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Jesus Christ is Set Apart as Lord!

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Set yourselves apart.  It’s a goal that athletes strive for every day.  The high-school athlete is constantly trying to set himself apart to get the best scholarship possible.  The college athlete tries to set himself apart so they can be a top pick in the draft. 

Athletes aren’t the only ones who try to set themselves apart.  People in the business world try to set themselves apart so they can get the big promotion.  High school students try to set themselves apart so they can be part of the popular crowd.  Everyone who tries to set themselves apart does so not only with their own actions, but also with the testimony of others.  Yet, there is only one who truly deserves to be set apart, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  In our sermon text for today we learn that Jesus Christ is set apart as Lord!  He is set apart as Lord through his saving work.  He is set apart as Lord when we give an answer.

Peter was writing to Gentile Christians whom he had probably never met.  He was writing to many different churches scattered throughout Asia Minor.  These Christians were in a difficult situation living in the middle of a heathen culture.  They were surrounded by temptations.  They were tempted to live as the heathens did; to live as they used to live.  The Christians of Asia Minor were tempted to be afraid of living their faith.  Peter’s audience had no doubt read Paul’s letters and heard of his persecutions.  They probably had heard of persecutions against other Christians throughout the Roman Empire.  Peter makes it clear in the rest of the book that these Christians had even experienced persecution in their own lives. 

Like the other New Testament epistles, Peter intended this letter to be read by all Christians.  While we may not live in ancient Asia Minor, our lives are not so different than those Christians.  We may not live in a culture that is as openly heathen as the culture of Peter’s time, but we still live in a worldly culture.  This worldly culture will present daily temptations against our faith.  We may be tempted to conform our Christian living and to begin to live according to this world.  We may be afraid of living our faith in a culture that does not admire such a lifestyle.

Peter’s encouragement to set Christ apart as Lord hints at the problem.  Setting Christ apart as Lord isn’t easy!  That means that we must set Christ first in everything.  To set Christ apart as Lord means that he is first in our thoughts.  It means that he shows himself as Lord through our actions and words.  Just as the Christians of Peter’s day, we do not always set Christ apart as Lord in our lives.  We do not always live our lives in a way that reflects Christ.  Instead we set our own needs apart as a lord.  We may not ever have to worry about our own physical safety, but do we ever put our emotional welfare above Christ?  Does the college student confess her faith in a 6-day creation when her professor says that evolution is fact?  Or does she say nothing because she doesn’t want to be embarrassed in front of the class?  What about the homosexual co-worker who tells us that we believe something outdate?  Are we too concerned with making things awkward or do we boldly confess the truths of God’s Word regarding sin and grace? What about the family member who moved in with their significant other before marriage?  Do we tell them what they’re doing is sinful or do we keep our mouth shut because we don’t want to cause confrontation?  When faced with setting Christ apart as Lord or shrinking into the background and keeping our lips sealed, don’t we all too often choose the latter?  Do we hide Christ, and show just how much we may be ashamed of him?  And being ashamed of Christ, aren’t we just that much closer to dumping Christ?  What does that really say to an unbelieving world?  Do our words and actions reflect those of an unbelieving world?  And if we reflect an unbelieving world, aren’t we in danger of spending eternity in the same suffering the same eternal punishment?

Isn’t it wonderful, then, what Peter says?  Listen again to his words: For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.  No matter how much we may suffer for setting Christ apart, he suffered more.  He suffered humiliation here on earth.  He was born in a lowly manger and lived life on earth without a place to call his own.  He suffered ridicule, unjust beatings, and mockings.  Christ was put on trial and declared guilty, even though he was innocent.  He was nailed to a cross and died a gruesome death.  Christ didn’t need to suffer – he is almighty God, creator of everything that is!  He suffered as payment for all our sins.  His love for each and every one of us, his desire to see us in heaven, led him to die for sins once for all.   

All this he willingly did to bring us to God.  He suffered death and hell on that cross so we wouldn’t have to suffer eternal death in hell.  He suffered death so that he could snatch us from the devil’s grip and bring us to God.  Because of his sufferings and death he has led us into the flock and family of God.  But it doesn’t end there - Christ’s saving work has forgiven all of our sins.  Through his suffering and death, he has washed us clean of all the times we don’t set Christ apart as Lord.  His saving work sets him apart as Lord in our lives. 

Peter gives us another powerful image of Christ set apart as Lord.  He set himself apart as Lord by saving each of us, and he set himself apart as Lord when he went and preached to the spirits in prison.  As we know from the rest of Scripture, Christ didn’t descend into hell, that eternal prison, to finish his saving work.  He descended there to proclaim victory over death.  Only Christ, who is Lord over everything, could have the authority and the power to walk into hell and tell the devil and those spirits that he had won.  Only he could walk into a hostile situation and proclaim victory with no fear of retaliation. 

