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Author:Rev. Arthur Van Delden
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mundijong
 Mundijong, Western Australia
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Rockingham
 Rockingham, Australia
Title:Inward hope produces outward holiness
Text:1 Peter 1:13-16 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Text: 1 Peter 1:13-16

Reading: Ephesians 2:1-10 / Ephesians 4:17-24

Ps. 142:4-6
Ps. 143:1,3,5
Hy. 47:3,4,9
Ps. 62:1,3,4
Ps. 130:3,4

Ps. 145:1-3
Ps. 145:4,5
Hy. 47:3,4,9
Ps. 62:1,3,4
Ps. 130:3,4
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Arthur Van Delden, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ:

People often need an incentive to be motivated. If you ask children to do some job around the home, they show little interest. But promise them a reward and suddenly they are filled with zeal.

It’s not much different for us as Christians. We need an incentive to live the Christian life. Peter realised this, and wrote his letter accordingly. He devoted the first half of the first chapter describing and assuring his readers of the wonderful grace that God had already shown them, and also the glorious inheritance which God had stored up for them in heaven. It is not until verse 13 that we come to the first command in Peter’s letter. He first told them all that God had done and would do for them, and thereafter he came to them and told them how they were to live their lives.

We see the same order in our text for this morning. In the original text—and sadly this is not reflected in the English translations—in the original text there are two imperatives, that is, two words of command. The first is the command to hope; the second is the command to be holy. These are the two main thoughts of our text—hope and holiness. And they are related. The one leads to the other. Hope produces holiness. This will serve as our theme as we open God’s word:


Set your hope on God’s grace
Let your life reflect God’s holiness


I’d like to begin with the middle of verse 14. Peter wrote there about their “former lusts.” By using the word “former,” Peter describes how things were before these Christians received God’s grace. He refers to the time of their ignorance, to the time when they lived in the futility of their mind, when their understanding was darkened because of the ignorance that was in them, because of the blindness of their heart (cf. Eph 4:18).

Peter also speaks of “lust.” This usually has the context of sexual desires. And undoubtedly these are included in Peter’s mind. But Peter has more than just sexual desire in mind here. His reference to lust includes all desires for what is earthly and evil.

What Peter means here is that all kinds of desires for what is earthly and evil formerly dominated their thinking. These desires formerly dictated their life. These desires were their master who drove them on relentlessly to seek satisfaction. Formerly, they conducted themselves in the lusts of their flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, sons of disobedience (cf. Eph 2:3-4).

But blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten them again. They were reborn, recreated. Their old nature, which was corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, was crucified. They were raised with Christ to a new life. They were transformed by the renewing of their mind, so that they might know and do what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. They now possessed new desires.

But as we know all too well from our own experience, the renewal of man is not complete in this life. The old desires still arise in our heart. We are inclined to put great value in material possessions. We long for power over other men. We still desire praise and honour from men. And so it would have been for them, as Peter knew very well.

Yes, there was the possibility that the Christians to whom Peter wrote might come under the dominion of their former desires. And this is what Peter sought to avoid. Therefore he wrote, “Do not be conformed to your former lusts, as in your ignorance.” It could also be translated a bit differently: “Do not be conformed by your former lusts.” That is, do not let your former desires dominate you and bring you back into conformity with your old way of living.

What a horrible thing that would be. For Peter wrote in his second letter “For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning” (2 Pet 2:20).

Peter did not want them to be entangled with the pollutions of the world. That is why he wrote in v. 13, “Gird the loins of your mind.” Peter knew how powerful desires can be. “When desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” Yes, Peter knew that a man is outwardly driven by his inward desires. If these Christians allowed their old desires to dominate their mind, then they would become entangled in sin. And for this reason Peter exhorted them to gird the loins of their mind.

Peter used an image that was common in his day. At that time men wore long, sleeveless robes that hung down to their ankles. In times of leisure, they would allow their robes to hang freely around their legs. But in times of exertion, the long robes could entangle their feet, and hinder movement. So when men needed to move freely and swiftly, they would lift the bottom of their robes and bind it around their waist with a belt or a girdle. This was called “girding one’s loins.”

