1 Peter 1:13-16 Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
While meditating on this passage recently, I was reminded of a portion of the William Shakespeare play Hamlet. I must confess, that I have never seen a stage version of “Hamlet” or made it through even a small amount of one of the very boring movies based on the play. Despite that fact, like most people, I am familiar with the famous line, “To be or not to be, that is the question” (uttered as Hamlet holds a skull), from the play. This is what kept running through my mind, while looking at “Be holy for I am holy” from I Peter 1:13-16.
Both statements are statements based on ones existence. From “Hamlet” the troubled prince was attempting to deal with whether to take revenge or let a cruel act go unpunished–whether to go after a desired love or wallow in unsatisfied desire–to live in misery or to take his own life… “To be or not to be, that is the question”. To continue to exist as is or change the game.
“Be holy, for I am holy” is a phrase of existence, make no mistake about it. We Christians are commanded to be holy, in more than this one passage, but in I Peter 1:16, the call to being holy is so clear as to be explicitly obvious. As I thought on this reality, what became clear to me is that for many Christians in America “Be holy, for I am holy” is more often than not framed as a question, not a command… “To be or not to be holy that is the question”.
Let’s be honest, in many places in America, the phrase “be holy for I am holy” has left many confused from a lack of understanding as to what it means to actually be holy. To others, they are satisfied declaring “I am holy in His sight, by Jesus blood. I need no more holiness than that”. Yet staying at that particular place is a self imposed limit, which will leave a person deceived and exposed to the enemy, through religious pride. This eventually leads to a denial of the very “holy” we claim to be.
Make no mistake though, some have taught a holiness based on legalistic man made rules so much, that it has caused the confused and the satisfied to knee jerk harder into their prospective dispositions. We need a clear and word of God understanding of what to “Be holy, for I am holy” means, and it is two-fold…  a permanent new creation disposition before God, that only God can produce, through Christ’s finished work.  To understand that we are called to live out that disposition with greater depth of action with each passing day.
Make no mistake, this is a most important issue with the cultural framework of the Church in America, for a lack of holiness defies the message of the cross of Christ, which is not merely forgiveness of sins, but a gospel of the power of God to change the nature of the man from sinner to saint–from practitioner of unrighteousness to a soul overflowing with the righteousness of Christ in action. Therefore to “Be holy, as I am holy” or walk in holiness is a life long and required course of all who follow Jesus Christ.
In fact, our pursuit of a walk in holiness ought to be our greatest desire; dare I say more than the desire to evangelize. Truth be told our desire to share the gospel grows out of a desire for holiness, because to be holy, we must draw near the One who is alone holy. In this drawing near, not only do we see what needs practical changing in our lives, but also we gain more of a working knowledge of God’s heart; and a desire to share that with those who have yet to experience the depth of purity and love of His heart.
Keith Green’s well know song “Lord, You are Beautiful” communicates this truth well…
“Lord please light the fire, which once burned bright and clean, replace the lamp of my first love, that burns with holy fear…”
“I want to take you word and shine it all around, but help me first just to live it Lord”
Once more, we ought to have a desire for holiness as the foundation of our Christian character and activity, because an unholy life (practically speaking) contradicts the message of the power of the cross of Jesus Christ. We see this in the “Be” of our passage, which carries with it the idea of not just a positional holiness before God, by Christ’s shed blood, but also a continual, progressively growing holiness in heart, thought, word, and deed. Only a heart that desires to “be holy” will draw near the HOLY One who is “I Am”.
THE PURE IN HEART
Hebrews 12:14-15 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;
In a section of the word of God, written to encourage believers to submit to being disciplined by God our Father, the writer gives the above admonition. Being that these believers were under growing persecution, they are encouraged to “pursue peace with all men“, rather than retaliating to their enemies evil acts against them. They are told as well to pursue “holiness without which none should see the Lord“. To not pursue holiness would leave them with the potential to “fall short of the grace of God” in their lives and allow a ” root of bitterness” to spring up and defile, rather than purify others. This passage connects with Jesus’ most definitive teaching on holiness, from the Beatitudes in Matthew chapter five.
