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Entries in Apologetics (2)

Tuesday
Apr042017

Sharing Jesus Passionately 2

1 Peter 3:14-17.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on April 2, 2017.

Today we will finish out our series on the purpose of the Church and followers of Jesus.  We have used the words: Connect, Grow, Serve, and Share.  When we share the truth about Jesus it becomes necessary to give an answer to questions that inevitably arise, and to give a defense to accusations of error.  Throughout history there have been some very eloquent answers and defenses given, and some of them can be found in the Bible.

The first Christian martyr, Stephen, gives an eloquent defense before the Sanhedrin (a Jewish court) in Acts chapter 7.  The Apostle Paul gives a defense to a Jerusalem mob in Acts 22, and a defense to the Sanhedrin in Acts 23.  Later he gives another defense before King Herod Agrippa in Acts 26.  Down through history the impassioned statements of believers and martyrs have been recorded in books like “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.”  You will notice something in all of these that I have mentioned.  They are not filled with the vindictive ramblings and railings of people who are missing their marbles.  Instead, we see very reasoned defenses of the Gospel of Jesus and their faith in it.  Though Christianity is referred to as a Faith, never think for a moment that it also means that there is no reason.  So, today we will look at this area of reasoning with people in the marketplace of Ideas.

The case for apologetics

In this passage Peter speaks about the reality that normally we are not persecuted for doing good.  But there are times when you suffer even for doing what is good.  For whatever reason, another person or king may feel threatened and then seek your harm, though it is undeserved.  In those times we need to stand our ground and share the truth of Christ without anger and striking back.  Thus we defend ourselves with the Truth.  The word apologetics is used for any line of reasoning or answering that is used to defend the faith, of Christianity in this case, against others.  It comes from the same root of the word “defense or answer” in 1 Peter 3:15.  The word actually can mean either one.  If someone is simply asking a question then you give an answer.  But if someone is seeking to demonstrate that you are in error, then you are giving a defense.  This is the area of learning to defend our faith, both in Jesus personally and in the teachings of him and his apostles.  Peter gives us a command in verse 15 to be ready to give an answer or defense.  It is a necessary part of the being a follower of Jesus.

It would be easy to have an attitude that is super spiritual.  We could state that we don’t have to defend the faith because people are either drawn by the Holy Spirit or they are not.  However, this is not the attitude the apostles and early Christians took.  Christians have been reasoning people because their Lord and Master is a reasoning being.  Also, we must not defend the faith in order to get a duty off of our plate.  We must care about whether people believe or not.  A Christian who runs into resistance should be driven to their knees in prayer.  “O God, help me to find a way.”  “Fill my mouth with Your words and anoint me with Your Spirit.” When people ask questions or bring up reasons why they don’t believe, we must seek to answer them with passion for the faith and passion for them accepting it.  Yet, it is also true that not everyone asks honest questions.  Some seek only to tear down continually, and will not listen to reason.  It is not your job to give an answer to every person on earth, but it is your job to give an answer to every person who “asks of you the reason for the hope within you.”

Peter goes on to remind them how they should answer and defend.  It should be done in a Christlike manner.  The how is just as important as the what.  In fact, we should check ourselves before we answer anyone.  Am I letting the character and person of Jesus shine through me?  We defend ourselves, but not as the world defends itself.  In fact, if we are honest, we want to defend in a worldly manner.  It takes courage and strength to restrain one’s self and be like Christ.  So what does it look like to gve an answer or defense of our faith in a Christlike manner?

Peter lists 4 things.  First, we are in a state of readiness.  Like the Boy Scout motto, “Be prepared,” we make sure that we are ready to give a reason for our faith in Jesus.  We prepare ourselves spiritually, mentally, and physically.  And yet, Jesus tells us that we need not worry about the exact words we should say.  But, we do need to spend time in the Word of God and prayerfully thinking through the issues of our day.  People will have questions and we need to prepare ourselves to answer them.

