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A Living Hope: Bathed in Grace, 1 Peter 1:13-25

Bathed In Grace
1 Peter 1:13-25

How many of you took a shower this morning? Okay, I guess we should offer some grace. We did set our clocks ahead an hour last night. You get a free pass today if you didn’t have time to shower before church. Hopefully, you took one last night though. If not, just, please, sit in the back, and don’t raise your hands when we sing.

When I was in junior high, I forget whether it was 7th or 8th grade, I went with my class at school on a trip to Virginia. We were visiting “the Virginia triangle” … Yorktown, Jamestown, and Colonial Williamsburg. While we were on the trip, we stayed in a hotel, and it was my first time staying in a hotel without anyone from my family … my parents or my grandparents or anyone like that. You know, the people who could make me take a shower. There were 4 of us to a room, and for whatever reason, my junior high brain thought it would be horribly embarrassing to take a shower. So I didn’t. I did brush my teeth and change my clothes, but I didn’t shower.

We were gone 4 nights, and I didn’t shower. Not once. It wasn’t too bad for the first day or so, but junior high boys have bodies that are going through some changes, and some of those changes lead to a tendency to stink if you don’t shower. And over time … well. I started noticing that I couldn’t get my hair fixed right anymore. Yes, I had hair when I was young. I haven’t been bald forever. And I had hair that was a little more naturally oily than some of the other guys hair, and after a couple of days I just couldn’t get my hair fixed right anymore. And then, on the van ride home from Virginia to Ohio, I started noticing a smell emanating from my armpits, so I rode most of the way home with my arms tight against my side, trying to keep the smell in. When you haven’t bathed in a while, all the deodorant in the world is useless against the stench.

When I got home, I headed in for a shower. I’m pretty sure mom took my duffel bag, with all of my clothes in it, and just burned the whole thing. When I got out of the shower, I ran a brush through my hair and it did exactly what I wanted it to do. And my armpits didn’t stink anymore. I learned a lesson that night … regular showers lead to less stink. I know, I know, not rocket science. But junior high boys are most definitely NOT rocket scientists. When I was little, I could skip a bath or shower, take one every other night or so, and I didn’t stink and I could still comb my hair. But as I got older, that wasn’t true anymore. I needed to shower. Regularly.

A few years later, I became a youth pastor, and realized I needed to teach that same lesson to junior high boys over and over again. “Dude, you stink. Take a shower.” Funny, never had to have the same conversation with the girls. I did eventually start making the “you have to shower regularly” conversation a part of mission trip orientation meetings, hoping to head the problem off before it got bad, you know, on a 90 degree day in inner city Cincinnati on day 3 of a mission trip, or something like that.

Sadly, a lot of people are well-bathed on the outside. Their hair and skin are nice and clean and smell nice, but on the inside? Not so much. The truth of the matter is, we all need to be bathed in grace. We need a spiritual bath just as much as we need physical ones. Jesus once accused the legalistic, rule-making Pharisees who opposed him of being like people who cleaned the outside of a cup, but left the inside dirty. Of course, no one in their right mind would do that, right? We all know that if the inside of the cup isn’t clean, the cup isn’t clean, regardless of how nice the outside looks. It is the inside that matters.

He was using that as an illustration of people who focus on looking really nice on the outside, they focus a lot on their image and what people think about them and how they are perceived by others, but inside, spiritually, they’re dead and decaying.

Funny thing about a bath or shower – you can tell when someone has had one. They just look different, don’t they? As St. Peter writes to struggling, persecuted Christians, he encourages them to hold on to the hope of their salvation and of Christ’s return, and reminds them that this hope bathes them in grace and transforms them. He then challenges them, and us, to keep following Jesus, to keep seeking holiness in our lives, even when life gets really tough. Turn with me to 1 Peter 1:13-25.

Hope is one of the major themes of this letter. Hope is the thing that gives us perseverance, the ability to hang on when hanging on is hard to do. And the only real source of hope in the world is Jesus. Look closely at V. 13. When we trust Jesus with our lives, when we trust Jesus to forgive us and to cleanse us (that’s faith), we also place our hope in him. That means we are confident that he is trustworthy and he will fulfill his promises. It means that even if we never live to see it, we KNOW that he will one day return to this earth. And we KNOW that when we die, we will go to be with him. And that gives us the courage and strength to hold on today, regardless of the challenges we must face and the suffering we must endure.

