Real Hope for Perilous Times

November 6, 2016

There have been many rancorous elections over the years in the United States. The election of 1800 was a bitter rematch between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. There was much antagonism, political backbiting, and underhandedness. People’s reputations were smeared with lies. In the election of 1926, incumbant, Woodrow Wilson, past president, Teddy Roosevelt, future presidents: Calvin Coolidge, Warren Harding, Herbert Hoover, and Franklin Roosevelt, were all jockeying for the white house. Somehow Warren G. Harding became president. What a mess! His presidency was marred by much scandal.

The election of 2016 has also been filled with antagonism, accusations, and political intrigue. Unfortunately, both presidential candidates have tarnished their own reputations by their actions and rhetoric over the years. Frankly it has put many people in a conundrum. Who on earth should I vote for? Should I even vote?

Now we are a conservative evangelical congregation. We are conservative in our doctrinal beliefs and by in large are aligned with conservative values on the moral issues of life and sexuality. We are probably more diverse in our views on gun control, economics, immigration, and health care. In our congregation some vote democrat and some vote republican. As I was preparing for this message I did a little investigating on how conservative evangelicals are lining up with the various candidates.

From what I can tell, many conservative evangelicals are promoting Donald Trump, not because they think he is such a paragon of virtue, but because they do not like the democrat platform and they do not like Hillary Clinton, and also because they are concerned about the supreme court justices. But among those who support Trump there is much gnashing of teeth. Dr. Wayne Grudem a well known conservative, evangelical professor of Systematic Theology, came out in support of Trump. Then he reversed his stance against Trump. And now he has reversed himself again. James Dobson is supporting Trump, along with Eric Metaxas, Jerry Falwell Jr, Televangelist Mark Burns, Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, and Bishop E.W. Jackson. However, Al Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Dr. Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention have come out strongly against Trump. This month, John Piper called for Trump and Clinton to drop out of the race and stated that he would not vote for either of the candidates. These are high profile evangelicals.

But a case for Hillary is also being made by some evangelicals. Some have pointed out that Hillary supports biblical values regarding caring for the poor, the children, and the disenfranchised. She is being promoted by Deborah Filkes, executive adviser to the World Evangelical Alliance, and possibly by Max Lucado, although that is less clear. Tony Evans is urging Christians to vote for the party that is most aligned with the values of the kingdom of God.

Franklin Graham has held prayer rallies in every state and has encouraged believers to vote, “even if it means holding our noses as we go to the ballot booth.” And I believe each of us should vote. In my understanding voting is a privilege of citizenship and not a duty or obligation. But because it is a privilege that many in the world wish they had but don’t, and because it is a meaningful way of participating in our democratic government, I believe that when we exercise this privilege we help to promote the stability of our democratic freedoms. But again, because it is a privilege and not a duty, if a person feels that for conscience sake they cannot support any of the candidates, they do not have to exercise the right. In other words I do not think it is a sin to not vote.

This morning I have no intention of endorsing any candidate or of trying to help us discern who to vote for. We’re all responsible adults, fully capable of coming to a decision for ourselves through prayer and thoughtful reflection. And if you need advice there are plenty of people online who know exactly what you should do.

One way or another, come Wednesday we will have a new president. You may wake up on Wednesday feeling happy or depressed, discouraged or hopeful, depending on the outcome. I want to remind all of us that as followers of Jesus Christ we are not trusting in the president, the congress, or the Supreme Court. If anything experience has taught us that we cannot depend upon these governmental institutions to uphold the values of Jesus Christ. Our hope is not in government. Our hope for all of life is fully in God.


Prov.21:1 says, “The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.” Also consider Ps.22:28, which says, “For kingship belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations.”

Before I say anything about this, let me affirm that I am not a determinist. I do not believe that God determines everything that happens. I do believe that God is fully in control, but that he does not always exercise his control in the same way. I believe that God allows some things to be undetermined, but that he is fully able to step in whenever he chooses. In all that happens I believe that God’s purposes will be fully accomplished because nothing will ultimately thwart his will.

That said, these verses are an encouragement to us because they assure us that God is fully in charge. He is the One who is ruling over the nations. He is the One who can turn a ruler’s heart in any direction he chooses. And let me add a thought from last week’s message in which we saw that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.

An example of this is seen in Pharaoh in the book of Exodus. There we read that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Later in the book of Daniel we read about how God humbled Nebuchadnezzar to the point that Nebuchadnezzar encouraged everyone to worship Daniel’s God. We also read in Isaiah that God was going to raise up a world ruler named Cyrus who would allow the people of Israel to return to the Promised Land.

But I must add that the people of Israel were slaves in Egypt for over 300 years before God worked in Pharaoh’s heart. The people of Israel were in exile in Babylon for some 70 years before they were allowed to return and rebuild. So while it is true that God is in control and can change the heart of a ruler, it would seem that God has a different time table than we do. His ways and purposes are often different from ours.

So on Wednesday when we wake up to a new president elect, we may be disappointed or deeply concerned about what the future implications are, but we can be confident that in the long run God will have his way and all will be well. But in the short run we have a stewardship to embrace. Voting is just one way of impacting our country. Is abortion going to continue? It would seem so. Will health care rates continue to climb? No doubt/ Will issues of sexuality and gender continue to divide the country? I think so. Will the church continue to be pushed out onto the edges of society? Yes. But these matters can be impacted by our vote and our efforts. The abortion rate has declined, largely through the work of the church. I urge us to vote for a candidate that you believe can effect helpful change. Whatever happens, our hope is in God. We cry out to him and we rest in him.

II. GOD IS UPHOLDING HIS PEOPLE. Ps.33:12-22; Ps.147:10-11

We are all familiar with the ways of this world. The way of the world is the way of pride and power. Pride and the desire for power promote deception, manipulation, abuse of all kinds, violence, and oppression. These are the methods relied upon by the world. In Ps.33 it says, “The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue.” In Ps.147:10 we read, “His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man.”

The teaching of Scripture is that this world is passing away. In 1Jn.2:16-17 we read, “For all that is in the world, the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life, is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires”

I point this out to suggest that while the world operates on the platform of pride and power, the believer does not operate on this platform. Whether one looks at the Sermon on the Mount or Jesus’ teachings in Jn.14-17, it is clear that we walk to a different drummer. In Ps.33:18-22 it says, “the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you.” And in Ps.147:11 it says, “but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.”

