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.