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Girding the Mind to Guard Your Hope
By John Piper.
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. (1 Peter 1:13)
Peter's First Command: Hope in God's Grace!
To bring together all the various translations that are out there, let me give you a literal rendering of this verse so you can see more clearly the relationship between the words. Peter says, "Therefore, having girded up the loins of your mind"--—it's an image of a person wearing flowing garments tucking the garments into his belt so that he can run and move about freely and quickly without tripping over his clothes. And the part of you that is to be freed by this girding up is your mind--—"the loins of your mind."
Then he goes on: "And being sober"--—it's image of not being drunk when it comes to spiritual things. It implies alertness, and evaluating things correctly, because you see clearly, and your mind isn't numb with intoxicating influences.
Then comes the main verb, and for the first time in this letter it's an imperative. It's a command: "Hope fully." Or: "Fix your hope completely." So the first command in this letter is an action you do with your mind and your heart. It's a command to hope. Hope is not an action of the body. It is an experience of the soul. Peter is commanding us to experience hope.
This is the main verb, the main clause, in this verse. The first two were subordinate participles: "Having girded the loins of your mind"--—that's the first one; and "being sober"--—that's the second one. Then comes the main predicate; "Hope fully!" Which simply means that girding up the loins of the mind and being sober are means to the end of the main thing, namely, hoping fully.
Finally, Peter tells us what the object of the hope is--—what we are hoping in, namely, the grace of God. "Fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." When Jesus comes back, he is bringing grace to the people of God. Grace is on the way. Hope in it. Hope in it fully! Hope fully in God's grace.
God's Command and Delight: Hope in God
We have a big sign on the west side of the church that reads, HOPE IN GOD. And we have a banner on the roof facing east which says, HOPE IN GOD. This is not a coincidence. It's because we believe that this command, "Hope in God," is the very heart of what God commands and delights in. Psalm 147:10–11,
His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
Nor his pleasure in the legs of a man;
The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,
In those who hope in his steadfast love.
In other words God's command and God's delight is not first what you can perform for him with your strength; his command and delight is first that you hope in what he can perform for you with his strength. The first human counterpart to divine grace is hope. Grace is coming to you; hope in it.
Paul said in Romans 11:6, "If it by grace it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace." The proper response to grace is first hope. It is false to say that grace does not command--—that it has no conditions. But what makes it grace is that its first command is, Hope! Hope fully. Let your whole soul be engaged in hope. Don't be partially hoping and partially doubting. Hope fully. Give way entirely to the experience of hope. Be fully carried away with hope.
Let grace get all the glory! How? By letting it get all the hope. If you hold back hope from grace, you hold back glory from grace. So glut yourself on hope. Show the world that grace is all-satisfying. It will meet every need.
Christianity: Grace First, Hope Second
This order of grace first, hope second is confirmed by the word "therefore" at the beginning of verse 13. "Therefore . . . fix your hope completely." "Therefore . . . hope fully." This word makes Peter's first command dependent on all the grace that he has spent 12 verses exulting in.
Let's sum it up:
verse 1: since God has chosen you,
verse 3: since God has caused you to be born again to a living hope,
verse 4: since God is keeping an inheritance for you imperishable, undefiled, and unfading,
verse 5: since God is protecting you through faith so that you won't lose that inheritance,
verses 6–7: since God is refining your faith by fire so that it will receive praise and glory and honor,
verse 8: since you are swimming with the strokes of love and faith and joy in Christ,
verses 10–13: since prophets and angels are on tiptoe to see all that God's grace is going to do in your life,
therefore, hope fully in this grace. Christianity is not first an ethic. It is not first a faith or a feeling or a theology. It is first the sovereign, initiative-taking action of God. Only now do we hear a command: AFTER Peter celebrates (for 12 verses) the sovereign action of God in election and in the resurrection of Jesus and in the causing of new birth, and in the keeping of our inheritance, and in the preservation of the faith of the saints, and in the providential working in affliction to refine us, and in the foreordaining, predicting work of prophets--—only now do we hear a command. And the first command is HOPE IN GRACE. "Fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ."
Christianity is, first, God graciously, freely acting to save his people; and, second, man hoping fully in that grace. That's the essence of Christianity.