Next Peter uses the word “meekness.”  This word is more about our inner demeanor than it is our outward.  It points to an inner calmness, gentleness, and humility within our spirit.  This is to be in contrast to an arrogant, brash, and spiteful demeanor.  The inward will outwardly express itself.  But a meek person can give a passionate and strong defense of the Gospel.  We see this with Stephen and Paul as I mentioned earlier.  The meek person does not approach the unbeliever with an attitude of superiority, and yet neither are they ashamed and timid about their faith.  May God fill us with His Spirit so that we can be strong and meek.

Next Peter mentions fear.  In our day and age it is not in vogue to speak of fear positively.  However, there is a place for proper fear.  Peter is referring to having a proper respect for other people and a proper reverence for the Lord Jesus.  Thus we sanctify (hallow) the Lord in our heart.  I belong to Him and He has called me for this very purpose.  I must do it, and I must do it in the way that He wants me to do it.

This leads to the fourth thing, a good conscience.  Living in harmony with the faith and the teachings of Jesus and his apostles, gives us an assurance that we are doing the right thing.  It gives us confidence before those who question us.  We have a good conscience, not because we never fail, but because even when we fail we admit them, repent of them, and reconcile with those we sin against.  When a Christian faces and deals with their sin, it keeps their conscience clean.  There is no guilt that can be held over their head in order to shut them up.  You need to realize that the devil wants to cover you in a pile of doubts, confusion, shame, and guilt.  Why? So that he can get you to shut up and not try.  Parents should take this very same thing to heart.  It is hard raising kids.  But if you quit when it gets hard, the devil will win in the life of your child.  Over the years many brilliant people, in defending Jesus and the Gospel, have left us with quite a repository of answers to give the world.

The Case for Christ

There is a movie that is coming out this weekend called The Case for Christ.  It is based off of a true story of an investigative journalist named Lee Strobel.  You may be interested in seeing the movie, but even more important you really should read the book that he wrote in 1998 by the same name.  You see, in 1979, Lee Strobel was a boozing, self-absorbed, and immoral man who was driven to be a great journalist.  He was also an atheist.  That year the conversion of his wife to Christianity rocked his world.  But he was rocked even more by what it did in the life of his wife.  He felt like he was losing his wife and yet she was becoming a better person.  The book traces his investigative interview with 13 different professionals within different professions in order to prove to his wife that Jesus and Christianity were well proven frauds.  After 21 months, in 1981, Lee was astounded that he had convinced himself that it was all true and was backed by evidence that would not only stand up in court, but more evidence than was often used to send people to prison for life.

Lee visited professionals in the areas of ancient source documents, both biblical and secular, archaeology, philosophy, psychology, theology, and even medical doctors.  Remember that Lee was an atheist who was out to prove the religion his wife was embracing was a fraud and easily proven wrong.  He thought he had an answer for every claim of Christians.  Here is a sample of how his journey went.  He felt that the 500 people who had seen Jesus at one time must have had a hallucination.  In his book he says, “I went to a psychologist friend and said if 500 people claimed to see Jesus after he died, it was just a hallucination.  He said hallucinations are an individual event.  If 500 people have the same hallucination, that’s a bigger miracle than the resurrection.”  Often skeptics who deny the reality of Scriptural events will point to alternate explanations that superficially appear to be a valid answer.  But, upon further speculation, you find that they actually make it more impossible.  Another example of this is the crossing of the Red Sea.  Often people will say that the water wasn’t very deep, perhaps ankle or knee deep.  Yet, when you think about it, this only changes the miracle to the fact that God drowned Pharaoh and his army in knee deep water.  I share this to show that there are many people and books written that answer the many questions and misunderstandings that people have towards Jesus.  However, it is just as important to share the good news about what Jesus had done for us, than to answer people’s questions about the bible.

Evangelism Explosion and the  Way of the Master

Sharing with people their need for salvation and the grace of Jesus can be intimidating for many.  There are individuals who are gifted with the ability and desire to talk to everyone.  But most people have to work at it to share Christ with others.  In 1962 Dr. D. James Kennedy, senior pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, came out with an evangelism tool called Evangelism Explosion.  It is famous for the leading question, “Suppose that you were to die today and stand before god and he were to say to you, ‘Why should I let you into my heaven?’  What would you say?”  Of course it involved a set of Scripture verses to share with people once they gave their answer.

