Sunday, February 28, 2010

February 28th - Baptism Now Saves You

Prayer Requests
Pastor Aaron Preaching
Bethany Going to Indianapolis
Bethany's Grandma going to Hawaii
Sarah and Mark Geil in Chicago
Greg Traveling
Dave Back at Work
Baby Eden
Christians in Iraq

Text – 1 Peter 3:18-22

I’ve done so much research on this passage this week that I have to teach it today, which is why we’re skipping verses 8-12 for now. Those verses are on prayer and I’m anticipating another Prayer Sunday, so we’ll hold off for a little so it can be taught on with the whole church.

The passage we are going to look at today is the only passage which Martin Luther didn’t have a definite belief on what it meant, and one that has caused a lot of confusion and arguments and even heresies have come out of it. The major heresy is baptismal regeneration, the belief that a person has to be baptized rightly in water in order to be saved. A baptismal regeneration belief will keep you from grace and keep you out of Heaven.

As we look at this lesson, one thing I’d really like you to take away is that baptism, which means immersion, is not synonymous with water, and water is not synonymous with baptism. You can be baptized, immersed, in the Spirit, in fire, in peanut butter, or in water. Likewise, you can go swimming in water and it not be counted baptism, even though in the strictest sense of the word, you are immersed.

A smaller mistake, and one that won’t keep you out of Heaven, but is still wrong, is the idea that Christ went to Hell. The newer versions of the Apostle’s Creed contain this belief,

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
-the Maker of heaven and earth,
-and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
-born of the virgin Mary,
-suffered under Pontius Pilate,
-was crucified, dead, and buried;
He descended into hell.
The third day He arose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven,
-and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
-from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost;
-the holy universal church;
-the communion of saints;
-the forgiveness of sins;
-the resurrection of the body;
-and the life everlasting.

We’ll look at our passage today and see that there is no evidence nor reason to believe that Christ descended into Hell, but rather that the lowest he descended was from Heaven to Earth.

So let’s read our verse before we get too far ahead of ourselves. First though, usually I read from the ESV, I think it is a great Bible. However, here it is terribly translated to try to make it out that Christ went to Hell, and so today we’ll read from the NIV because it accurately translates the Greek. The NASB is also good.

I feel it is important for me to point this out because if you were to say read the NIV and the HCSB together, you’d see that this passage says two totally different things. One of Peter’s major points throughout his Epistles is to teach us both what the Holy Spirit says, and second how to read the Bible, you’ll see this in a major way when we look at 1 Peter 3:8-12 and 2 Peter 1. When we look at verses like the one we’re about to read it is more important to ask, “What does the Bible mean and what does the Holy Spirit want me to learn?” rather than, “What does this mean to me? How else can I interpret it?” We want to know what Peter originally meant, and I believe pretty strongly that this is how I’m going to teach it to you today, and how the NIV translates it.

1 Peter 3:18-22 For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

The first thing Peter does is setup the context for what he’s about to say, having previously been talking about the suffering of the saints for the sake of God’s righteousness.

v.18 For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.

This is my favorite verse. Christ was crucified ultimately for standing for righteousness, he suffered for doing good, and even though he was crucified for a very bad reason, check out what he accomplished, he has brought us to God. What men meant for bad, crucifying the Son of God, God used for good, saving all who would repent and believe the gospel.

It’s a very important point that Christ died once, as evidenced by the rest of the verse,

v.18 He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit…

Christ, though dead in the body, did not cease to exist or go to Hell to suffer in death, but was made alive by the Spirit. His body was laid in a tomb, yet he was able to say to a dying saint,

Luke 23:43 And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."

Peter is reminding his audience that there are two major parts to you, a perishable body and an imperishable soul. We see our bodies everyday so we begin to think we’re bodies with souls, but it is much better to think of ourselves as souls with bodies. This will cause us to take better care of our souls than our bodies, because our souls will endure forever but our bodies will waste away. Take a car for example, when it’s going down the road we think it’s a car with a person in it, but really it’s a person controlling the car.

Peter takes a radical tangent all of the sudden to really make his point well. I don’t know why he goes where he goes, it’s not where I would have gone, but it makes his point and makes it well.

v.19-20 also he went and preached to the spirits (who are now) in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.

