November 10, 2019
Let me be clear: I am neither a prophet, nor the son of a prophet. In fact, I work for a non-profit organization. But, if I told you Jesus was coming back next year – in 2020 – and somehow you knew it to be true, how would that knowledge affect your life? We’re closing in on the New Year, meaning it’s time for resolutions to be made and broken. But if you knew for certain Jesus was returning next year, what resolutions would you make? How would you live your life if you knew 2020 was to be your last?
I suppose there are lots of things you could do. Remember that bucket list you’ve been making for years? You could start on it. Some of you would go bungie-jumping, hang gliding, sky diving or scuba diving. Some of you would adjust your diet, significantly. You’d forget Whole30 or the low-carb diet. Who cares? You’d go ahead and eat the triple cheeseburger at Wendy’s, affectionately known at the triple bypass burger – because a year isn’t long enough for plaque to get you. Some of you would quit exercising altogether – after all, what difference would it make now? It’s no longer necessary to eke out those extra years at the end of life.
Some of you would focus on financial stuff. All that money you saved for retirement? Might as well cash it in and live for the moment. Quit your job. Take those trips you’ve always wanted to take. Travel to Europe or the South Pacific. In fact, go get some huge loans – you won’t have to pay them back.
You say, no, my focus wouldn’t be on a bucket list or material stuff – my focus would be relational. I would spend lots of time with my family and friends. After all, when it’s all been said and done, relationships are all that matter. So, there are some estranged relationships I’d seek to mend. Or, some good relationships I’d seek to deepen. Some of you would finally get the courage to ask the girl out. Some of you would get married, really fast.
What would you do if you knew for certain Jesus was coming back next year? You do know He can. Regardless of your position – pre-trib, post-trib, mid-trib or no-trib – however you view the future, Jesus is coming back – this is a non-negotiable truth of the Christian faith. What if you somehow knew the end was around the corner, how would you live?
Could we for a moment answer the question spiritually? How would your spiritual life be affected? Would you start living for Christ – I mean, really living for Christ? Would you want to be found faithful – what better place than worshiping Christ – reading His Word – serving with His people. What would you do differently regarding your faith if you knew?
I have shared several times about a man named Jonathan Edwards. Reared in the home of a pastor, Edwards set his heart to the task of ministry. He knew Greek, Hebrew and Latin by the time he was 12, and graduated from Yale with a degree in divinity before his 17th birthday. He was preaching in New York when he was 19. He spent most of his years serving a church in Northampton, Massachusetts. And as you may know, God used Edwards to revive the church throughout New England in what is called the Great Awakening.
What I want you to remember about Edwards is this. Over the course of his 19th year, before his 20th birthday, he wrote 70 resolutions by which he sought to govern his life. By the way, they were not published in a book – they were found in his diary after his death. I say that because they weren’t written to impress anybody – they weren’t posted on social media – they were between him and God. He read through them once a week. Interesting, they really had little to do with weight gain or loss, vices to forsake, books to read, places to visit, or bucket lists. Listen to some:
Number 1 – Resolved, to do whatsoever I think to be most for God’s glory… [Paul actually says that – whether you eat or drink, those mundane everyday things, do all to the glory of God. When’s the last time you ate an ice cream cone to the glory of God?]
Number 17 – Resolved, that I will live so as I wish I had done when I come to die.
Number 19 – Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if I expected it would not be above an hour, before I should hear the last trump. (In other words – everything I do, I’m going to keep the second coming of Christ in mind. I’m going to live with that hope.)
Number 50 – Resolved, I will act so as I think I shall judge would have been best, and most prudent, when I come into the future world. (There’s the future look again.)
Number 52 – I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, That I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to an old age. (In other words – I don’t want to be one of those guys who gets to the end of his life, and says, if I had it to do over, I’d change a lot of things. Instead, why not change them now – why not live in such a way that when you come to the end of your life and look back, you can say, that’s the way I wanted to do it.)
So, if you knew Jesus was coming back in 2020, how would it affect your life? I share Edwards’ resolutions because of his forward look. He looked forward to a city whose builder and architect was God. He didn’t live for the moment – he lived for what was coming. He thought often about the future – serving Christ and giving an account for that service.
Again, this sounds like Paul in Colossians 3, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus…Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men…It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” So, what specifically would you change if it were the last hour before you heard the last trump? Would you fall to your face? Is there someone you’d call and say, you have to believe, He’s coming back. What would you change if you knew Jesus was coming? You do know the Bible has much to say about this. Since the return of Christ is imminent, that is, it could happen at any time – it ought to impact the way we live our lives.
