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The Christian Answer

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The Christian Answer

October 16, 2005

1 Peter 3:13-22

 Introduction

 We live in a changing world marked by emerging nationalism, terrorism, population explosion, scientific breakthroughs, Star Wars, the threat of nuclear extinction as well as catastrophic natural disasters such as the recent flood in New Orleans. But praise God, whatever the changes may be in this or any other age, there are immutables that are ever the same: our Master is the same, our message is the same, and our mission is ever the same. What is urgently needed today is an anointing of the Holy Spirit to relate our unchanging gospel to the changing times.

Let’s begin by reading 1 Peter 3:13-22. “Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don't be afraid and don't worry.  Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if you are asked about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But you must do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak evil against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong! Christ also suffered when he died for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners that he might bring us safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit. So he went and preached to the spirits in prison— those who disobeyed God long ago when God waited patiently while Noah was building his boat. Only eight people were saved from drowning in that terrible flood. And this is a picture of baptism, which now saves you by the power of Jesus Christ's resurrection. Baptism is not a removal of dirt from your body; it is an appeal to God from a clean conscience. Now Christ has gone to heaven. He is seated in the place of honor next to God, and all the angels and authorities and powers are bowing before him.

When Peter wrote his first epistle he was addressing believers who lived in a changing world and were facing the imminent possibility of having to "…suffer for doing what is right …" (1 Peter 3:14). In the light of this he urged them, in 1 Peter 3:15, to have a Christian answer ready. The NKJV says we are to defend our hope.

The day may well come when we, too, shall encounter persecution for the sake of the gospel. The cold war of clashing ideologies cannot continue without creating tensions that are bound to snap. When that day arrives we will have to take a stand and give a Christian witness in the presence of bitter hatred and vicious opposition. Jesus promised that the time would come when "…those who kill you will think they are doing God a service (John 16:2; see also Matthew 5:11-12). "God blesses you when you are mocked and persecuted and lied about because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted, too.”

 This immanent persecution of Christians calls for:

I. A Christ-centered Dedication

 "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts…"; or to quote it more accurately from the New American Standard Bible: " but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts…" (1 Peter 3:15). These words imply two very important considerations:

1) A Recognition of the Saving Christ as Lord

 "…sanctify Christ as Lord…" (1 Peter 3:15, nasb). The apostle Paul reminds us that "…no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:3). The implication is clear. To name Jesus as Lord is a saving act; it is where we must begin – with salvation. Are you saved? Is Jesus Christ Lord of your life? Have you asked Him to come into your life life and rule your hearts? If you haven’t, why not make today the day of your salvation. Just ask Jesus to forgive your sins and take control of your life. If you love Him and believe He died for you, according to the Scriptures, His Spirit will bear witness with your Spirit that you are His child (Romans 8:16)

Paul began his Christian experience when he cried, "…Lord, what do You want me to do?…" (Acts 9:6). Ever after he made this the basis of his theology. For him, the recognition of the Lordship of Christ not only indicated the commencement of the Christian life, but also the climax of the Christian life. He looked forward to that day when "… at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. " (Phil. 2:10-11) Romans 10:9-10 adds : For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.

…Charles Haddon Spurgeon ranks among the greatest preachers of all time. On one particular Sunday evening in London, this nineteenth century Baptist movingly poured out his very soul and life in homage and adoration before his blessed Savior. At the very end, exhausted in body, his voice almost gone, he spoke these words, "Let my name perish, but let Christ's name last for ever! Jesus! Jesus! Crown Him Lord of all! You will not hear me say anything else. These are my last words in Exeter Hall for this time. Jesus! Jesus! Crown Him Lord of all!" Knowing Jesus Christ as saving Lord is the first step in a Christ-centered dedication.