Make no mistake that as the Beatitudes are characteristics of children of the kingdom of God, they are also a primer of what it means to be filled with God’s Holy Spirit. Briefly…
- (5:3) Having poverty of spirit, means a person is a ware of their sinfulness before the holy one true God. In a Christian this grows to an awareness of our absolute dependence on the Holy Spirit.
- (5:4) To mourn for one’s sinful and weak condition apart from God and that of others.
- (5:5) To be meek, means that we submit to the one who has mastered us. The Greek word is a picture of a stallion who has been broken and tamed by the master or rider. For us this means we surrender our will for the will of God, although we have no power to do that will outside of Him.
These first three make up the necessary condition of a person, who will become more than just right in the sight of God, by Christ’s shed and justifying blood. This condition gives birth to a hunger and thirst for what is outside of our human experience and the very thing that will change our very nature and lead to the reality of being actively holy.
Matthew 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.
- (5:6) “hungering and thirsting for righteousness” leads to the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and our continuing to be filled subsequently, for “they shall be filled” (Ephesians 5:18).
Let us remember that the word “righteousness” in this passage does not refer to being made right by faith. Here it means “equity of character and action”. In our terminology this simply means that the more we surrender, the more righteousness grows inside our lives; which will be seen by all. This righteousness is the character and action of Jesus Himself by the Holy Spirit. This is of great importance, for the following four Beatitudes would be impossible without the fullness of Christ’s Spirit.
- (5:7) The merciful respond with love of enemy, rather than bitterness.
- (5:8) The pure in heart are able to see God, more and more.
- (5:9) Therefore the pure in heart are able to make peace, between men and God, as they reveal Christ through power, word, and deed.
- (5:10-12) As a result these are squeezed with persecution, but out comes more love, peace, mercy and JOY!
Where this all intersects with “Be holy, for I am holy” is in Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”. Our Lord’s statement lines up perfectly with our need to pursue “a life of holiness, without which none should see the Lord“.
A holy life, begins with a heart that is pure. We are unable to purify our own hearts, so thank God for Jesus’ cross and resurrection, whereby when we repent and place our faith in Christ revealed, through the word of God, we are made “new creations” in Christ; not just cleaner versions of the old. In this we see holiness begins with God, as does all other things in our faith life, but for holiness to grow (remember what “Be” in “Be holy” means), we must continue to pursue holiness, by drawing near to the one who alone is HOLY. Yes, we have a very important role to walk in.
2 Corinthians 3:18 – 4:2 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.
This passage is so very important for it reveals how we draw near to “I Am” who is holy and what the results are. In the first place we see in verse 18 how we pursue the Holy one in the secret place, by the word of God and prayer. The “image” we are “transformed” into, is that of the Christ, whom we see in the word of God and encounter in our seeking of His presence. Note this being “transformed” is the outgrowing of the “new creation” we are at the point of being born again.
Secondly, we note that this being “transformed” leads us to “renounce” the ways and practices of our old life”, which in turn becomes the very reason we stand out in the conscience of “every man’s”. So once more “Be holy, for I am holy” is more than just being declared not guilty by God and ready for our one day arrival in heaven. It is to be a powerful and living reality that all men see. It is to be a testimony that Christ is risen from the dead and His resurrection power is clearly on display in our “Be holy”.
This leaves us with what A.W. Tozer describes “The Paradox of the Christian Life”…
In God’s presence he feels overwhelmed and undone, yet there is nowhere he would rather be than in that presence. He knows that he has been cleansed from his sin, yet he is painfully conscious that in his flesh dwells no good thing.
Tozer declares that our chief delight is to draw near to God, while as we draw near we see so often what is not yet practically holy in ourselves, yet like gluttons for punishment, we draw near anyway. This is really true, for sure. In one way our highest joy is to seek the company of the One who is LOVE, yet His love is ablaze with His Holiness. This HOLINESS, reveals all the dross of the “old man” which still needs to be refined. It is my conclusion, this is why we either accept a positional holiness or walk confused about the true nature of “Be holy, for I am holy”.
In my next post, we will dive deeper in the God who alone is perfect in BEING HOLY. Until then, I challenge you to ask God to reveal how important being holy is to you.