1 Peter 1:13-23
As we begin our last week in the series ‘Uncomfortable,” I wanted to give you a few things to think about right away when it comes to the concept of being uncomfortable.
What makes you really uncomfortable?
Trying new things?
Meeting new people?
Starting a new job?
Starting a new school?
Moving to a new place?
Having confrontational conversations?
I would like to assume that we all find different things to be uncomfortable for us. Because we are different our answers will all be varied.
The Christian life can be uncomfortable. We are promised suffering in scripture, but we are also promised that with that suffering will come a relationship with the Prince of Peace.
The cross is an uncomfortable subject. I spoke on this pretty graphically two weeks ago and even had some feedback about how it was a bit heavy for a Sunday morning service. Because the truth of the cross is uncomfortable.
Church is uncomfortable. If you’re new or you’ve been here for years, at some point church made you uncomfortable in some way.
People are uncomfortable. Relationships guarantee discomfort and challenges, but we are meant to live in community with one another. To share each other’s joys and sorrows, to help bear burdens and share pains.
One of the hardest truths of the uncomfortableness of being a believer is the fact that all of these areas and our responses to them all begin and end with us.
What do I mean by that?
The Christian life is uncomfortable, and we are promised suffering, but how we respond to that suffering depends on us. The cross is uncomfortable, but how we respond to the truths of the cross depends on us.
Church is uncomfortable, but we choose whether or not we want to commit ourselves fully to a church the way God told us to, or if we will hide behind the excuse of how difficult church is to give us what we believe is a valid reason to choose not to have church be a priority in our lives.
People are uncomfortable. But the way we treat people and how we choose to respond to their treatment of us depends on us. Scripture tells us that it’s up to us to live at peace with those around us.
Every biblical concept begins and ends with how we choose to live. How we choose to respond to the cross, to the truths of the Bible, and the people whom God has placed in our lives.
Today we are going to talk about uncomfortable holiness.
#1- Holy = Different
1 Peter 1:13-23
13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy because I am holy.”[a]
17 Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through him, you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.
22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. [b] 23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.
Peter is emphasizing a simple truth for the Christian life.
Salvation came at the expense of the life of Jesus. Because of salvation, we have been freely given the gift of grace. Because these two things are true, we need to live lives that honor and please God because it’s what you’re supposed to do, and it impacts the lives of people around us.
Holiness is not a word we typically enjoy. It makes us think of expectations that we cannot meet. But God has commanded us to be holy and we cannot ignore that truth.
The root meaning of the word translated “holy” is “different.”
We spent about 6 of the last 12 months in this church going through the Sermon on the Mount with the overarching theme of that series being “as Christians we are called to be different.”
You might be wondering then why it is that I feel the need to talk about it again. Well, because the being different, being a light in the darkness, being the salt of the earth, no longer being conformed to the patterns of this world, being holy is something we are commanded to do and sometimes we are really bad at
The church and Christians have often struggled with how to best represent Christ. For years churches pushed believers to live up to standards that were not biblical in order to keep themselves separated from the ugliness of sin and the people who chose to live that way. In an effort to achieve holiness the church promoted legalism that was not biblical and was so difficult to achieve that it pushed people away from the church. But since then in our “efforts to avoid legalism,” we have “abused Christian liberty. Because who wants to be prudish or lumped in with the hypocritical, holier-than-thou evangelicals so despised by society? No one.”
Hypocrisy is a huge reason for why we are uncomfortable with the idea of holiness. We have witnessed hypocrisy in the lives of so many people that it makes us believe that there’s no hope of living a holy life. We have all seen someone “talk to talk” but not “walk the walk.” We have all witnessed people who claim to be Christians and then do not live like Christians.
There’s a line somewhere that we cross over when mentally and spiritually, we decide that we want to be a bit more like the world because being a Christian, being different, being salt and light is sometimes uncomfortable and the last thing we want people to think of us is that we are hypocritical in some way. So, it’s easier to say, “I’m just a mess” and keep living our lives in the way we see fit. A life that looks somewhat like what the Bible says a believer looks like but not too “Christian” that we look weird to the people of the world.