This might seem to be a way of apathy and inactivity. How will we get anything done? But that is not the case at all. Trusting in the Lord, fearing the Lord, waiting on the Lord calls for great patience, prayer, and self-control as we carry out our various roles in life.

Daniel and his 3 friends were in places of great power and authority in Babylon, and yet they managed to not use the ways of this world. They trusted in the steadfast love of God. When thrown into the fiery furnace they counted their lives as nothing and trusted in the steadfast love of God. When thrown into the lions’ den, Daniel trusted in God, as did Joseph, as did Jesus, as did Paul and a host of others.

Regardless of who the next president is we must put our hope in the steadfast love of God. He is holding our lives in his hands. This country of ours is passing away, along with the entire world, “but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”


So on this Sunday before we vote, here we are at the Lord’s Table. It is here at the Lord’s Table that the Lord presents a fresh affirmation of the new life that is available through faith in him.

In Luke’s description of the Lord’s Supper we read that after eating and drinking the bread and wine, the disciples were arguing about who among them was the greatest. Jesus reminded them that the greatest among them was the one who served. But then Jesus says in v.28, “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Followers of Jesus are in the kingdom of God and will have a place at Jesus’ table when the final resurrection occurs. This Table here is a foretaste of that heavenly table when we gather at the heavenly banquet, the marriage supper of the Lamb.

I can’t help but note the irony. Here we are at the Lord’s Table affirming our citizenship and participation in the kingdom of God, while on Tuesday we will affirm our citizenship and participation in the United States, one of the kingdoms of this world.

The bread and the juice remind us that God took on human flesh in the person of his Son, Jesus. The saving goodness and reign of God became incarnate showing God’s intention to save humanity, body and soul. After dying for our sins, Jesus rose again to new creation life. He is the beginning of the new creation. Not only that, but Jesus has all authority in heaven and earth.

Those of us who have turned from our sins to embrace Christ as Savior and Lord, are new creations. We have his new creation life in us, and when he comes again he will make a new heaven and new earth for us to live in. But we are living that new heaven and new earth life right now through the Holy Spirit. This is why when we go to the voting booth we understand that Christ is our king. We will seek to use our best judgment as we vote, but Jesus Christ is Lord of all.

When we wake up on Wednesday we will need to begin praying for our new president. We want to pray that he or she comes to know Christ as Lord. But for today, we have the opportunity to reorder our priorities around the presence of our King as we come to the Lord’s Table. Here we meet our Savior who has given his life for us. We meet our Lord who is reigning in our lives. We meet our King who is coming again. Let us bow before Him with thankful, humble, and surrendered hearts. Amen

Persevering to the End

October 30, 2016

 Each of the candidates have a campaign slogan. Hillary’s is, “Stronger together I’m with her.” Trump’s slogan is, “Make American great again.”  Of course these two candidates are seeking to attract voters to stand with them under each of their slogans.

Christians also have a slogan, if you will. It is Jesus Christ is Lord of all. This is the slogan that we as Christian stand under. We are followers of Jesus Christ. We believe that true human flourishing comes by following Christ. In whatever we do we want to be sure that it does not conflict with having Christ as our Lord and King.

In this world our allegiance to Christ as Lord is constantly being undermined because the devil, the god of this world hates Jesus Christ. And so every day we must answer a question. Will you be faithful to Christ no matter the cost?

I. BE HUMBLE. 1Pt.5:5-7

When Peter addressed the elders in v.1-4, he said they were not to be domineering. Instead, elders are to have a humble attitude. And now Peter says that every believer is to have a humble attitude. We are to clothe ourselves in humility towards one another.

The reason for this is that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. That is a quote from Prov.3:34. A proud person is someone who puts him or herself above God and others. Pride come in all shapes and sizes. Pride can be very overt or very subtle. But at the heart of pride is self. God opposes the proud.

If we are going to be faithful to Christ no matter the cost, if we are going to enjoy unity in the church, if we are going to have any sort of impact in this world for Christ, we need to be humble people. God gives grace to the humble.

I have mentioned this before, but I am going to mention it again because I believe it is very helpful. When Dallas Willard talks about humility he focuses on three ideas. If you want to be humble don’t presume, don’t pretend, and don’t push. A humble person is someone who does not presume to know what another person is thinking. He does not presume that he fully understands a given situation. He does not presume to have the answers. Nor does he presume to have authority. A humble person is not presumptuous.

And then a humble person does not pretend. She does not pretend to be something more or less than she is. She does not pretend to be rich when she is poor or poor when she is rich. She does not pretend to know more or less than she really knows. She does not pretend to be more or less sinful than she is. She seeks to have integrity in her dealings with others and in her self-understanding. Humble people do not belittle themselves or say that they can’t do anything right. That’s not being humble. That’s just having low self-worth, which probably reveals some issues in a person’s life that need to be addressed.

A humble person does not push. In other words a humble person does not use physical or verbal force to accomplish their own will. Instead he or she shows respect for the will and choices of others. When a humble person is in a place of authority at work or in the church, this does not mean that there is never a time to be firm and strong. It just means that in being firm we do not run over the will of another, forcing them, pressuring them to conform to our standard or do our will. People are pulled much better than they are pushed.

Now this is not easy. It is far easier to be prideful. You’ve got to have hutzpah if you want to get anything done in this world. You’ve got to promote yourself. You’ve got to project the right image if you want to get ahead. You’ve got to be in control. You’ve got to protect yourself. But Peter tells us that God is the one who exalts a person. We are not to exalt ourselves over others or over God. God exalts a person. But the idea of waiting upon God to exalt us is difficult. This is why Peter says, “casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

Remember, Peter was writing to believers who were experiencing persecution for Christ. They were being insulted and humiliated. But God would exalt them in due time, perhaps a reference to coming of Christ. Until then, they were to cast their anxiety on the Lord. There is no one who cares more about you then the Lord. He is holding our lives in his hand. He cares for each of us. This is why we can afford to be humble. God cares for us. Being humble sometimes feels like we have no control over what happens to us. But God has control and we can rest in him.

Jesus said that we would be known by our love for one another and by the fruit we bear in our lives, not by our positions of power or by protecting our rights at all costs. Be humble.

II. BE WATCHFUL. 1Pt.5:8-9

I see Peter exhorting us to be well aware of what is going on in the world around us because the evil one is using any and every means to thwart and destroy the church of Jesus Christ. Of course he will never destroy the church, but he can do a lot of damage.