How long does your average body last? 70 years maybe? 120 if you’re fortunate. Check out this major point Peter is making, Christ’s Spirit which he has today (AD 65), is the same Spirit he had in 2,400 BC, and ultimately it’s the same Spirit he’ll have forever. We know Christ’s Spirit is eternal with no beginning and no end, but Peter here is showing that Christ’s Spirit has been the same for 2,400 years, that’s a little longer than his body of 33 years was on earth.

Christ preached through Noah to the wicked generation before the flood. The Greek very clearly states that the same Spirit of Christ preached to the people in Noah’s day, which are now souls in Hell. After spending about fifteen hours of research on this I can’t see why anyone would remotely believe Christ went to Hell to preach to dead people. Christ did not go to Hell. He went through all of the sufferings of Hell on the cross, but there was absolutely no reason for him to have to go to Hell. John Calvin, one of the greatest theologians who ever lived, is only wrong on two points, first that he liked to get babies wet, and second that he believed Jesus went to Hell. I mention that so you trust the Bible more than men, although men can and do certainly reveal the truth in amazing ways, they can and do make mistakes, while the Holy Spirit never will.

Ephesians 4:7-10 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, "When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men." (In saying, "He ascended," what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)

We’re going to talk in depth about Noah and the flood in Second Peter, so to cover this only basically, the people of Noah’s day were exceedingly wicked; greedy, violent, corrupt, yet Noah preached righteousness to them, and we believe the ark was considerably bigger than it needed to be, it could have held many more people if they would have just believed in God’s judgment and gotten on the boat. But they wouldn’t.

v.20 In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved by water

Wait a minute, I thought Noah and his family were saved by an ark. They were saved from God’s wrath by the ark, but what saved them from evil and corrupt men? The flood. Because God sent the flood which he brought Noah and his family through, he saved them from the violent generation of Noah’s day.

v.21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

We’re going to talk a whole lot more about the mode and history of baptism next week, but this week we’re just going to look at what Peter means here. He says baptism saves you…the question is from what? I don’t doubt at all that baptism saves you, it’s just not that it saves you from the wrath of God like Jesus saves you.

Baptism (immersion), into death, saves you from the suffering and wickedness of this world, and just as the ark brought Noah and his family safely through the flood to a new world, so will Christ’s resurrection be that ark which brings us safely through death to a New Jerusalem.

This is why we say what we say from Romans 6 when someone is baptized,

Romans 6:4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Water baptism is purely symbolic of the event that our soul went through, dying to sin and raising to Eternal life. But there is a second baptism, immersion, into physical death in which we are saved from the ability to sin as well as its effects. Baptism, therefore, into death, saves you. The world knows this when they give the eulogy, “He’s in a better place now.”

But the caveat is that believers are saved from wickedness by death, and saved from God’s wrath by Jesus, where-as unbelievers step out of this world into infinitely worse consequences for sin. So it is not true of everyone who dies, “he’s in a better place now.” When George Carlin died I preached at KSU that he’s in an infinitely worse place now and is praying that someone would go and warn his family, friends, and fans not to come there! (cf. Luke 16)

Right in the middle of verse 21 Peter gives a very quick addendum to make sure readers don’t think that the symbolic baptism by immersion in water is what saves,

v.21 (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the pledge of a good conscience toward God)

Martin Luther used to take every bath in remembrance of the baptism of his soul, the cleansing of his conscience, because the reason we need frequent washings is because we constantly get dirty. Read this back to verse 18, Christ died ONCE for all, his one act of obedience has made us righteous forever, so that where sin increases grace abounds all the more.

Romans 5:19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

We are washed, we are sanctified, we are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. We don’t need to work for salvation, we don’t need to be physically baptized, we don’t need to continually confess, because Christ has done all the work, the righteous for the unrighteous, so that he might bring us to God. Next week we’ll look at why we do get baptized, because there is a very good reason, and to not do so is a sin, but a sin which Christ is more than capable of paying for.

v.22 who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

So Peter’s major point, coming from verse 13, is that suffering is a part of the Christian life, but that Christ has gone before and has proved many magnificent things, first that he is mighty to save from sin and death, to reconcile us to God having absorbed the wrath, and that there is a soul that lives on after death.

We have this promise, that to live is Christ, and to die is gain, for our lasting city is the city in which Christ sits and reigns over, where angels, authorities, powers, and all things are in submission to him. We seek that city.