What’s the problem with this?
It’s not what God told us to do.
“The pursuit of holiness” “involves the acknowledgment of sin and the necessity of repentance.”
Holiness involves us taking a good look at our lives as letting God be honest with us about the things in our lives that aren’t pleasing to Him. And that is sometimes ugly. Because sometimes we are a mess and we make bad choices. Sometimes we say the wrong thing, and think the wrong thing, and do the wrong thing and sometimes we sin. The question at that time will always be, what do we do now?
Because the answer to that question determines whether you are going to strive for holiness or just be OK with living a life that only slightly reflects the qualities of a true follower of Jesus.
Listen, I know this is some intense stuff right here, but I need you to understand where I’m coming from with this. It is our responsibility to live lives that look like the life of Jesus. When we do it we are following the commands of God and we are putting ourselves in a position where God can use us to show his truth to people who are lost in darkness.
We cannot take that lightly. We are a mess. We will sin. We will mess up, but we have to decide that we won’t stay there in our sin that we will acknowledge our sin to God and work to change so that we don’t continue to sin.
After salvation, our lives should not only be different than our past way of life, but they should also be different from the unbelievers around us. Because “true salvation always results in obedience.” (Wiersbe, 396)
Warren Wiersbe says it this way “God will give us many gifts as privileges as we grow in the Christian life, but He will never give us the privilege to disobey and sin.”
We often reference the fact that Jesus “meets us where we’re at,” but then we ignore the fact that “he doesn’t want us to stay where we are.” “We must believer in change.” “In the personal, moral, crucified-with-Christ sense.” We cannot just continue to be “who we are” when salvation does not allow us to remain unchanged by God.
#2- God loves us so much that He always gives us what we need to avoid sin
1 Corinthians 10:12-13
12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation[c] has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted[d] beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted,[e] he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
Paul gives a warning here to the Corinthian church. Before this scripture, he reminds them of the history of Israel and reminds them that the people of God have not always been good at following the commands of God even though he gave them everything they needed to follow him. And he wants them to take a minute and check themselves. He’s saying, don’t be too confident in your ability to live a holy life without the help of God, but remember he does give you what you need in order to do so.
Temptation is part of a Christian life. You will be tempted to sin more times than you could ever count. Temptation is not sin. We sin when we give in to temptation. I know that’s not new information to many of you. The part that we sometimes wish wasn’t there is the part that says God will not only keep us from being tempted beyond what we can handle but when we face temptation God will always provide us a way to say no to that temptation, therefore, giving us a surefire way to avoid sin.
So why do we sin? Because we choose to. No one can force you to sin. Each time you have sinned in your life you have made a conscious decision to go against the word of God. And so have I. You know exactly what I’m talking about too. You know of all the times that you’ve been tempted to do, say, or think something that is sinful, and you know that God has provided you a chance to avoid the sin but you did it anyway.
We will “never come to a place in our Christian walk where we are free from temptation and potential failure.” Temptation will always be there. But God will always be there too, providing us with a way to say no to temptation and keep ourselves from sin.
Warren Wiersbe tells this story “I heard about a pastor who gave a series of sermons on “The Sins of the Saints.” One member of the church, apparently under conviction, disapproved of the series and told the pastor so. “After all,” she said, “sin I the life of a Christian is different from sin in the life of an unsaved person.” “Yes, it is,” the pastor replied. “It’s worse.”
Paul gave the Corinthians examples of sin from the lives of the Israelites and warned them to not repeat those mistakes and remember that sinning against the law like the Israelites did, is one thing; “to sin against grace is quite something else.”
Grace was freely given to us at the cost of the life of Jesus and we choose still, to sin.
“God permits us to be tempted because He knows how much we can take, and He always provides a way to escape if we trust Him and take advantage of it.” (Wiersbe,596)
How many times will we continue to ignore God’s “way out” that he provides us when we are tempted?