Specifically here in v.8-9, Peter is thinking about persecution. We know this because in v.9 he writes that “the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” Christians need to be aware of how the devil is seeking to oppose us so that we can better resist him. The devil is working behind the scenes in society and government. In some parts of the world there is just outright physical persecution. Christians are being hauled off to prison and executed. In other parts of the world the persecution is more nuanced. Laws are passed that make it difficult for believers to practice their faith. Those who pass the laws may think they are doing something good, something equitable, not realizing that the devil is using it to hinder the church. Whether using raw power or working behind the scenes the devil is seeking someone to devour. He wants to destroy our faith in Christ.

Peter says that we are to resist the devil. Now how are we to resist the devil? We are to stand in opposition against him. What does this mean? Well, surely it means that we do not deny the Lord. We remain faithful, obedient to the Lord. In Peter’s day, everyone was to burn incense to the Emperor as a deity. No. Christians could not do that. Only Jesus is Lord, not Caesar.

Our opposition to the evil one is to be expressed in humility in a gracious way. We are not using the weapons of this world. We are dressed in the armor of God: the helmet of salvation, the shield of faith, the breastplate of righteousness, the sandals of peace, the belt of truth, the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God, and prayer.

All through this letter, Peter tells us to silence the insults and accusations brought against us by doing good. This is how we stand and resist the evil one.

Believers look at the world through gospel eyes. We see what’s happening. The world is aligned with the devil against God. Thankfully there is still much in our society that reflects a time when righteousness and morality was more widely accepted. People had regard for the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. But even then, there was widespread injustice and prejudice that was systemic in the predominantly white Catholic, fundamentalist and evangelical communities. It may have been a better day for some, but not for all. I point this out just to show that the devil has always been at work dividing and ruining the church and society. He is a destroyer.

As Christians we must be wide awake seeking to discern the inroads that the devil is making in the church. We must be wide awake to the word of God.

III. BE HOPEFUL. 1Pt.5:10-11

“After you have suffered a little while!” What kind of comfort is that? It sounds a little casual! We saw earlier that judgment begins with the household of God and persecution is part of that judgement. Persecution helps to purify our lives from sin as we turn to the Lord. In Rm.5 Paul tells us that suffering produces endurance. In Jms.1 we learn that trials produce steadfastness. It’s not easy to suffer, but when the suffering has done its work, Peter assures us that the God of all grace will restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish us. The context of Peter is persecution. Those who experience persecution for Christ have a certain hope that God will finish the work of grace that he has begun in our lives through Christ. When facing persecution believers have an unshakable hope for the future.

It is important that we regularly remind ourselves of this confident hope. Here’s why? When adversity comes it is very easy to become hopeless. Maybe you are looking for work and as time goes on you are beginning to feel that God is letting you down. You are struggling to trust in God. The same could be true with illness or some life situation.

Brothers and sisters if trusting God in these matters brings doubt to our souls, how will we fare if we come under persecution? In 1Pt.4 Peter reminds us that we should not be surprised if persecution comes, as if something strange is happening to us. Every day we need to set our hope in God, knowing that God is holding us in his hands.

Our future is one of eternal glory in Christ, in a new heaven and earth. To him belongs the dominion forever and ever. Christ is Lord to the glory of God. We look to Christ as our Lord and king. We have our hope in him. You may never really understand why things happen to you. There is no rule that says we must understand. Instead we must put our hope in the Lord.


In v.12 Peter writes, “I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.” What are we to stand firm in? It seems to me that we are to stand firm in what Peter has written because it is the true grace of God. Peter has been writing gospel truth.

When we do not know the word of God, we do what is right in our own eyes. Some of what is right in our own eyes might be right in God’s eyes. But usually when we chart our own course it is not in keeping with the ways of God and Christ. The reason for this is that our minds and hearts are not filled with the thoughts of God. The thoughts of God are found in his word, the Bible.

Now many find the Bible to be a difficult book to read. They may have started reading in Genesis, but it isn’t long before they feel that so much of what they are reading is irrelevant. And by the time you get to Leviticus, reading about heave offerings and discharges and mold and mildew, it’s all over. We’re done!

Let me urge you to stay with the New Testament and Psalms for a good long while before tackling the Old Testament. The Old Testament is very important because it gives much needed background for the New Testament, but the New Testament is even more important for getting the mind of Christ in you. In order to stand firm in the word of God we must know it. I would say that many, many Christians today, do not know the New Testament very well, let alone the Old Testament. You may know a number of Bible stories, but knowing the stories alone will not help you to think like Jesus.

The only way we are going to persevere in this world, staying faithful to Jesus Christ is if we have Christ and his ways deeply etched into our minds and hearts. And all of that is found in the Scripture through the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Brothers and sisters the church is facing many difficult issues in this world. Sexual and gender issues have escalated so quickly that the church is struggling to know how to respond in love while remaining faithful to Christ, not to mention our own sexual and marital brokenness within the church. Politically the church (protestant and catholic) is being marginalized and again, we are struggling to know what our role should be. We proclaim that Christ is Lord but our materialistic and consumer driven society has impacted all of us. If we are going to be steadfast, we need to be steadfast in the word of God because the word of God teaches us the mind of Christ.

In AD 312, the Roman Empire was falling apart, and the Empire was in a civil war. General Constantine realized that he needed help for a power greater than himself and he prayed that the true God would help him. The story goes that Constantine saw a bright cross of light emblazoned against the noonday sky with the words, “In this sign Conquer.” He orders his soldiers to inscribe crosses on their shields, and he is victorious. In AD 313 he makes Christianity the official religion of the empire. The soldiers of Constantine fought under the banner of the cross with sword and shield.

Men and women, followers of Jesus Christ also live under the cross. But we do not use swords and shields. We seek to live humble, watchful, hopeful and steadfast lives in faithfulness to Jesus Christ. Our goal is to see others embrace Christ as Lord. Will you be faithful to Christ no matter the cost? Amen

Shepherding God's Flock

October 23, 2016



Leadership is all the rage these days. There are many books and conferences on leadership not just in the secular world, but also in the church. In one sense there is overlap for sure. The qualities necessary for leadership in the church and the world are similar. But in another sense there is a difference. The setting of the church and the goals of the church are different from that of the world.

In the New Testament church leaders are referred to as Elders or Overseers. The word for, “elder” is presbuteros. It generally refers to someone who is older and mature. We hear our English word, “Presbyterian” in this word. The other word is Episcopas. It is the word for overseer. The words are used interchangeably to refer to the leaders of the church. The early churches had elders and some congregations also seemed to have deacons. The elders gave direction and guidance to the congregation while the deacons helped to carry out the various duties to enable the church to function.

