We had a pilot in our church years ago who flew 747s to Europe from Los Angeles. And when you get into one of those planes, there’s a computer. You punch in the longitude and latitude of the takeoff, and you punch in the longitude and latitude of the landing strip, and the plane flies to that. Well, one day, they were up in the air, and they realized that they were headed for London in their minds, but their airplane was headed for Brazil. And he, when he realized what was going on, he realized they were on a deadline for Sao Paolo or Rio, Brazil. And it all happened because of one mispunch on the computer. And, the difference was massive at the end, though very small at the beginning.
It’s really what you do at the beginning. It’s how you set the course at the beginning. Now, let me just talk to you about some of the things that are important with regard to this. I want to take you to a scripture in 1 Peter chapter 1. First Peter chapter 1. This verse establishes for us something of this thought that I just planted in your mind about setting direction. Verse 13. First Peter 1:13. Therefore, gird your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” What does the saying, let’s start at the back and go back to the front, “fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ,” start by fixing your direction on meeting Christ. That’s your goal. You want to be able to meet Christ at the revelation of Christ, unashamed, bold, hearing well-done, good, and faithful servant. Okay? That’s your long-range objective. That’s where you want to land your ship. From where you are now, to the time when the Lord Jesus Christ is revealed to you, and when He rewards His own.
How do you get there? How do you guarantee that that goal will be met? Well, the beginning of the verse says, “gird your mind.” This is a pretty simple idea. In ancient days, they wore tunics and tunics kind of were like a dress, a very loose-fitting garment. And if you were engaging in any kind of action, any kind of running, any kind of combat, any kind of labor, anything that required focus and attention, and getting everything out of your way, you put on a sash, you put on a belt, and you pulled it tight so that your dress wasn’t flying in the breeze. You certainly didn’t want to go into war like that. That’s why in Ephesians 6 when it talks about the armor of the Christian, it starts with the belt of truth.
It’s truthfulness actually, commitment. What ties all the loose ends of your life together is a commitment that this is a serious endeavor, a serious engagement, a serious task, and I can’t have things flying loose. Pull in all the loose ends of your life. That’s what Peter says. Prepare your mind to eliminate all entanglements, like Hebrews 12, isn’t it? Laying aside whatever entangles you, the sin that easily entangles you to run the race that is set before you. Your mind is not just your intellect but all your faculties. It’s a matter of pulling in all the loose ends in all your faculties. Be alert in the mental, spiritual dimensions of your life.
The language here in the original is to call for a decisive act. Stop letting your thoughts, your purposes, your decisions hang loose. I hate that phrase. That’s the opposite of what Peter is talking about, and it’s a popular phrase. It comes from surfing. Hang loose. That’s the opposite of what Peter would want you to do. Pull everything up as tight as you can possibly get it. You don’t go through life as a Christian in a leisure fashion if you intend to hit the goal that you’ve established, and that is to be pleasing to the Lord when you see Him face to face.
He adds this in verse 13. “Keep sober.” He’s not talking about, as opposed to being drunk, although there are times when that can refer to alcohol. He’s talking about clarity of mind. Sobermindedness, seriousness. A spiritual steadfastness, self-control, balanced priorities. A disciplined mind, if you will, that is not intoxicated by the allurements of the world.
In chapter 5 verse 8 he says the same thing again. “Be sober. Be on the alert.” Why? Because your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Moral decisiveness. Mental alertness. You can’t go through life recklessly overexposing yourself to the sins of this society and the world around you. This is spiritual self-discipline. I am profoundly concerned about how much the culture has encroached upon the church. The evil part of the culture, the baser elements of the culture have encroached upon the church so significantly that now, there are many preachers who think it’s clever to express themselves even in a pulpit in the baser elements of culture, to become highly familiar with the worst of the culture, the baser forms of entertainment. To know all the bad television, foul music, and bad movies, and all their storylines is somehow a way to culturally connect.
No, that’s a way to assure yourself that you will not maintain spiritual self-discipline. You can’t overexpose yourself to what is toxic without having it have an effect on you. It’s one thing to have the people in the pew do it and the preacher to correct them. It’s something else for the preacher to identify with that as if there’s some legitimacy to it. You can’t identify with outworkings of corruption and then try to speak against the worldview that is behind it. Spiritual self-discipline is critical. Pulling in the loose ends of your life, making sure that you think on what is good and holy and just and true. Philippians 4:8.