Another tool that is more recent comes from pastor Ray Comfort with WayofTheMaster.com.  He uses some of the 10 commandments (lying, stealing, taking God’s name in vain, adultery) and uses them to show people that they are guilty before God by their own admission.  If they stood before God they would have no defense.  Then he explains how Jesus was making a way for them to be set free from their sin and guilt.  All they need to do is confess their sins, believe in their heart that Jesus paid the price for their sins, and then put their trust in Him and His teachings. 

As good as these attempts to systematize sharing the gospel are, we must recognize that this is a spiritual endeavor.  No one will be rationalized into the kingdom of God.  However, that is not to say that reasoning is not important.  We are both mental and spiritual.  Thus we must engage people’s minds.  Yet, a key component cannot be overlooked, the spiritual sense of our sin and the amazing grace of Jesus.  In the words of Herod Agrippa to the Apostle Paul, many people hear a great presentation of the Gospel and yet say, “You almost persuade me to be a Christian.”  When you hear this, don’t get discouraged and give up.  Don’t hang your head down and feel like you have disappointed God.  Whether noncommittal or even resistant, it is not our job to save people, but to give them a reason for the hope within us.  In fact, very few get saved the first time they hear the gospel.  It is often over the course of time and many explanations of the gospel that people come to faith in Christ.  So hang in there and be faithful to the mission.  The words that God will say to us on that day are “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  Let’s focus on being good and faithful to the mission that Jesus has given us to share the gospel with those who are not believers in Him.

Sharing Jesus 2 audio

Tuesday
Jan082013

The Problem of Suffering I

As we continue through the book of 1 Peter, we are now at a point where Peter speaks to the area of suffering.  Many believers were encountering suffering on a personal basis and often throughout a whole region.  Eventually, Caesars such as Nero and Diocletian would promote a persecution against Christians throughout the whole Roman world.  Thus these words from Peter were timely. 

In our own day and age, we still see large parts of the earth where persecution of Christians is the norm.  Even in America, where we have been sheltered for so long, we see a growing animosity against believers, along with incidents of clear persecution.  Thus these words are timeless and we need to pay attention to what God is saying to us.  Let’s look at 1 Peter 3:13-17.

What Kind Of Person Harms Those Who Do Good?

In verse 9 we are told to not pay back wrong for wrong.  However, this brings up the area of when others repay my good with wrong.  No matter how right and good you try to do things, there will always be some who resent you for it.  What kind of person does evil to those who do good?  That is the question that Peter puts forth in verse 13.  The main intention is to remind them that only evil people who do not belong to God will do such things.  God is against those who do evil and has gone on record that he is going to judge them.  Thus we need to remind ourselves, when we are suffering from wrongs that others do to us, that they are not doing what is right and God is against them.  That may not make you feel better, but suffering tends to get in the head of an individual.  We can begin to question all manner of things, even God’s favor for us. 

Another aspect to this question is that the answer is not just an evil person, but is the fact that they are only a human.  They are NOT God, even if they do command the power of government like Caesar.  Even if the whole world worships him as a god, he is only human.  He will stand before the true God and give account for the evil he has done.  That is why Jesus reminded his followers in Matthew 10:28 that they should not fear those who can only kill their bodies.  Rather we need to fear God who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell.  When people persecute us we can be tempted to accept it as God’s punishment upon us, especially if it is ongoing.  We wonder where God’s blessing is and look for the reasons why we are so wretched to deserve this.  Thus in verse 14 Peter moves to another point.

The Righteous Who Suffer Are Blessed

How can God tell us that when we suffer for doing what is right we are blessed?  How can persecution be interpreted as blessings?  We so often only see blessings that are material.  However, we are missing the more important, eternal blessings.  In verse 12 Peter had told them that the Eyes of the Lord are on the righteous.  You are blessed because God is watching over you with affection and care.  Secondly, you are blessed because his ears are open to your prayers.  Now clearly the psalmist was not trying to say God literally has eyes and ears.  Yet, the One who created the eye and the light that makes it work did it so that we can “see” what he “sees.”  The same is true with ears.  As an aside, let me just say that even this point becomes moot in the light of Jesus and his incarnation.  God didn’t take on flesh so that he could see and hear, but so that we can understand that he has always seen and always heard.  So when you are suffering praise God that he sees your plight and pray to him with your petitions and your praises.

