Set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you…

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1 Peter 1:13 Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed. 14 Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. 15 Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; 16 for it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

I have two reactions to these verses. First I react nervously to v.15-16 “be holy yourselves in all your conduct”. Here is an excerpt from one of my commentaries called “Interpretation”:

Many Christians find the injunction to “be holy as God is holy” objectionable. After all, we are fragile human beings in need of God’s forgiveness, not saints. Matthew’s version, which uses the word “perfection,” is even more offensive to those who have grown up with a sense of being unable to fulfill the expectations of a demanding parent. When asked why they felt so angry that such statements were in the Bible, a group of adult parishioners quickly identified the tensions they could not resolve in their lives: (a) mothers who have to work, struggling to meet all the claims on their time; (b) fathers whose careers have been sidetracked in the economic downturn; (c) parents whose adult children are in various sorts of difficulty, and the like. Life is just too tough to have God requiring perfection, they insisted. No doubt 1 Peter’s audience could come up with a list of hardships to justify such a conclusion. The letter seeks to encourage them not to slide away from the new life they had adopted as Christians. In today’s terms, when the list of obligations and demands on our time seems impossible to manage, God is often the first to go.

By themselves v.15-16 would only lead me to despair. But then there is this portion of v.13:

“set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you…”

There it is. The good news. The antidote to all of our shortcomings. Apart from Jesus we are at the mercy of sin and death. But by the grace of God extended through Jesus we are made new, made holy, made righteous in the eyes of God. We are no longer enemies of God, but children of God!

It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. And so as we grasp the reality of the gospel we are set free to pursue life according to the will and ways of God. And when we fall short, which we regularly will, we can once again take hold of the promise of forgiveness and restoration in Christ Jesus, for the grace of God in Jesus has no end. It is always available if we will take it. Thanks be to God!

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