Scripture Text: 1 Peter 3:13–16

 

Apologizing for Our Hope (MP3)

Apologizing for Our Hope (Sermon Text)

Introduction

Are you sorry for what you believe? Do you apologize for it? Some of you may be thinking, “Why do I need to apologize for that?” That may be a strange thing to do. An apology is saying you are sorry about something. It is an expression of regret for having done or said something wrong. Most husbands know it well. I do! In fact, we may apologize many times a day, and often for the same thing. There is another sense of the word, however, one that we do not often use today. An apology can be said or written to defend something that other people criticize. For instance, the Greek philosopher Plato’s Apology was about Socrates defending himself against the charges of “corrupting the young” and for “not believing in the gods in whom the city believes.” Socrates was not sorry for what he had done. He was defending his beliefs to his critics. This is where we get the word apologetics, which is defending one’s beliefs.

Early Christians who defended their faith against critics were called apologists and this passage is about being an apologist. It is about making an apology — a defense of what we believe. People will criticize your faith. People will question your beliefs. Some will even persecute others for their faith. What are we to say to these critics? How are we to respond to them? During Vacation Bible School (VBS) this week, the kids focused on this passage and learned that they should discover, decide, and defend. They were to discover the evidence about Jesus Christ and the Christian faith. They were then to make a decision about those facts and what it meant for them personally. Lastly, the goal was to take their faith and do something with it. They should defend it to others. They were to be apologists who share their Christian faith with others.

Have No Fear in Trouble

How are you in sharing your faith? Is sharing your faith with others important to you? Does it scare you to do it? We should not be afraid to share our faith even in the midst of suffering and trouble, which is the context of this passage. Look at verse fourteen.

1 Peter 3:14 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled,

How have you responded to someone who asked you what you believe? Do you share your faith boldly regardless of the consequences? Some of you are afraid of sharing your faith with others. You are afraid of losing friendships. You are afraid of being ridiculed. You are afraid of saying the wrong thing. Why would we be afraid of telling someone about Jesus Christ when eternity may be in the balance? In America, the vast majority of us can live comfortably in our homes, go to our daily jobs, and come to worship with our church family on Sunday with no fear of persecution, prison, or death. For the most part, we do not have to fear those things, but others in the world are not so fortunate. The Church was watered by the blood of martyrs. Interestingly, in places of persecution, the Church thrives. That should be a lesson for us to learn. Maybe the church in Western civilization needs to be troubled in order to thrive!

Maybe you are afraid of suffering for following Jesus Christ. Maybe you are surprised to suffer even though you know Jesus as Lord and Savior. When trouble or suffering happens in life, perhaps you have asked, “Why me, Lord?” I suspect we have all asked that question. Why should we be surprised if we suffer for doing right when God’s own Son suffered for us? Jesus Christ suffered once for our sins, the Righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God. (1 Peter 3:18) Peter wrote that no one will ultimately harm Christians, even if they suffer now. God will reward those who trust in Jesus and follow Him. Those who suffer for what is right, those who endure opposition because of their zeal for what is good, are “blessed”. Look at what Jesus said.

Matthew 5:10 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Whatever happens to us, as long as we are looking to Christ as Lord we cannot be ultimately harmed. Believers may be criticized by unbelievers in this life, we may be ridiculed and even persecuted in this life, but unbelievers will be judged by God whereas Christians will be vindicated on the last day. Do you have fear? Is fear holding you back from serving God fully? Why? We know the end of the story. We are not fighting for victory, we are fighting from victory, therefore, do not fear.

Always Be Prepared for a Defense

Instead of fear, however, we are to honor Christ as holy in the midst of suffering. Honor in our hearts means to acknowledge Jesus Christ as holy from the core of your being. This can be difficult to do. When do you feel most like praising God — when you are on the mountain or in the valley? We may most likely pray to God when we face trouble, but do you praise Him equally when trouble comes your way? Do you thank God when you receive bad news of some kind? That may be difficult to do. Peter wrote:

1 Peter 3:15 15 but 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…

Whatever your situation in life, you are to honor Christ. Jesus is the source of life and the foundation of our faith. But honoring Christ does not exist in a vacuum. Honoring Christ in our hearts is not merely a private affair, meaning that it is inaccessible to others. The heart is the origin of human behavior and from it flows everything we do. The reverence we have for Jesus should prompt us to act in a certain way and to always be ready to defend our faith, even when we are suffering. We honor Christ as holy and because of that, we should be ready to defend the faith we have in Him. Know what you believe. Do your best to present yourselves approved by God. You may ask, “How are we to do that?” Look at what Paul wrote to his spiritual son, Timothy.

