“Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (I Pet. 1:13)
Roll up your sleeves! get serious! with hope set your eyes upon the future! Another year has begun and it is our privilege to be a part of it. Happy 2014! “Hold it right there,” says the cynic, “what possible reason is there to have purposeful hope for the new year? Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die is more like it!” With the economy out of control, rumblings of war in the distance, crime increasing, natural disasters, immorality reaching epidemic proportions, socialism spreading like a plague, and diseases with no known cures . . . why, the future is just one big gamble!”
The unbelieving cynic is telling us, “Be realistic. 2014 will be the same or worse than the past.” The unbeliever claims the right to pessimism because he claims to view the world as it really is and deals with tangibles only. Actually, only the Christian can be a realist, for he knows that the real world is God’s creation and therefore history is the unfolding of God’s redemptive plan to save the just and condemn the unjust. Peter is here speaking about the real world, with real hope, and real tasks for the future. It is the tool of the devil to cause us to fear and fret about tomorrow and tremble about what man may do to us. This sort of anxiety undercuts and denies God’s great faithfulness and power. Our Father’s mercies are new to us each morning as well as year after year.
What Peter tells us in these words is, “Gird up, be sober, be hopeful.” This is not some humanistic New Year’s resolution, but it is the resolve of a new creature in Jesus Christ – a lifelong commitment. Peter begins this teaching with the word, “Therefore,” That usually means that he has already laid out the reasons as to why we should do as he says. Before we have any right to try to do these things, we must first look at the foundation which rests on the grace and help of God.
The Christian is “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience” (v. 2). By grace, we stand in a very high position in God’s eyes. By His sovereign grace and infinite love He has chosen unto Himself a people before the creation of the world. He is our God and we are His people! Shall God’s elect ever give way to despair? Shall they fear men or God? The God who elected us, gives us His Spirit to make us a holy people – cleansed from sin by the blood and Spirit of Christ, and renewed after the image of Christ. In the love of God we are secure. “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” (Rom. 8: 33)
Next, Peter tells us that we have already been raised from our spiritually dead condition. We are “begotten again unto a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (v. 3). We are twice born men – born again from above, no longer to live as the hopeless natural man (II Cor. 5:17). The same Spirit that raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in us and will raise us up on the last day (Rom. 8: 11). More important than the New Year is the new life we have in Jesus!
Another foundation stone is the fact that we are heirs of the kingdom of heaven – “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled and that does not fade away” (v. 4). This glory before us is not a mirage, but is “reserved in heaven for you.” We know the end of our present life with this daily hope in us – unlike the doubts about the daily events that may occur this year. Whatever God’s plan for this year, one thing is certain – it leads us ever closer to our inheritance of the kingdom of heaven.
We are not just given this future hope, but daily we are “kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (v. 5). Even when we are tried like gold in fire (v. 7), we know it is for the praise of our Lord. Trials, troubles, and unpleasant circumstances notwithstanding, we can and must joyfully face the future. We stand on the same promises of the Gospel that the prophets of old proclaimed and believed. In the light of these blessings, let us face the future with confidence and purpose.
“Gird up the loins of your mind.” This expression comes from the manner of dress in Peter’s days. A long cloth strip was worn around the waist so people could cinch up and not get their feet tangled up in their robes, especially when working or running. Today we would say, “roll up your sleeves.” Just as the warrior or the racer must gird up his robes so he won’t fall, Peter tells us to gird up our minds. These are days of looseness, laxity in doctrinal belief, carelessness in seeing the religious meaning in all aspects of life, and sloppiness and forgetfulness in personal and family worship and devotions. Many wear their religion loosely about them as if it didn’t quite fit.
Girding suggests first, earnestness and seriousness – a state of mind. We are called to be “holy” people (v. 22), and we are called to “holy living” – pure and separated from the world (vv. 15, 16; II Cor. 6:16, 17). We need to be self-conscious about our faith and about our duty to honor the Lord in all that we do. If our faith means anything to us, let’s roll up our sleeves like we mean business!
Girding means secondly, preparedness, as a warrior prepares for battle. Get your mind ready to engage in the battle that rages between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of satan. Read, study, and apply the Scriptures. Hone your knowledge of God’s Word to a keen edge. Only then will it be a sword in your hand (Eph. 6:17) able to slice through the false philosophies of our day. The devil and his hosts are stubborn, but not stupid. He knows where man’s weak spots are and loves to see men stumble over their own feet. Just as feet can stumble over robes, so our minds can also stumble over false hopes and teachings unless they are girded about with the Truth.
Girding also shows determination. A person whose mind and faith are together is someone resolved to act. The Christian who hears the Word must also be a doer of the Word (James 1:22, 23). Now is the time to act. Today will already be yesterday tomorrow. If Jesus is the King of all, then waste no time to impress upon every realm of life the seal which reads “This area belongs to the Lord.” It takes a determined effort to apply the Lordship of Jesus to areas such as education, the home, the justice system, the government, medicine, the society in general. Let the Church be the center of training to organize a voice that will be heard, and hopefully heeded, by a world that desperately needs to know the will of God and the way of salvation. It is true that on the judgment day every knee will bow at the name of Jesus, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil. 2:10, 11). But, it is our duty to command men to bow to and confess the name of Jesus now. We can begin this best by doing it ourselves.