Lastly you are blessed because your trust in God puts you on His side.  Here Peter quotes from Isaiah 8 when he says do not be afraid...nor be troubled.  Now if you go back and read this whole chapter you will see that God speaks to both the Gentile nations and the people of Israel.  God is a sanctuary to those who trust Him, but He is a stumbling block to those who do not trust him.  So, whether you are an unbelieving heathen or a waffling Christian, you are going to either come to faith in Jesus or you will trip over him.  When God doesn’t do things our way it is easy to stumble in our faith.  But if we trust him we are blessed because those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.  God will bring them through every trial.

Those Who Suffer Should Do These Things

In verses 15-17 Peter lays out several things that we need to do especially when we are suffering for doing what is right.  The first is to set our heart and mind upon the Lord alone.  To “sanctify” means to set apart for a particular purpose.  We can’t make God holier or more sanctified.  But we can make our heart and mind a special place where God’s thoughts and his desires are set up as primary and special.  They are our sole focus.  This word is the same as is used in the Lord’s prayer: “hallowed be Thy name.”  The prayer is about God’s name (Jesus and all that he is) being set apart in the hearts and minds of people.  In Hebrews 12:1-2 we see this need again.  “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross…”  If we are to run this race well we need to set our heart and minds upon the desires and thoughts of Jesus Christ.  If we are to run well we need to run in the footsteps of the only one who ran it perfectly, Jesus.

The next thing those who suffer need to do is to ready themselves to give reasons for their faith in Jesus.  Typically this verse is quoted to encourage people to study apologetics.  However the context goes beyond just defending the gospel.  This actually represents the suffering person going on the offensive.  When we do not pay back wrong for wrong it will open the door of the inquisitive.  We need to be ready to pour forth that inner communion of love and adoration of our savior to them.  We can only do this if we have been reading the Word, spending time in prayer, and meditating upon God’s Word and our life.  It is here that the Holy Spirit clarifies these things in our soul.  Why do you hope in Jesus?  Can you spend hours pouring forth why you hope in Jesus?  It is increasingly important in these days that we have a relationship with Jesus that is real and spiritual.  Peter also mentions the attitude we should go about giving those reasons.   Our attitude should first be meek.  This simply means to be gentle.  It doesn’t matter how strong you are.  Meekness is strength under control.  Sharing our hope in Christ should be done gently, but also in fear.  Not fear of people, but fear of the Lord.  I am representing him.  I need to have a healthy respect and speak out of pure motives rather than out of a hurt and embittered heart. 

Lastly we need to keep our conscience clear.  Improper motivations behind even good actions can cloud our conscience just as sure as if you through a clump of mud into your drinking water.  When we repent of impure motives and trust God that he forgives us and cleanses us from it, we will have a conscience that is clear.  Many believers today have a murky conscience.  Even when they repent they don’t fully trust the forgiveness of the Lord.  We need to stop such insanity.  Either God is a Truth teller or he is a liar.  But he is not both!

If we live through suffering in such a way it will cause some to be ashamed.  They will sense the guilt of their actions and perhaps repent.  But even if they do not “feel” ashamed, they are shamed nonetheless.  We need to keep the door open for the salvation of those who persecute us by responding in these ways.

Final Thoughts

It is better to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.  When we suffer for doing evil, we deserve it.  We need to suck it up, repent, and learn.  But when we suffer for doing right, we take our place alongside God himself.  We are able to stand next to Jesus and all the other saints who suffered with him.  We have the joy of having a bond with Jesus that others will not understand.  We’ve been through the same fire that he went through.

Also, remember that God’s will is never just about suffering.  It is about the ends to which that suffering will take us.  We not only will have a place next to Jesus, but we will be like him because we have faithfully traveled the same path as him.

Lastly, suffering in this passage is based upon the choices of others.  We need to remember that God is greater than the choices of others.  And, even though we may be caused pain because of their choices, God has promised to overturn the evil others do to us.  Let us keep our faith in Jesus to the end!

Probs Suffering I Audio