Girded For The Work

February 13, 2000 / No. 2980

Friends of the Reformed Witness Hour,

Our Scripture passage for today is found in I Peter 1:13, “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.”

If you were to read the first chapter of I Peter, you would notice that the apostle Peter mentions the glorious doctrines of grace. He speaks of eternal election unto salvation – that God has elected or chosen us from all eternity. He speaks of the gospel truth of regeneration – that we have been born from the dead by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He speaks of the gospel truth of preservation – that God, by His power, preserves all those whom He has brought to Jesus Christ so that they cannot fall away, so that they are kept by the power of God unto the day of salvation.

All of these things are revealed to us by the Holy Spirit in the gospel. And all of these doctrines of grace are preached unto us.

Then, in verse 13, he draws from these doctrines a practical conclusion: “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind.” If all of these things are true, then you must be filled with resolve and determination in your Christian life. Christian doctrine, then, if it is understood and possessed in the heart, leads to Christian living. We must be taught the truth of God’s Word in order that the truth may lead us to a holy life. Nothing is more fatal than to view the doctrines of God’s Word as theory, as a system of abstract principles to which one might even say, “Well, even if they are true, they are not connected with daily life.” If you look on Christian doctrine that way, as being theory, as being abstract idea, then their power is not going to influence your conduct or your character.

Peter does not bring forth the doctrines of God’s grace as something merely to talk about. He does not bring them forth merely as an intellectual curiosity. But he brings forth those doctrines in order that their profound weight might thrust us unto a zealous and holy life. When the truth of God’s grace lives in you, then that truth becomes a powerful motive for you to live a holy life and to live a new life.

You and I must ask as we learn the truths of God’s Word, “What bearing must this doctrine have upon my life?” Our first concern, as God’s children, ought to be that we have proper Christian doctrine and teaching; that we go to the Scriptures; and that we attend a church which faithfully teaches us the truths of God’s Word, specifically the truths of God’s sovereign grace – that He is God alone and that He saves by the power of His Spirit and Word.

But now, as we come under those beautiful doctrines, we must be asking ourselves the question: “How should these doctrines influence me? What would God have me to do as a result of receiving such a teaching as this?” So Peter, having mentioned some of the gems of the doctrines of grace – election, regeneration, preservation – follows it up with this wonderful paragraph, beginning with verse 13. It begins with this controlling exhortation: “Gird up the loins of your mind” – that is, you are called now to a resolute and zealous determination to practice your faith, to perform your holy calling. This is, then, a word of exhortation.

If you listened to the Reformed Witness Hour last week you will remember that we looked at the offices of elder, deacon, and pastor. As an elder, deacon, or pastor, you have said that you believe that you are called of Christ to service in the church. As an elder, you believe that it is your calling to be the spiritual overseer of the flock of Christ, which He has purchased with His own blood. You believe that it is your calling to see that all that is done in the church is done according to His holy Word. You believe that it is your calling to admonish the wayward, to instruct those who are led astray, to maintain the purity of the bride of Christ, and to comfort the distressed. As a deacon, you have confessed that you believe it is your calling to distribute wisely the mercies of Jesus Christ, to seek out the needy, to call upon the church of God in Christ’s name, to provide for the needs of the poor. Now the Word of God says to you, “Gird up your mind, exercise yourself in mind and soul to perform your calling in Christ’s name.”

This exhortation, of course, is not limited simply to ministers, elders, and deacons. It is an exhortation to you, to all of us, young people and children, single adults and married people. This is the Word of God that we must hear. God says we must be exhorted to a resolute, zealous, holy determination to perform our Christian calling. We must be girded for the work.

Very plainly, the Word of God is using a figure of speech, a metaphor. We read, “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind.” The people in Peter’s day were used to wearing long, flowing robes that were graceful and comfortable for relaxation. But these robes proved inconvenient and cumbersome when exertion and strenuous activity was required. Then they would gird up the loins, that is, they would gather up the folds of their robes and wrap them around their waist with a belt. This was called “girding the loins.” When a man had nothing to do, or nothing which would require exertion or effort, he would permit his robes to flow around him. But if he had work, if he had a journey to make, if he had important business to see to, he would then gird up his robes around his waist as being necessary to remove any hindrance or cumbrance to performing his duties.