Finally, girding means pulling your life together – concentrate on the single most important duty of man, which is to bring glory to God. Pull together the gifts God has given to you individually and to the Church as a whole. Read carefully I Cor. 12 and Gal. 5: 22-26 and ask yourself whether you have been faithful in offering the gifts God has entrusted to you to the service of Christ’s Church. Take inventory of God’s gifts in you and employ them as servants of and for the King. Focus your energies, talents, time, knowledge, and possessions like the sun through a magnifying glass. Focus them on man’s hopeless and sinful condition, and bring the Light of the Gospel to bear on every situation. In this the Church must function as one body. In the hymn “Onward Christian Soldiers,” notice the unity that we confess, “all one body we . . . “
So then, as Christians facing not only one year, but all of life, we need to pull together every resource and determine to face life and do battle with the sword of the Spirit. Prepare your mind and put your heart in it! If not, you’ll stumble over your own feet.
“Be sober” – be clear headed. Don’t go through another day of your life with a faith that’s muddled or foggy. Many will begin the new year on just such a groggy note – head throbbing and eyes bloodshot. This is sad, but it is even sadder to see many go through life literally or figuratively in that type of stupor and at the same time claim that this is life at its best. Not so for the Christian. He must be alert and serious. We may not fashion our lives according to the old man (see Eph. 4: 17-32 and I Peter 1:14), for our pattern is the “new man” in Jesus Christ. Don’t be a sleepy Christian tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine. Don’t be satisfied with a faith that you can’t clearly and systematically explain to another person. If you are sober about your faith, you will seize every opportunity to study the Bible privately and with the gathering of the saints. The Christian needs to be aware of priorities. Since we value eternity, we must make good use of our time to grow in faith and service to the Lord.
Sobriety means that we have our eyes open to the fact that the world hates everything that the Christian stands for. The world will try our faith with its fire. It is here that the Christian must be calm under fire. Don’t be amazed if the world hates you (I Jn. 3:13), for it also hated Christ (Jn. 15:18-20). Don’t be anxious if the world hates you, for greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world (I Jn. 4: 4). The unbeliever will seek any compromise to avoid suffering and in the long run this leads to greater suffering. When the Christian says, “I believe in Jesus” he is opening himself up to suffering. He is willing to walk with the wind in his face, content and even happy to know that he is a partaker in Christ’s sufferings; and when the Lord returns he will be glad with exceeding joy (I Peter 4:12-14). The sufferings of this life are not even comparable to the glory yet to be revealed (Rom. 8:18).
Being “sober” does not mean long-faced, sad, or grumpy. Actually, the opposite is true. External circumstances, no matter how grim or painful, cannot change the fact that we possess in our hearts a joy and peace from God that nothing can take away (Jn. 16:33; Rom. 8:35-39). It is the believer’s joy to do the will of God. Our sadness comes over our failures, but even then God turns this to joy, for “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I Jn. 1: 9) Real sobriety will cause a spring of joy to erupt and flow ceaselessly just with the knowledge that God has graciously chosen and enabled His people to be His servants.
“Rest your hope fully.” Hope has to do with things not yet revealed (Rom. 8:24, 25). It deals with the future. Today the philosophy of existentialism has attached itself like a barnacle to our culture, our thought, and our lifestyle. It teaches, “yesterday is gone, tomorrow may never come – so live for today.” The message that appears to us every day is: “Gratify yourself now, for tomorrow is uncertain. Hoard earthly treasures for there is no life hereafter.” The so-called experts and analysts report that the future looks gloomy. They are right as far as this world is concerned, for it is a world under God’s curse. In all the world, the only hope is in Christ who removed our curse by way of the cross. This is ours by faith only. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1). We have not yet seen the things God has prepared for them that love Him, but they are ours now by faith (see Heb. 11:16 and 13:14). As was the case in Sodom and Gomorrah, God is now in the process of gathering His people unto Himself before the final destruction. For those gathered in the Church, the future is filled with hope and eternal security.
Peter instructs us to be fully hopeful. The “fullness” Peter refers to is the appearance of Christ as Judge on the last day. All earthly troubles will dissolve like snow – beyond the suffering is the glory. Our hope is not something that should come and go depending on events of history. We are commanded to “hope fully upon the grace that is to be bought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” This hope is not a dream that we wish would come true, but a hope guaranteed by God Himself.
If we live by sight we will surely dash our hopes like a ship on a shallow reef. But we live by faith, not by sight. The new heavens and new earth in which righteousness dwells still lies ahead. Hope is possible only if we fix our faith on the promise of God who is still to reveal marvelous and everlasting things to us. You and I cannot face 2014 without that hope!
For 2014 and always, “gird up . . . be sober . . . be hopeful.” This is God’s command for all His redeemed people. You can trust it. Everything else may pass away, “but the word of the Lord endures forever. Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.” (I Pet. 1:25).
(reprinted and updated from the Reformed Herald, Jan., 1981)
Rev. Paul Treick