In 1Pt.5:1-4 Peter has a word specifically for the elders of the church. What kind of leaders are needed at a time when the church is facing persecution? Peter speaks to that here. Church elders are called to shepherd God’s flock.


It is significant that Peter begins by referring to himself as a fellow elder. He wrote as someone who personally understood what it means to be an elder. Isn’t it interesting that Peter singles out the suffering of Christ and not the resurrection of Christ? He also refers to being a partaker in the glory that is to be revealed. Suffering, followed by glory gives shape to the general attitude that elders are to embody.

On the basis of v.1, Peter exhorts the elders in v.2. He says, “Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you.” Elders are shepherds. What do shepherds do? Well they tend to the sheep. They take care of the sheep by providing nourishment, healing, guidance, and protection. This is pastoral care. It involves the teaching and preaching of the word of God. That’s spiritual nourishment. It involves encouraging and comforting. That’s what I mean by healing. It often involves giving counsel for living out the life of Christ in our daily circumstances. That is guidance. And it involves guarding the church and the truths of the faith as taught by Christ and the apostles. That is protection. Shepherding the flock of God calls for much wisdom and counsel. That is why a plurality of elders is preferable.

Obviously there is a personal cost involved in being a shepherd. Because of this, Peter points out that serving as an elder must be done with a willing heart. One of my jobs growing up was to mow the lawn. Generally I enjoy mowing the lawn, but there were days when I did not mow the lawn willingly. On those days, my attitude was not very good and I let my dad know it. I did not take much care in how I mowed the lawn because I just wanted to get it done. I rushed. I was a little sloppy. There’s no way around it, mowing the lawn takes time and effort.

Shepherding the flock of God also takes time and effort. If church elders serve under compulsion, because, “Someone’s got to do it,” that attitude is going to hurt the flock. That elder will get frustrated and exasperated with the concerns of the people and the ministry. Ministry will become an unwelcome inconvenience. Instead of taking the time to nourish, care for, give guidance and protection, the elders will just do the minimum and follow the quickest way of getting things done. If the elders do not serve willingly, the congregation will suffer and not be built up in Christ.

When we consider Jesus we see that before there was glory, there was suffering. Jesus willingly suffered for us because he loved us. Elders are to have that same willing, loving attitude. This is all the more important because elders are not shepherding their own flock, they are shepherding the flock of God. We are God’s people. Pastors, elders are given a stewardship to shepherd the flock of God. So we must be careful to do our best, treasuring the people of God. Paul lists various qualifications that elders are to meet in 1Tim.3. Elders are to be “above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity, keeping his children submissive. He must not be a recent convert and he must be well thought of by outsiders.” In 1Tim.5 Paul refers to elders who rule well, and who labor in preaching and teaching. James writes that not many should become teachers because teachers in the church incur a stricter judgment. Serving as an elder is not to be taken lightly. It is very much a calling from God.

Well, the only way we as elders can have this willing attitude is if we are keeping our heart in tune with the Lord Jesus and his word through prayer, study, worship, Bible reading, service, etc. Of course, all believers are to avail themselves of these provisions for spiritual growth, but this must especially be true of church elders. The elders lead the way in seeking Christ.


Now before we talk about shameful gain, let me point out that compensation for the work of ministry in the church is not prohibited. In 1Tim.5:17-18 we read, “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, "You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain," and, "The laborer deserves his wages." In the Old Testament the priests were provided for by the people they served. Over the many years of church history, as the church became more institutionalized and specialized it became common to have a paid elder who would give himself to fulltime preaching and teaching in the church. But even today, not all congregations have a full-time paid elder. Many of the Brethren churches are served by unpaid elders. Some congregations are served by pastors who are bi-vocational. They work outside of the church. And when a congregation does have a paid elder, that elder should be paid a fair wage to enable the elder’s family to live reasonably well.

But the reality is that ministry can be a means for selfish gain. One only has to consider the opulence of the Catholic Church over the many years of church history. During Luther’s time the church was selling indulgences. People paid for an indulgence to get their loved one out of purgatory sooner. It was a scam, an abuse of Christendom. But it is not just the Catholic Church. Such greed can be found in every wing of the church. There are some protestant pastors making hundreds of thousands of dollars every year, living in opulent houses. These are the obvious examples of greed. It appears that they are using the ministry to cash in on the American dream, which has never been the Lord’s dream.

Greed, the desire for selfish gain, runs deep in everyone. And elders looking for selfish gain may be apt to say things in manipulative ways in order to curry favor. We don’t have to be talking about large sums of money. It’s the attitude of the heart that directs the behavior of the elder. Elders cannot promote Christ while seeking to line their own pockets.

How can elders in the church protect themselves from selfish, shameful gain? Well, like every believer, we must seek to take every thought captive to the obedience of Jesus Christ. Just as we forsake other temptations, we must forsake the temptation to selfish gain. Another way to protect oneself is to be a generous giver. Generous giving to the work of the Lord puts us in a posture of trusting the Lord. Along with this, it is important for an elder in the church to be a wise steward of what they have, living within their means. Elders are to be an example to the congregation. And when a congregation does have a paid elder, that elder should be paid a fair wage to enable the elder’s family to live.


Whether a congregation has only volunteer elders like in many Brethren churches, or a paid elder along with volunteer elders, all elders are called to promote a vision for living life in the kingdom of God as we live in this world. Elders are to live in such a way as to help others on to God through faith in Christ.

Listen to Heb.13:17, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

Pride is a constant danger in church ministry. Those serving in the church are easily tempted to use ministry to promote themselves. Over the years, the Evangelical church in America has focused on having large numbers, state of the art facilities, so as to offer an awesome worship experience and to meet every conceivable need a person might have; a one-stop church! Perhaps unwittingly we’ve cultivated consumerism in the Church in our effort to reach people for Christ. When I was in seminary the Church Growth Movement held sway. We were taught to use various formulas to bring church growth. The Church Growth Movement has fallen out of favor. Today being missional is the focus. Leadership is the focus

I think about two separate conversations I had some years ago with the CEOs of two different denominations. One leader asked me what kind of leader I am. I tried to share my thoughts and he said, “O you are a maintenance pastor. I am a visionary.” I came away from that conversation with a diminished view of myself. In the second conversation the CEO told me that I am a shepherd while he is a leader and not a shepherd. I felt a bit better after that conversation. Another pastor told me that I am a priest while he is a king, comparing church leadership to the offices of Christ: prophet, priest and king. I wasn’t too keen on that analogy.

