It is a choice to follow Jesus and live a holy life. But it is a choice that believers want to make as we mature in the Word. That maturation doesn’t happen automatically. The fruit doesn’t just suddenly appear. The Holy Spirit purifies us through the fires we face. (1 Peter 1:6-8). He transforms us through the Word that we read, hear, and experience. Verses 1-3 read,
“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.”
Leaving sin behind is not easy at first. Malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander are common and quite natural to the flesh. But as we continue and we long to grow, as we get to know our Lord more and more closely, we want to be like Him, not the world. We know that life in Christ is so much better than life in the world. The Lord is good! The spiritual food of His Word, intimacy with Him, and the relationship He gives us is sweeter than words can describe. We want it increasingly, progressively, and deeper.
The world can’t understand. They look at us from the outside and wonder why anyone would choose to live a life of putting sin away, of purposely choosing to walk the more difficult road of love, truth, sincerity, good will, and encouragement over natural longings of the flesh. They rejected Christ because His teachings didn’t make sense to them. What looks absurd, preposterous and unreasonable to them, is beautiful, perfect, and wise to us. It is perfectly reasonable to us, because we accepted Christ. We were given the Holy Spirit and He changes us and allows us to see the excellent and flawless truth and wisdom of the Kingdom of God.
Jesus is the foundation of that wisdom. Without Him we can’t possibly understand. Isaiah compared Him to the cornerstone a building and Peter quoted him to get across his point that we as Christians are different than the world. Verses 4-6 say,
“As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture:
“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
The cornerstone is the foundation upon which the rest of the building is constructed. It is essential and it determines the position of every other stone. Jesus is our cornerstone, our foundation and we are stones in the building with Him. Without Him, the temple would crumble. For believers Jesus is our keystone and basis. He builds us up. He makes all things possible. But for outsiders, He is a stumbling block, an obstacle which they do not understand. They disobey because they are led by the flesh and see Jesus not as God, the Lover of their souls but an offense and insult to who they are. (Verses 7-8).
We are different. We are not like the world. We see the beauty of Christ. We have tasted and seen that the Lord is good. He is essential to our being. He makes it possible to obey. He makes it possible to live lives of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. And as we mature we do not have to struggle to manifest those characteristics, we become more like Christ so we look and act more like Him. It is still a choice to stand out from the world. We have to keep in mind we are not like the lost. We choose to obey. We choose to be founded on Love. Verses 9-10 put it this way.
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
We should celebrate our distinctiveness. Our idiosyncrasy is the Holy Spirit alive in us. Our difference is Jesus. Our calling is holy. We are chosen by God, we belong to Him. Honoring that awesome mission and identity is not always easy. It is not easy to elect not to lie, to forgive rather than hate, or to be kind person who hates us. But we are established in Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit and chosen by the Father. We are special. We are not like the world, we are exiles among them. And we should be conspicuous. Verses 11-12 read,
“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”