Rev. Haak is pastor of Georgetown Protestant Reformed Church in Hudsonville, Michigan and radio pastor for the Reformed Witness Hour, on which this message was aired.
The Word of God in I Peter 1:13 exhorts us: “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” The Scriptures here use a figure of speech in which the Christian mind is compared to the dress of an easterner, to his long robe, which was very relaxing and comfortable in moments of ease, but which had to be girded up when there was work to be done. The wearer would take up that robe and with a belt secure it around his waist in order that he might go on his journey with speed and dispatch, without any hindrances or encumbrances.
The Word of God here is calling us as children of God, saved by grace, to have a resolute determination to perform our Christian calling wherever that calling is given to us. We are not to go about our Christian life with a half-interested heart, with a lackadaisical attitude, with a ho-hum-ness about us. But we are to cast away sloth and indifference as a plague in our heart. We are, further, to cast away hindrances that could trip us up— just like that robe of the easterner if it were allowed to dangle around his ankles so that he would stumble in the midst of his work. So the Lord says that we must be careful that there be no hindrances in our life that would cause us to stumble in the holy work that He has given us to do. Those hindrances can be greed, anxiety and worry, a besetting sin, or friends (so-called) who attach themselves to us and keep us back from a resolute and holy determination to serve the Lord our God. So we are exhorted, knowing the doctrines of God’s grace and knowing that our salvation is of the Lord’s mighty grace, to go about our calling with resolute determination, with zeal, with focus, and with purpose of heart. Gird up the loins of your mind, says the Word of God to us.
Now if we look at that verse once more, we find that the Word of God immediately goes on to show us how that is to be done. We read, “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Those phrases we want to look at now — the idea of being sober and hoping to the end for grace that will be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
The Word of God here is saying, “You go about your Christian life with a holy resolve this way: by exercising godly sobriety and by living with an enduring hope.”
Let us look first at godly sobriety. Peter says to us, “Be sober.” Frequently we find this word “sober” in the New Testament as a word that expresses the antithesis between the believer and the unbeliever. Let me explain that word “antithesis.” Antithesis simply means that God has set a spiritual difference between the believer and the world, between light and darkness, between holiness and sin. For instance, in I Thessalonians 5:6-8, the apostle Paul contrasts the life of the believer and the life of an unbeliever: “Therefore let us not sleep as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.” The Word of God says that the world of unbelief is drunk, intoxicated, not just with liquor but with this present life. The child of God is sober. When one is sober, one has the right estimation and judgment of life. When one is drunk he is under the intoxicating power of liquor and cannot discern reality. Drunkenness is a shameful and horrible thing. It is not something funny. It is a great sin against God. By contrast, when one is sober he has his wits about him. He has a proper judgment, a proper estimation of everything around him.
How are we to live our life with a holy determination to gird up the loins of our mind? First of all, be sober. Do not be intoxicated with the world. Do not be intoxicated with money, possessions, with your figure and how you look, with pleasures. But be sober. Take the Word of God to you so that you are constantly forming a right estimation of this life.
For instance, the Word of God says in Titus 2, “Young men, be soberminded.” In the world, young men are intoxicated. They are intoxicated with themselves, with lust, with arrogance. They do not have the right estimate of a woman. They are drunk with themselves and their own lust. They do not have a right understanding of what a father is in the home, or a right understanding of children as the gift of God. Even when they become married, they think that life is for themselves. They are intoxicated. You, in Christ, young men, be sober.
Young women, you be sober. That means that you have your spiritual head on straight. You see that the world and all that is in the world, in the words of Scripture, is the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. Now, by the grace of God, you are sober. That is, you do not consider the wealth, honor, immorality, pleasures of this world to be valuable. You see them as delusions, vanity. You know that none of these things can make you happy. They cannot obtain for you the pardon of your sin. They cannot pacify your conscience. They cannot give you life at the moment of death. You see the world and its lust and lifestyle for what it is—the pollution of sin, the echoes of the insane asylum. But you, now, are sober. You have an understanding of the things of God and of the value of salvation. Be sober.
That is how we go about our life with determination. Constantly have godly sobriety. Put the bottle away. Put away that which would intoxicate you, make you drunk, get you to begin to lust. Immerse yourself in the Word of God. Get the right estimation of the magnificence and splendor of the things of God. Do not be content with a general, foggy notion of the doctrines of God’s Word. Do not slide into a complacent mode concerning God’s church, but attend to the things that are spiritual.
Are you sober? Do you know what life is about? Life is not about fashion. Life is not about how your hair looks. Life is about Christ. Are you sober-minded? Do you know what things are important? Go to Scripture. Pray. Attend church. Take up your place in Bible study. Prepare for the church services.
But still more. Not only must we be sober, but Peter goes on to say, “and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
The grace that is to be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ refers to the full and complete salvation that will be ours in the day when Jesus returns at the end of the world. On that day Christ will be revealed. Then all that conceals Him will be pulled down and He will appear in all of His glory. Peter tells us that on that day, which is very dreadful for the wicked, grace shall be brought to us. That is, in the day when Jesus Christ returns at the end of the world, at the end of time, we will enjoy, as His children, the fullest expressions of God’s loving favor. Grace, after all, is something that we experience. The graciousness of our God is His love for the unworthy, His compassion for the unlovely, His pity for the wretched. When Christ comes, that grace will be given to us, that is, it will envelop us. It will so overpower us that every sigh and every tear will be utterly forgotten.
