The Hope That Is In You – II

June 15, 2016

I Peter 3:15, 16 (English Standard Version)

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

We have been examining I Peter 3:15 and 16.  In our last blog, I mentioned how this Scripture transformed my understanding of being a Christian witness – how it helped release me from thinking that I needed to be a Gospel Gorilla!  What is a Gospel Gorilla, you might ask?  It is someone who gladly shares the good news of Jesus Christ with everyone they meet.  They have the personality to confront all people who come across their path with the Bible truths that they are all sinners, Jesus Christ is the only Savior, and they must by faith receive Him into their heart and life to escape hell and gain eternal life now and forever.

Being a Gospel Gorilla does not fit my personality!  At one point in my early Christian life and as a young pastor of my first church, I wanted to hide in my house rather than go out and run into someone with whom I was bound to share the gospel!  But God showed me another way to witness from such passages as I Peter 3:15 and 16 (English Standard Version):

      …in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to
      make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is
      in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience….

In Monday’s blog, I explained the first two phrases of this Scripture:

•      I Peter 3:15 – “…in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy….”  In other words, live your life with Jesus Christ at the center, fully obeying Him!  This is where Christian witness starts – being attuned to His leading through the indwelling Holy Spirit.

•      I Peter 3:15 – “…always being prepared to make a defense….”  Be prepared by letting…the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom….” (Colossians 3:16).  As it says in II Timothy 2:15 (Modern KJV), “Study earnestly to present yourself approved to God, a workman that does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth.”  You cannot make a defense of your faith unless the word of Christ is dwelling in you richly!

Let’s go on:

•      I Peter 3:15 – “…being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you….”  This is my ‘releasing phrase!  No longer was I compelled to pounce on someone with the gospel!  I am directed here to respond to some form of another person’s question:  “Tell me – what is about you that is different from so many others?  You seem to have a measure of hope and peace about you?”  And I am good at answering someone’s searching question!

But here is a caveat!  And it involves what Jesus tells us in The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:14 and 16:  “You are the light of the world….Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”  Have you ever heard some Christians say, “I don’t say too much about my faith.  I let the way I live – my good works – be my light. My life is my witness.”  Good works are needed, encouraged, even commanded! (See Matthew 23:23; Ephesians 2:10; Titus 3:8; I Peter 2:12).  But good works are not to be your shining light!

Let’s look at an example:  Suppose your unsaved neighbor is sick and temporarily incapacitated.  You, in your goodness, take a meal to him or her and the family, and also mow the lawn for them.  What might they say to these acts of kindness?  “Wow!  I’m impressed!  What a nice person is our neighbor!”  Who gets the glory?  You do!  But what if you do the same good works for your neighbor, but add some light on why you are doing them?  What if you say something like, “I am a Christian, and Jesus has given so much to me, including dying for my sins and giving me eternal life.  I want to do this for you because of Him.”  You have directed the attention away from yourself, and given glory to God!  What might your neighbor then say?  “Wow! I’m impressed! What a great God!”  See the difference?

The light of Matthew 5:14 and 16 are not your good works!  Your light is what you say about why you are doing the good works…that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

•      I Peter 3:15 – “…yet do it with gentleness and respect….”  We are to be like Jesus in all our actions, in all our witness! (See Matthew 10:24, 25; Romans 8:29; II Corinthians 3:18; James 1:4).  What was Jesus like?  Consider the prophecy of Isaiah 42:2 through 4:

      He will not cry out, nor raise His voice, nor cause His voice to be heard
      in the street.  A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoking flax He
      will not quench; He will bring forth justice for truth.  He will not fail nor
      be discouraged….

Can we let Him make us that same kind of witness?

•      I Peter 3:16 – “…having a good conscience….”  Our conscience is our inner understanding of right and wrong which God has hard-wired into us all.  It can become hard and unresponsive.  Paul speaks of people with such a conscience in I Timothy 4:2: “…having their own conscience seared with a hot iron.”  But in I Timothy 1:5 (God’s Word to the Nations) he tells Timothy, “My goal in giving you this order is for love to flow from a pure heart, from a clear conscience, and from a sincere faith.”  A clear conscience is what John calls an assured heart before God in I John 3:21, saying, “Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have we confidence toward God…”  – confidence to live our Christian life with uplifted eyes, looking into the approving face of God!  And confidence to be the witness for our Lord which He calls us to be!

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