Last week in our study of I Peter, we found that we, of all people, are most blessed. Most privileged, not most pitiful. As we know Peter is writing to a group of believers in Asia Minor – modern-day Turkey – who are suffering for their faith. He writes to encourage them – yes, you’re suffering, but remember who you are, and whose you are. After his salutation, he began a long sentence of praise for this great salvation we have received. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
He goes on to talk about this great salvation – how it insures a future inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, reserved in heaven for you. Yes, he said, because of our salvation, we’ll face distressing trials – but even those have a purpose – to prove the genuineness of our faith, which will result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus returns. Because He’s coming back, you see. And we want to be found faithful, don’t we?
This salvation was prophesied by Spirit-filled OT prophets, who were not serving themselves, but incredibly they were serving us. Further, it was proclaimed to us by those announcing the gospel. It’s so great that even angels long to look into it – at the very least see its impact on those who believe – rejoicing in heaven over every sinner who repents.
But now, having spent 12 verses and several weeks being reminded and encouraged, Peter turns to, now what – to, what are we going to do about it. This is the common practice of NT writers. In view of what God has done for you through His Son, this is how you ought to live. Don’t miss the order –from indicative to imperative – that is, from statements of fact to statements of command. I Peter 1:13-16. Therefore, in light of all that God has done for you, therefore…
Those imperatives actually go through the rest of the chapter to the first part of chapter two, but we’ll stop right there for now. There are two imperatives in these verses, surrounded by helpful participles – that is, supporting ways in which to obey these commands. Those two imperatives form our outline:
- Pursue Hope (13)
- Pursue Holiness (14-16)
That’s it – God wants us to be hopeful, holy people. Look at verse 13. The imperative is actually in the second part of the verse, “fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Notice the future look – that’s what hope is. We’ve talked about this – hope in the Bible is not a wistful longing for an uncertainty – like, I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow – it may or may not. Hope in the Bible is trust, confidence in a future certainty. It will come to pass – God has been faithful to all His promises in the past, so we can absolutely trust Him for the future. In fact, when he writes, fix your hope on the grace to be brought is actually present tense – fix your hope on the grace being brought to you right now. Clearly, he’s talking about future grace when Christ returns, at the revelation of Christ – but that hope is so certain he speaks of it as present reality.
It’s also interesting to note, hope is a bit of a decision – it’s doesn’t arise from feeling a certain way – although there are certainly emotions tied to the Christian faith. But rather, it’s a command – fix your hope – make a decision to focus on hope. To have hope. We should not be, of all people, hopeless. We don’t have hope on the days we feel like it, when things are going our way – we have hope regardless of feelings and circumstances.
I find it interesting that the first command in this book – after spending the first twelve verses, most of which is one sentence, reveling in the grace of God through the work of Christ – being reminded of and celebrating this great salvation we have received – the first command is not to do some action, necessarily – the first command is to hope in grace. All that God has done for us through His should produce hope – a present faith in grace, and a future hope in grace. We will get to pursuing holiness – but first, hope. John Piper says it this way, “Christianity is, first, God graciously, freely acting to save his people; and, second, man hoping fully in that grace. That’s the essence of Christianity.” God acts, we respond in hope in grace.
Now, one commentator pointed out that faith and hope are very similar, almost synonymous – it is a trust in God. But faith is based on the past – that is, what Christ has done for us. We have faith that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and raised again the third day for our justification. We believe that by faith in that finished work, our sins are forgiven. Hope, however, is based on the future – what Christ will do for us – that is, when He returns.
To fix means to focus on, train our eyes, our hearts, our minds upon the future hope of the Christian faith. Hence, my introduction. He’s coming back. So, if our hearts are fixed on this hope, when is the last time you thought of the rock-solid truth that Jesus is coming back, could come back right now, next week, next year? To fix your hope completely means it becomes the guiding principle of your life.
What is the guiding principle of your life? What is it that you think about, dream about, or wakes you up in the middle of the night? I suspect for some of us, it’s not the hope of Christ’s return – but rather earthly things. The bucket list, finances, how am I going to pay that bill, job security, education, passing this or that test, even relationships. But the guiding principle of our lives that should inform everything we think, say and do, should be a settled hope on the return of Christ. How would that fixed hope affect your decisions, your actions, your dreams?
That’s why Peter says to fix our hope completely – without reservation, without competition, without doubt – fully, perfectly, with finality. Fix your hope on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation, the coming of Jesus Christ. The Thessalonian church modeled this kind of hope:
9 For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God,
10 and to wait for His Son from heaven…
Christians ought to be known as a waiting, expectant, hopeful people. Now, it’s an interesting way Peter says it. He doesn’t focus on deliverance from trials, or the rewards to be gained – he does elsewhere. He calls it rather, hope in the grace to be brought to you. You see, everything in the Christian life is because of God’s grace – His unmerited, unearned favor on our behalf. Don’t miss he starts with that. You see, it’s not works, then grace – oh no. It is because of God’s past grace, and the promise of future grace, that we fix our eyes on that hope, and live pure and holy lives now. In other words, I’m not suggesting we pursue hope and holiness to earn God’s attention and favor – His grace – but because we have received grace, and will receive grace, we pursue hope and holiness.