Now Peter didn’t mean that the men were to literally gird their loins. He meant this figuratively. That’s why he wrote, “Gird the loins of your mind.” He meant that his readers were to reign in all thoughts and desires that flowed forth from their mind, which hindered them from freely performing the spiritual exercise that Peter would describe in a moment.

What kind of thoughts and desires did Peter have in mind there? Which thoughts and desires were the Christians to bind up rather than let flow freely? He doesn’t say specifically, but we could imagine what thoughts and desires would have arisen in the minds of these Christians.

As we’ve seen on previous occasions, the Christians were being persecuted for their faith. They were losing their social standing in society, their place of honour among friends. They were loosing their jobs. Their material possessions were being confiscated, and they were left destitute, penniless. They were driven from their homes and made to wander in the hills and live in caves. Some of them, even young children, were sold as slaves and transported to distant lands. Others were sentenced to die in the arenas.

They were giving up every tangible possession for a promised inheritance that they had never seen. How hard that must have been! They were risking all they had for a promise. They must have wondered whether this promise of God was trustworthy. Doubts would have assailed them? Was this promise for real?

To allow this kind of thought to flow freely would surely prove to entangle them and make them fall. Therefore Peter said, “Gird up such a thought, and don’t let it flow freely. Bind it up secure and tight, lest it make you stumble and fall.”

There were also other desires. These Christians were no different than you or I. They had the same kind of desires as we do. We desire a nice home, don’t we, where we can live in comfort? We desire to be financially secure, so that we can purchase the things that we need. We like to keep our jobs. We like our position in society. We like our freedom. We love life! Just imagine, beloved, how hard it must have been for these Christians to give up everything.

Peter exhorted the Christians to restrain these desires, and not to let them flow freely. For although these desires can be good and noble in themselves, they must not be allowed to flow freely from their minds. These desires must be restrained. For if these desires for earthy treasures were left to flow freely, they would entangle these Christians and make it extremely difficult for them to sacrifice all things for Christ’s sake.

The desires that the Christians had to reign in and bind up under their belt, so to speak, also included those desires which characterised their former life, those desires for what is corrupt and depraved and evil. If we test ours desires against the law of God, we will have to admit that even though we are converted to God evil desires still arise in our life. The remnants of the old nature that cling to us are still drawn towards sin.

It would have been that way for these Christians as well. Before they turned to Christ, they had conducted themselves in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries (cf. 4:3). There would still be a certain pull for these Christians to join the ungodly in doing those things again, especially when the world put pressure on them to conform. Such desires must be restrained, lest they fall into sin.

Do you understand then, beloved, what Peter meant when he exhorted them to gird up the loins of their mind? He exhorted them to exercise tight control over the thoughts and desires of their mind, lest they become entangled by what is earthly or evil.

Peter also exhorted them to remain sober. Again, he does not mean this literally. One translation has rendered this, “be sober in spirit.” And that captures Peter’s intent. Peter is exhorting them to spiritual sobriety.

To appreciate what Peter wrote, we need to realise that people can become mentally or emotionally intoxicated. The emotions can also do what alcohol does. Alcohol befuddles the mind. It makes people mentally unbalanced. Alcohol takes away one’s ability to think things through in a rational manner, and causes people to act irresponsibly. The emotions can do all these things. Isn’t there a saying, “Love is blind”? Love can make people irrational in their judgment. What about anger? If a person nurses and feeds his anger, he can become irrational and do something that he will regret for the rest of his life. Think about fear, which can completely take hold of a person so that they become a nervous wreck, unable to function properly. Sometimes people who have experienced much sorrow go mad. They go insane. And the list could go on and on, but this is enough to show that people can become drunk with emotions.

When Peter exhorted his readers to be sober, he meant that they should be free of every form of mental or emotional excess that would confuse them, make them irrational and unbalanced. He exhorted them to be clear-headed, of sound judgment.

