Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Pet. 1:13)
Peter begins his exhortations with an important word: “Therefore.” In light of your beautiful inheritance in Christ, what ought you to do? Set your hope fully on the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. A full revelation of Christ is coming, on the day of his return. Place your hope in that day, because this day may be filled with trial and sorrow. But how are you to do so? Peter specifies two ways: preparing your minds for action and being sober-minded.
Prepare Your Minds
The phrase “preparing your minds for action” can be translated literally as “girding up the loins of your mind.” It’s a reference to the practice of preparing for battle. The ancients wore long robes, which would have hampered their ability to fight. Before going into battle, they bound them up around their waists to allow for freedom of motion. Entering into combat while wearing clothing that restricted their movements would have been completely foolish. Peter indicates to his hearers that having a rightly placed hope requires more than good intentions. They must be ready to fight. The battle for holiness requires that they prepare themselves as a soldier prepares for war, letting nothing encumber their ability to fight.
Note also where this battle for holiness begins. It’s the believer’s mind that must be readied for war. When we strive to live holy lives, we often begin by attempting to curtail sinful behaviors: I should swear less. I should stop spending impulsively.
But Peter points us to the source of our sin: our thoughts. Every sinful action we engage in is the result of a sinful thought that fed a sinful desire. If we want to set our hope fully on grace, we must deal with our sin at the source.
Temptation presents itself to the mind as a reasonable choice. We allow our thoughts to dwell on its reasonableness, fueling our desires. And as James tells us, “Desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:15). For this reason, Paul admonishes us to seek transformation not through the renewing of our actions or our desires, but through the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2).
We see the progression from thought to desire to action all the time. I used to love milkshakes from my favorite fast-food restaurant. But one day, as I pulled up to the drive-thru menu, I noticed what would be the beginning of the end of my love affair with them. The FDA had mandated that the nutritional content be noted next to every item on the menu. It turns out that my milkshake was killing me. Once my mind knew what was in it, my desire to have one began to diminish, and my menu choices began to change. So it is with sin.
Understanding a sin’s consequences helps break our desire to give in to it, resulting in a turning away from what once tempted us. Once we know sin is a killer, it doesn’t look as sweet. Right thinking informs right desires, which lead to right actions. But thinking rightly will be a battle. We must be prepared to fight.
Peter also notes that setting our hope fully on Christ requires a second type of mental preparedness: sober-mindedness. The opposite of soberness is drunkenness. Think about what a drunk person is like. His perception is skewed so he can’t think clearly, nor can he govern his desires or actions. He is a danger to himself and others, unpredictable and unreliable, unable to be swayed by wise counsel. By contrast, Peter urges his hearers to be self-controlled and single-minded as they live out their salvation.
If we are to set our hope fully on Christ, we must be fully attuned to the things of Christ with great seriousness.
It’s interesting that Peter includes the word “fully” at all. Why not just tell us to set our hope on the grace that will be brought to us? Why “set our hope fully on grace”? Because it’s possible, and indeed common, for the believer to function as one with a hope placed partially on grace and partially elsewhere. We’re prone to placing our hope on our own good deeds, or on a spouse or our children, or on a pastor or president. We may place it on a bank account or a career, or even on the size of our social media accounts. We tell ourselves that we hope in Christ, but what we mean is that we hope in Christ and __________.
We’re people of divided allegiances, divided hopes. We hedge our bets. We’re the double-minded man of James 1:6–8, tossed about by waves of doubt. We’re those Jesus warned about, storing up treasures both on earth and in heaven. Peter calls us instead to hope fully on grace, ready to battle doubt and temptation, soberly weighing the cost of divided loyalties. Those who place their hope fully on grace forgo the vain pleasures of this world and look to Christ. They treasure a future inheritance rather than seeking one in the present. Peter’s original audience was facing the loss of social, financial, and familial stability as a result of their conversion. Their current situation left little room for hope by human standards. To them, Peter’s call to a full hope in a future security would have been a mercy.
It is for modern ears, as well. We also face uncertainty and loss in this life. But we don’t place our hope in this life. Rather, we place it fully on the future grace that awaits us.