Now, even though our hope lies in Jesus, in what he did for us on the cross and being raised from the dead, and also in his promised return, we don’t obsess about WHEN and HOW Christ will return. Jesus made it very clear that even HE doesn’t know when he will be returning. In Mark 13:32 Jesus says, “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” We are not to focus on the when and the how. We don’t need to obsess with predictions of when Christ will return. The point is, live every day KNOWING that Christ WILL return as he promised. Could be today. Could be tomorrow. Could be 1,000 years from now. The when isn’t important. What’s important is living every day knowing that he will keep his promise to return. That is where we place our hope.

And that hope is evident in our lives in two ways. First, Peter tells us to prepare our minds for action. Peter is actually painting a word picture here, because the words he uses, literally translated, are “gird up the loins of your mind.” What in the world does that mean? In those days, and still today in some places in the middle east, men wore what basically amounted to a really long shirt, and it usually hung part way down their calves. It was great for day to day life and activities, but if they were working hard, or doing something really physical, or preparing to fight in a battle, or something like that, it got in the way. So when they needed to do something that required real exertion or physical performance, even something as simple as running, they’d tuck the lower tail of the shirt into the belt around their waist. Then they’d be ready for action. And they called it “girding up their loins.” Basically, tucking their long shirt tail into their belt around their waist. They were then prepared for action. That’s the image Peter uses to describe preparing our minds for action. He’s talking about having in our minds the resolve and preparation necessary to face whatever life throws our way each day in a way that is faithful to Christ.

When we place our hope in Christ and his saving work and promised return, we prepare our minds for action, and second, we develop the habit of being sober-minded. This doesn’t mean we are always serious or depressing people. It means we have a well-balanced way of thinking and approaching the world. It means that we are self-controlled. We are in control of our thoughts and our actions. We aren’t just randomly reactionary to the things that happen around us or to us. We are self-controlled.

This kind of hope doesn’t just sit back and hide from the world and wait for Christ’s return like a hermit. And it doesn’t cloister up in a ‘Christians-only” kind of lifestyle that never interacts with the world like a monk. No! This kind of hope engages the world and lives in the world, insulated from it’s influence but not hiding from it. Hope drives us not to withdraw but to engage! You see, hope and holiness go hand in hand. Hope is the water in which the soap of holiness does it’s work. Look at Vv. 14-16.

Now, remember, holiness isn’t about moral perfection. That’s righteousness. Only Christ is truly, fully righteous, and he gives us his righteousness as a gift of grace. But righteousness and holiness are definitely related. Holiness involves being set apart for something. Holiness, as it relates to our following Jesus and relationship with God, involves God setting us apart as his children, taking us into his service, and of course asking us to imitate him as we serve him.

Let’s think about holiness this way: we often call marriage “holy matrimony” don’t we. There is a holiness to marriage, not in terms of moral perfection, but in terms of two people setting themselves apart for each other. In the covenant of marriage, a man and a woman set themselves apart for each other. They “forsake all others.” So sexually and emotionally and physically they are setting themselves aside only for each other. They will not be distracted by other calls for affection. In marriage, husband and wife separate themselves from their pasts and set themselves apart exclusively for one another. That’s what holiness is. And when you place your trust in Christ, you are set apart for God’s purpose, set apart as his child, and you are called to imitate God.

We don’t like to talk much about holiness these days. We like to talk about the love of God and the grace of God, but the truth that in Christ we are ALL (not just the pastor) set apart as holy before God? Yeah, that one not so much. The truth that Christ isn’t just my savior but my lord, that he has a claim on my life and that I belong to him? No, we’d prefer to ignore that. But look! Look at V. 17.

