“Next time, do you think you could fix it with a little less swearing?” Abigail, my 11-year-old daughter, asked. The back of our couch had disconnected from the arms and was being held together solely by the grace of God. I set about fixing it, trying to force the connecting pieces together again and, in my frustration, a few (mild) expletives burst forth from my mouth. My daughter was right to call me out. We generally avoid swearing in our home, as we strive to be considerate with our words, and I was acting out of step with our family’s values. But I was also out of step with a larger calling: one to holy living.
“As the one who called you is holy,” Peter wrote, “you also are to be holy in all your conduct” (1 Peter 1:15). Perhaps this call fills you with a sense of panic, guilt, or even shame. After all, how many of us can look at these words and think, Nailed it!—I mean, really? And when we’re confronted by the holes in our holiness, what do we usually do? We commit to working harder. We pull ourselves up by our spiritual bootstraps and take our first step. But because we forget to tie them up, we trip and stumble again—and again, and again, and again—until we’re ready to throw our hands up in the air and just give up.
But when Peter calls his readers to holiness, when he reminds them that God’s people are to be holy in all our conduct, he doesn’t write expecting them to “just be more holy,” as we so often expect of ourselves. He knows what it’s like to fall short (after all, he did deny Jesus three times). So rather than appealing to the force of will, Peter roots the call to holy living in the gospel.
Through Christ, you were “redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from your fathers” (v.18). You were foreknown, chosen before the foundations of the world; you were a beloved child from before the beginning (Ephesians 1:4–5). You were purchased with the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:19), the Lamb of God who silently bore our sins and was struck down because of our rebellion (Isaiah 53:7–8), all according to the riches of His grace, “richly poured out on us with all wisdom and understanding” (Ephesians 1:7–8).
That’s what makes the pursuit of holiness, this call to holy living, possible. That’s what makes it a delight, as much as a duty. Yes, without question, we have an obligation to pursue holiness. But the gospel reminds us that in Christ, we have been declared holy—He has done it all! And so, the call to holy living is not a call to make ourselves holy, but to live in light of who we already are: beloved sons and daughters of the Father, adopted into His family through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. So don’t set your hope for holiness in your own strength. Doing so will leave you disappointed every time. Instead, “set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13). The gospel is the fuel for our pursuit of holy living; it will never disappoint.
Written by Aaron Armstrong