Brothers and sisters here at Forest Park Baptist, the goal of our elders is to seek to lead each one of us on to God by our conduct, character and conversation. We are more concerned about your spiritual welfare and how that impacts your daily living, than we are about how big our congregation is. It’s not that we have no concern about the size of our congregation. We do. Our children have grown up. Our congregation is aging/ People have moved away. And the culture has continued to become post-Christian. Added to this is the fact that we have financial obligations and concerns. These are the realities of church ministry today. We are trusting the Lord to help us and provide for our needs. But our goal, our focus is on promoting Jesus Christ and our life in Him.

One of the most important qualities to be found in an elder is humility. In other words, elders are not to be domineering or manipulative. The way of Jesus cannot be imposed upon anyone. Nor is it wise for an elder to use his authority to have his own way in the church. Elders do not seek to belittle others or bully others. I have been in churches where that has happened. We are to lead by example. So as elders we want to cultivate integrity of life at home, at church and at work. We want to learn to die to self in the living of our lives. We want to be gracious in our interactions with others. And we seek to be accountable to Christ and to the church.

Here at Forest Park our Elders are accountable to the congregation. We want to be accountable to the congregation. In some churches the elders are not accountable. The elders direct the affairs of the church and they exercise their own accountability within the elder board. We are accountable.

I’m saying these things because I want all of you to know that I and the other elders take this responsibility with sober minded care. We are certainly not perfect. We are not always able to discern what is best. But we want to do our best before the Lord. We are interested in and concerned for your spiritual welfare. We are interested in and concerned for the wellbeing of the congregation. Our hope and prayer is that each of you also share these concerns. We have a wonderful opportunity to be the presence of Christ in this community and to each other.

But we cannot end without turning our attention to the great shepherd of the sheep, Jesus Christ. In 1Pt.2:24-25 we read, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” In the church we look to Jesus, our good shepherd. He alone enables us to live to righteousness and to be healed of the brokenness brought about by sin. Have you returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your soul? Do you know Jesus? Amen


Rejoicing In Suffering

October 16, 2016

This world is not a friend to grace. In the hymn, “Am I a Soldier of the Cross,” it asks, “Is this vile world a friend to grace, to help me on to God?” The implied answer is, “No.” This world will not help us on to God. Instead this world is aligned against God and his Son, Jesus Christ.

I have heard it said that there is more persecution of Christians today than in any other period of time in history. We in the United States have enjoyed some 250 years of religious freedom. You can believe and practice whatever religion you want as long as your beliefs and practices do not prohibit others from having that same freedom. We even have the freedom to publicly proclaim what we believe and to invite others to embrace Jesus Christ.

When we read a letter like the one Peter wrote, it is sometimes hard for us to relate. We have not experienced persecution. And we don’t want to experience it. But a day may come when we will and that day may be closer than we think. Peter’s letter to the church helps us think about persecution and prepare us for it. Today we learn from 1Pt.4:12-19 that believers have reason to rejoice when suffering for Christ.


Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, lived from around 35-108 A.D. It is said that he was a student of the Apostle John. Most think he was martyred in Rome in the colosseum. The writings of Ignatius helped to develop a theology of persecution in the early church. Interestingly enough, there were actually many Christians who desired to be martyred. Why? Well listen to some of the ideas held by the church about martyrdom found in Everett Ferguson’s book on Church History. The word martyr comes from the greek word for “witness.” In martyrdom, the Christian gives a blood witness to Jesus Christ. Martyrs were said to be victors in the contest against the forces of evil. So martyrs were considered to hold a privileged position. There was also the thought that to be a martyr was a privilege granted by God. Because of this Christians were encouraged to not seek martyrdom. God was the one who granted that privilege.

Another idea was that Christian martyrs were sharing in the sufferings of Christ as well as his victory over the devil. And in these verses Peter says as much. “But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” In Phil.3:10 Paul writes that he wants to “know Christ and the power of his resurrection, and…share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.”

Now, in no way would I ever wish such suffering on anyone. But there is something that we must not fail to consider. How important is Jesus to us and how well do we want to know him? We get to know Jesus by paying attention to his life and voice through the word of God, by spending time with him in prayer and worship, and by walking in his steps. Look at 1Pt.2:21. “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” Jesus came to this earth as a man identifying with us in every way. He knows exactly what it is like to live as a human even to the point of death. When we turn to Christ and receive the forgiveness of sins and his eternal living, we begin to identify with him as we live for him in this world. As we live out his values in our conduct and conversation we may very well suffer as he suffered in this world. We are sharing in his sufferings.

This should make it clear that following Christ is the opposite of the values of this world. The world seeks seeks to secure itself by gaining power, prestige, self-fulfillment, and having one’s own way. But followers of Jesus find their security in Jesus by embracing weakness, humility and selflessness in this world, entrusting their lives to him. The world seeks prosperity. Followers of Jesus seek poverty of spirit. In Mt.5:11 Jesus says, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” If the world treated Jesus in this way, we can expect no less as his followers. “O to be like thee, blessed Redeemer, This is my constant longing and prayer; Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures, Jesus, they perfect likeness to wear.”


In the theology of suffering developed by the early church there was a belief that martyrs were able to endure suffering because Jesus was with them by his Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gave strength and comfort in the midst of trial.

Today when we ask people how they are doing, it is very common to hear someone say, “I’m blessed.” We are not surprised when Christians say this, but there are even non-Christians who say, “I’m blessed.” When we say this it’s usually because things are going well for us. We feel good. We’re glad to be alive. We’ve got some good things “goin” on. “God is blessing me.” And the implication is, “I must be living right because God is blessing me.” When people win the lottery, “I’m blessed.” Well, I’m not saying that God doesn’t bless us. He does.

I just wonder if we would say this when facing persecution. I mean this is what Peter says. “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed.” My sense is that for many professing Christians, if they were insulted for Christ’s sake, they might be more apt to think that God is mistreating them. “Why is God doing this to me?” In fact they might be inclined to return insult for insult because, “No one is going to treat me like that and get away with it!” Peter says, “You are blessed.” How many want this kind of blessing?

Why is being insulted for Christ a blessing? It is because the Spirit of Glory and of God rests upon you. When we look at a bride who is dressed for her wedding, we might say, “There she is in all her glory.” What do we mean? Well we mean that the beauty of the bride is radiant in a powerful way. She radiates beauty and we all exclaim, “Isn’t she beautiful.” Glory speaks of all the marvelous attributes of a person on full display. When we think of the glory of God we cannot help but be overwhelmed. God is so glorious that Paul tells us he dwells in unapproachable light. The Holy Spirit is fully God.