So let me give you some practical ways that, through the years, I have thought about how to do this, okay? And this goes back in my life a long, long time. Number one. If I want to pull in the loose ends of my life, first of all, I have to remember this: remember who owns me. Remember who owns me. Who owns me. Acts 20:28 says that God has purchased the church with His own blood. First Corinthians 6:19 and 20 says you’re not your own; you’re bought with a price. Therefore, glorify God in your spirit and in your body which are God’s. First Peter 1, right where we are, look at verse 14. “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance.” There’s the same point I was just making. Stay away from the corruption you have been saved from. Don’t make it, now that you’re a Christian, some form of entertainment or identification with the culture. But rather, like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior because it is written: “You shall be holy, for I am holy. If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each man’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed or purchased with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.”
Remember who owns you. You have been bought. You have been purchased. You have been purchased by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ with precious blood, precious because Christ is precious. Christ is precious because Christ is perfect, pleasing to the Father because He is God.
A few months ago, we talked about this idea of being a slave to Christ. That’s the same essential concept. We have been bought. We are now owned. We are not our own. We cannot serve two masters, but only one, two masters for a slave would be an impossibility. We are called to obey everything the Master tells us to do. We are subject to an alien will. When we don’t specifically what He wants us to do, we seek ways in which we can please Him. He alone has the right to render discipline upon us and to evaluate us as to reward. We have no protection but what our Master provides to us, and no provision but what He gives to us. We are slaves. We have been bought. But, this is a premium kind of slavery because our Master makes us sons, and joint heirs, and blesses us with all spiritual blessings and heavenlies in Christ Jesus, and will one day allow us to share everything that is His in the glories of heaven. But He owns us. My life is not my own. I have been ransomed, and He bought me out of the slave market. He bought me out of condemnation. He paid the penalty for my sin. I was under a curse, Galatians 3. He took the curse upon Himself in my place, that I might be delivered from that curse.
I love that hymn that we were singing because it does express the essence of the gospel, the last one that we sang, that it is, when it is all said and done, about God and heaven. I love that last line. Everything else, let it go. Everything else, I would abandon. Salvation is about God and heaven. You receive God and you receive heaven. He purchased us for that. So, for me, it really all began long, long ago when I was your age, and I was a college student, and I came to grips with the fact that my life was not my own. It’s still not my own; it never will be my own. I have been purchased. I am a slave to Christ, a willing slave.
Secondly, and this is another important focus, I think, for us. If you want to keep soberminded, if you want to pull in the loose ends of your life and maintain spiritual self-discipline, you remember who owns you, and secondly, you look back to the covenant of salvation. You look back to the covenant of salvation. This is a missing element in preaching today. It’s a missing element in evangelism today. Clearly, a missing element. But when you became a believer, you basically made a vow. You made a commitment. If you were genuinely saved, you said, “I turn from my sin and I submit to Your lordship, Christ. I accept your sacrifice on my behalf. I acknowledge that I am a slave, and You are my Master. I give You my life.” The entry act of salvation is an act of obedience because the gospel is a command. Repent. Repent. Believe. God has commanded all men everywhere to repent. It’s a command. You obeyed the command. Salvation was the initial act of obedience. It is the first true act of obedience in your life. Prior to that, there’s none good, none righteous. We’re all disobedient. Romans 3.
The first act of obedience was obeying the call to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and to repent of your sin. And at that point, you were vowing obedience and submission. How easy it is to forget that original covenant.
Go back to the beginning of 1 Peter 1 for a moment. And Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, is writing to believers residing as aliens scattered around those various places. Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. And then, he describes them this way. Who are chosen, they are the elect, as are all believers. They are elect according to the foreknowledge of God, the Father, the predetermined identification of the Father. Then, notice this, “by the sanctifying work of the Spirit.” You are chosen by God’s foreknowledge and election. It is the Spirit who sanctifies you. And then this, it’s a purpose clause: “In order that you may obey Jesus Christ.” It’s why you were saved. To obey Jesus Christ.
That’s why, in the Great Commission, our Lord says to His disciples and to all of us, “Go baptize and teach them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” The Christian life is not selective in the sense that you pick out the things that you’d like to obey and ignore the ones you don’t want to obey. When you came to Christ, you came at a level of desperation that says, “I want God, and I want heaven, and I want deliverance from hell, and I submit myself to You, deny myself, take up my cross, follow You. You are my Kurios, my Lord. I am Your slave, your doulos. I submit to You.”
If salvation is anything at all, from the standpoint of the sinner, it is a commitment to obey Jesus Christ. And then Peter says a very interesting thing here in verse 2. “And be sprinkled with His blood.” What is that? We are elect, according to the foreknowledge of God. We are set apart. This is the sanctifying work of the Spirit that begins in salvation, by the power of the Spirit, in order that we may live a life of obedience to Jesus Christ. And then he adds, “and be sprinkled with His blood.”