2) The second step in a Christ-centered life is a Resignation to the Sanctifying Christ as Lord

 "…sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts…" (1 Peter 3:15, nasb). When we glorify Christ we recognize His perfections. When we magnify Him we recognize His greatness. When we justify Him we recognize His justice; but when we sanctify Him we recognize His holiness; in other words, we hallow Christ as the Lord of holiness in our lives. Peter is teaching here the reality and purity of the indwelling Christ—an indwelling which is to be regarded not only as a subjective experience but also as a subjective expression. Because He indwells our lives we must reverence His presence and power until we reflect His holiness. Is this the desire of your heart today – to be holy as He is holy? Well, be encouraged because the holiness you desire is His work in you. Sanctification is God’s work in you. 1 Thessalonians 5:24 says, “God, who calls you, is faithful; he will do this (make you holy). What a relief that it is His work, not ours!

To quote Dr. Alexander Maclaren in this regard, we must "take care that our thoughts about Jesus Christ are full of devout awe and reverence. I venture to think that a great deal of modern and sentimental Christianity is very defective in this respect. You cannot love Jesus Christ too much, but you can love Him with too little reverence. . and so, forgetting that He is judge, and forgetting that He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and forgetting that [while] He is manifested in the flesh [as] our brother He is also God…our Creator as well as our Redeemer, and our Judge as well as our Saviour, some do not enough hallow Him in their hearts as Lord" .

To sum up our thinking on this point, only as we have high conceptions of the holy Christ who indwells us shall we seek to live out the standard of holiness that He demands and deserves.

   Is He Lord of your life?

Lord of every thought and action,

Lord to send and Lord to stay;

Lord in speaking, writing, giving,

Lord in all things to obey;

Lord of all there is of me,

Now and evermore to be.

E. H. Swinstead

(From Scripture Union Songs and Choruses)

II. Yes, if we are to live a Christ-centered life, we must be saved and have Jesus as Lord of our lives and we must seek a Christ-centered Education

"…be ready to give a defense to everyone…" (1 Peter 3:15). Dedication to Christ prepares us for education, but does not educate us; we must apply our hearts and minds to wisdom under the Lordship of Christ. Our text instructs us that this involves:

1) Academic Teaching

 "give a defense [or apology]" (1 Peter 3:15).. (Always be ready to explain what you believe and why you believe)

It might be argued that Peter was an unlettered man; but remember that his academic teaching was under Jesus Christ, the greatest Tutor the world has ever known, and that for 3-1/2 years. Patristic, scholastic, reformed, and modern theological thought may bore you at times, but under the Lordship of Christ it can become an unanswerable argument for the faith you possess.

2) Systematic Training

 "…be ready to give a defense…"(1 Peter 3:15). Readiness to give your testimony, to speak of Christ’s work in your life, and to witness is not the result of teaching alone, but training also. Teaching without training produces proud, cold, and dead intellectualism. An institute of learning must be married to a school of obedience. Training is the implementation of academic teaching under expert direction.

Oswald Chambers calls our holiness “a process steadily maintained. This process will never be complete. We will be in constant preparation. He says we need to let the Word of God “scrutinize us”. One evidence of God’s scrutiny is “conviction”. Chambers goes on to say, “Never discard a conviction. If it is important enough for the Spirit of Christ to bring it to mind, it is that thing He is detecting” It may be some tiny thing that God wants you to turn over to Him in order to be His disciple. It is that constant setting apart which each of us must submit to.

…The most valuable training Stephen Olford ever received was in a place known as the Missionary Training Colony on the outskirts of London, England. The purpose and program of this institution was to implement all academic teaching in terms of practical obedience. It involved a daily schedule of life and training that would test every area of Christian character and conduct. At every point of failure there had to be a close examination of the cause of breakdown and the way of victory. Looking back at the experience, Stephen Olford says that he learned more of God and His ways in his two years at the Colony than in any other similar period of his life.

(Now most of us won’t get to truck off to a training institution to learn of God. Our training is more on-the-job training (reflecting Christ where He has placed us; blooming where we are planted). Nevertheless, we are all being taught by God’s Word and trained by His Spirit.