So the figure is very plain. The Word of God is saying: “Set yourself with a resolute determination to the performance of your Christian calling. Impress upon your mind a sense of the importance of the obligation and of the necessity of your calling. Go about your Christian life with determination, with zeal. Set aside hindrances and whatever encumbers you. Understand in your soul that your calling in Christ is not a half-time employment, but requires all of your faculties.” To elders and deacons: your duties are numerous, varied, and difficult. Your duties are spelled out to you in the Word of God. Now lay that to heart and go about those duties with determination of heart. But also, as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we have duties that are numerous, varied, and difficult. There is the sinful world which opposes us. And our own flesh is very weak. We easily grow complacent and weary. Now the Word of God says, “Gird up the loins of your mind,” as Israel, when they were to leave Egypt’s bondage, girded up their loins and went out. They were resolved that they were going to walk the spiritual path of obedience to God despite the fury of Pharaoh and despite the endless toils of the wilderness. So you, as a humble child of God, as a pilgrim, as one who is following your Lord, gird up the loins of your mind.

Very plainly, God is warning us against the dread scourge of spiritual sloth, laziness, and indifference.

Spiritual sloth, laziness, and indifference is when one who professes to belong to Christ nevertheless shows that the things of Christ, the things of truth and holiness, are very loosely attached to their life and to their heart. That can happen when professing Christians and young people become very lax in matters of morality, become loose in speech, joking with sexual innuendo, loose in telling the truth, loose in treating other’s possessions with respect, loose in showing respect to those in authority, flippant over moral issues, loose concerning one’s dress, allowing immorality to become a thing of entertainment and, perhaps, a joke. Then they are not girding up the loins of their mind. They are infected with the dread scourge of spiritual sloth and indifference.

There are others who can become lax in their beliefs. They say, “Well, there is not really a big concern about truth. Christianity is merely tattooed upon us – it is only skin-deep and never gets down to the heart or affects the soul.” Preachers become those who will hold to nothing tenaciously. They are not set in defense of the truth. They say, “Oh, all of these differences in Christianity are just tragic misunderstandings.” They do not believe with the heart and the soul. And they begin to say, “Well, we just cannot be sure of anything.” So the truth is whatever suits you. The Word of God is: “Gird up the loins of your mind! Do not be lax over the issues of faith. Do not be lax, young people, in what you believe. Hold on to the truth. Believe the Word of God. Know what you believe. Get your mental straps tight. Bind the blessed truth close to your soul.”

There are others who become lax in their observances of the ordinances of the gospel, lax in attending the house of God on the Sabbath day and observing the sacraments. The Word of God again says, “God has given to you this means for your spiritual life: attending church on the Lord’s day, the preaching of the gospel, and the sacraments. These are spiritual food and drink. Do not let them slip. Hold fast to them. Gird up the loins of your mind.”

Gird up the loins of your mind in your personal conduct, in your belief, in your keeping of the Lord’s day. In other words, we are told to be all there. Do you sometimes find yourself very listless and limp spiritually? Your hope of God is within you, but you almost question whether or not you have that hope because that hope is not vigorous and joyful. You do not seem to take an interest in the things of God as once you did. Somehow, or in some way, other things have become more important to you and you feel that your spiritual life is falling to pieces. Things are not right with you. Well, this Word of God is the very message that you need. God says, “Concentrate your mental powers! Direct your heart upon the things of God. Lay hold upon them.” Pray with David in Psalm 86, “Unite my heart to fear thy name.” Cry with the psalmist: “My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed. I will sing and give praise.” The life given to us in Christ calls us to be all there, to set our affections on things which are above, not below ( Col. 3), to aim with our heart with one supreme and all-embracing thrust upon Christ and the things of Christ. Gird up the loins of your mind! Be resolved to treat spiritual things with all the love of your heart. And be resolved to attack your sloth and your indifference as a plague, a plague of death. Be resolved not to be found with a half-hearted, luke-warm love, but alive and awake in righteousness and alive unto the work of God.