Think again of the situation in which they were living. They would have to deal with many different emotions. They were living in a very stressful time. Would the authorities come to know that they were Christians? Would they be arrested? If they lost their jobs, how would they survive? What would they eat? If they were driven from their homes, where would they live? Would they be sold into slavery? Would they be sentenced to the galleys for rest of their life? Would they be sentenced to die in the arena? Husbands would worry about their wives, and parents about their children. Many of them had already experienced considerable suffering, and they grieved and mourned their losses.

Yes, day after day, month after month the Christians were assaulted with all kinds of emotions—worry, fear, sorrow and grief. It would be so easy for them to be overwhelmed by all their emotions, and to become irrational, unbalanced, and unsound in judgment. If they were to become intoxicated with their emotions, they might collapse spiritually, crying out, “I can’t take any more!”

There would be other emotions—such as envy or jealousy. The ungodly could do whatever they wanted, and do so with seeming immunity. They could have their parties with alcohol and sexual immorality. They did not suffer for their sins. They could give in to all their desires, and God did nothing about it. If these Christians allowed their envy and jealousy to go unchecked, they might become unbalanced and irrational, and do something they would later regret.

When Christians are spiritually intoxicated, they become easy prey to the devil. In chapter 5:8 Peter warned them again to be sober. He said, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” Satan would have loved nothing more than to have these Christians become intoxicated with their emotions, so that they might stumble and fall from grace, and renounce their faith.

In a way, all that we have considered so far is somewhat negative. “Don’t let your former desires dominate you so that you are conformed to your old way of life. Don’t let your thoughts and desires for earthly and sinful things entangle your feet as you fight the good fight of faith. Don’t let your emotions intoxicate you, lest you become unsound in your judgment, and do or say something that you regret later.” But there is a positive side to all of this.

Peter said, “Gird the loins of your mind.” If someone is going to gird their loins, they need a girdle or a belt. And what is that belt? In Ephesians 6:14, Paul described the Christian armour. He said there that the belt was the truth of the gospel. In the verses preceding our text, Peter proved to the Christians the trustworthiness of God’s promises. God’s promises are true and sure. They are trustworthy and reliable. The glorious inheritance that God promised is real, and it awaits them. They can depend on it. Our text begins with the word “Therefore….” On the basis of the trustworthiness of God’s promised inheritance, gird the loins of your mind. For Peter the girdle or belt is God’s promised inheritance.

Peter said to them, “Be sober!” Don’t drink too much of your emotions that arise from your suffering. Don’t drink too much worry, too much fear, too much sorrow and grief. Rather, drink more of the emotions that arise from God’s promises. Instead of worry about your future, drink the certainty about your glorious future. Instead of fear about the evil that might befall you, drink the peace of knowing that both you and your inheritance are securely guarded. Instead of sorrow and grief over all that you have lost, drink in the joy and happiness of what you will gain in the life to come.

That Peter has these positive aspects in mind comes out clearly in the first main verb of our text: “set your hope fully upon the grace that is being brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Peter spoke about hope. We often use the word “hope” to refer to an uncertain wish. We hope for something, but we’re not sure. But that is not what Scripture means by hope. Hope is the confident expectation of what God has promised. Hope is the sister of faith and trust and confidence.

You could imagine that for these Christians they would have had many hopes. “I hope that our neighbours don’t find out that we are Christians. I hope that the police don’t find the secret places we are holding our church services. I hope that I never lose my job because I’m a Christian. I hope that we’re not thrown out of our home.” And the list could go on. Yes, these Christians undoubtedly had a lot of different hopes. But Peter said, “Rest your hope fully upon the grace that is being brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Don’t build your hope on retaining your material possessions. Don’t build your hope on escaping suffering and death. For these are not sure and solid foundations. If you build your hope on such things, you will surely be disappointed. No, set your hope fully upon God’s promised grace.