But Peter does not leave the command to hope dangling without any help. He tells us two ways to stir up our hope. One is to gird up the loins of our minds and the other is to be sober. These are subordinate participles telling us how to get on with hoping. They are not the main commands. They are secondary commands. They get their imperative status from the main command: Hope fully in grace.
So what do they tell us--—these secondary commands?
Gird Up the Loins of Your Mind
The first one is "gird up the loins of your mind." Turn the robes of your mind into running shorts. Pull them up between your legs and tuck them into your belt. But what does that mean in real life? Well, we know that girding the mind is a means to hoping fully in grace. "Having girded up the loins of your mind, hope fully . . . " That's what our minds are running for. But what are they running in? What are they active in? What is the mind to be doing so actively that it produces hope?
The answer is TRUTH. Hope happens when our minds are girded up with truth, and active in truth. I say this for two reasons. One comes from the next verse (which we'll look at next week): "Do not be conformed to your former lusts which were yours in ignorance." The reason we were once led along by all kinds of lusts instead of being led by hope in grace is because our minds were "in ignorance." So if we want hope to flourish in our hearts, we must gird up the loins of our minds with truth instead of ignorance.
The other reason I think Peter means for the mind to be active and running in truth is that this is exactly what Paul says when he uses this very same metaphor in Ephesians 6:14, "Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth." And I think it would be completely faithful to Paul's meaning there if we said, "Stand therefore in hope, by having girded your loins with truth." Girding up the mind in truth and letting it be active in truth is the means of sustaining full hope in God's grace.
So Peter's first secondary command, "Gird up the loins of your mind," means engage the mind with truth in the service of hope. Especially the truth about grace found in the Bible. Run with the truth of Scripture. Work with the truth of Scripture. Live with the truth of Scripture. "Whatever was written in former times was written for our instruction, that by the steadfastness and encouragement of the scriptures we might have HOPE" (Romans 15:4).
Being Sober, Hope Fully
The other secondary command in 1 Peter 1:13 is, "Keep sober in spirit." Literally, it simply says, "being sober, hope fully." Sobriety--—mental, spiritual sobriety--—is a means to hoping in grace. What does that mean in real life?
It means, if you really want to obey the command to hope fully in God's grace, don't let your mind drink in things that numb the mind (and heart) to the value of God's grace. The great problem with drunkenness is that it distorts reality by making the mind insensitive to what is true and real and valuable.
When choosing a place to vacation, my wife, Noël, will more often choose the ocean and I will more often choose the mountains. One of the reasons I incline away from the ocean comes from this text, believe it or not. Beaches are by the ocean and people wear bathing suits while at the beach and the designers of women's bathing suits, it seems, are constantly finding creative ways to arouse the sexual desires of men.
Now my concern with this is not that I might be tempted by one of these women to commit adultery. My concern is way before that. My concern is how to maximize hope in the grace of God in my heart. That's what this text says I am to be concerned with. "Hope fully in grace!" But I know from about 34 years of experience and from biblical warnings that titillating sexual input to this mind is spiritually inebriating. That's my biggest concern. If I allow myself to drink it in through my eyes for long or to return to it often, my passion for the truth and the intensity and fullness of my hope in the glory of God's grace diminishes. That's the issue for me.
And here's a spin off. If you make that your issue--—hoping fully in the grace of God and letting nothing come into your mind for long that desensitizes you to the glory of spiritual things or diminishes your passion for God--—if that's your battlefield, then you may never have to fight the immediate temptation of adultery or fornication.
Sex, of course, is not the only drug that intoxicates and numbs the mind to spiritual reality; the same can be true of money and career and power and romance novels and soap operas and TV advertisements and fishing and coin collecting and computers and rehabbing and gardening. The point is: know what numbs your mind to God and avoid it. Stay sober for the sake of full and passionate hope in God's grace.
God's Great Concern in This Passage
The great concern of God in this passage of his Word is that we not be moderate hopers. That we not be satisfied with half-hoping hearts. But that we engage our minds with the hope-producing truth of Scripture, and that we guard our minds from the hope-diminishing causes in the world.
Let's do it together as a church. Gird up your minds, be sober, hope fully in the grace of God being brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
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