What is he talking about? Well, he’s writing to Jews who would know exactly what he was talking about. Go back to Exodus 24. Exodus 24. And this is one of the most interesting occasions I think in the Pentateuch. Moses has the law, and in verse 1, he is told to “Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and 70 of the elders of Israel, and worship at a distance. Moses alone, however, shall come near to the Lord, but they shall not come near, nor shall the people come up with him.” Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the Lord and all the ordinances. That is, Moses gave the people the law that God had given him.
And notice the response in verse 3: and all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do!” Well, that’s a noble commitment, isn’t it? That’s a vow. It’s to be expected. God has declared His commands in the law given to Moses. Moses reiterates those commands to the people, and they do the only thing that you can possibly do if you desire a relationship with God and blessing from God. They make a commitment to obey. It is a vow. It is a vow.
So, verse 4, “Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord. Then he arose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain with 12 pillars for the 12 tribes of Israel. And he sent young men of the sons of Israel, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as peace offerings to the Lord.” And now, follow this: Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and the other half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. Then he took the book of the covenant,” the law of God, “and read it.” He had already recited it to them. Then he had written it down, and now he reads what he has written down “in the hearing of the people; and they said,” and here’s the second time, “all that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!”
This is precisely, legitimately, and honestly what a true conversion is like. You say, I’m done with my sin, I submit to you, O Lord, I will obey. Forgive my sin. Grant me salvation. I submit to You as my sovereign Lord. That’s, on the surface at least, what the people were saying. We vow to be obedient.
Then, verse 8. “So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it,” or sloshed it, “on the people, and said, ‘Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all those words.’“
In ancient times when covenants were made, animals were killed and blood was shed. To seal covenants, the blood was placed upon the people who made the covenant or the vow. In this case, this blood is collected from these animals that are slaughtered. And we don’t know how many of them were slaughtered, but many, many of them, for this is a large, large congregation. The blood was put in large, flat containers, and then sloshed across the heads of the people to symbolize their commitment to obedience.
Unfortunately, tragically, they didn’t keep their promises. Sad. They did not keep their promises. That whole generation died in the wilderness, as we know.
Now, you can go back to Peter. Peter is saying, borrowing from that, that when you were saved, chosen by the foreknowledge of God, set apart in salvation by the work of the Spirit, you were set apart to obey Jesus Christ, and you symbolically were sloshed with His blood as a symbol of a vow that you made. The primary purpose of sprinkling the blood was to consecrate the parties. The blood on the altar relates to God, the blood on the people relates to them. They are dedicating themselves to obedience. And when we as believers are saved by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, we are brought into a covenant relationship of obedience to God that’s been sealed in blood. It’s as if His blood has been splattered on us. Peter’s point is that the death of Christ actually satisfies God, of course, and brings men into a covenant of obedience.
Look down to verse 22. Peter says, “You have in obedience to the truth purified your souls.” He’s referring to salvation. Salvation is that moment in your life when you said: “I will obey. I submit. I commit to a life of obedience to Christ. Splatter me with His blood.” What are the keys to discipline day in and day out, commitment that can bring you to the final end? First, remember who owns you; and secondly, keep the covenant you made, the covenant of obedience you made at your salvation. The Lord will never go back on His covenant, but how often we go back on ours. Thirdly, recognize all sin as a severe violation of God. Recognize all sin as a severe violation of God.
Verse 14. “As obedient children, don’t be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written,” this comes from Leviticus, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” If you say you belong to Me, if you say you are Mine, if you say I am your Father, I am your God, if you say that you desire to honor Me and to worship Me, and to praise Me, and adore Me, and lift Me up, then you must pursue holiness. Be holy yourselves, also in all your behavior as the Holy One Himself is holy.
Any failure at that point is a severe violation of a standard of holiness that God has set in His own perfection. We can’t be exactly like the Lord, obviously. We can’t be as perfect as God is perfect. But it can be our goal, as Paul puts it in his letter to the Corinthians, “Cleanse yourselves from all filthiness of the flesh, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
You had to see it this way. We don’t sin against a creed. We don’t sin against an institution. We don’t sin against an expectation. We don’t sin against a rule. We sin against God. Psalm 51, David looking at the horror of his own sin with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uriah says, “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned.” So, you see every sin as a severe violation of God, understanding that when you sin, people may never know. No one will perhaps know that you have violated the law, that you’ve broken the law, but you have sinned against God. And if that sin continues and goes unconfessed, you will experience what David experiences when he says, “My life juices have dried up,” and lived in the agony of a guilty conscious until he came to a place of confession.
Now, there’s nothing really mystical about all this. There’s nothing difficult about it. It just takes some very foundational commitments in our lives to end up where we want to end up. To remember who owns you, you’re not your own. To understand that everything you do goes back to a covenant you made. You said, “Lord, save me, and I’ll follow You.” He keeps His side. Do you?