But until then, we seek to bring others with us, witnessing for righteousness’ sake, suffering for Christ’s sake, even into death, but this baptism into death saves us forever from pain and suffering.

Many people want to die peacefully in their sleep at a hundred years old. For the Christians they will pass into eternal peace, for the wicked they will pass into eternal death. Me, if given the option, I would face the most heinous of tortures to death, for truly this baptism will save me and for all the rest of eternity I will feel not a pinprick of pain.

So stand up for righteousness, no matter the cost. Are you afraid of having your feelings hurt? They crucified your Saviour. Are you afraid of the pain? They plucked his beard out by its roots. Are you afraid of the shame? They spit on him and crowned him with thorns. Are you afraid of losing friends? Christ’s friends ran from him and one of them sold him for the price of a slave. Are you afraid of death? Death has lost its sting. Are you afraid of failure? Through Christ we are assured of the victory.

Truly nothing of consequence stands between us and our King. God, once our greatest enemy, is now our loving Father; Death, once a daunting darkness, is now a friend; Life, once our greatest treasure, is beset on every side with pain and suffering; Christ, once just a name, is now our supreme reward.

So place your trust on him, lay hold of Christ, and while your body shall pass away, your spirit will reign eternally with the Living Christ, the righteous and triumphant Saviour.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

February 21st - Play the Man

Prayer Requests
Leon Preaching
29 Verse Dash
Baby Eden
Bethany's Indianapolis Trip
Kari and Jenna's friends: Taylors Skull Fracture, Laura's Cancer

Announcement – Next Saturday is our class get-together and make-up session. We will meet from 2pm to 7pm and will eat at 5pm. I’m calling it “29 Verse Dash: A Race With Peter” and we’ll look at 1 Peter 3:8-4:19 skipping 13-17 which we already looked at.

Text – 1 Peter 3:7

The more I looked at this lesson and how much time we spent on verses 1-6 I feel that we need to spend another topical lesson on the role of the man in Christianity. What is Peter’s call for women? Let’s read it,

1 Peter 3:1-6 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.

This is a gorgeous passage, I love it. It is pointed mostly at women, then Peter devotes a single verse to husbands, but he says a LOT in this one verse.

1 Peter 3:7 Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

I think Peter’s main point and the point he would want you to take away if you only take one thing away is that women are people. This may sound obvious, but throughout history it has been far less than obvious. Women weren’t even allowed to vote in every state in the United States until 1920. In the 1800’s in London there were debates to determine if women even had souls. Peter wants his male readers to see that women are both cognitive people and heirs of grace which means they have souls.

Some of things we’re going to go over will seem exceedingly obvious, but you’d be amazed at some of the things we take for granted that just years ago people didn’t know, or things that we do that are certainly not biblical but we don’t want to change. For example, today you’d be hard pressed to find someone for or against abortion who will deny that a baby is a baby from conception, but only a few decades ago the big push for the people who wanted abortion to be legal was that it wasn’t a baby but a blob of tissue. Conversely, pretty much every church and school in the United States operates under what is called “Age segregated learning.” This is where learning is separated by age and maturity; this is purely an evolutionary idea and is totally unbiblical. Every lesson I’ve taught you would be appropriate for high schoolers and also for adults. In fact I taught the exact same lesson on angels that I taught to you to adults with practically no changes and none of them felt it was too dumb or low for them. When I first started working with students I fell for the idea that I needed to tailor my speech to their age range, and I talked to students like they were babies. Fortunately I realized that wasn’t working and decided I’d try talking to students like they are capable intelligent human beings, and it worked and I’ve never looked back. Hannah can attest that during VBS I treat the 1st Graders like they are seminary students; I taught them 5 Greek words and several big theological concepts and none of their brains exploded.

Notice in our verse it doesn’t say older wives or younger wives or middle wives; this is all wives, so even though it seems obvious, the first part, “live with your wives in an understanding/knowledgeable/knowing/intellectual way,” is very important and we need to know that women of every age are cognitively equal to men. They are even smart enough to run countries, and even though Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton are totally ignorant when it comes to biblical and rational government, no one can deny that they are not brilliant people with very capable minds. The Bible knows this, look at the Judge Deborah for example, and Isaiah says women in charge is a judgment on a nation,

Isaiah 3:1-2,8,12 For behold, the Lord GOD of hosts is taking away from Jerusalem and from Judah support and supply, all support of bread, and all support of water; the mighty man and the soldier, the judge and the prophet, the diviner and the elder…For Jerusalem has stumbled, and Judah has fallen, because their speech and their deeds are against the LORD, defying his glorious presence. My people—infants are their oppressors, and women rule over them.