Besides a Christ – centered education, we must make a Christ-Centered Presentation

 "…be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear" (1 Peter 3:15). If there is a Christ-centered dedication and education, you can expect a Christ-centered presentation which is:

1) Reasonable

 "…be ready to give a…reason…" (1 Peter 3:15). The word translated "reason" is logos, implying a thoughtful and reasoned explanation. So much of preaching and witnessing today is just unrelated scriptural texts and evangelical cliches. God forgive us! To reflect the divine mind is to "…bring every thought to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5).

And, 2) Reliable

 "…the hope that is in you…" (1 Peter 3:15). The message of the Bible is one of hope. Summing up the teaching of the Old Testament, Paul says: "Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. They give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God's promises. " (Romans 15:4). The patriarchs looked on in hope, the poets sang in hope, and the prophets declared their flaming messages in hope of the coming Messiah. Then He came, lived, died, rose again, and ascended on high to return one day to consummate all the hopes of the past, present, and future.

The New Testament message is one of hope. To quote the apostle Paul again: "We may know that these things make no difference, but we cannot just go ahead and do them to please ourselves. We must be considerate of the doubts and fears of those who think these things are wrong. We should please others. If we do what helps them, we will build them up in the Lord. " (Romans 5:1-2). What a message of radiance and relevance to a world that is lost and hopeless! Ours is a message of hope and we must not forget it.

…When two Iraqi missiles smashed into the USS Stark in the Persian Gulf in July of 1987, 35 American seaman were killed. Before the bodies were loaded aboard a U.S. military jet to be shipped back to the States, there was a solemn airport ceremony attended only by Mrs. Barbara Kiser, wife of one of the victims, and her 5-year old son. "I don't have to mourn or wear black," she said, "because I know my husband is in heaven. He's better off. God doesn't make mistakes." What a testimony of hope! Here was a woman who could speak from personal experience of her hope in the Lord.

 No man has a reliable testimony until he says that he has a living hope"All honor to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for it is by his boundless mercy that God has given us the privilege of being born again. Now we live with a wonderful expectation because Jesus Christ rose again from the dead. " (1 Peter 1:3); an indwelling hope— "… Christ lives in you, and this is your assurance that you will share in his glory. " (Col. 1:27); an assuring hope— " This confidence is like a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain of heaven into God's inner sanctuary." (Hebrews 6:19); a purifying hope— "And all who believe this will keep themselves pure, just as Christ is pure. " (1 John 3:3). Unless the radiance and reality of a personal experience of Christ accompanies our presentation, all the education in the world will amount to nothing.

…A Hindu convert in India could neither read nor write, but he got others to read the Bible to him. His favorite verse was John 1:12— "As many as received Him, to them gave He the power to become the sons of God." "I have received Him," said he, "so I have become a son of God." He went back to his village radiantly happy. "I have become a son of God," he cried. His life was so transformed, and his simple witness so effective, that the villagers all wanted to become "sons of God," too.

Yes, our message is very reliable, and full of  hope. It is also Respectable. It is to be given

 "…with meekness and fear" (1 Peter 3:15); that is, not with arrogance and self-assertion, but with due respect toward men and reverence before God. With some hearers, the spirit in which a statement is made may matter more than its contents. Only if they are attracted by the former will they give a proper hearing to the latter. Remember they will care to know if they know we care (isn’t that how it goes?)

Then adds the apostle Peter: "having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed" (1 Peter 3:16). The acid test of a worthy presentation of Christ is a good conscience toward God and a good commendation before men. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Conclusion

We have seen what constitutes the Christian answer: a Christ-centered dedication, education, and presentation. Have you prepared yourself for the one and only answer you can give to our generation, in this hour of confusion, frustration, and tension? If you have, then dedicate yourself to Christ as Lord, and then use your Christian education and presentation to win a lost world for Christ and HIS kingdom.

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