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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  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