So, how do we do that? What does this fixing our hope on the grace to be brought at the coming of Christ look like? That takes us back to the beginning of the verse. You see, those aren’t actually commands, they are participles, those ing words that tells us how to fix our hope, or what it looks like. In fact, the ESV translates it a little better, “13Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Look at each of those:
First, we are to prepare our minds for action. Throughout this text, we see the importance of our minds – disciplined, right, intentional thinking. Literally translated, the text says, gird up the loins of your mind. You see, back then, if you were preparing to run, or do some serious work, you would tie your robe up in your belt so you wouldn’t be tripped up. Even today, when you run a race, a sprint or a marathon, you don’t wear an evening dress or your bathrobe. It was called girding up the loins of your robe. We might call it, rolling up your sleeves for work. Peter metaphorically applies this to what we do with our minds, which means to pull in all the loose ends of our lives, discipline our thoughts, take every thought captive, disentangle ourselves from the world’s sinful hindrances [Hebrews 12], and live in full surrender to the Lordship of Christ, and His promised return.
Another example, the first thing a Roman soldier would do in preparing for battle was to put on his belt and tie up his robe. You see, to gird up the loins of your mind means you are serious about the work to be done – you are heading into battle to do hand-to-hand combat – and life must be taken seriously. We live in a world that is frivolous, that only seeks fun. Nothing wrong with appropriate fun, but it’s what we pursue. We are doing battle, so we get control of our minds.
Which leads to the next one – being sober-minded. Of course, the word spoke of not being intoxicated, which we don’t want to do – coming under the influence of something and losing control. But more than that, it means to not lose spiritual control by giving into this world’s thoughts and patterns and lifestyle. Don’t be anesthetized by the attractions of this world. Don’t be lulled into drowsiness, losing sight of Christ. We have clarity of mind and discipline of heart. We are vigilant – we are serious – we are sober. Paul says it this way in Titus 2:
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,
12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age,
13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus,
14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.
That’s what God has done for us through Christ – He is purifying for Himself a people for His own possession. So we pursue hope with trained discipline, which brings us to verses 14-16 – the pursuit of holiness. As obedient children, or more literally, as children of obedience. Meaning, biblical obedience ought to characterize believers, and should distinguish us from unbelievers, whom Paul calls sons of disobedience in Ephesians 2. But, having been made alive in Christ, saved by grace through faith, we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works. We were children of disobedience, we are now children of obedience.
And by the way, that points us forward to verse 17, “For if you address as Father….” To be children of obedience is to be a child of God, which requires us to be like God. He’ll say in the next to verse, be like the Holy One, be holy, because God is holy. In other words, it’s supposed to be, like Father, like son.
As such, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in ignorance. This also is a participle, supporting the main command in verse 15, which is to be holy. But he starts with the negative, be holy by not being conformed to your former lusts, yours in ignorance. You didn’t know any better, now you do. Your character and behavior was defined by culture – no longer – now it is defined by God’s character – which is in opposition to accepted practice in culture. We are strangers and aliens – we don’t belong here. That’s why they were suffering – because they didn’t look like those around them. Could it be we’re not suffering because we don’t look much like our Father?
This is one of those verses which make clear at least some if not most of the readers were Gentiles. They lived in ignorance – with mind and actions conformed to former, sinful lusts. He doesn’t give us a vice list here, but we could supply any number of past sinful actions springing from our fallen, lustful, sinful natures. Paul says it this way in Colossians 3:
1 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.
3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. [How is that idolatry? Because in your evil desire and greed, you want more what this world has to offer than you want Him.]
6 For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience,
7 and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them.
8 But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.
9 Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices,
10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him–
Rather, leaving behind sinful conformity, be like the Holy One who has called you. Like Father, like son. Holiness means that Christians must conform their thinking and behavior to God’s character. We are called to be like our Father – holy in all our behavior. After all, it was written many times in the book of Leviticus, “You shall be holy, for I (God) am holy.” We are no longer to be conformed to the image and pattern of this world. We are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds into the image of Christ.
Again, notice how many times this passage and parallel passages, focus on the mind. We are to prepare our minds for action, be sober-minded, be transformed by the renewing of our minds. The point is, it takes serious, sober, intentional mind-work to become more like Jesus. Christians should be thinking people. We don’t sit back and do nothing – we exercise our minds – toward holiness. The Christian life is not passive – we take intentional action, because past sinful desires still beckon us. If you leave it to how you feel at the moment, you will fall. Discipline yourself, pursue holiness. To be holy is to separate yourself from all that is evil – in all your behavior, all that you do, to be like your Father.
So, if you knew Jesus were coming back next year, how would it affect your life? Here’s the truth. Our lives are a vapor – here one day, gone the next. Short in the grand scheme of eternity. And so, it doesn’t really matter if He comes next year, or the year after. He is coming. And when He comes, He wants to find us faithful – hopeful and holy.