Let’s say there is someone living in the White House whom you really like. You agree with his life-style, his politics, his foreign policy and his domestic agenda. The man is not just a professed Christian; it looks like he really is a child of God. Then one day your cell phone rings, and you see a blocked number, but you answer anyway. You hear the very efficient voice of a woman, saying, “Please hold for the President of the United States.” And you do. Then a few seconds later you hear the well-known voice of your president. After a moment of small talk, he says, “I have called today to ask you to become my ambassador to Israel.” That request, that phone call and that calling, instantly change your life. How can you refuse?

Peter, writing to the diaspora, the strangers scattered throughout Asia Minor, reminds them of the calling which God had given to them. They were “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father” unto eternal salvation and “to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled.” That invitation, that calling, completely changed their prospects for eternity. But it also changed their lives at the very moment they pushed the “accept” button. And it is no different for the saints of God 2,000 years later and 6,000 miles away: you and me.

This evening, I’d like you to consider the fact that we have been “called” by God. If you are a Christian, then at some point in your recent past, the Lord dialed your number, and you couldn’t resist pushing the “accept” button. He “hath saved us, and CALLED us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” “For ye see your CALLING, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called… that no flesh should glory in his presence.” The sovereign God dialed up your number, calling you to Himself. You couldn’t resist. Oh, and by the way, “he which hath called you is holy.”

Consider with me THE ONE who has CALLED us.

This business of the call of God is a major and important Biblical subject. We will come back to that in just a moment after recognizing that Peter speaks of the One making the call. The nature of the calling is governed by the nature of the Caller. If the current president of this country called, inviting you to be his ambassador to any country of your choosing would you accept? I get dozens of spam calls on my phone every week, and I dismiss them more quickly than I do a sneeze. But the call to which Peter refers is special for several reasons. One of those reasons is that it is Jehovah who has called you, and “He… is holy.” He is not simply important; He is not just presidential; He is not just powerful; He is GOD, and He is holy.

“Holy” is the Greek word “hagios.” It is an adjective which, at its root, means “separated.” But when that word is applied to the Triune God, as we have it here twice, it takes on a higher purpose. “Hagios” is an adjective, so we aren’t surprised to read of “holy men of God,” and “the holy scriptures.” We even see it in “the Holy Spirit,” the “Holy Ghost,” and in speaking of Jesus as “the Holy One.” Peter accused the Jews of denying “the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto (them); and (they) killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead.” “Hagios” is usually an adjective, but when it comes to God the Father, or to the Trinity, it is used as a noun. “He which hath called you is holy. Be ye holy, for I am holy.” By the way, in addition to “holy” the word is translated “saints” when speaking about us.

In what way is God holy? In answering that the writer of Hebrews uses a word which Peter employed to speak of our inheritance. He says, Christ Jesus is “such an high priest… who is holy, harmless, UNDEFILED, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens” (Hebrews 7:26). Both God the Father and God the Son are holy in the sense that they are above and beyond all that they have created; God is higher than the heavens. And as God, His knowledge, His authority and His power are so unique that the word “unique” isn’t strong enough to express His distance above – and His separation from – His creation. God is holy in that He has separated Himself from all sinners and from the defilement which sinners carry with them. His holiness is so pure and powerful that more separation is demanded between Him and us than is required between the sun above our heads and the skin on our faces. God is so holy that, as He told Moses, no earthly man can see His face and continue to live. The angels of this holy God divert their eyes from looking upon their Lord, because they are not worthy. And if Jehovah is morally and spiritually separated from them, how much greater is His separation from us? “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” because of the infinite separation of Holiness among other things. The God who has called us is holy.

Now, let’s consider once again, THOSE WHOM the Lord has called.

In an earlier lesson we looked at ourselves as God’s obedient children, but let’s move on from there. I’ve already quoted I Corinthians 1:26. I’m going to do it again, this time in its context to point out that we usually look at the passage more lightly than we should. “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.” Look again at your calling, brethren: not many wise, mighty and noble people are called by God. In fact, the Lord has chosen and called the foolish, the weak, the base, nobodies and even the despised. The Bible describes the fool as the one who says, “There is no God.” “There is no God for me.” John Gill describes base people as those “who are reckoned the filth of the world, and the offscouring of all things.” If such things are possible, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that God’s angels despised us when we were still living in our rebellion against God.
Paul described us in Ephesians 2: “And you hath he (called and )quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” The Holy God has called people to Himself who were previously children of the Devil, children of wrath, children of disobedience.
I Corinthians 6: “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” How is it that we who are so wicked, have been washed, sanctified and justified in the name of Christ? It is because the Holy God called our names – not only inviting us but preparing us for our meeting. He has provided us with robes of righteousness; wedding garments to dress us for Himself.

In an earlier lesson I mused about whether or not Peter and Paul ever compared notes, theologically speaking. Of course the question is irrelevant, because both Apostles were led by the Holy Spirit when they wrote their portion of the Word of God. “HOLY men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” I mention this once again, because, in the Greek language, what Peter says in verse 14 is exactly what Paul says in Romans 12, but the words are translated slightly differently. Romans 12:2: “Be not conformed” to this world is the same Greek phrase as, “not fashioning yourselves” according to your former lusts.