We could spend more time on this, but in order to look more at manhood lets keep going. The next part of the verse says,

showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel

What does it mean when it says the woman is the weaker vessel? It can’t be cognitively, because just a second ago Peter says live with them intellectually, and it can’t mean spiritually, because they are heirs of grace, so it must mean physically. Is that true?

And why are men stronger? Both genetics and also because men are supposed to be the ones doing the hard work. Jesus probably had calloused hands and huge muscles, how do you think he got them? Was it by spending two hours a day in the gym? As a carpenter doing physical labor he was naturally strong. Women are naturally smaller and weaker than men.

Where it says, “Showing honor”, is a terrible translation of the Greek, the phrase means, “Bestow Value” or “Show them they are precious.” The word Time literally means paid for. It’s the same word describing how Christ bought us,

1 Corinthians 6:20 were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

God really demonstrates this incredibly with Hosea and his wife Gomer. Gomer was a prostitute and God told Hosea to marry her. After Hosea married her, Gomer had two children who weren’t Hosea’s, then she took off and ended up on an auction block for half the price of a slave and Hosea paid the price for this old worn-out worthless prostitute. Notice that Peter gives no condition to honor wives as precious only if they are pretty or nice or redeemable; he says to honor them as precious no matter what.

And if they are worth paying for, are they worth fighting for? We saw that Peter said when Christ was reviled he did not revile back, he showed huge amounts of control not to destroy those that were slandering and beating him. Have you seen the Chronicles of Narnia when Aslan is being beaten? This is a good representation of what Christ’s scourging probably looked like, evil men were taking shots at a lion which could have turned around torn them to shreds with a single bite or slash of the paw. Christ could have probably done a fair amount of physical damage to any of the men scourging him, or he could have commissioned angels to wipe out every person in Jerusalem, or with a word he could have destroyed the whole earth, yet when he was reviled he did not revile in return.

We turn the other cheek when struck, but that is ourselves. We do not turn the other cheek when others are attacked, especially the husband with his wife. When preparing this lesson I considered for a long time if there was ever a time when Jesus stepped in for someone else, and while I couldn’t find a time when he did it temporally, he did it in an infinitely higher sense.

God the Father utterly hated the bride of Christ for a very just and righteous reason, for he hates all who do evil. (Psalm 5:5, 11:5) Jesus Christ, not in a confrontational way but still very bravely, stepped between his offended Father and his beloved bride and became the intercessor, the Saviour of his wife, honoring her as worth paying for even though she had not a single redeeming factor as a worn out old prostitute.

Who is weaker? Jesus Christ or the church? Jesus Christ is the carpenter by which all things have been made; the church is incapable of making even a single grain of sand. Christ upholds the world by the power of his word; the church is utterly helpless without the sustaining work of her God.

Jesus has honored as precious his bride the church by demonstrating his strength to redeem her and cleanse her and present her as perfect on the final day. The first person that the Christian man is commanded to be willing to die for is his bride.

Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…

Christ is likewise the greatest friend you can have. How do we know?

John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

The Christian must also be willing to die first for others, especially the church of Christ. Now death is an extreme example, when Christ said to turn the other cheek, he was speaking about absorbing insults, even physical ones. Two years ago in Myrtle Beach I had a group of Middle Schoolers and we were witnessing to an atheist. He got pretty mad and clenched his fists and I was pretty sure someone was going to get hit. I maneuvered myself so that I was between him and them, because there was no way I was going to let him get to them without him having to pummel me first.

Now consider someone is picking on a girl and you step in front of her. There is a chance you are going to absorb a blow that was meant for her, either physically or emotionally. This is the biblical man’s role, it is what Jesus did. He stepped between his Father and his church and absorbed the full wrath against the sinners which comprise the church.

One of the greatest exhortations toward biblical manhood is in First Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 16:13-14 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.