It also means this: that we must get rid of hindrances. When the easterner girded up his loins so that they were about his waist, he did that so that he would not be tripped by his long-flowing garment. So the Lord is speaking to us of hindrances, hindrances in our own lives which can get in the way. Not even hindrances which, in themselves, are wrong. But, nevertheless, things in our lives which, if they are allowed out of their proper place, can trip us in our spiritual walk. They may even be things that are proper and legitimate. Yet, we allow them to cling about us so much that our way of faith and the way of Christian work is hindered and we are tripping.

Are there things which trip you, which hinder you in your spiritual walk and work? If you have loose garments, that leads to stumbling. Is there too much in your soul of care about the things of this world? Too much care about your job and perhaps too many hours spent in that job? Oh, yes, I know that we must work diligently at our calling and we must do so asking God to enable us to meet our obligations and to provide for our family and our needs. But does consideration of your job come before Sabbath observance? Does consideration of your job come at the expense of your family and the needs of your children night after night after night? Does your job (to keep your job) mean that you must let down the lines of separation between a life of holiness and the evil of the world? Do you rub elbows with the world in taverns and follow their life-style for the sake of your job? Then you must get rid of that hindrance. You must put your work back in the place that God has given to it. It is not the first consideration of your life.

Is that what is hindering you? Or is, perhaps, greed hindering you – an inordinate love of money and success and possessions? Or clothes, or fashion? Do you place these things first? And do you use your mind only to get these things, leaving your mind at last exhausted and burnt out for any spiritual activity – you are too tired to pray – all the time you are too tired?

Or is the hindrance worry and anxiety, fretting and frustration, obsession? You would go into the secret place of prayer and would render moments of private worship to your God, but the room has not been dusted and your house has not been cleaned and you just cannot concentrate on prayer until these other things that are obsessing in your heart are attended to. Your responsibilities weigh very heavily upon you. But instead of finding grace to ask God to do your best and to leave the matters to God, you begin to worry and fret. Gird up the loins of your mind. Lay aside those anxieties.

Is the hindrance a waste of time? Is the hindrance what you listen to? Is the hindrance friends which, instead of sharpening you in the fear of God, are teaching you not the fear of God but the ways of men? Do your friends teach you to respect your body and to be upright in your character? Do they teach you to be compassionate to others and understanding and kind? Or do your friends who hang around you dull your spiritual sensitivities and make you bland to blend in with the world, influencing you to view your body carnally and making you selfish and self-centered and inconsiderate, thinking the whole world revolves around you?

Is what is hindering you a besetting sin that you will not deal with? You think that this sin can occupy a part of your life without any consequences.

These are some of the ways in which Christians’ garments can impede their labors. And the Word of God applies to all of them. God says, “Gird up the loins of your mind.” Be prepared. Be ready. Go about your Christian life with focus, with purpose, with zeal, with single-minded devotion. We serve the Lord! Whatever the Lord’s will may be, be girded for that work, be ready, as His servant, with staff in your hand and loins girt about you. Be ready always to obey and to follow Him. Have your robes fashioned around you so that you do not trip over them.

And, oh, how the Master loves to see His servants ever ready and prepared to do His will. Gird up the loins of your mind.

Next week we will return to this passage and look at the last part of the verse which calls us to be sober, and to hope to the end for the appearing of Christ.

Let us pray.

Father, we thank Thee for Thy word. And we ask for a blessing upon it as it is spoken to us, that we may examine our life and that we may go about our spiritual calling with that resolute determination and with that holy zeal that Thou dost call us to have. Grant these things to us through Jesus Christ our Lord, in whose name we pray, Amen.