“But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.” (1 Peter 3:14-15)
“The Bible was written thousands of years ago, how can it have any relevance today?” “Do you honestly believe that Jesus was God?” “How do you know Jesus was God?” “Don’t you believe in science?” “If God exists and He really wants me to believe in Him, why doesn’t He just show Himself to me right now?” “You claim God is the Creator, but when did He come into existence; how can He have no beginning?” “If God is good, then why does he send people to Hell?”
These are tough questions—real questions—that curious, skeptical, and investigative people want to know the answers to. Are you able to give level-headed, rational, and sufficient answers to such questions? Do you know your doctrine well enough to be able to explain it to other people?
I recently asked a young, unlearned, carnal Christian a simple question: Why do you believe in Christianity? It is a question that I believe rests at the foot of a person’s total understanding of the Christian faith, and a question you should prepare an answer for. Aside from antagonistic, willful atheists, there are lots of genuinely doubtful and unconvinced lost people in the world, fumbling their way through this life day-by-day, unconsciously waiting for a persuasive, sound explanation for the hope that often lays dormant in the believer.
Peter wrote to a group of scattered believers who were suffering for their faith, experiencing persecution in the form of verbal slander and social pressures and likely being ridiculed for the separated lives they were living. Are you experiencing persecution for being a Christian? Being made fun of because you are “stupid” or “ignorant” for believing that a man who claimed to be God died for your sins? Being excluded or ostracized by others because you’re the “uptight,” “goody-two-shoes” Christian who doesn’t partake in the gossip, coarse joking, mean jesting, or late-night carousing and drinking parties? Do you catch grief for not giving in with everyone else while they are bending or breaking the rules and who look at you like you’re on a moral high-horse? If you are experiencing suffering or persecution for doing what is right, and/or for representing or defending Christ, Peter teaches that “you are blessed.” What an oxymoron his statement is, for how can it be considered a good thing that you are being hated and reviled by the world? This phrase actually means “highly privileged,” and that you are–considering Christ will have the ultimate say and final judgment, and it is on His side that you are wise to be on because you will partake in His glory for sharing in persecution for His sake.
The concept of “apologetics,” or a defense of the Christian faith, stems from 1 Peter 3:15; especially the command to “always be ready to make a defense.” If today a coworker asks you if there’s really a God, how would you respond? If tomorrow you overhear a friend talking about evolution, would you be able to explain your view of creationism? If you were asked why abortion is wrong, could you answer? These seem like strange, one-in-a-thousand questions, but these questions are ones people commonly have opinions about and which can easily bridge a conversation into questions about Jesus Christ and potentially a chance to share the Gospel message. Before I arouse the need to be well-informed about your doctrine and about common anti-Christian beliefs, it is necessary to point to what Peter writes just before this aside. He says, “sanctify Christ as LORD in your hearts.”
Whenever I am overwhelmed at work, disheartened at the fact that everything is chaotic and that there is too much work at one time that I could ever hope to successfully and efficiently complete, I return to a simple basic rule. That rule is to focus on my immediate surroundings, making sure to diligently perform the little tasks that I am able to do and control. This basic rule helps me maintain clarity, focus, and efficiency in the midst of a chaotic storm all-the-while setting me up for success in the bigger things. Sanctifying Christ as LORD is the equivalent to this basic rule. Regardless of whether or not you are being persecuted for your faith or getting the God-given opportunity to share your faith and engage in riveting conversation with non-believers, you are able to and responsible for setting Christ apart as your LORD. This means obeying Him. This means reading His Word in order to know what the commands are that you are to be obeying. This means praying to Him and maintaining an open line of communication with Him, sharing your thoughts and life with Him as you recognize that everything you have has been given to you by Him. This means surrendering your will to serve Him and learning to recognize that everything in this life is about Jesus Christ. He is what matters and whom should be highly exalted, praised, and glorified in the way you do every single every-day task.
It is highly unlikely that a coworker will prompt a conversation about God or Jesus with a person who lives no differently than a non-believer. Even if they do, that person’s words will probably have a minimal effect because the non-believer will not be able to pinpoint any recognizable change or difference in that supposed “Christian’s” life; a testimony that bears no observable fruit is a half-hearted one that will often fall on deaf ears. Brethren, that ought not be the case with us. We ought to be anchored in Christ and immersed in His teachings in such a way that the world knows who His chosen race, His royal priesthood, and His holy nation is, who gently and respectfully proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). It is Christ who said “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart,” and how can we always be ready to give a defense for the hope that is in us if we are not filling our hearts with His Word, obeying Him, and transforming our minds by His truth? The answer is, if you are not setting apart Christ as your LORD, chances are that you will not be sought out by unbelievers to talk about Christ and you will not be prepared to rationally explain why a belief in Christ is actually reasonable.
Start the New Year off well with spiritual vitality and vibrancy, setting apart Christ as your LORD who reigns on the throne of your heart. Concentrate on honing your spiritual discipline and obeying Him, and you will probably come to find that you will often encounter more and more persecution, and possibly the chance to give a defense for the hope that is in you. Whenever you get such a chance, remember to speak the truth in love with gentleness and reverence, relying on the Holy Spirit to embolden and empower you to make much of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
by Cameron Penrose