We read this verse because it puts a huge emphasis on motives. Be watchful means to watch for heretical and unbiblical statements, stand firm in the faith means to stand up for Jesus Christ and the truth. Act like men means to be brave, courageous, and following Christ, and be strong means to be firm in conviction, action, and ability.

Now you can do all of these things and still be wrong. If you do it to elevate yourself or to belittle others then your motives are wrong and no matter how well you did them you will be sinning. The proper motive is that all you do should be done in charity or love; pointing others to Christ, magnifying sacrificial love so Christ’s sacrifice is shown to be magnificent.

Our motives are huge, let me pick something that will probably strike close to many of your hearts. Did you know that soccer can either be pure or sinful? The biblical man, even biblical person, must constantly be checking their motives to make sure they are doing what they are doing for Christ and not for themselves. If you play soccer because it gives you an opportunity to witness to your teammates, hone the skills God gave you and give him the glory, and provides you with ministry, then it is pure. But if you play only because you like it, or because you love the accolades you receive for your skill, or because it’s something to do to pass the time then you need to reevaluate your involvement and set your affections on Heaven.

1 Corinthians 13:11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.

If we had child psychologists or feminists or evolutionists in this class they would be screaming right now. This is utterly and totally different than the world will talk about growing up. We don’t want to be perpetually children, we want to be like Christ, we want to make a difference in eternity, we want to honor Christ the Lord as holy.

Check out Jesus Christ when he was twelve,

Luke 2:42-47 And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.

Luke 2:52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.

Twelve years old and impressing the rabbis with his spiritual understanding. Beloved, that needs to be us. Our goal is spiritual maturity, for the men it is acting like men, for the ladies it is the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. We stand up for others, honor others as worth more than ourselves, be gentle and respectful, and keep our affections on Heaven and point others to Heaven. How do we do that?

2 Timothy 2:22 Flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.

Flee from things that are only about you and pursue goodness and holiness; instead of being served find a place to serve, instead of being taught prepare to teach, instead of watching tv or youtube produce a youtube video that exalts your Saviour, instead of receiving find a way to give, instead of hanging out at your Fish Club volunteer at your Fish Club; beloved time is short and many things need to be done, find what you are good at and get better at it for the glory of Christ.

Charles Spurgeon said it perfectly, “A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your name on hearts, not on marble.”

And all of this concludes with one of the reasons that men need to act like men, and later will be talked about for women also, so that our prayers are not hindered. We will talk a lot more about prayer next Saturday, but we see that our actions can hinder our prayer life. Leonard Ravenhill, a great man of God, once said, “If weak in prayer, we are weak everywhere.” We see from this passage in Peter that it also works the opposite direction, if weak in holiness we are weak in prayer also.

Christ, our great example, lived the perfect manly life, and also had the best prayer life of anyone who has ever lived. The holier your life, the better your prayer life, and the better your prayer life, the better your holiness, so then your prayer life will improve, so your sanctification will improve, strengthening your prayers, edifying your life. Do you see this gorgeous upward spiral? For this reason, men we act like men, ladies, you act like ladies and this prepares us for life and ministry, and allows us to with boldness approach the throne of grace to receive help in our time of need.

In conclusion I want to look at the last words of some great Christian men:

Daniel Webster: The great mystery is Jesus Christ—the gospel. What would the condition of any of us be if we had not the hope of immortality? Thank God, the gospel of Jesus Christ brought life and immortality to light. I still live.

David Livingstone: Build me a hut to die in. I am going home.

Andrew Jackson: My dear children, do not grieve for me…I am my God’s. I belong to Him. I go but a short time before you, and…I hope and trust to meet you all in heaven.

Martin Luther: Into Thy hands I commend my spirit! Thou hast redeemed me, O God of truth.

John Owen: I am going to Him whom my soul loveth, or rather who has loved me with an everlasting love, which is the sole ground of all my consolation.

Burned at the Stake:
John Bradford: Be of good comfort brother; for we shall have a merry supper with the Lord this night!

Hugh Latimer: Play the man, Ridley! For this day we shall light such a candle in England as I trust shall never be put out.

Polycarp: Leave me as I am, the one who gives me strength to endure the fire will also give me strength to stay quite still on the pyre, even without the precaution of your nails.... For eighty and six years I have been his servant, and he has done me no wrong, and how can I blaspheme my King who saved me?

