Wednesday, August 7, 2013

How to answer life's most important question (1 Peter 3:15-16)

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It's going to happen...

...sooner or later, someone is going to ask you about your faith.

For the Christian, this is life's most important question; how you answer it may have everlasting consequences for your discussion partner. After all, yours might be the only testimony they ever hear. 

No pressure. 

Here at Grace Pointe Church, we are quietly starting to raise the evangelistic temperature of our fellowship. This upcoming year, our goal is to get the entire congregation motivated to start actively sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with the people in their lives. We want to see Plainfield and the surrounding communities transformed by the power of God’s Holy Spirit. 

We want to see as many people become like Jesus Christ in the shortest time possible. This is an urgent mission, and it is rooted in the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20.

But Matthew’s Gospel is not the only place in Scripture where we are taught how to reach people for Jesus. In 1 Peter 3:15-16, the apostle laws out a three-fold strategy for giving our personal testimony.

Look up and read 1 Peter 3:15-16.

After examining this passage, we find that there are three directions Peter gives us: (1) be reverent, (2) be ready, and (3) be respectful.

Be reverent:

Peter directs us to “revere Christ as Lord.” This is our primary duty as believers in Jesus. In the Bible, the word heart does not mean “feelings,” but rather “thinking.” Peter is telling us to honor Jesus Christ by making him the Master of our minds. We commit our thinking to him, and we think of him often. The Christian life is not one of na├»ve, aimless faith, but rather one of thinking, pondering, considering and examining. We do not believe blindly everything we hear, but (like the Bereans in Acts 17:11) we examine the Scriptures to see if it is true. We “take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). We worship Jesus Christ with our minds.

Be ready:

Our readiness to tell others about Jesus comes from our worship of Jesus Christ. He has changed us, and we hope in him. Because of Jesus, we have a great expectation of future glory and an everlasting life with God. All that is in the future, but even now we have God’s Spirit, his word, the Church and the other resources God has given us. Most importantly of all, Jesus’ blood has earned the forgiveness of our sins. This gives us amazing joy and peace in this life.
It is with all this in mind that the believer is to “always be prepared.” Sooner or later, someone is going to ask us why we believe—why we have this “hope.” When that moment comes, how will we answer them? In today’s world, people are in desperate need of God’s love and healing. God has put us in the world to shine his light into it. If we have not prepared ahead of time, we may miss our chance!

Be respectful:  

Unlike political pundits or loudmouthed reality TV stars, Christians are not called to drown out our conversation partners. We do not need to out-argue them, or to humiliate them in a debate. We are not out to promote ourselves. Rather, we imitate Christ. Peter says this has three components.
External behavior: We treat our conversation partners with gentleness and respect. In doing so, we treat them the way we would want to be treated.
Internal mindset: While engaging others,  we listen to our conscience. If we have put our trust in Jesus Christ, God has given us his Holy Spirit. His laws are now written on our heart (Jer. 31:33). As the Holy Spirit convicts and guides us, we strive to keep a “clean” conscience in how we share the reason for our hope.
Eternal effect: When we share our testimonies in this way, it has an incredible consequence. Our conversation partners will be convicted. Peter uses an extreme example in describing an audience who is openly hostile to the believer. Yet even someone who has been aggressively opposing you can be overcome by God’s love and conviction, when we share Christ in a Christlike way.

Discussion Questions:

1.      What is most important about the directions Peter gives in this passage?
2.      What does it mean to “always be prepared to give the reason for the hope that you have?”
3.      What may happen if we share our testimonies without “gentleness and respect”?

4.      Do you know how you would answer someone who asked you about the reason for your hope? Have you ever prepared your testimony? It can be very helpful to write this out ahead of time. Take some time and share your testimony (in writing or aloud). 

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