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been on the verge of giving in to a temptation and I can sense God telling me, this is your way out Kristin. This is the chance to change the subject and not say that thing you want to say. This is your way out to not think that thing you want to think. Kristin, this is your way out to not give into temptation and sin. And so many times I’ve responded in my heart to God like this, thanks God, I really do appreciate it and I understand what you’re doing here, but I have to say this. Next time give me the way out again and I promise that time I’ll take it. It happened this week. I can really only speak for myself on this one, but I might be able to assume that this happens to our other pastors as well, when you prep for a message and try to teach a biblical truth, you will be tested and tempted in the area of what you’re speaking on. If we are going to speak on patience, guess what, leading up to that message we will have our patience tested. For me this past week I had multiple times where temptation came along and I will be honest with you, I didn’t always take me way out. Why? Because there are still times when I let my flesh take over and choose to ignore God. But the question remains, what do I do after that? How do I make it right? I confess my sin, ask for forgiveness, and be fully honest with myself…this can’t keep happening. I can’t keep allowing sin into my life. I cannot be the person God intended for me to be if I keep doing this.
You and I cannot be the people God intended for us to be if we keep saying, next time God. Keep giving me those ways out and one of these days I’ll take it. We cannot be people who continually compromise and choose to sin. We have to allow God to speak to us in those moments and we have to choose to be better next time. We need to call sin what it is, sin and decide that we no longer want it to be a consistent part of our lives. Why?
#3- People need us to be the best example of Jesus that we can be.
We will struggle with sin at times. We will fail at times. But we need to strive for holiness because people are relying on us to be Jesus to them. When we strive for holiness and live lives that are different we can effectively be a witness to the people who need to hear about Jesus.
“When we blend in when our boundaries are blurred or disappear altogether, our light in the darkness fades. Our salt loses its saltiness.” When we live like the world we don’t offer them anything that’s different than what they already have. No one will be attracted to the idea of Jesus if the person offering Him is no different than the person searching for him.
The author of “Uncomfortable” puts it this way. “The more Christians look, talk, act, and believe like the culture around us, the less interested others will be in what we have to offer. Why would anyone go to church and bother with Christianity is it is only a replica of the sorts of things they can find at the mall, movie theater, community center, or nightclub? It is the different-ness of the gospel, not its hipness, that changes lives and transforms the world.”
We have the inside information that people need in order for their lives to be transformed for the better and still we choose to allow sin to reign in our lives because it’s easier or because it’s more popular or whatever the reason may be.
For Christians, there is discomfort in being different but it’s for the sake of the mission, it’s for the good of those who are still lost in darkness and separated from the God who created them and has just as much of a plan and purpose for them as he does for us.
We are called to be different. Salvation and the grace and mercy that God gives us should compel us to live lives of holiness. Holy is different. Holy is being different than the world.
Sin is sin. Sin is what separates us from God. We have to choose to remove sin from our lives. We have to look at sin for what it really is, disobedience to the God who gave his son for us. God loves us so much that he offers us a chance to say no to sin, but we have to choose to take the way out he provides and work to continue to be holy, to be different.
Because people are depending on us. Quite literally, there are people who will remain lost in darkness forever if we don’t try our very best to be people who shine a light for them to see that the thing that’s been missing in their lives all along has been a relationship with Jesus.
So what does that mean for us today?
It means we choose. We choose to live holy lives that are different from the world that show that there’s something that happened to us that changed us in such a way that it is evident in the way we live.
We choose to stop sinning. We choose to take the way out that God provides when we are tempted. We choose to make a change and refuse to remain in our sin because Jesus didn’t give his life on the cross for us to remain in sin.
We choose to do these things so that others can see the work of the Father in us and recognize that the things that make us different are the things of God and that we have the answer for their questions and we have the thing that’s been missing in their lives all along.
What will you choose to do? Who will you choose to be?
This series by Pastor Kristin is based on the book, Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community.