Insults are designed to make us feel shameful in our own eyes and in the eyes of others. We heard two good examples of shaming at the last presidential debate. Being ashamed is not considered to be a blessing. But Peter says that when we are insulted for Christ, the Spirit of glory, of God’s glory, rests upon us. When I am insulted for Christ sake, I may be abandoned by people I thought were my friends. I’m left alone in shame. No I’m not. The God of glory is with me by the Holy Spirit. God has chosen to bestow his glory on me through Christ and the Holy Spirit. What is more, you notice in 4:11 that to Jesus belong glory and dominion forever. We may be shamed for Christ’s sake, but in Christ we are victorious and will reign with him.

The Holy Spirit helps those who are persecuted for Christ. In Mt.10:19-20, Jesus says, “When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” Rejoice when you are insulted for Christ. You are blessed.


Throughout the New Testament we are told that each of us is going to give an accounting of ourselves before the Lord. In Mt.12:36 Jesus says, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.” In Rm.14:12 we read, “So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.” In Heb.4:13 we read, “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” Everyone is going to give an account of themselves before God.

Now I want to focus on v.17-18. The indication here is that persecution of believers is the beginning of God’s judgment. Peter says that God’s judgment begins with his own people. In 1Pt.2 we learn that the church is being built up as a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood. This brings to mind the temple of God in Jerusalem. The church is the temple of God. Now some believe that Peter has Ez.9 in mind. There God takes note of the wickedness of his own people and determines to bring judgment. In 9:6 we read, “Kill old men outright, young men and maidens, little children and women, but touch no one on whom is the mark. And begin at my sanctuary." So they began with the elders who were before the house.” In Mal.3:1 we read, “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.”

Peter says that this persecution is the beginning of judgement. It begins with the house of God. God is seeking to purify his people so that we will stand in the day of judgment. Peter has already told us in 4:1-2 that suffering helps us to abandon sin in our lives.

Now I don’t know why God permits the believers in the Middle East, India, China, and N. Korea to experience such persecution while the believers in the United States do not. Peter is saying that wherever such persecution exists God is using it for good to purify his people. I want to just add Heb.12:7 which says, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?” God is working all things together for good to those who love him and are called according to his purpose.

But that said, Peter goes on to point out that if judgment begins with God’s house, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? If the righteous are judged by God, how will it be for those who don’t even care to know God? There is a great sadness in this verse. Many beautiful people are lost without hope in this world because they don’t know Christ. If that doesn’t bother us, something is wrong. It is just as important today as ever to live for Christ being willing to experience shame and suffering for his sake that we might show the world the reality of the gospel. We rejoice in suffering because God uses it to purify us.


It has been said that the world is driven along by antagonism. Again, this is very apparent in the current presidential election. Unfortunately it is also apparent in the church of Jesus Christ, not just in the Evangelical sector, but in every sector of the church. And it is also a reality in our homes, our families. As I pondered this the other day it struck me that surely one of the primary evidences of our depravity is our inability to be at peace with everyone and ourselves.

Consider the church at Corinth. Christians were taking sides, aligning themselves with Paul or Apollos, Peter or Jesus. Christians were taking each other to court. Christians were acting selfishly even in the presence of the Lord’s Table. The more we have to have our own way, the more we seek to secure our lives by our own selfish means, the less we will entrust our lives to God, our faithful Creator.

In persecution a believer is often powerless to do anything to help himself. When we are powerless we entrust ourselves to God. We have no other alternative. Entrusting one’s soul to God appears to be an expression of weakness. Not at all. When we entrust our souls to God we cast ourselves on his strength, on God who created all things. If you know Jesus Christ you are safe in God’s hands at all times. Your body may suffer, but your life is absolutely safe.

Notice what happens when we entrust our souls to God. We are enabled to do good, even in the midst of persecution. Instead of feeding antagonism within our souls, we can give testimony to our faith in God by doing good. God’s power is made perfect in our weakness. In fact, it seems to me that whenever the church has had power in the world the results have not been very good. Power seems to be a breeding ground for arrogance and corruption. Power in this world seems to breed behaviors of domination and manipulation.

This is not to say that believers should avoid places of power. Joseph was put in a position of great power. Daniel was put in a position of great power. In both cases these men experienced persecution and they had learned to entrust their souls to God. In the church, in the home, in the world, the exercise of authority is important. But as Christians we are always at our best when we humbly entrust ourselves to the Lord recognizing that we are absolutely dependent upon him for everything. Jesus said that when you go to a banquet, don’t take the seat of privilege, but take the last seat. Jesus told us that greatness is found in being the servant of all. Peter tells us to humble ourselves because God opposes the proud.

The days that we are living in present many opportunities for learning to entrust our souls to God and do good. In every place of antagonism, whether it is in facing persecution for Christ, dealing with a divided country, or facing strife in your marriage and family or at work, entrust your soul to God and do good. This stance will help us be able to rejoice, even in persecution. O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit, Holy and harmless, patient and brave; Meekly enduring cruel reproaches, Willing to suffer, others to save.

We may not often be happy, because happiness has much to do with our circumstances and the condition of our physical, mental, and emotional health. But we can always be rejoicing because joy finds its source outside of oneself. Believers rejoice in knowing Christ. For believers everything is brought under the Lordship of Christ. We are always in the faithful presence of Jesus Christ and therefor even in persecution we rejoice in Christ. Are you rejoicing in Jesus Christ? Is Jesus Christ your life? Do you know Christ? Amen

The Lord's Supper

October 2, 2016

Every week it seems that a new study comes out on church affiliation. More and more people, especially in the millennial generation, are leaving the institutional church. It does seem that this is especially true of the mainline churches but it is also true of evangelical churches.

On some level this is disconcerting, but at the same time it doesn’t surprise me one bit. Like Israel of old, the mainline church is becoming like the secular society, shedding one important Biblical distinctive after another. The Evangelical church also has a problem because somehow we have gained a reputation of being intolerant, bigoted, judgmental, and a tool of the Republican Party. All of this distracts from what is really important. It distracts us from following Jesus Christ. This morning we are looking at Titus 2:11-14. From these verses I want to ask, "Have you entered into the grace of God found in Jesus Christ?"


