A Holy Life

Read: 1 Peter 1:13-21

The phrase “living hope” can be read in two ways: 1) Living hope (adjective, noun) is something we have been given because of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. All other hopes fade and perish but since Jesus is alive, our hope is always alive. 2) Living hope (verb, direct object) is something we do because of the hope we have in Jesus – we live out our hope. In 1:13-21, Peter transitions from describing the hope we have in the gospel, to describing what a hope-filled life looks like. He calls it a “holy” life.

1) A Holy Life… Where It Starts

When we think of a holy life, most people think it begins with God’s commands or moral instructions. This is not true. A holy life, Peter teaches, starts with hope (1:13). Before we can be holy, we first need to have our hope fixed “completely” on the grace that will be ours at the coming of Jesus. The implication is that if your hope is in the wrong things, you will not live a holy life. Why would this be so? The logic is this - our desired future is what sets the course for our present life and decisions. Whether it’s good grades, success, our reputation or security – if these things are where our hope is fixed, they set the standard of our conduct. It’s why many “good” people might find themselves cheating on a test, cutting corners to get ahead, lying or putting others down to look good or refusing to be generous with their money or time. We compromise because our conduct is devoted to making these hopes come true. In contrast, if our hope is in the resurrection and the new heavens and new earth, our conduct will be devoted to seeing this new creation life of holiness grow in and through us – even in this broken world (see 2 Peter 3:10-13!). 

2) A Holy Life… What It Looks Like

A holy life doesn’t make it on many people’s “wish lists” in our modern world – even Christians. Why not? One of the biggest reasons is that we have the wrong idea of what a holy life looks like. In verses 15-16, Peter grounds the call to a holy life in God’s holy character. God’s holiness means that he is transcendent, utterly separate and set apart from us or anything in the universe. What then does it mean then for us to be holy? A holy life is a life “set apart” for God, fully and completely devoted to Him. This means a holy life might look different than we think it does. To be a holy person is not the same thing as being a good person or a moral person. A holy life is something altogether different. In fact, living a holy life is what makes a Christian different than both an immoral (irreligious) person AND a very moral (religious) person. How so?

1.                    An irreligious/immoral person rejects traditional moral teaching and rules to get less of God in their life. They might want some spiritual benefit from a “god” (ie, peace, meaning) but they want to keep control over most of their life. That’s why they make the rules.

2.                   A religious/moral person is good and keeps the rules to get less of God in their life. How so? The religious person says, “If I follow these rules and do these moral things – then I’m done. I’ve done my part. The rest of life is mine. God will do his part to give me blessing, give good things and heaven when I die.” Notice what’s missing in what a moral person really wants in life? God. The less they can give him the better, because they aren’t really interested in Him.

3.                    A Christian is a holy person who does good, follows the rules and is moral to get more of God into their life because they believe their whole life belongs (is set apart) to God. Because the totality of their life belongs to God, they live to “get” God into every part of their life and conduct. That’s what holiness is - God getting more and more of a life. What does a Christian really want in life? More of God. That’s holiness.

3) A Holy Life… How to Live It

But how does God get a hold of more and more of a life? Peter helps us see how it’s possible for us to live a holy life. It involves clear and careful thinking about the reason and basis for our conduct (1:13, 14) AND it involves an act of the will devoting our whole life to God and his purposes. But more than just thinking and doing is needed. There is something that ignites the passion to be holy – we need right feeling and affection. Giving God more and more of our lives needs to move from “I have to” to “I want to”. How does this happen?

First, we need God to cause us to feel the emptiness of an unholy life. The road to holiness passes through many moments where God allows us to feel the emptiness of pursuing a life apart from Him. We get what we hope for – we feel empty. We don’t get what we most hope – we feel empty. The futility of it all causes us to say – “God fill me!”

We also need to feel the costliness of a holy life. The cost is that everything that is unholy in us must be consumed. God is holy so he will consume anything and everything that is unholy. The problem is that this means we would be consumed. This is why, before he went to the cross, Jesus prayed, “I sanctify myself for them, so that they may also be sanctified (made holy)” (Jn 17:19). Jesus didn’t sin - so why did he need to sanctify himself? Jesus is saying, “I wholly devote myself to them so they may be wholly devoted to You.” He was fully consumed by God’s holiness at the cross so we wouldn’t be. He did not hold back any of himself for us – we who are more unholy than we will ever know – how can we hold back anything from him? This is how the holy love of God in Christ gets deep inside us so that we live holy lives – not because we have to – because we want to.   


1.        What about the sermon impacted you the most or left you with questions?

2.       How is hope connected to holiness according to Peter? How do you see the principle that our desired future sets the course for our present life and decisions work itself out in your life?

3.        Look up 2 Peter 3:10-13. Here Peter further unpacks the connection between hope and holiness. In your own words, describe how a hope in the resurrection life in the new heavens and new earth leads to a life of holiness.

4.       What is your mental picture of a holy life? Is it something you want, don’t want or are indifferent towards? How does the idea of holiness as a life entirely devoted to and belonging to God change your picture of what a holy life looks like?

For further discussion – Read Rom 16:16, 1 Timothy 2:8, 4:3-5. Paul says our hands and our kisses are holy and “everything created by God” can be made holy through the word and prayer. Clearly holy is not the same thing as being good/moral. Using this insight, come up with a definition of holiness or a description of a holy life.

5.       What’s the difference between a holy life and an irreligious/immoral life? a religious moral life? How do you see yourself moving toward irreligion or religion to have less of God in your life?

6.       How has God caused you to feel the emptiness of an unholy life? Are you feeling some of this now? If so, in what ways?

7.        Where do you feel you most need to move from “have to” to “want to” in your life? Share these things as a group and pray for grace to surrender these areas of your life over to Him.