John Stam (executed with his wife): We are going to Heaven.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

February 14th - Honor Christ as Holy

Prayer Requests
Middle School Bible Study
Superbowl Preaching Results
Baby Eden
Sonya and Amy feeling better
James' friend Aaron
Bethany's friend

Announcement - Saturday the 27th from 2pm-7pm we will have a marathon session to move through First Peter and try to get caught up so we finish before the end of the summer. Pizza will be served at 5pm.

Text – 1 Peter 3:13-17

Beloved, I really didn't know where to go with this lesson today. I want to give you a debrief of the Superbowl, but I also want to keep moving through First Peter. Unfortunately I couldn't find a way to do both with the verse or passage we should be on today, we still need to look at verse 7 and verses 8-12, but if we go to verse 13 through 17, I don't think we'll be too far out of Peter's intention.

First of all, there have been a few evangelists killed recently, two in Miami right before the Superbowl, Tite Sufra and Stephen Ocean, and a young woman named Nelly Pelts was murdered last week by someone she witnessed to at a Walmart. So while Peter's audience wasn't as persecuted as say Paul's audience at Thessalonica, they definitely had some obstructions as the passage we are going to look at today attests to, and we can see it as applicable to us, not just in terms of being killed, but just being persecuted for sharing our faith:

1 Peter 3:13-17 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 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, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

This is my favorite passage, my favorite verse is the one that says, "Honor Christ the Lord as holy," other translations say, "Hallow Christ," "Sanctify Christ," "Set apart Christ," and the whole rest of the passage revolves around that. So it is important that we understand what this means before we go any farther.

What do you think it means to honor someone or set-them apart as special? Does it mean that Christ needs you to make him holy or is he holy already? Peter has already answered that question for us in the first chapter, that we are to be holy since Christ is holy. So when we honor Christ as holy, we declare his excellencies, we show that his holiness affects us through our actions, both how we relate to other Christians and how we react to unholiness.

At the Superbowl the big emphasis was on showing people not only how sinful they were, but also showing how perfect and righteous and worthy God is. I was really surprised how many people didn't already know that was the way we're supposed to evangelize. This is one of Peter's main themes, as well as Paul's, as well as John's, as well at all four gospels, as well as the whole Bible. Our main purpose in evangelism is to make the name of Christ known and famous, both to see sinners come to Christ and him be glorified through their conversion and his graciousness, but also to heap condemnation on those who won't repent so Christ will be glorified through his justice and hatred of wickedness. Never compromise the message, name, or person of Jesus Christ.

So knowing that our priority is to keep Christ holy in our hearts, now the rest of the passage will make sense. I can also give a lot of personal examples. For context, the only thing we miss from jumping ahead is that the context we're coming out of Christian love, so the question comes to who it is that gets angry for doing good:

v.13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?

Not everyone will be against you for doing good, many pagans are very good at doing good, at least temporily in this world. If you come to our Middle School Bible study next Friday you'll see that Jonah was hanging out with some pagans who wanted to spare Jonah's life. But in the context, Peter is pointing at people who do want to harm you for being zealous, or devoted and on fire, some of which may claim to be Christians. My friend Keith was preaching at the Superbowl and a woman who claimed to be a Christian came up and was cursing at him and telling him he was evangelizing all wrong, then she left and came back a few minutes later and poured a beer over his head.

This question of "who is there to harm you?" is largely rhetorical, obviously there are people that want to harm you just because you're doing good. The reasons are myriad, some don't like being convicted that there is no fruit of regeneration in their life, others don't like Christ's name being mentioned even through things that help people, others don't want to be reminded that there is a judgment to come and if you are doing good things that they may not be good enough.

Why do we do good? Is it to earn our place in Heaven? Or is it to honor Christ as holy in our hearts?

Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

v.14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed.

This is a recurring theme in the Bible; for the sake of time we're not going to look at any other verses about this, but only a quick review. When we are persecuted for righteousness sake we prove both the goodness of God and the debase-ness of man. Who was the most Christlike person ever to live? Christ. What happened to him? He got crucified. We should expect no less.
This next verse is my favorite verse,

v.14-15 Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy,

We are not to fear those who persecute us, whether they are inside the church building or out of the church; not only are we not to fear them, we're not even supposed to be troubled by them.

Luke 12:4-5 I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!

