Text: 1 Pt 3:15
Theme: Show your hope so you are asked about it.
Doctrine: Justification and Sanctification
Image: “I have hope” tattooed on your forehead.
Need: Christian living (preached for profession of faith of Kevin Prins)
Message: Show your hope so you are asked about it.
Burdett CRC- Aug 14 am, 2005
1 Pt 3:13-22, esp v.15
Peter was the rock on which Jesus built the church. He was a man who denied his saviour three times, because of his own fear. Eventually he was killed for his faith in Rome. Legend has it that Peter was convinced to leave Rome because of increased persecution. He was walking out of the city, down the road, and he was met by Christ going back into the city. Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “I am going into the city to be crucified a second time.” At this, Peter turned back toward the city, in spite of the persecution, he was not going to let fear master him a second time, he went back to witness, to give a reason for the hope which lied within him. He had been given three chances the evening Jesus was tried to tell others about his hope in Jesus, but he failed. He is telling others to learn from his mistake. There are three things Peter teaches us in v 15. The first is that we have hope, the second is that we should be able to give the reason for that hope, and the third is that we should live in such a way that others ask us why we have hope.
We have hope.
We have hope. This is something that we often take for granted. Our hope is something that we just have, and we don't put much thought into it. But what is our hope? Last Sunday evening we explored fully our reason for hope. We have hope because God did not leave us dead, disobedient, and doomed, but saved us by raising us with Christ. This salvation was given to us by his grace, through our faith. Here we have another explanation of our hope in Christ Jesus. Christ died for sins, once for all. Christ is our high priest, and he sacrificed himself. He is the true sacrifice. All the Old Testament practices were simply a shadow of Christ's sacrifice. We no longer have to follow the sacrificial system of the Jews because Christ has fulfilled that system.
In the Old Testament sacrificial system the offering had to be without blemish, it had to be perfect. This was true also of Christ. Jesus was the lamb without blemish. He was the righteous one, given on behalf of the unrighteous, to bring us to God. There is much here which is hard to understand. Many commentators have made attempts to explain it, but there is no consensus as to who exactly the spirits in prison are who disobeyed in Noah's time. But what is important is that Noah was saved. Noah and his family. Noah was saved because he was upright before the Lord. God saved Noah's children because of the covenantal way God deals with his people. The water that the ark rode upon and which Noah and his family lived upon, is linked to the water of baptism. The water of baptism is a sign and seal that God will deal with us the same way he dealt with Noah's family. God brought them into new fellowship with him, and gave them a new covenant. He promised that never again would he send a flood to destroy the earth.
When we are baptised into the covenant family of God, we are given a new covenant. God promises to deal with us in a different way. We are given access to the gifts which he has entrusted to his chosen people. We are given access to the means of grace. As a part of the covenant family of God we are entrusted with the gospel message. We are told that Jesus died for our sins, and was raised again to new life. We are told that through Jesus death, our sins are paid for and we can now approach God and be reconciled to him. Because we are a part of the covenant family of God we are taught and encouraged by the community of saints. Then when we accept Christ as our saviour and ask the Holy Spirit to come into our hearts and renew our lives our hope is made secure. We no longer have to wonder if we are saved. We have a hope which surpasses all of our problems.
When I visited with Tieneke Muller before her death I was truly struck by this. She had faith that she would be with Christ when she died. Heb 11:1 says “faith is the assurance of things hoped for.” This Tieneke had. When I asked her about her life, she gave me an outline of how God had continually worked in her life, despite all of her difficulties. She had had a very tough life, and she told me that there were times when she struggled. There were times when she was not sure why God would allow her to suffer as she did. There were times when she cried out to God. But when it came right down to it, she knew she had hope. She knew that Jesus had died for her sins. She could say with Paul "for to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." (Phil 1:21) She had the hope which all believers have, the hope of salvation through the blood of the cross.
Be able to give a reason for your hope.
That is the first thing Peter teaches us, that we have hope. He also teaches us that we need to be able to give the reason for our hope. This is something which is much more difficult than it seems. Much of our fear of evangelism is that we do not know exactly how to communicate with others the hope that we have. I hope it is not that we are ashamed of the gospel message. I am sure the reason we are not evangelising is not because we are scared of being labelled as Jesus Freaks. In this regard we can learn a lot from the Mormons. They train themselves and their children to be able to give a defence of their faith. They put a lot of time and effort into evangelism, something we as Christians are lacking.