That confidence over sin and death has been given to each one of us.  Through our baptism, Christ has brought us to God and given us the confidence in our salvation.   Just as Noah was saved through the waters of the flood, Peter tells us that we have been saved through the waters of our own baptism.  This water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God.  Our baptism was not a bath like the ones we use to wash ourselves or your children when they’re dirty.  Our baptism is so much more!  As a literal translation, our baptism is a “verdict” given to us that we are right before God.  Our baptism gives us a clean conscience, a conscience that says that we have been brought to God.  It is a conscience that says that Christ is set apart as Lord in our lives.  Our baptism, Peter tells us, saves us by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. There is a promise attached to our baptism.  This promise says that the water and the words spoken at our baptism are connected to Christ’s Easter Sunday resurrection.  Because Christ rose, baptism has the power to save us!  He rose from the dead Easter morning to show that he was Lord of life and death.  He rose to assure us that we too would rise from the dead to be with him forever in heaven. 

We can also be sure that Christ is set apart as Lord because he ascended into heaven.  We confess every Sunday in the creed that “he rose from the dead and ascended into heaven where he now sits at the right hand of the Father.”  Peter tells us the same thing.  He says, Jesus has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand.  But Peter adds one more point.  He adds that all angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.  What an amazing picture!  Not only did our Savior suffer and die for us, showing us in a real way that he is Lord, but he also ascended to heaven – where you and I will one day see him face to face.  He sits at his Father’s right hand, a picture of the position of power which he has.  No, he sits at the right of God the Father as Lord over everything.  All angels, authorities, and powers – in a sense, everything that is – is under the submission of Christ!  Everything that we do, everyone we meet, everything that happens to us in under Christ’s control!

If Christ has set himself apart as Lord, what does that mean for our lives?  Do we live with an attitude that says Christ has done it all, so I can live as I please?  No, instead we set Christ apart as Lord when we give an answer!

            Peter writes: Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  We all share the same hope.  This hope is not the kind of hope that a child has when they hope for a certain toy for their birthday.  Our hope is a trust in the promises of God.  It is a hope that looks forward to what we know is coming.  No matter where each of us may be in our daily lives, we all know that we have been saved through the blood of Christ and his resurrection.  We know that since we have been saved by that blood we have the promise of eternal life. 

            What does this hope mean for our lives?  Since we have this hope, since are looking forward to life eternal with God, Peter encourages us to live our lives that reflect our hope.  In the verse right before our sermon text, Peter encourages his readers “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.”  When we have Christ set apart as Lord in our lives we will realize that he is in control of our lives.  We do not have to live afraid of persecution because we know that all angels, authorities and powers are in submission to him.  As we live here on earth, we will no doubt encounter persecution.  As Christians, we are encouraged to live lives of love to our neighbor.  Christ has told us – Love your neighbor as yourself.  Because of this, we will not look to get revenge or get even with those who attack us for doing good.  As Peter tells us, it is better to suffer for doing good than for doing evil

In the middle of a world that does as it pleases, the Christian stands up for what is right.  Don’t you think that people will take notice of the engaged couple who refuses to move in together until they are married?  Won’t the world take notice of the college student who withstands ridicule and stands up for the truth of God’s Word?  Doesn’t the world notice the Christian coworker who defends their faith despite being called old fashioned or out of touch? 

To the world, this doesn’t make any sense.  Paul says that the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.  Our actions will go against the grain of the world.  People will begin to wonder what’s different about us, they will begin to wonder why we put up with things that most people won’t.  It is then that we will be able to give an answer.  As Peter says, we should always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks us to give the reason for the hope that we have

            What kind of answer are we to give?  Isn’t it best to give an answer in the way that Peter says with gentleness and respect?  What good does it do to say that we hope in the resurrection and life forever in heaven, but do so in such a way that turns people off to Christ?  If we are to keep a clear conscience we should give our answer through gentleness and respect.  A gentle and respectful answer will show the world that we have set Christ apart as Lord in our lives. 

            There is a common phrase which says “Kill your enemies with kindness.”  Our text for today tells us that when we answer with gentleness and respect, those who speak maliciously against your good behavior will be ashamed of their slander.  Living our lives, showing that Christ is set apart as Lord, will demonstrate to the world that their slander is without any basis.  Living our lives and being prepared to give an answer with gentleness and respect will show that we truly have set Christ apart as Lord.  

            We can give an answer in many ways.  Setting Christ apart as Lord means that we are looking for opportunities to give an answer.  Sometimes those opportunities present themselves as if they were just dropped into our laps.  In those situations we can give an answer through both words and actions.  We live our lives above reproach.  We do not seek retaliation on those who persecute us.  We respond in a gentle and respectful way, sharing the confidence we have of our eternal life waiting for us in heaven.  Sometimes we seek out opportunities to give an answer.  Through canvassing outings, conversations with friends or coworkers, or any of our other daily conversations we will have opportunities to talk about our faith.  We live our lives looking for the opportunities to share the hope that we have – that Jesus Christ is Lord and that he has saved us from every one of our sins. 

            What confidence we have!  As anyone will tell you, it’s hard enough to set themselves apart, whether it is in athletics, the business world, or social circles.  However, we know that Christ is set apart as Lord.  He is Lord over all, and we have the assurance that all is under his control!  He is set apart as Lord by his saving work.  He suffered and died for our sins, even though he was not under any obligation to do so.  He is set apart as Lord because he died once for sins once for all.  He is set apart because he conquered death by his resurrection.  He now rules over everything as Lord at the right hand of the Father.  Won’t we, out of thanks and love for being brought to God, want to show that we have set him apart as Lord?  We will give an answer for our hope in all circumstances.  Our answers will show those around us that Jesus Christ is set apart as Lord!

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