This is one of the ways that we honor Christ in our hearts, trusting that he has defeated death, that death has lost its victory, that to live is Christ and to die is gain. Multitudes of people have been saved in history by Christians who would not deny Christ even to death. I heard a story of a Chinese soldier who got saved, the translation I heard of what he said is a bit iffy, but he said, "Whoa dude, he's prayin' for us." right before the other guard shot the Christian in the head.

When we went to the Superbowl we knew that two preachers had just been shot in Miami, but that didn't stop us, we stepped in knowing that people needed Christ and that Christ has earned the right to be magnified, for as the old Moravian motto goes, "May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of his suffering."

v.15-16 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;

When are you supposed to be prepared to give a defense?

2 Timothy 4:1-2 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.

The word here for "defense" is apologia, it is where we get the word apology from. When you normally apologize, what do you say? "I'm sorry." That's not exactly what this word means, it is rightly translated as defense. When the New Testament was written if you were going to make an apology, you could either be wrong or right, but the right side has fallen off from this word since. Say you're accused of stealing your brother or sister's dessert, if you did it, you'd say, "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have done that." But if you didn't do it, you'd make apology by saying, "I didn't do it, and I have proof that it wasn't me but dad or the dog or aliens, so hear me out." An apology can go both ways, either as an admission of guilt or of a defense of the truth.

Peter here clearly means an apology of the truth, giving a reason for the hope of glory in Christ, of his righteousness, of his resurrection, of our future resurrection, and the reason that we hold fast to the confession of hope in him.

There are lots of ways to do what is called apologetics. There are three major categories but many types in each, they are "foundational", "evidential", and "presuppositional." Foundational believes that you have to prove God apart from the Bible, evidential believes that the evidence points to God, and presuppositional believes that people know there is a God, they just suppress the truth in unrighteousness and therefore we need only to confront them with biblical truths and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.

One of the most famous apologetics alive today is Ravi Zacharias, he is an evidential apologetist and all he really does is entertain Christians. Everyonce in a while he makes a really great point, but even a blind squirrel finds a nut occasionally. Most of the time he wastes his time and his audiences time. You do infinitely better knowing your Bible and using it as your sword of truth. Does someone have to believe in swords for you to cut their head off with one? No, neither does someone have to believe the Bible is God's Word for it to be God's Word. At the Superbowl we did very little towards trying to prove that God exists and much more going for the conscience and showing that people had sinned against Heaven.

My friend Ben was preaching and I was handing out tracts when a Cuban guy named Irwin came up and yelled at Ben for a couple of seconds asking why he was out there and stuff, Ben asked him why he was so hostile towards God and took him through the good person test. This rocked Irwin to the core and he came up to talk to Ben off the microphone. He told Ben that he was about to lose his wife, his son, his house, and his job because he was addicted to cocaine. He asked if he did the Jesus thing would he get his family back. Ben told him that he didn't know, but if Irwin kept going the way he was going he would definintely lose his family, and also his soul. I have a picture of Irwin crying pretty good on facebook; and all of this was done without a single bit of science or apologetics other than the Bible and Christ's death and resurrection to seek and save the lost and set the captive free.

The hope we have in us is the empty tomb and our Saviour interceding for us in Heaven, and we must always be prepared to speak to others about this. The next verse is my least favorite in the whole Bible.

v. 15 yet do it with gentleness and respect,

I'm so bad at this, it's something I try to do better. We must not just go out and bash people over the head with the Bible. In Miami there were two other groups who most people call the "Hellfire and Brimstone Preachers." That isn't exactly who they are, I think they're better labeled the "Graceless Preachers" or the "Waterless Springs Preachers" because all they do is judge people and tell them they are going to Hell and they never tell them how to go to Heaven or how to be reconciled to God and never tell what Christ did on the cross.

Where we were standing we had a palm frond fall out of the tree behind us, it missed us by about five feet, but it made a lot of noise. I prayed that a palm frond would fall out of a tree and hit one of the graceless preachers. A little while later I got the news that a preacher got hit by a palm frond a little ways down the beach...but he was ok. I guess I should have been more specific that I wanted the frond to cause him to stop preaching his ungentle and non-respectful message of condemnation.

