Discover, Decide, and Defend! – 1 Peter 3:15-16
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 20, 2014
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. (1 Peter 3:15 NIV)
Loyalty, we all like it when companies, family, or friends are loyal to us but are we loyal in return? And what does it mean for you to be loyal? You have to believe in the person, place, or thing you decide to be loyal to. God desires our loyalty. This is why Peter reminds us, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.” We are to hallow; honor as holy, enshrining God in our hearts as Jesus reminds us in the Lord’s Prayer where he reminds us to pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9 NIV). God’s holiness is thus glorified in our hearts, our entire lives, as the dwelling-place of his Spirit. This is where our loyalty is to begin and end. The very first commandment God gave the Israelites was, “You shall have no other gods before me (Exodus 20:3 NIV).” Jesus told Satan we are to “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only (Matthew 4:10 NIV).” And, this is why he reminded the teachers of the law that we are to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength (Mark 12:30 NIV).” One of the very last verses in the Bible tells us, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me (Revelation 3:20 NIV).” We have to decide to make Jesus the Lord of our lives. We have to decide if we will follow Jesus or not. We have to decide if we will hear his voice and give our lives to him. Paul said, “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved (Romans 10:9-10 NIV).” We have to decide with our whole heart exactly who we will be loyal to in life!
I believe we are to decide to follow him after we have discovered who Jesus is. We are to “set apart Christ as Lord”. It is a conscious decision that we are to make for ourselves. No one else can make it for us, nor can we make the decision for someone else. Setting apart Christ in our lives means we make a decision to follow him alone. Anything else would be adultery! James would say we are to, “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded (James 4:8 NIV)!” We are to repent of our lives without him. We are to repent, turn away from and ask forgiveness of our sinful condition. In fact this is a serious matter for the individual. There are those who have deluded themselves into thinking they serve God and love the Lord, but in reality their hearts are divided and they are not totally his! However, it is more than an emotional feeling; it is an act of will. We determine that we will set our hearts, our lives, all that we are to live for the Lord. We have forgotten that God only accepts a perfect sacrifice without spot or blemish. Jesus is that sacrifice for us. We become perfect, holy, when we give ourselves to him alone. When we act out of our emotions we can fool ourselves into thinking that as long as we feel good about ourselves, we are okay. Jesus warned, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers’ (Matthew 7:21-23 NIV)!” In fact, Jesus concludes, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock (Matthew 7:24 NIV).” We are to deliberately turn our lives completely over to the Lord’s will. Just as Peter warned the crowd at Pentecost, we are to “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord (Acts 3:19 NIV).” Refreshing comes as we walk in Him alone and change direction away from the things of the world. We are to “set apart Christ as Lord!”
Our lives in Christ do not end there however, we are to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” Far too many of us have never shared our faith with another individual. Yet, we are told over and over again to be able to witness and if fact we are commanded to go into the entire world. We are to help others discover the truth. We have fallen for the modern-day mantra of lifestyle evangelism. And while there is benefit in befriending others in order to gain an arena whereby we can eventually share our faith in Christ, far too many of us use it as an excuse to never actually mention Jesus to anyone. Cookies for Christ never won a soul unless you use them to comment on him. We are far more fearful of what others may think of us if we share our faith than we are horrified about their final outcome without Christ. When Peter remarked that we are always to be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks, he did not mean we are to wait until they come up to us and say, “Hey, I’ve noticed you are different today? Why?” Because the only way they will ever ask is if they actually see a change in our life and see us living for Jesus! What Peter meant is we are to be prepared, like Paul told his friend Timothy, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction.” The wording here does not mean like “preach it brother” on a soapbox or from a pulpit, but rather it means to speak out, tell others. Believers are to speak out; we are to tell others about the Lord Jesus Christ! Why? Peter goes on to say, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. (2 Timothy 4:2-4 NIV)” Now, let me ask you, “Don’t you think this is true in our world today?” So, what is the answer? We should be able to give anyone, at anytime, the answer for eternity – Jesus Christ! Yet, we are to do it “with gentleness and respect”. The wording here is interesting because in actuality it means “with meekness and fear”! We are to be humbled by the very prospect of sharing such a tremendous truth that we are to do it trembling because it is a sacred certainty that can change a person’s life forever! Plus, it was bought with such a bloody price. We are to sow the seed of the gospel and allow the Holy Spirit to germinate it in the life of those we share it with. We are to help others discover the truth.
Wherever we go and whoever we meet we are to be ready with the gospel. We are to be ready to defend what we believe, “keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” We are not to be deliberately abrasive, but we are to be willing to stand up for Christ. Far too many of us worry and wonder what in the world will I say, what if I offend someone, what if I lead someone astray by not being able to tell them exactly what they need to hear? This is all so much hogwash. Have you forgotten the promise of Jesus in this matter? He told his disciples and the curious crowds, “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say. (Luke 12:11-12 NIV)” We are not to be gospel scholars or Biblical professors, we are to be ourselves. Some of the best witnessing is when we simply share what Jesus has done for us, and it is most effective when we babble on about it! Why? Because it is sincere! It is us being us and sharing how God has worked in us! If someone wants to have a theological ontological pre-millennial post tribulational argument with you, respond by telling them, “What!?” And then share what you do know from your own life and if they do not want to hear it, be respectful and talk about something else! If the God who knows the very number of hairs on your head, your coming and going, and everything else there is to know about you, don’t you think he can give you what you need to say about your walk with the Lord when you need it? (I do.) He promised to do so!
She was this petite, quite, little 8th grade girl who always sat in the back row when we did youth camp. However, one day she came to me and asked, with a whole lot of fear and trembling I might add, to be able to share a testimony during our share time at Camp. You see, we always asked the youth that if they felt God prompting them to share something during share time they could. (Most of the time it was punctuated by a lot of cricket chirping, scuffling of feet, and utter quite.) So, that night as we all sat around enjoying the worship music, the skits, and the devotions, the time came for me to stand up and again ask if there was anyone who wanted to share. She quietly stood up and began to share what God was doing in her life. This beautiful quiet girl was a foster child. She came to camp because her foster mother thought it would be a good idea. She hated church, she hated Christians, and she did not particularly like the outdoors and sleeping in a cabin with fifteen strange girls who snored. The very first day she had sat alone on her bunk and had determined to run away. She was overcome by her circumstance in life. She shared that a slight breeze blew through the open door and flipped the pages of a Bible lying on an adjacent bunk. Curious, she went over to read where it had opened and she read these words: “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (Revelation 3:19-22 NIV)” She sat down on the floor of the cabin and gave her life to Christ. Tearfully she asked the now quiet crowd of youth “Is there anyone else here who needs to do what I did? I just felt I needed to share this and ask.” Over a dozen came forward that night. To my surprise most came from foster homes and were sent to the camp by their foster parents in order to give them the experience. She did not argue theology, eschatology, or the social implications of faith; she just shared what she knew.
When was the last time you decided to follow Jesus, discovered who he is, and defended his gospel so others would come to know him?
This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.