Now today we are especially tuned into the love of God. Just this past week I read a brief paper about what a Christian’s response to the gay lifestyle and gay marriage ought to be. It was written by a non-Christian philosopher of religion. He himself left Christianity so that he could stay true to Christ, as he put it. He was suggesting that those who remain true to love will treat homosexuality exactly as they treat heterosexuality. In other words we should embrace the gay lifestyle and gay marriage. He thinks that is what Jesus would do. Unfortunately there are plenty of people who align themselves with Christianity who are unkind and even violent towards gay people. That is not what Jesus would do. As Christians we surely seek to love everyone and treat everyone with grace and mercy regardless of their lifestyle. But it does not mean that we approve of what God has called immoral. People will say that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality as if that means he tacitly approves. But Jesus didn’t say anything about rapists either, and no one would suggest that he tacitly approves of rape.

God is love, and here it says that God is gracious. What is grace? Grace is receiving something wonderful that is undeserved. Mercy is not receiving something dreadful that is deserved. I remember as a young man speeding down a side street to avoid a light. As I stood before the judge he let me go, since it was my first offense. (You can be sure it was not my first offense). The judge showed grace and mercy. He gave me what I did not deserve. No penalty! The grace of God along with the love of God does not ignore sin and disobedience as if it is of no consequence. Instead the love and grace of God fully recognizes our sin and intervenes in our behalf. So how has the grace of God appeared?

Paul doesn’t say exactly but it’s not too difficult to connect the dots. John wrote that the Law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. The grace of God that brings salvation appeared in the person of Jesus Christ at his birth. Jesus came to make salvation available for all people. And in a few moments we will consider just how Jesus Christ brought salvation.

But since Paul is writing to Christians he first wants us to understand what effects the grace of God in Christ has upon the person who enters into the salvation Jesus provides. We are not surprised to read that this grace trains us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions.

When a person enters into the grace of God in Christ something actually happens within that person. The saving action of Christ within a person initiates a transformation that is in keeping with the righteous character of Jesus Christ. In short, Jesus gives us a new eternal life to live. It is his life. And his life is a righteous life. So if you choose to enter into this new life that Jesus gives, you can be sure it is going to do something amazing in you. This grace of God initiates within us what one scholar says is a movement from vice to virtue. And the sense is that this renouncing marks a decisive turning point in a person’s life.

So, the first question is: Has there been this kind of decisive point in your life when you turned away from ungodliness and worldly passions? I was five when I first turned to Christ. I didn’t have a whole lot of overt ungodliness and worldly passion. It was there alright and as I grew older my ungodly heart began to express itself and there was plenty of worldly passion awakened in me. But since I had already entered into life with Christ, there was also within me the desire to renounce it and turn away from it. Christians renounce these things and then continue to turn away from them for their entire life.

But what do we turn to? Verse 12 tells us that the grace of God in salvation teaches us to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age. Our salvation in Christ takes immediate effect. It is not something that is put on hold until we die.

In his book, “Surprised by Hope,” N.T. Wright points out that “God’s new world of justice and joy, of hope for the whole earth, was launched when Jesus came out of the tomb on Easter morning.” Then Wright says, “I know that he [Jesus] calls his followers to live in him and by the power of his spirit, and so to be new-creation people here and now, bringing signs and symbols of the kingdom to birth on earth as in heaven. The resurrection of Jesus and the gift of the Spirit mean that we are called to bring real and effective signs of God’s renewed creation to birth even in the midst of the present age.”

Paul points us in this very same direction. The new life we receive in Christ teaches us to live righteous, godly lives right now because the life we are given is not old creation life, but new creation life. And new creation life is living like Jesus. You and I who are followers of Christ cannot help but live like Christ. It is what the Holy Spirit of God is constantly moving us towards.

Now is this true of you? Have you entered into the grace of God in Jesus Christ? Have you received the salvation of Jesus that transforms your life so that you have renounced ungodliness and worldly passions in order to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age? If you are not living this life then maybe you don’t have it and you need Christ!


Part of our living new creation lives in the present age involves waiting for the return of Jesus. Paul calls it, “the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” Sounds pretty important, doesn’t it? Notice that in these four verses we have two appearings. We have the appearing of the grace of God in human flesh in Jesus. And then we have the appearing of the glory of God at the second coming of Jesus. Both appearings are of great significance for us.

So why are we waiting for the return of Jesus Christ? We are waiting for the return of Christ because Christ embodies all that we are and will be when the kingdom of God is established in all its fullness in the new heaven and new earth. Jesus is our present, future and eternal hope for life. We have already received his life by the grace of God, but when he appears the second time, Paul says in Col.3 that we will appear with him in glory. Christ is our life.

Sometimes we refer to a spouse as our better half, as if without our spouse we are incomplete as people. Well Christ is our life. We do not live apart from Christ. That is why we long to see him. We are completely dependent upon him for our life.

You might be wondering, “Isn’t everyone I see around me alive?” Well, yes they are alive with old-creation life. But the old creation, the world as we know it is passing away. And without life from above you pass away with it. You are without Christ and without hope in this world.

Now there is something very important for us to see in v.13. You notice that Jesus is referred to as our great God and Savior. This is a very clear statement showing the deity of Christ. He is fully God and fully man. Jesus Christ reveals God in the clearest possible way. To enter into life with Christ is to enter into life with God. To embrace Jesus is to embrace God. The Jehovah Witnesses and Mormons do not believe that Jesus is fully God. Unfortunately a recent poll showed that 71% of evangelicals agreed that “Jesus was the first creature created by God.” Men and women, we believe that Jesus is eternal. He has always existed with the Father and the Holy Spirit. To believe that Jesus was created makes him less than God. This verse makes it clear that Jesus is fully God.

So how did Jesus make salvation possible? Paul says that he gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness. From the beginning to the end of Scripture we learn that sin brings death. Disobedience to God’s good commands and rebellion against God’s good rule always leads to death and destruction. When Jesus came to this earth and died on the cross, he absorbed within himself all the guilt and death of our sin, nailing it to the cross. And then he gave proof of his victory over sin and death by rising from the grave to new-creation life. He died and rose again so that through faith in him we can be rescued from our disobedience, our guilt before God, and from death that is the consequence of our sin.

This is why salvation can only be found in Jesus. Jesus is the only one who could take on sin and death and defeat it. He is the only one without sin. If a person does not enter into the life of Jesus, there is no other source of life. There is no other option. And Jesus’ goal in all of this is not just rescuing us from our lawless disobedience. Jesus is forming a people, a society, a holy nation for himself. It is a society in which everyone is eager, zealous for good works.

