Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot (1 Peter 1:13-19, ESV).
Up to this point in our search for help with life’s problems from Peter’s first letter, we have focused on meditating upon biblical truths about God and His work in our lives. We learned Christians are not alone. We are elect exiles and God is always with us. We also learned how we can look to the past, to the future, and to the present to find living hope in Christ. We then learned how to see through suffering, looking with eyes of faith.
Call to Action
In calling his readers to action, Peter is drawing from ancient godly wisdom that goes back to the early chapters of Genesis. In chapter 4, Cain became angry and depressed because God had no regard for his offering. In response, God calls Cain to action,
Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? (v. 6a).
Peter is making the same call to his readers. He warns us that when facing trials we should not allow our emotions to spiral us down into depression. No, we should do something.
Mind Body Holiness
So, what is Peter’s call to action? The inspired Apostle is calling us to mind-body holiness. The mind includes internal processes such as what we think, feel, and will. The Bible often collectively refers to these as the heart. The body is what we do, both our words and our behavior. Peter goes on to give the standard for both of these aspects of our lives: holiness.
This interaction between mind (thoughts, feelings, will) and body (words and behavior) is common in the Scriptures. For example, David closes Psalm 19 with “Let the words of my mouth (words and behavior) and the meditation of my heart (thoughts, feelings, will) be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” (v.14). This verse actually provides a good model for looking at ourselves from a biblical perspective. But this is a topic for another post.
Peter is encouraging those dealing with problems in life to take action in the midst of these problems. He begins by encouraging us to prepare our minds for action and remain sober-minded. This is the first of three times that Peter encourages his readers to be sober. Remaining sober-minded includes keeping ourselves from rashness and confusion, as well as intoxicating substances. These are all things we might to which we might be tempted in the midst of a trial.
When taking action in our minds, Peter tells us to focus not on ourselves and the problems that often plague us. No, we are to fix our minds on Jesus Christ and His grace. We can start by thinking about all the truths Peter has also shared in the early verses of this letter and the truth that we have been saved (ransomed) by the precious blood of Jesus. These truths are full of grace and lead to a living hope; a hope that helps us deal with life’s problems.
In v.14, Peter moves from addressing the mind to the body. He warns his readers not to be conformed to their former passions. Peter is warning us against repeating the sinful and futile behavior that characterized our lives before we were effectively ransomed by the sacrifice of Jesus. While not all of our problems are a direct result of our sinful behavior, many of them are. The good news is that God gives us the grace to live differently.
Peter also reminds his readers that they are God’s children, adopted into the family, as they put their faith in Jesus Christ. In v.17, tells us to call upon God as our Father when we experience trials. This provides us comfort, as He is the father who sees all things and knows all things. When He looks upon His beloved children, He sees them in Christ.
And because we know God sees us in Christ, we can have a healthy and reverent fear of the Lord. Peter likely knew well Solomon’s words in Proverbs, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (1:7). Fear is compared to life prior to salvation and adoption into God’s family, where there is no fear of God. There is no concern that He sees all the deeds man does against Him.
So what is the goal of our thoughts and actions? The goal is holiness. As God has told us, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” We are to set apart ourselves, our thoughts, and our actions to glorify God. We are not to think and behave as the world does or as we may have done before coming to Christ. We are called to be different. We are called to be like Jesus Christ, who is holy.
So what does this holiness look like? For mind holiness, I would suggest considering what Paul wrote to the Philippians. Paul reminds them and us not to be anxious (a common problem in many people’s lives), but instead to rejoice always in prayer and supplication with thanksgiving. He then goes on to write, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (4:8).
What, then, is body holiness? Let’s begin with what it is not. Paul suggests that holiness is not found in the works of the flesh, such as sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. No, Paul insists. We should instead exhibit the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, and self-control (see Gal. 5:19-23). Peter offers a similar list at the beginning of his second letter: faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, and brotherly love (2 Pet 1:5-8). He adds “For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins” (v.9).
So let’s sum things up. What is Peter telling us to do as we face the trials of living in a fallen world? He is telling us to do something and not just something, but something reflecting God’s holiness.
This is a common problem we all have when we are struggling with life. It becomes hard to think straight and act properly. Instead, we allow our situation to drag us down. Peter is telling us to remember just how good our God has been to us and respond to that and worry less about our problems.
Oftentimes, a good start to mind and body holiness is to be quick to hear and slow to speak.