’t first belong to Him.
Footnote: The word "Perfect" that Jesus uses when He said we should be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect is the Greek word "telios." There are people who read this and think Jesus is saying we need to be "sinless" as God is. But, that's not really what the word means.
We find "telios" showing up again in Hebrews 5:14 where we're told "solid food is for the mature (telios)..." The Greek word telios means "complete"... or (as in Hebrews) "mature."
Essentially, when Jesus says that we should be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect he is saying we should grow up to be like our Heavenly Father. We should seek to imitate Him in our lives.