There’s just nothing better. You know that feeling when all of the laundry is done, no emails remain in your inbox, and everything is crossed off your to-do list – and you think, “Yes, I’m nailing it.” If you’re anything like me, you experience this sense of achievement, of completion, of control – and then when your husband, or your boss, or your friend praises you for it, the desire for approval and praise only intensifies.
Maybe I’m taking this a little too far, I tend to do that kind of thing. But my husband recently pointed out how much I thrive to live at inbox zero and seem to do laundry practically every day. Now maybe being a newlywed has something to do with my zeal to daily perform these “wifey duties” with excellence, but I think there’s more there.
In teaching 1 Peter 1:13-25 this week to a lovely group of ladies at our new church called Journey the Way in Wichita, Kansas, it hit me. This is one of my favorite passages of 1 Peter. Why? After all, it is in these verses that Peter references a warlike image of “girding up the loins of our minds” (the Greek translation of verse 13) only then to tell us to “be holy in all your conduct” (verse 15). Thanks, Peter. You create a weird battleground image in my mind only then to set this lofty expectation of holiness that is just downright unattainable for this sinner saved by grace whose heart is still prone to wander.
Now why do I love this passage of 1 Peter? I love these verses that close chapter 1 for several reasons. One of which is how Peter mentions the sustainability and sufficiency of God’s Word. He tells us that the Scriptures are the “living and abiding Word of God” (verse 23). God’s Word is full of life and also full of intimacy. It is both alive and near. And it will never perish.
But if I’m really honest, I primarily love these verses because they are filled with commands. Peter tells us what to do. He gives me the overflowing laundry basket, the full email inbox, and the long list of tasks and says, “Here you go. Go and do. That laundry, those emails, and those to-do items have your name written all over them.”
That said, let’s dig into these verses. Let’s see our task list. But let’s remember that we do not perform to attain the love of God. Jesus Christ performed on our behalf. Instead, as children of God, we seek to walk in obedience not to earn the love of God but instead because we have been embraced by the love of God.
Remember the context, after mentioning obedience in verse 2, Peter tells us now what obedience looks like. In light of everything he already told us in chapter 1 about our vision of our living hope, the apostle tells us how we are to live. This pattern is helpful. Peter tells us the why of our theology before we tells us the what of our actions. Our beliefs lead our behaviors. And we see this here in chapter 1. So get you notepad or journal open. And let’s look at these 5 commands:
The first command: respond in hope. Peter says “Set your hope fully on the grace that will be revealed to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (verse 13). Peter uses this imperative “set your hope” to exhort in a military fashion to a decisive action, to live expectantly and intentionally. He tells us that we do this by preparing our minds for action (verse 3). I already mentioned this but in the Greek, this translates to “girding up the loins of your minds.” Peter is telling us: this will be a battle. And the battle for obedience doesn’t start in our actions, in our small group attendance, in our tithing – no, it starts in our minds. Right thinking leads to read believing leads to right doing. Peter also tells us that we set our hope on Christ by “being sober-minded” (verse 13). In other words, to be sober-minded is to be single-minded. I often like to pray Psalm 86:11 that God my unite my heart to fear his name (and thus be single-minded). So that’s the first command: set your hope on the future hope we have because of Christ. And yet, we usually want to set our hope on Jesus Christ + something else (think job, physical appearance, children, spouse, etc). And for all of us, there’s grace. And our second command.
The second command: respond in purity. Peter then says, “do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance” (verse 14). Don’t be driven by your passions. Don’t be driven by your crazy thoughts. Let’s think about some of the dumb things you used to do (or are doing right now)…I won’t tell you what they are – you probably know very well. It’s not right thinking that drives those decisions. It’s what feels right in the moment – our passions. Let’s be honest, that’s not a safe or a smart way to live. And Peter is saying, “Don’t do that anymore.” Don’t be shaped by the desires of your former ignorance (verse 14). But instead as those with a genuine hope in Christ, pursue purity. Genuine hope results in holiness.
The third command: respond in holiness. Peter then gives the positive side to the second command. In verse 15, he says “be holy in all of your conduct.” After telling us to abstain from the former passions of our lives, Peter says to be set apart, be different, be pure, be holy. And again, our pursuit of holiness isn’t out of our desire to be the super Christian with the empty laundry basket and completed Bible study every single week (although those are great desires). Our motive for holiness stems from our awe of the beauty of God’s holiness that we can’t imagine anything else. A good friend named Kent Bowles once told me, “Lacey, you don’t have to be perfect because you are loved by perfection.” As you read this, remember the goal of progress and not perfection. Just look at Peter. He wasn’t perfect. But he did progress in his faith.
The fourth command: respond with fear. Peter writes, “conduct yourselves with fear” (verse 17). Seek to honor the Lord with reverence, respect, and awe. We don’t often talk about our relationship with God and involve the word fear. And yet, Peter reminds us in this verse that God is both Father (loving and gracious) and Judge (holy, just). We live in that tension. In the Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), we see that God is both our Father (he is close) and he is in heaven (he is transcendent). Thus, we seek to fear our God who is both close and near and who is also powerful and transcendent.
The fifth command: respond with love. In verse 22, Peter gives us our final command “love one another earnestly.” Verse 22 starts with the phrase “having purified your souls,” and the Greek nerd in me wants you to know that this participle is in the perfect tense. Now before you stop reading the rest of this article, see what this means for us. This perfect tense describes a past action with continuing results. So for the child of God, God divinely cleanses our impure past. And then he gives us the continuous ability to walk in purity “for a sincere brotherly love” (verse 22) for the present and the future. Peter exhorts us to love “earnestly” (verse 22). I’m earnest about a lot of things: working out, watching college football, writing notes to my husband. But am I earnest about loving others? Again remember the context, Peter is writing to those in hostility. I don’t know about you but isn’t it easier to lash out to those closest to us and thus not love earnestly in the midst of hostility. You know at the end of a long work day, do you really want to love your roommate or spouse earnestly? And so, Peter reminds us that the ability to love with this kind of earnestness stems “from a pure heart” (verse 22). Brothers and sisters, it is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Spirit, help us to love earnestly.
So there they are. Five commands from 1 Peter 1:13-25. Let’s pursue both our inbox zero and the application of these. On that note, I think I have some emails needing my response.