2 Timothy 2:15 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

We prepare ourselves though prayer and by studying God’s Word. We cultivate our relationship with God and we read His love letter to us. That raises the question about how we go about this. What do we read? I’ll give an example. Lawyers have to often defend their clients in court. Would they be able to defend their clients well if they never spoke to them and never got to know them or their case? Probably not. What if they focused on only one area of the law, maybe one or two statutes, and completely overlooked other important matters of the law. Would they be able to provide a good defense for their clients? Probably not. The same goes for God. If we are to defend what we believe, we should really get to know God, and getting to know what He wrote to us. How are you going to know your Heavenly Father very well if you do not read His words? If God inspired sixty-six books of the Bible that were written for your benefit, shouldn’t you be reading them and meditating on them? Be prepared to defend!

Defend Your Hope Graciously

But let’s back up a second. Was Peter talking about defending our faith? Many will say we ought to defend our faith, and we should, but that was not what Peter wrote.

1 Peter 3:15 15 but 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…

It is our hope that we ought to defend. In the Gospel, we have been promised an incomparable inheritance all because of God’s grace through Jesus Christ. We have been promised forgiveness, abundant and eternal life, adoption as children of the King, which makes us royalty. That is our hope. No matter what this temporary life gives with all its sin, suffering and trouble, those who are in Christ have the blessed hope of something far better in the future. In the midst of trouble and suffering, Peter was saying to the Christians in this letter for them to tell others why they have hope even though they were suffering. Even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we will fear no evil, for God is with us and He comforts us. (Psalm 23:4) That is hope!

People do not want to hear a bunch of religious facts. People do not want to hear your theology or some doctrine that you hold dear. They do not want an exposition on the five points of Calvinism, or Arminianism for that matter, which ever side of that debate you happen to be. What people really want to hear is what hope do they have in this world? How can Jesus Christ can help them? What people really need to hear is that they are lost and bound for Hell because of sin, but God loved them so much that He sent His own Son to pay their debt of sin. Those who trust in Jesus Christ have hope because Jesus died for their sins and because He rose from the dead. Unbelievers will recognize by the way we respond to difficulties in this life that our hope is in God rather than in this world. That is real hope!

But how are we to defend that hope? How are we to tell others about it? This passage tells us with gentleness and respect. We are not to be hostile to others. We are not to respond in anger. We are not to be judgmental to others. We are to share our hope with gentleness and respect. Are you going to receive God’s grace and then withhold grace from others? Some of you say you have received God’s grace and forgiveness and have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and then you sit in judgement of others. You look down on other sinners from a place that is reserved for only King Jesus. God is the only One who is in a position to look down on anyone. Our faith and our hope is shallow if we do not share them with gentleness and respect. We are all beggars showing other beggars where the food is.

That does not mean that we avoid difficult subjects. That does not mean we overlook sin. We ought to share the truth. We ought to rebuke sin. We ought to defend the hope we have, but with grace and humility. If there is no grace in what we say and the only words out of our mouth is “you are going to Hell,” then what kind of hope is that? Have you received God’s abundant grace for you to be ungracious to others? I do not think so. It is like the song Jesus Friend of Sinners:

Make the righteous turn away and the stones fall from their hands

Help us to remember we are all the least of these

If we have accepted Christ as Lord and Savior then we are the righteous ones from whose hands the stones should fall away. We are all the “least of these” who would be just as lost as the unbelieving world if it were not for Jesus. We have no right to condemn others. Share your faith. Defend the hope you have, but do it with gentleness and respect. Who knows, perhaps your witness will be the act of faith that leads another to experience the grace you have received.

Conclusion

So, are you sorry for the hope you have? Are you apologizing for it? If you are not, then why not? If you have received much grace from God, if you are a steward of God’s grace, then what are you doing with what God has entrusted to you? What are you saying when someone asks for a reason for the hope you have? Take those opportunities God gives you to defend your hope, to share the faith you have, and to invite others to experience a new life in Christ with you. People in the world are looking for hope. They are desperate for it and if you know Jesus Christ, you have the answer. What are you going to do with it? May we all be faithful to share Jesus without fear, and point others to the source of all hope. This is good news. Thanks be to God. Amen!


This sermon was delivered at Good Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest, NC. More information about Good Hope may be found at the following site: www.GoodHopeBC.org.

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