Peter describes us as formerly living in lust and ignorance (verse 14). “Ignorance” certain describes us, because every son and daughter of Adam is spiritually blind and stupid. That included the Jews as much as the Gentiles. Satan, “the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” And the things of God, including the Lord’s absolute holiness, cannot be understood by us in our natural fallen natures. Such things are only “spiritually discerned.”

Peter then uses the word “lusts” in his description of our former state. The word has narrowed just a bit from the days of the apostles. Today it speaks of very strong sexual desire. But in 1611, and even in the days of Noah Webster, it meant a strong desire of any kind. And for all practical purposes it means: to desire anything which the Lord doesn’t want us to have. Eve lusted after the fruit of the forbidden tree, and Achan lusted for the gold which he saw in the forbidden city of Jericho. And today, couldn’t it be said that our world today runs on wheels that are greased by lust? In 2020, $2.25 billion was spent in this country an effort to make us long for things we don’t have.

But how much desire is there for the Holy God in this country? The answer is “zero.” The Bible says, “There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.”

But Jehovah has called wicked and gainsaying (contradictory) people unto Himself. There has not yet been one worthy soul called by God unto Himself, and there never will be. Because “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Nevertheless, God has called many sinful souls.

Now consider that CALL?

There are several kinds of calls and “callings” in the Bible. Jesus in Matthew 10 “called unto (him) his (special) twelve disciples,” and Peter was among them, but that is not his subject at this point. And Lord called “Lazarus out of his grave.” He invited Lazarus to rejoin the living. Paul was “called to be an apostle,” but again that is not to what Peter refers in this verse.

This call is unto salvation. And it speaks of an invitation with a bit more punch than a simple e-mail or text saying, “You are invited.” This invitation is so powerful that those to whom it has been given are identified as “THE called” people. Paul in his introduction to the Romans said, “By (the Son of God, I) have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations… Among who are ye also THE called of Jesus Christ.” And then he added in chapter 8: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are THE called according to his purpose.”

This special call is equivalent to God’s sovereign choice of the invitee. Theologians have given it the name “the effectual call,” because, as I say, it is more than a simple invitation. The Greek word is closely related to “draw” which is found in John 6:44: “No man can come to me except the Father which had sent me draw him; and I will raise him up at the last day.” That is a glorious, decisive, but divisive statement. Not only does it assert that none can come to God apart from this drawing, this calling, but all those drawn people will certainly respond, because Christ said, “I will raise him up at the last day,” speaking of the blessings to which Peter has already described – hope, inheritance, security, and ultimately, resurrection, the words “draw” and “call” indicate the method God’s choosing is carried out. Thus, those chosen and drawn people can be described as “the called.”

I minute ago, I referred to Romans 8. Please turn to that familiar passage which begins at Romans 8:28: “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” Peter was referring to those same called people, jumping into one of the most controversial doctrines in Christianity today. But he does so seamlessly and easily, because it is so obvious. The recipients of this epistle were saved and kept by the power of God, because they were called and drawn. They had “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven,” because they had been effectually called. Paul told the Thessalonians: “We are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren, beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth; Whereunto he CALLED you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Peter concluded the epistle we are studying saying, “The God of all grace who hath CALLED us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strenghten, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” Notice that this calling isn’t simply an invitation to trust Christ as Saviour, washing away all our sin. The God of all grace has called us to the completion of salvation; to God’s own eternal glory.

But please be aware that in the mean time, we are still in a sinful and Satan-controlled world.

And in this situation we have been CALLED to be HOLY.

I have given this message the title: “Called to be Different.” It goes with the calling of God that we be utterly and entirely different from those who have not been called. “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation.” “Conversation” doesn’t refer simply to our manner of speech. Throughout the Bible it speaks of the manner of our entire lives.

And again, what is it to be holy? I go back to what I’ve already said about the One who has called us. God is holy in the sense that He is “harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens” (Hebrews 7:26). Believers are “God’s saints” in the sense that He has called, drawn and separated each and every one of us to Himself. This sainthood is not an achievement or attainment; it is a state into which God in grace called them. And yet, until that day when we “receive the end of our faith, even the salvation of our souls,” we are living as strangers and pilgrims in the midst of a sinful world. So as God’s begotten and adopted children, we are called to sanctify ourselves – to put some distance – between ourselves and sin. “As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance.” Paul pleads with us, “I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, HOLY, acceptable unto God which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world; but ye ye transformed by the renewing of your mind that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Our Saviour says, “Be ye holy for I am holy.”

In Ephesians 1, Paul mixes praise to God with our saintly responsibilities. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be HOLY and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.”

In the middle of some details Paul describes us, through the Colossians, as “holy and beloved” of God. Turn to Colossians 3:8: “But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.”

These exhortations are some of the ways in which we can, and should, live differently than others. These are ways to express our God-derived holiness; our “sainthood.” These are ways in which we are to show our thanks to the holy God for saving us. Remember: “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an HOLY nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath CALLED you out of darkness into his marvellous light.”

We have not been called by God to pass our remaining days on this earth as we lived our former days, in ignorance and the lusts of the flesh. We have been called to be different; to be utterly and entirely different from what we were, and from what the lost are around us. We have been called to be holy, just as our heavenly Father is holy.