Peter describes this grace as that which is being brought to them at the revelation of Jesus Christ. He thinks here of the fullness of salvation that will come when Jesus Christ returns to earth. On that day, Christ will say to those on His right hand, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt 25:34).

By saying this, Peter exhorted them to build their hope on the future, and not on the present. They might lose all that men treasure in this life, but they shouldn’t let their minds dwell on this loss. Rather, they must dwell on the glorious inheritance that they will receive when Christ returns. They are heirs of the kingdom of God, a kingdom all-glorious and eternal, a kingdom of righteousness and holiness, a kingdom of joy and everlasting gladness. In the midst of your suffering, look to the future, said Peter. For the sufferings of that time were not worthy to be compared with the glory which would be given to them when Christ was revealed.

Do you see how much Peter stresses the need to have the right frame of mind? For Peter knows that one’s inward disposition will determine one’s outward conduct. If these Christians set their hope upon the grace that is coming to them at Christ’s return, then they will live lives of holiness. For this hope produce holiness. And it is to holiness that they have been called. We still wish to say a few words about this.


Everything that Peter has written in verses 13-14 leads to what is ultimately the climax of our text—the command to be holy. The exhortation to gird one’s loins, to be sober, to fix one’s hope on God’s grace that is coming at the revelation of Christ — all of these exhortations have the goal of keeping the saints off their former paths of sin, and on the path of holiness.

This, we said, is the climax of our text. For ultimately our holiness is the very purpose of our existence, the very purpose of our redemption. We were created and redeemed to reflect God. For God said, “Let us make man in our image.” And it is for this same purpose that we have been redeemed. “As He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy."

When Peter says that God is holy, he refers to God’s moral character. God is wholly pure and altogether good. God is distinct from fallen man, who is totally depraved and altogether evil. God is altogether good and pure.

Now through His grace in Jesus Christ, these Christians have been set apart from the rest of mankind. Through Christ, they have been set apart as God’s special people, His own possession. And God calls them to live a life that is distinct, different from that of all other men. God calls them to a life of purity and obedience. They must not again conform to the world, but as the redeemed of the Lord they must be transformed into the image of God.

Holiness is a requirement of all those who will inherit the kingdom of God. Listen to what Paul writes: “For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” (Eph 5:5). Elsewhere he writes, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor 6:9-11).

This is what Peter is expressing in the words of our text: “As He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy."

Now holiness has its price, beloved. Those who walk down the path that leads to eternal life have to make many "sacrifices". As Christ once said, the way is easy and the gate is wide that leads to eternal condemnation. But the way is hard and the gate is narrow that leads to eternal life.

It could be that the Christians of Asia looked to the other path and wished they could walk down it, for it didn’t require as many sacrifices. It was a much easier path. And it is the same for Christians today. The path of sin is the easy path. It requires no sacrifices.

But Peter teaches them and us to look, not just at the path, but to where the path leads. He tells us to look into the distance. Look to the grace that we receive at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

My first congregation was in a farming community. I learned that farmers were very proud of their ability to plough a straight furrow in their fields. I once asked a farmer what the secret was to ploughing in a straight line. He told me that you have to take your eyes off of the field itself. You mustn’t look down in front of you where you are walking. You have to fix your eyes on a distant object, and keep looking at it. You mustn’t look down, otherwise you will veer to the left or to the right.

That is what Peter is saying to these Christians. Don’t fix your eyes on your present suffering, otherwise you might well go astray. Keep your eyes focused on the future, on the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Then you will walk a straight line, without turning to the right or the left.

Now we live in a very different time than the Christians of our text. And yet things are not so different. For many sacrifices are still required today. And still today we as Christians often look to the other path that seems so much easier. Like the Christians of Asia, we need an incentive for living the life of holiness.

We have that incentive—a place in the glorious kingdom of God is given to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ. If we focus our eyes on that hope, then we will walk down the path of holiness. Then we will make the required sacrifices. AMEN

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Arthur Van Delden, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
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(c) Copyright, Rev. Arthur Van Delden

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