If we call God “Father.” Peter is talking about prayer here. How does the Lord’s Prayer begin? “Our … Father.” If we say that, acknowledging that we really are God’s children, then we need to realize that their really will be a family resemblance. We are to be obedient children. We are to live the way he calls us to live. Now, this ISN’T an excuse to judge someone else’s walk with Christ or way of living. It’s a command to pay close attention to our OWN way of following Christ and our OWN way of living. This isn’t permission to emotionally or verbally beat someone else up just because we don’t agree with them. It’s an order to focus our own lives on Christ and following him as he calls us to follow him.

We are to FEAR God. There’s one kind of fear that eliminates all other fears, one kind of fear that is a truly healthy fear, and that is the fear of God. It is a healthy reverence for and awe of God. Moses walked with God in an intimacy that hasn’t been approached before his time or since. And yet, Hebrews 12:21 says, “Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” When we truly fear God, we will not be afraid of anything else. No persecution, no form of suffering, nothing will cause us to quake because we live in the fear of God, and that is the fear that casts out all other fear.

Now, Look at Vv. 18-21. Christ has a claim on our lives because he saved us, “ransomed us,” as Peter says, not with silver or gold, but with his own precious blood. As precious as silver and gold might be, they pale in comparison to the shed blood of Christ, and we dare not turn away from the bloody nature of Christ’s sacrifice for us.

When Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ was released in Italy, the review board gave it a “G” rating. Some parents objected, saying the movie was too violent for children to watch. But the reaction of Italian author Riccardo Zucconi, quoted in USA Today, said more about theology than parenting. He refused to allow his children to see the film, in his words, “because I want them to have this idea of the spirituality of Christ, not this idea of debauchery. The soul of Jesus is important, not his body.”

The writer preferred to have his son watch a 30-year-old film, The Gospel According to Matthew. “That film is very deep,” he said, “and you don’t see a drop of blood.”

Zucconi planned to see the movie himself, however, “I think sometimes I will shut my eyes to preserve myself from all this blood,” he said.

This reaction says much about the contemporary response to the Crucifixion: People want the spirit of Jesus, without the Incarnation; the death without the pain; the sacrifice without the blood. But without the body, the pain, and the blood, the Crucifixion is meaningless.

Sacrifice cannot be sanitized. Sacrifice has always been bloody. That’s the point. There is blood on the ground. It should have been mine, but it isn’t. It belongs to Christ. He shed his blood so I wouldn’t have to. And that gives him a claim to my life that surpasses all others. We belong to Christ.

Hope and holiness go together. 1 John 3:3 says, “And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” Hope and holiness, hand in hand. If you follow Christ, you belong to Christ. That is the source of your hope. It is also your call to holiness. It isn’t permission to judge someone else’s walk with Christ, but to pay attention to your own. You see, if we place our hope in Christ’s salvation and promised return, and acknowledge his claim on our lives, setting us apart for his service, we will be drawn into a life of love. Not of division and judgment. Look at Vv. 22-25. Holiness leads to love of one another.

How many churches have been destroyed by judgmental hearts and minds? How many lives have been destroyed because, when a follower of Jesus stumbles, they experience judgment instead of restoring grace? Maybe its because when someone else messes up, perhaps its bigger than our own mistakes and we don’t feel so bad about ourselves. Kind of like the kid in the classroom who makes fun of everyone else so that their own shortcoming won’t be noticed. It’s a juvenile way of being. God calls us to something higher. He calls us to restorative love. He calls us to be bathed in grace, and to allow others to be bathed in grace too. In fact, we are to invite them to do so.

Before he was elected the 7th president of the United States, Andrew Jackson was commander of the Tennessee Militia during the War of 1812. AT one point during the war, his troops morale hit an all-time low. Things weren’t going well, and they lost hope. When that happened, they started arguing and bickering and they fought among themselves. Jackson reportedly called them together at one point when the tension reached a boiling point and he said, “Gentlemen! Let’s remember, the enemy is OVER THERE.” When we lose hope, we lose our sense of being set apart for service to God, and when that happens, we turn on each other. People of hope hang together. His promises hold. Christ WILL return. Our job is to live each day as if that day matters, in holiness and love, regardless of the opposition we face, because we are bathed in grace. Hope and holiness work together, drawing us together in restoring love. That is what it means to be bathed in grace, Let us pray.