For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. ~Ephesians 2:8-10
We know that the gospel is all about grace – receiving something we could never deserve because of the eternal love of our Creator God and the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. That grace is the foundation for a divine tension between God’s initiation and our responsibility. I believe with my whole heart that God is the initiator and the pursuer of His children. I believe that even the faith we have to believe and cry out to Him for salvation comes from Him. I also believe that He has created us for good works – things that require action on our part. Therein lies a massively beautiful relationship.
Studying through 1 Peter we see some of the ways in which we are exhorted to live. In the first chapter alone we are commanded to:
-prepare your mind for action (1:13)
-be sober minded [sober in spirit] (1:13)
-set your hope fully on grace (1:13)
-conduct yourselves with fear (1:17)
-love one another earnestly (1:22)
As the book goes on, the commands only get harder and more invasive! I encourage you to take the time to go through 1 Peter and write down every imperative given. Trust me, it’s overwhelming! How can any of us really live this way?
The truth is, there are no formulas. Our God works in transcendent ways that we cannot predict or presume to dictate. His process for preparing each person for good works and then moving them into the works He has prepared is beautifully unique. But what is our part to play? How do I live a holy life, my conduct pleasing to the Lord, without simply following rules? Is holiness about more than doing certain things and not doing other things?
as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
1 Peter 1:15-16
True, lasting, holy conduct can only become a reality when we have had a true encounter with our holy God. The holiness of God is a divine quality of “other-ness”, the weight of which I don’t think we will be fully be able grasp until we stand before His throne.
But His call to be holy because He is holy stands as an invitation to know Him.
We will be holy, because He is holy. Our holiness must begin with His holiness. And so our primary desire in walking in holy conduct must be to encounter God in His holiness.
Let’s look at Isaiah’s vision of the throne room of God, from Isaiah chapter 6.
In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of His robe filled the temple. 2Above Him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3And one called to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
the whole earth is full of His glory!”
4And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”
When Isaiah saw the Lord, he immediately responded. And I don’t think it was a matter of protocol for him! When Isaiah cried out “Woe is me!” I can only imagine that his knees hit the ground! His posture became one of humility, and his heart was broken for his own sin and the sin of the world around him.
Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” 8And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”
At the moment of Isaiah’s awe-inspiring encounter with God, and the removal of his guilt (which happens to us now at salvation), Isaiah’s commission was a “no-brainer”. He had seen the holiness of God. He knew he belonged to this God! Giving of his life to God’s purpose was not merely a “good work” but a passionate privilege.
When we gaze upon the holiness of God we will respond with worship. And worship is not just singing songs together on Sunday morning, it is all of life surrendered in adoration of God because of who He is and what He has done.
When we live this way there are no more lists of dos and don’ts. There is only a life lived in a posture of humility and surrendered to the will and leading of our holy God! Then, in times of suffering in this world, we will not be tempted to abandon our faith or run away. Instead, we can steady our feet on the rock of the eternal word of God and bear up under the weight of adversity with joy. We have seen our holy God! We have set our hope fully on His grace! We have an imperishable inheritance that will not fade away! We are His and nothing can snatch us out of His hand!
This month we have seen 21 examples of living a holy life. These men were not perfect. They were broken vessels just like you and me. And yet, the evidence of their holy surrender flows red in the Mediterranean Sea. As they partake now of the Heavenly inheritance prepared for them, may God grant each of us the same image of Himself, that will compel us in His name, even unto death.
And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,
“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”
And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who is seated on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”
Live Free. Live Loved.