Remember the covenant you made at salvation and understand that every sin is a personal violation of God’s own holiness, which you bear. The language of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 6 is pretty stunning. He says this. If you’re a believer, and Christ is in you, and you join yourself to a prostitute, you join Christ to that prostitute. That’s a staggering thought. If Christ lives in you, you don’t go anywhere without Him. And this is an unfathomable affront to your Savior, to be dragged into sin.
One final thought for you, and I’ll let you go, on the maybe practical side. Cultivate spiritually strengthening habits. Cultivate spiritually strengthening habits. Daily time in the Word, daily time to meditate on the Word, time in prayer, time in worship. This is the time to systematically build your convictions. Come to conclusions. You’re in a perfect place to do that. You can get help in class, you can get help personally from folks, you can bounce off each other. This is the time to build the convictions that are going to be the pillars of your life. Decide what you believe. Decide what you genuinely believe, because when you really believe it, it becomes a conviction and people operate off their convictions.
If you’re content to resolve nothing, you’re in big trouble. If you’re content to resolve some things, and not all things, you could be in trouble. Build a firm foundation of convictions about what is true and what is a right understanding of Scripture, and what honors God, and let them become the foundations of your life. Time in the Word, time in meditation, time in prayer, time in worship, time to build your convictions, read whatever you need to read, ask the questions, discuss, so that your convictions become strong.
And then, even on a personal level, I found that when I was a kid, I struggled a little bit with the self-discipline. My parents didn’t know anything about ADHD or whatever that is, or whatever they call it. But I was the most inattentive, distracted kid ever. I know that my teachers thought I was hopeless. And had there been medication, they would’ve prescribed it for me very early on, because I had a severe deficit in attention, I’ll put it that way. And, as my life began to unfold in my teenage years, my dad began to take it upon himself to endeavor to put some discipline in my life. And little by little, I began to try to put some things into my life that would harness me a little bit. Simple things like, if I have a task, if I have a series of tasks to do, always do the hard one first. Always do the hardest one first. I still do that. I have to prepare a Sunday morning sermon, a Sunday evening sermon. I have to decide which is the more difficult one. That’s the one I do first. If I have conflicts to resolve somewhere, I have three different things I need to deal with. Whatever the more difficult one is, is the one I do first. Make a schedule, either in your mind, or on paper, or somewhere, and learn to stick to the schedule. That’s going to make a huge difference in how effective and impactful your life is in the future.
Clean your environment. It’s a good place to test your ability to pull loose things together. Wean yourself of always having to be entertained. Wean yourself of always having to be entertained. Another way of saying that is: don’t go to the movie. Read a good book. Accept correction and embrace it. Finish what you start. Volunteer when somebody needs a volunteer, and fit it in. Say no when you can say yes, just to prove to yourself you can say no. I mean, you know, when they throw that massive banana split or whatever it is in front of you, you could eat it. But once in a while, just say, “No,” just to prove you’re still in control of banana splits, at least. It’s just good to maintain some control in your life. There are a lot of little things you can do like that. Learn to make difficult choices on principle, not emotion, or external pressure.
These are some things you can think about a little bit as you kind of process this. But the main things, of course, we talked about, are those spiritual things that are foundational to making sure that someday in the future, you’re going to look back and say, you know, when I was very young, once upon a time, and it’s hard for you to comprehend this, I was very young once upon a time. I set some things in motion, and by the grace of God, I’m ready to stand before the Lord now at that time of His revelation and know that I can be unashamed because I’ve arrived at the destination that I established at the beginning, by His grace, and through the means of His grace applied in my life. Let’s pray together.
Father, we’re just grateful that You can make anything out of us. We’re really in awe of the fact that we can be useful to You in that eternal enterprise of redemption which is unfolding in the world. And Lord, we do want to be useful. We want to enjoy the fullest eternal blessing that comes for obedience. We want the richest that heaven has to give to us. We don’t want to lose any reward that we have wrought. Lord, protect these young people, I pray, and keep them on the right course in the right direction to the right destination: the revelation of Jesus Christ, to arrive there with joy, without being ashamed, with eagerness to receive what You have for the faithful servant. May they make the decisions here and now that set that in motion and just patiently and faithfully, day by day, so live that when it’s all over, they can look back with joy and gratitude, that You have used the means of grace that You’ve given to us to bring us to fullness and fulfillment in serving and honoring You. Pray for every person here, to that end, that their life would be a glory and an honor to You to the very finish, though it may be many years from now. Be honored in all of us, we pray. That’s our desire. You are worthy. In Christ’s name, Amen.
This article is also available and sold as a booklet.