Hope to the end for the grace that will be brought to you. To hope to the end means to endure, to hold on. We must remember that when Peter refers to hope, he is not referring to a fond wish. When we say that we hope for the revelation of Christ, that we hope for the coming of Christ, that we hope for glory, we are not saying, “Well, I hope so.” When we use the word in the human sense, we mean, “There is something uncertain here. I hope, but I’m not sure. I would like to think so.” No, no. Hope in the Bible is not that. Hope is confidence. The biblical hope is the confident expectation of all that God has promised. In fact, that becomes the theme of this epistle of I Peter. As pilgrim-strangers on the earth, strangers in the Lord Jesus Christ who live in hope, in the certainty of all the promises that God has given, we know by faith that those promises are sure. But we do not have them in all of their fullness yet. So we hope to the end for the grace that shall be brought to us.
You see, right now we cannot see Jesus. We cannot see heaven. We cannot see God’s throne. Not because they are make-believe, but because our eyes cannot see them now. We cannot see or hear them now. But our eyes and ears do not determine what is real. You certainly would not want to say that if your eye cannot see it and your ear cannot hear it, then it is not real. That would be a totally proud idea, would it not? No, we hope for what we cannot see or hear now. But we know that it is there because by the Christian hope those things are pulling on our souls.
Now hope to the end. Do not quit. Be determined. Be resolute. Be unwavering in your hope. That is a hope that does not die under disappointments and trials and weariness. You see, it is only enduring hope that will cause us to gird up the loins of our mind. Nothing is more likely to cause us to give up in the Christian life and to let everything drop around us than discouragement. Then we meet difficulties and failure in our Christian work. Perhaps we go forth in the vigor of the morning’s zeal but after a few hard knocks we return at night and say, “What’s the use?” Discouragement and depression are great foes to the Christian calling. They are not little foes. They are big ones. It was discouragement that brought two of the best (if we may put it in those words), two of the best, most durable servants of God to their knees. Moses, who was patient and meek, was discouraged and said, “The people are too much for me.” And Elijah, under the juniper tree, said to God, “I’m the only one left.” Discouraged.
We need to have hope, hope in Christ and hope for the glory that shall be brought to us. That is not a luxury. That is not a special necklace to wear for special occasions. But Christ’s hope is our belt. It is what girds us up. It is what holds everything together. If we do not have hope, everything falls down around us. Hope is what holds everything together. It holds our Christian life and calling together. Otherwise it would fall down to the ground. Hope to the end.
That certainly means that words of encouragement spoken at the proper moment are going to do more good to a discouraged Christian than commiserating with him and saying, “Yes, we’ve got it pretty bad.” No, no. Words of hope, words of encouragement. Saying to each other, “Our hope is true. Look ahead. God is on His throne. Christ is faithful. Jesus is coming. Eternal glory is ours. Hope to the end.” Then we will gird ourselves for the work. We will go forward with renewed determination.
Jesus is coming. We must therefore be diligent in our calling. Jesus often spoke to us of how we must be living and acting when He comes again. He also spoke to us of how we ought to be dressed when He arrives—not physically, but spiritually. Think with me of a young bride in 1945 who truly loves her husband in a good and precious and exclusive love of God. Her husband has been gone in the service of his country, in World War II. She receives a telegram from her husband that says, “I will arrive at our apartment on Monday morning, around 10:00.” Will she greet him with sleepy eyes, with hair all messed up, with bad breath, with the apartment in a state of confusion? Oh, no! She will be at her very best, because she loves him.
Now, how is your heart? I am not asking now about your physical appearance, because when Christ comes He will look where our eyes cannot look, into our hearts. Are the things of God in good order in your life? Does the fire of the love of Christ and for the truth burn brightly within you? Do you lay hold of the Word of God and of prayer and of church attendance as that which is the center and the heartbeat of your life? Are you ready for Him? Are you girding up the loins of your mind?
We are pilgrims, spiritual pilgrims. That is the way Peter addresses us in this epistle. He says that we are strangers and pilgrims on this earth. We are on a journey. We are passing through this world to a better one. The time to sit down and wear long, flowing, graceful, and finely embroidered robes is not right now. We will be given those robes in the final victory. Right now God has given to us a pilgrim’s robe. It covers us. But you need to gird it up because you have to travel, and sometimes travel fast. Sometimes we must flee our sins. Gird up the loins of your mind, get going. Sometimes you must be quick to come to the aid of a fellow pilgrim. And sometimes the angel will come to you as he came to Lot and he will say, “Up, get you out. For God will destroy this place.”
Gird up the loins of your mind. There are obstacles on the road. There are many temptations. Are you ready? Are you pressing toward the kingdom? Are you seeking that kingdom? Gird up the loins of your mind. Be sober and hope to the end for the grace that shall be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.