Part of the process that I have to go through at the seminary is a deep reflection on myself as a child of God. For one of my classes we had to present the gospel message to someone else. I have to admit this was a huge stretch on my comfort zone. I grew up in an area you just assumed everyone else was Christian, and you did not ask about it. I was not used to sharing my faith with someone else. Not to mention I did not know anyone who was not a Christian in Grand Rapids. The only people I knew where those I went to seminary with, and the ones that I felt comfortable with, I knew were all devout Christians. I was stuck. I procrastinated this project until the very end of the term. But then I had a real problem. I was supposed to be cultivating a relationship so that I would be comfortable giving the gospel to them, but now I was in the same boat as at the beginning of the term. I could have tried to get out of the assignment, but then I would have had to lie about my reasons for not doing it, and I was not willing to do that. So I decided to use the excuse of the assignment to break the ice. I went down to the local Starbucks and decide to try my luck. I was extremely nervous, but the assignment was due at the end of the week, so I knew I had to get it done. I walked up to a college age guy and introduced myself. He was not Christian, though not hostile either. I told him that there was this mean prof at the Seminary that has given me an assignment and I asked if he would help me. I explained that I had to present to him the gospel story of Jesus. He said, “No thanks, I really don't want to be your project.” I thanked him for his time, and went away.
After this happened, I realised that there wasn't anything much worse that could happen, so I asked the young lady sitting next to him. She was in her younger 30's but was already a devoted Christian and attends one of the Reformed Churches in town. Struck out again! By now I was getting rather discouraged. It had taken a lot of effort to get this far, and I just wanted to continue talking with this lady, rather than approach someone else. Finally I picked up the courage when I saw a student sit at a far table with a Philosophy book in his hand.
I approached him and got to talking a bit about Philosophy. He was not a Christian, and he asked me the same question most non-Christians ask me, “Why would you believe that myth?” I thought, “Great here is my chance.” I asked him if he would let me explain the gospel story for him. We spent about an hour discussing the intricacies of the gospel story. He was very eager to try and find a whole in the story. I wish I could tell you that he accepted Jesus into his heart right then and there, but I cannot. He was polite enough to listen and discuss the gospel with me, but that was as far as he was willing to go. Maybe God used me to plant a seed in his heart which will grow into faith, or maybe to remind him of the plant of faith he had neglected in his heart. Either way I saw no fruit from my visit with him.
Like me, when you present the gospel to someone, you may not get a reaction. Hopefully you do not simply approach someone out of the blue like I did, because that is not conducive to growing the other's faith. But I hope and pray that each of you is searching for a time and opportunity to present the gospel to others. I praise God that Kevin is here today to do just that. He has decided to take the next step in his faith and to declare before this body of believers that he believes in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour. Jesus said in Mat 10:32,33 “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.” The CRC has decided that the way a person does this, the way someone acknowledges Christ before men is to make public profession of faith and become an active member in the church. Today we have the privilege of watching Kevin acknowledge Christ as his Lord and Saviour, giving us the reason for the hope that he has within him.
Show your hope so you are asked about it.
This brings me to the third thing Peter has taught us in this passage. He has taught us that we have hope, and that we ought to be able to give a reason for it, but he also teaches that we should live in such a way that others ask us about our hope. Our responsibilities do not end when we figure out a good way to present the gospel message. When someone learns the 4 spiritual laws, or the Bridge Representation of the gospel, they are not finished. They are then called to live a godly life so that people notice they are different. We as Christians are called to be holy, to be set apart for God. We are called to be witnesses to God's light and love.
We have been given the most precious thing in the world, and we are called to witness to it. We have been given hope which extends beyond death. We are given the security that we will not die completely, by that through death we will enter into life eternal. This hope is most evident in times of adversity, and especially in the face of death. As much hope as was evident in the life of Tieneke, there was also hope in the lives of her family. The difference between a Christian and a non-Christian is nowhere as striking as at the bedside of a dying loved one. How many times do you see on TV people weeping and wailing, lashing out at the doctors for not doing more to save their loved one. Begging on their hands and knees that they could have one more hour, or minute before they passed away. The sense of dread and fear which must pass through non-Christians as they face death must be almost unbearable. I think that would be worse than the pain of dying the most excruciating death. To realise that you have no hope beyond the grave. To think that this is the absolute end, that you will cease to be when you pass away, that would be worse than death.
But that is not the way a Christian approaches death. We do not grieve as those who have no hope, because we have hope. After Tieneke passed away, and the family gathered around to say goodbye, it was a though a peace had fallen in the room. The touch of God was evident there. It was obvious that her family had hope. If there had been an unbeliever who walked past that room, and knew what had just taken place, they would have been struck by our hope. They would have been dumbfounded that we could stand there in the presence of death, and be at peace. I am certain they would have asked us the reason for our hope.
But we are not called to be witnesses only at the point of death. We are called to live our entire lives as witnesses. Kevin, you will be faced with some hard choices as you go off to college. You will no longer be protected by the loving guidance of your parents. There are so many temptations, even at a Christian College, that it may be difficult to live up to this calling. Just remember that you do not have to do it alone. Jesus has sent the Holy Spirit into your heart to help you be that witness to others.
Jesus has promised the Spirit to all of us who are his. He has given us the power to live up to the calling he has given us.
We have been given the hope of salvation by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. We are called to give a reason for that hope, and to live in such a way that others ask us for a reason for the hope that we have within us.
Let us Pray
Lord God, we praise you for your work on our behalf. We thank you for the hope we have through your Son Jesus Christ. We ask that you would guide our lives so that others ask us about you, and that you would give us the words to witness to your love.