That night I was preaching about a block from a group of our guys and a young lady came storming up to me. I was fairly certain she was going to hit me. She stopped a few feet away and demanded, "Why is he," pointing towards the other preachers, "so mean?!" The person she was referring to is my friend Rich who is a fantastic preacher and I suspect he wasn't so mean as she thought he was, but still she sought me out.

She told me that she grew up a Baptist but like believed in like Buddism and reincarnation and stuff. She also couldn't fathom how there could possibly be such a place as Hell. Normally I think I would have flipped out on someone expositing those beliefs, but gentleness and patience took over and I was surprisingly really nice and respectful towards this girl. At the end she understood why we were out there, why Christ is the only way to God, and why Hell not only exists but is reasonable. Her name was Kayla and she took a Mark Cahill book and my e-mail address; hopefully she'll get saved.

Later I talked to Rich and he called it the "Bad Cop/Good Cop" scenario where one person is harsh and the other is gentle and the person listens because the second person is so respectful. There is a lot to this verse that we must be gentle and respectful; I just wish it wasn't so hard.

v.16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

Before we go too far into this, what does slander mean? It means to make something up about someone and present it as true. Libel means basically the same thing, except it's written down or in print. One of my friends was preaching on Southbeach and a dude came up screaming, "The God I worship wouldn't judge, why are you being so judgmental!!!" All my friend had done was read John chapter 3 out loud; I responded to the guy, "Sir, how do you know he's being judgmental unless you've judged him?" My friend asked for an example of when he judged. If we hold to Christ and the Bible then when people slander us they will ultimately be put to shame, hopefully before judgment day.

The words humble and humiliate share the same root word. Humiliate is a synonym for shame, we want people to be humiliated, shamed, caught in their sin so they look to Christ who died for their sins, for if you humble yourself before the Lord, then he will lift you up. So it is hugely important that we do our best to be gentle, respectful, and have a good conscience so that others see our good behavior and it points them to Christ. If they don't repent before judgment day then our good behavior will still glorify Christ as those that reviled us and him will stand naked and without excuse before the judgment seat of Christ and his holy angels will cast them into fire eternal.

v.17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

Peter has talked about this once before, that if we're going to suffer, it is better to suffer for righteousness rather than for doing evil. You should suffer for doing evil, it is the normal consequence. So it is better to suffer for doing good because this points people to Christ, shows the sinfulness of mankind, that Christ's death for living for God was not an anomaly, and that he is worthy for us both to live for and to die for.

So with the time we have left I want to share two sermons I preached at the Superbowl. The first was pretty shady in my tactic, but it worked and people heard the Word. I preached at the Port-a-Potties with about fifteen people waiting in line. I started out by saying, "I couldn't help but notice that I have a captive audience here, I apologize for taking advantage of your captivity, but I hope that you find it providential that you are here to hear what I'm about to tell you." I then went through about a five minute message. Last year I preached at the Port-a-Potties and the only thing that kept me from getting killed was that the really angry people would have lost their place in line if they had come and murdered me. This year was a lot better.

Then I preached several times a "Who-Dat" sermon which kept changing, but here is basically what it said,

I keep hearing, "Who Dat? Who Dat? Who Dat?" and I know what it means, it means "Who dat say they gonna beat them Saints?" Or we could ask, "What dat gonna win this game? Saints. Who dat gonna lose this game? Colts." But more importantly, "Who dat out there sure they gonna go to Heaven when they die? Who dat think they good enough to go to Heaven when they die? Who dat gonna judge you on that day? God the Father. Who that can save you on that day? God the Son. What dat you need saving from? Who dat can say they never told a lie? Who dat can say they never stole nothin'? Who dat can say they always obeyed they mother and father? Who dat can say they never looked with lust? Who dat can say they perfect? Who dat gonna judge you? God the Father. Who dat can save you? God the Son. How dat? Jesus Christ died on a cross bearing your condemnation. How dat? Jesus Christ rose from the grave for your justification. What you gotta do about that? Repent towards Heaven and put your trust in the Risen Christ. Who dat gonna get the glory? God the Father. Who dat gonna get the glory also? Jesus Christ. So beloved I implore you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, be reconciled to God! Jesus Christ! He dat!

So in conclusion, honor Christ in your heart as holy, don't fear men, always be ready to tell people about your Saviour. Be holy as he is holy, so that your good behavior humiliates those who see it and it drives them to the foot of a blood stained cross and the arms of the only person who can save them.