“For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy” – Leviticus 11:44
14As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY” – 1 Peter 1
I can recall, very clearly, listening to a sermon on this phrase “Be holy for I am holy”, and the pastor using this as a platform to preach on personal morality. In fact, this is not completely out of line with the original intention found in Leviticus. The idea of being separate and consecrated to God is sobering and appealing to Christians.
It’s sobering, because the requirements for Israel’s holiness were demanding and difficult. These requirements could also be distasteful to the average person. And, if these requirements were not met, severe punishments were in place for the individual as well as the group. Sometimes, the punishment was death.
The parameters of life were clearly set in place for the nation and the individual. The consequences of disobedience could be seen in the books which followed. It brings home the phrase, “God is not mocked” (Galatians 6:7).
1 Peter 1 follows a similar line. It’s important to note that Peter is drawing a direct parallel to his instruction of the Church (the New Israel; Eph. 2:15-16) from the instruction of the nation of Israel (through Moses). He is claiming his authority, and the consecrated nature of a nation which is the body of Christ.
All of this doesn’t make the requirements Peter gives any easier. Think about this, “Do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance”. Ok. I get it. Peter wants me to stop drinking, smoking, seeing the local prostitute (or, some seemingly lesser internet option). He wants me to stop with the ‘dirty’ lifestyle. No more cursing, no more lusting, no more cheating, lying, belittling, gossiping, backstabbing, etc. I get it. He wants me to be a good boy. I’ll give it my best effort.
Then, we try. We start to live out our principles by avoiding this behavior and that place. We stop talking with this person, looking at this website, or taking a second glance at that woman’s rear end. We start to slip a little. We re-double our efforts. This is my sanctification, right? I mean, if Peter said it, then God means it!! Come on, What would Jesus do?
So, we take the next step by removing the person’s number out of our phone list, or we get a personal internet security guard to keep us out. We akwardly twist our head to avoid using our roving eyes. We try to recognize when someone is about to commit character assasination, and call them on the carpet for it. And then, if we aren’t perfect, we have the human habit of self-justifying. We excuse our own behavior as long as we’re keeping it clean 92% of the time.
But this isn’t God’s requirement. His requirement, more importantly, His nature is Holiness. Remember, our God is an All Consuming Fire. God will not be mocked. You may be able to pull off what you think is righteous living, but then, so did the rich young ruler.
Eventually, all those requirements and regulations will drive you to one of two places: despair/hopelessness of ever fulfilling God’s requirements, or delusion that you are pulling it off. God does not require an ‘almost perfect’ holiness. God requires you to be perfectly holy in all your behavior from conception in the womb until the day you die. If you commit one lie, one act of cheating, one excuse for your behavior, or one judgment of another Christian, you are a sinner (Welcome to the club!).
On the other hand, if you are despairing and hopeless, I have this Word for you: “It is finished”. You see, Jesus did not just die for your sin. Jesus died for your guilt. Jesus died for your failings. And, the worse, the better. Christ talks about those who have been forgiven much love much. In fact, Jesus died for
And, while blood usually stains a sponge, Christ’s blood is the sponge which has absorbed all of your failings and attempts at personal morality. He has even completely wiped out our pride in the works we have done. Because Christ Jesus has fulfilled all of the laws demands, We have been fully and truly Justified! And, our life is hidden in Him.
To Jesus Christ be the Glory, now and forever!