Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking…so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. (1 Peter 4:1-2)
Throughout scripture, the word “holy” pops up. One of the most challenging edicts God levies on His people the Israelites is, “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.” (Leviticus 19:2) It’s a challenge because of the perception of what it means to be holy. In the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew records Jesus’s words, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” and as such, people often equate holiness with perfection.
It’s not a difficult thing to buy into. Reading the Bible, one finds there are many acts God encourages His people to perform and many He warns His people to avoid. There aren’t major mental gymnastics that have to take place in order to see that God wants His people to behave in a certain way and that not doing so has consequences.
But underneath this call to a distinct way of life, God has a purpose. Some would say that it is a two-fold purpose and I would argue that ultimately the purpose is singular – the spread of God’s fame and glory upon the earth.
Let’s wander down the track together for a moment or two, shall we?
I have a dear friend who reminds me constantly that God is in the business of bringing God glory. It’s easy to read that and think that God is a glory hound in the image of a defensive end drawing attention to himself after sacking the quarterback in a “WOO! Look at me! Look at what I just did!” kind of display. But that’s not what’s is meant by God being in the business of bringing Himself glory.
The reality is that God alone is glorious. Many worship the created things of this world, but the creator is beyond all of them. God alone is worthy of being glorified and magnified. In fact, the goal of the Christian life is to bring God glory – “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
So, how is God glorified by living this distinctly holy life?
Peter writes that the believer is to “arm [themselves] with the same way of thinking” as Christ in order to live on this earth for the will of God. Jesus suffered in “the flesh”, a human being. He suffered ridicule and persecution and ultimately death.
But it was purposeful.
Christ didn’t suffer in the flesh needlessly.
Earlier in his letter, Peter wrote, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” (1 Pt. 2:21) Jesus’s suffering is part payment for sin and part demonstration of holiness.
It may be that you or I will suffer ridicule or be reviled if we live a distinctly holy life, but our purpose cannot be the part of Christ’s purpose of paying for sins. Jesus alone was capable of making a suitable payment for that. That leaves us with the reality that our holy lifestyle must be the example.
Being called to a holy lifestyle necessitates taking up a Christ-like way of thinking about the end result of that lifestyle. Once one receives grace, one does not become “more saved” when one aligns with God’s standards. The Christ-like mindset comes in understanding the purpose of that sanctification – being an example for others.
Few things damage a person’s witness to Christ more quickly than a life that is not distinct from the culture around it.
Christian, live the for rest of your time in the will of God, not fulfilling your wants.
May God be glorified through Jesus Christ.
To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever.