Years ago when I was in seminary, we watched a video series based on a book by Francis Schaefer, a legendary Christian philosopher, called, “How Should We Then Live?” The point of the series was, that becoming a Christian isn’t just “making a decision,” but it should impact the way you think, and the way you live, in every area of your life: arts, philosophy, science, everything. It’s a great book, and series. But we also find how we should live as Christians in another book: The Bible, in passages like the one we are looking at this morning in I Peter 1:13:
“Therefore, prepare 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.”
This verse begins with the word “therefore”, which points us back to the salvation we have talked about the past couple of weeks. BECAUSE of the salvation we get through faith in Jesus, how are you to live? How should you think? What should you do? This verse verse gives us a good start on “How Should We Then Live” once we give our lives to Jesus. (By the way, this is appropriate for our graduating seniors today — but it is also fitting for each one of us: “How Should We Then Live”?
I. With A Mindset Of Action
Verse 13 begins: “prepare your minds for action”.
This is literally, “gird up the loins of your mind.” “Girding up the loins” is an ancient Oriental custom of gathering up one’s long robes and tucking them into the belt or tying them around their waist, so they wouldn’t be in the way as they worked or ran. You can easily understand how if you had long robes on, it would hinder you as you tried to run, or work on something. So if you were telling people to get ready to do something, you might say: “Gird up your loins!” We’re getting ready for action!
We see an example of this in the famous story of Elijah with his challenge to the false prophets on Mt. Carmel. After the Lord answered him by fire and burned up the sacrifice the Bible says that “Elijah girded up his loins and outran (King) Ahab to Jezreel.” Now Jezreel was a number of miles away, so the point was, since Elijah was going to have to run so far, he first “girded up his loins” to get ready to run. That is what this expression “gird up your loins” means.
But notice that our verse for today does not just say: “gird up your loins,” but it says “gird up the loins of your MIND.” In other words, this is a word picture, in which he’s saying, “Get your MIND ready for action.” Just as you might “gird up your loins” when you’re getting ready to run or work, so he says “gird up your MIND” to get ready to do something. He’s saying: GET YOUR MIND READY FOR ACTION. That should be our mindset as Christians. We should be ready to act!
Here is an important point: the Christian life is not just something we “learn” about, or just “think” about. We have given our life to Jesus as our Savior, and He wants us to respond, and be ready to DO what He calls us to do. When He called His first disciples in Matthew 4, Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Right from the beginning, He was giving them a mindset of action, that they were going to follow Him and DO something. And God is telling us here that we are to be the same way: “Gird your minds for ACTION.” Get ready to DO what I show you to do.
Now, admittedly this is a little difficult to preach on Memorial Day weekend — when a lot of people are taking off; and looking forward to summer break from school, and vacations, and so on. And listen, we need those times. It is Biblical to rest, and get a break from time to time. Don’t feel guilty about that. Cheryl & I are going to be taking some breaks soon ourselves; we hit the ground running when we came and we haven’t stopped; at some point we’re gonna get a little breather this summer too. We all need that. Don’t feel guilty about having time off. It is Biblical and needed. I will preach a message some time on the need for regular rest.
BUT, understanding that, be sure you don’t ever get in a permanent “vacation mindset” spiritually. It can be easy to do that. You just kind of “coast” through church; through your devotions; through life, like you’re on vacation or retirement. Christians are not to be on a permanent “vacation mindset.” We are not to be on a permanent “retirement mindset.” Our attitude as Christians is to be ACTION mindset: “Gird your minds for action”!
This begins with our time with God every morning (and by the way, do NOT miss your morning devotion time just because you’re on vacation. You don’t need a vacation from God!)
But when you read His word in the morning, don’t just read it like a “novel,” for entertainment. And don’t just read it to store up “facts” and knowledge. Read His word, listening for the voice of Jesus through His Holy Spirit, to show you what He wants you to DO as you follow Him:
— He will show you things in your life you need to change.
— He will show you people you need to minister to.
— He will show you all kinds of things that you need to DO differently.
The point is, every day as you get into His word, you need to have an ACTION mentality. Every day, pray: God, what do You want me to DO?
Last week we saw where Jesus said, “If you know these things, you are blessed if you DO them.” Every day when you read His word, don’t finish until you have prayed and asked, “God, what do you want me to DO?” “Gird your mind for ACTION”! Be ready to DO what God shows you in His word.
II. By Taking Life Seriously
Second, God says here: “keep sober in spirit”
This word literally means to be “sober,” in the sense of not getting drunk, or having your senses hindered by things that intoxicate you. But this word is often used symbolically, of our ATTITUDE in life, of taking things seriously.
We see this same Bible word used in a number scriptures which help us understand that it means to take things seriously.
— I Thess. 5:6 talking about the return of the Lord, he says: “So then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.” He’s saying, the Lord is about to come back; be serious about that.
— Verse 8 of that same chapter says “Let us be sober, having put on the the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of our salvation.” He’s saying, we are in a spiritual battle, so we need to “have our armor on”! We are in a serious fight.
— II Timothy 4:4 talks about those who “will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths.” But then he says, “BUT YOU be SOBER in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” He’s = don’t get sidetracked; keep focused on your ministry and what God has called you to. This is serious.
— I Peter 4:7 “The end of all things is near; therefore be of sound judgment and sober for the purpose of prayer.” He’s saying, don’t get caught up in the distractions of the world. Remember that soon all these things will be GONE. Keep a clear head, and PRAY!
— I Peter 5:8 “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” He’s saying you need to be serious, and on the alert, because you have an enemy who is always on the prowl against you.
I got a dramatic picture of this the other day, when I let our cat out on the front porch. She stepped out and she immediately froze: because she saw a little squirrel sitting just a few feet away, eating and burying acorns. I could see all this from our front breakfast room window. The squirrel was right in front of that window, and I could see him: he would eat and look around for a second, and then he would duck his head in the dirt, and bury something, or get some more food. He did this several times; eat and duck; eat and duck. I thought to myself: if I were that cat, the next time he ducks his head, and can’t see me, I would spring out at him. And that’s exactly what she did. The next second, that squirrel ducked it’s head again into the ground, and that cat ran at him — and she ALMOST got him! He didn’t realize there was somebody just waiting there to get him!
But what we have to realize is: this is a picture of what the devil is trying to do to you EVERY DAY. Every day, he is watching, watching, watching — just waiting for the perfect opportunity to spring out at you, and get you. We’ve got to take this seriously, and be on the alert.
One of the books I am reading right now is Tales of Old-Time Texas by J. Frank Dobie. In it he describes how the settlers in early Texas had to be on the watch every day for attacks from some of the hostile Indians. At ANY MOMENT they might appear over the horizon and attack, or take your horses, or get your kids if they were out in the field. You had to be ready every single minute. You had to have your gun right at your side all the time. There could be no “rest,” no “letup.” You always had to be ready. Those settlers lived under the sober, serious reality of the presence of their enemies.
And that is exactly what this word “sober” means here. You have to realize that you too, are living every day in the shadow of an enemy who is out to destroy you, your marriage, your family, your children, your witness, and your church. You MUST NOT THINK that this cannot happen to you ANY DAY of your life. He is always there; he is always lurking; he is alway ready. So WE have to be always ready too. You must not miss your time with God in the morning and go out into the world unprepared. It would be like one of those settlers going out without their weapon. You can’t be found without scriptures in your mind to fight off his temptations. You can’t afford to go out and not be fortified and led by God’s Holy Spirit. You must not be caught “off-guard” spiritually. The Bible is saying here, listen, this is SERIOUS. You’ve got to be SOBER. You have to realize that LIFE IS NOT A GAME. LIFE IS NOT ALL “FUN.” Life is a WAR; LIFE has eternal consequences. And the decisions and actions you make in life matter. THAT is what it means to be “sober.” It means you take life seriously.
This is one of the big differences between our generation, and the generation of the Puritans that I mentioned a few weeks ago, who lived in the 1500’s. Our generation today wants to think that life is just all “fun;” that it’s all about what’s on tv, or the newest video game, or whatever’s entertaining. Whereas the Puritans saw life as a WAR: they believed that they had been planted here by God, to serve Him, but that there was a real devil who was always at war against them, and that all of life was a battle against that enemy. And that our rest is not here on this earth, it’s in heaven. But as long as we live here on earth, we are fighting serious, spiritual battles with a real, serious enemy.
And that is very much what the Bible means here when it says that we need to be “sober in spirit.” God’s saying, take your life seriously. Your life is not all about tv and video games and entertainment. In fact, immersing your life in entertainment is pretty much the exact OPPOSITE of what the Bible is saying here. Now, it’s ok to spend an hour or two watching tv, or playing some video games, or reading novels, or whatever you enjoy for entertainment, for a break, or on your day off. But don’t get so caught up in those things that your whole life is about them. That is not reality. That is not what life is about. Take your life seriously. Live the REAL LIFE that God has given you. Fulfill your real, God-given responsibilities. Do the real, serious things that God has created you for, and called you to do with your life. Be serious with your life. AND be serious about other people’s lives too:
C.S. Lewis’ “The Weight of Glory” is possibly my very favorite sermon of all time. He wrote in that message that every person you meet, will either one day be so glorious that if you saw them now you would be tempted to worship them — or one day they will be so hideous, that they could be part of a nightmare, like a monster, in hell. Every person you meet, will either become one or the other: glorious, or monstrous, for all eternity. So he says, we need to take every person seriously. We need to realize every person you meet will be in eternity one place or another. That is a “sobering” thought — and that’s what this word means. It means, take people seriously. Take your life, and the life of every person God brings across your path, seriously.
III. By Hoping In Jesus.
“Fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
The Bible says here: listen, Jesus is coming back. And when He does, you will receive everything He has promised you, in full. All the sacrifices you have made will be repaid, many times over, and all your obedience will be rewarded. Your imperfect physical body will be transformed into a perfect eternal body. And you will live with Him glory forever!
God says, listen; that is coming! Look forward to that. Fix your hope completely on THAT! People build their lives around a lot of things in this world, but sadly they almost always put their hope in things that won’t last.
The other day, some of us were talking about the recent flooding, and someone described how several years ago they had helped with some of the homes that had been flooded: and that they saw how the floodwaters had just covered the floors of these homes; how their walls had been ruined; how family Bibles and heirlooms had become rotted and molded. It was just a sad picture of devastation and destruction.
But we need to realize that what happened with that stuff in that flood, is exactly what will happen one day, with every material thing we have:
— there is no home that won’t eventually be ruined
— there is no paper that won’t be burned
— there is no car that won’t be rusted
— there is no investment that won’t be lost
It is all corruptible; it is all temporary.
So God says, DO NOT PUT YOUR HOPE IN THESE THINGS. They will not last, and they will not ultimately satisfy you. One of the books I am reading right now is a biography of the classic actor, Cary Grant. Cheryl & I love to watch his old movies, like “The Awful Truth,” “Bringing Up Baby,” and “The Philadelphia Story.” Cary Grant was THE #1 actor in the world for some years. He got to choose the movies he would star in; then the other actors got the parts he didn’t want. He got to edit his lines, and choose what pictures of him were shown. He was offered up to $1 million per movie (back when a million dollars was a million dollars!), plus his commission from the movie rights. He had homes, jets, women, travel, popularity; he had everything this world had to offer — and yet this book details how in the early 1960’s, Cary Grant went to doctor Mortimer Hartman in Los Angeles California and began experimental treatments of LSD. WHY would he do such a thing? He said, “I had become dissatisfied with me. I took LSD in the hope it would make me feel better about myself. I wanted to rid myself of all my hypocrisies …”. (Evenings With Cary Grant, p. 236). Here was this man who literally had everything this world has to offer — and he found out that all of that wasn’t enough!
And here’s the thing: some of you here today are spending your life, chasing the very same things that Cary Grant found out would not ultimately satisfy him! You need to learn from his testimony:
— money will never make you happy
— that home is not going to satisfy you
— that business success or award you are seeking will not ultimately fulfill you
— and that next girl or that guy won’t ultimately satisfy you either.
NONE of these things will.
That’s why God says to us here: “Fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the Revelation of Jesus Christ.” God made you to know HIM; He made you to be satisfied with HIM. Your sin separated you from Him, so you have this “empty place” in your life that only He can fill. You can try to put everything in the world in that place — just like Cary Grant did — but it won’t work. The only thing that can fill the “God-shaped place” in your life, is GOD. That’s why Jesus came: to die on the cross, so your sins could be forgiven, and He could come into your life, and so you could go to heaven to live with Him in eternity.
So God says, put your hope in HIM. Put your hope in JESUS. You will never be ultimately satisfied with the things of this world. You’ve got to fix your hope on HIM, and what HE will give you in eternity.
The question is: Is your hope really in Jesus? Do you know for certain that if you lost everything you have in this world (which one day you will!) that you still have Him; that you have a home with Him in heaven, and a reward there with Him that is worth more than everything in this world put together?
— If you do have this hope, then thank God. And commit yourself to LIVE like the Bible says here you should live if you know that.
— And if you don’t have that hope, you CAN have it. Jesus died to save YOU! Give your life to Him right now — and put your hope in Him!