This morning we are having a meeting of the society. We have gathered as the people of Jesus to worship God. We are gathered in the name of Jesus who is the President of the society. He is the king of the holy nation. We are here to worship God and reaffirm our life, our membership in the society of Jesus. Let me tell you. This is high society at its best. We belong to the highest society on earth.

Now maybe you don’t belong to this new society because you have never entered into life with Jesus. Maybe you are here because you want to improve yourself. Well, a desire for self-improvement can be of some benefit. But we are not here for mere self-improvement. Self-improvement is not the answer. The answer is entering into the new life of Jesus. Understand that the life of Jesus is the life that Jesus himself has. And when his life comes into us our life begins to change just as Paul writes in these verses. The way to receive this life is to ask him to give it to you. His life is received. You embrace Jesus as your Savior, Lord and King. It is an internal decision that will begin to have external results. You can make this decision right now and receive the grace of God that is found in JesusChrist.

Before us is the Lord’s Table. Currently our Savior, Lord and King, Jesus is with God the Father. He is fully present here through the Holy Spirit. At this table Jesus has provided the means whereby we may be spiritually refreshed in his presence. We remember his death for us. We affirm his life in us. We look forward to his coming for us. We eat and drink in his renewing presence and we are restored and renewed to live as new-creation people in this old-creation world. Amen.


Living at the End of the Age

September 25, 2016

I am pretty sure that when you woke today you did not think the end is near. Most of us are not thinking that the end of all things is at hand. And, I could be wrong, but I imagine that our first thought this morning was not, “Hey, Jesus may come today.” We are pretty much focused on living another day. We have places to go and things to do. Besides we have no idea when Jesus is coming back. And it’s been a long time since his ascension.

But having no idea of the time of his coming doesn’t mean we are completely in the dark. Jesus told us that he is coming back at a time when we are not expecting his return. And he told us that when he comes it will be sudden. He also indicated that it could be a good long time before he comes but that we should be watching and waiting. Most would say that the last days began when Christ was born.

In 1Pt.4:7 Peter says, “The end of all things is at hand.” In other words the time is growing short. Christ is coming soon. What does that mean for us as Christians? Well, Peter tells us that as the end of the age approaches Christians have four priorities.

I. PRAYER. 1Pt.4:7

Not only do Christians live with a different set of values than unbelievers in the world, but we also live with a different time frame. We do not believe that history as we know it just goes on and on forever. We believe that a day is coming when Jesus Christ will return and this world will come to an end and there will be a new heaven and a new earth.

So when Peter reminds us that the end of all things is at hand, did he think that Jesus would return during his lifetime? I don’t know. I think that Peter believed the Lord could come at any time. And this is what I believe. Christ the Lord is coming and believers are urged to live in the light of his imminent coming. We already saw from v.5 that when Christ comes there is going to be judgment. The days we live in are important for Christ is near.

For many years it was common to hold prophecy conferences focusing on the coming of Christ. Many books on prophecy were published. One of the most well-known books was The Late Great Planet Earth, by Hal Lindsey. More recently is the Left Behind series. From my perspective it seems that end times prophecy has fallen on hard times. It seems that Evangelicals are not as hyped about the coming of Christ as they once were. Well, without going back to the sensationalism that often accompanied these books and conferences, we do need to recover a sober minded awareness that, as James tells us, “…the Judge is standing at the door.”

One more introductory thought. After Jesus ascended, we see in the book of Acts that Jesus’ followers spent much time in prayer as they waited for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Like us they were waiting for a promised coming. Just as the believers spent much time in prayer then, so Peter urges us to be in prayer now.

But what are we supposed to be praying about? Well, from the context it would seem that we are to pray about anything and everything that is associated with our living in the world in light of Christ’s coming. We live in a world that is filled with multiple opportunities to show the love, grace, and mercy of Jesus to others. We live in a world that does not acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus Christ. But we do. And so we pray for people who don’t know Christ. We pray that God will help us to live lives that honor Christ. We pray that God will help us persevere in faithfulness through all the heartaches and disappointments of life. And we seek to keep Christ and his word fully in our hearts and minds.

In order to pray Peter says we need to be self-controlled and sober-minded. The reason for this is that the world is constantly seeking to squeeze us into its mold. Instead of thinking like the world, we must have our thoughts, emotions, and desires framed by the truth of God’s word and the fullness of the Holy Spirit. We are all subject to the toxic self-centered, antagonistic thinking of this world. Prayer is a powerful weapon for taking every thought captive to Jesus Christ. We will not be able to live as followers of Christ in this world without prayer.

II. LOVE. 1Pt.4:8

Notice he says, “above all.” Love is the essential mark of being a Christian. Paul writes, “If I do not have love I am nothing.” Now what is love? Love is a commitment to will and seek the best for another person. It is not primarily a feeling, although feelings are often present. Jesus loved us to the point of death.

Peter is writing to various congregations scattered around Asia and Asia Minor. So what he writes is not directed only to individuals. His words are directed to individuals who are part of a local church. This is important. Peter is not just encouraging us to be loving people in a general way. He is telling us to love one another in the church. We are to love one another earnestly, fervently. In other words we are not to feign love for each other. We are to sincerely love each other from our hearts. Paul tells us that the love of God has been poured out into our hearts.

And we see what kind of love this is. Peter says this love covers a multitude of sins. Now this is a quote from Prov.10:12. I find it interesting that Peter quotes this verse. It’s interesting because it implies that there are sins committed by people in the church that will need to be overlooked. Peter is a realist. We are broken people. Even when our motives are good, we can easily do harm.

Many years ago we had an intern from Trinity Divinity School. This man is a dear friend of mine who has enjoyed a long pastorate in Pennsylvania. He and I are close in age, but since I was the pastor I was overseeing his internship. At one point he had to prepare and preach a message and after looking at his outline it seemed to be not well thought through. My intention was good, but when I asked him, “Did you spend much time on this,” I caused him hurt. I have apologized numerous times. It sounded condescending. I didn’t intend to hurt him but I did. Love covers a multitude of sins.

The pathway to reconciliation is the pathway of truth. And in the local church we must seek to speak the truth in love for the purpose of reconciliation, harmony and unity. We are all at different places in our Christian maturity. Some of us find it difficult to be honest with ourselves and others. Some of us find it difficult to speak the truth in love. Some of us find it difficult to forgive, especially if we are carrying deep wounds. It will be very difficult to love one another earnestly if we do not have reconciliation as a Christian value. To overlook a matter is to forgive and no longer hold it against a person. To overlook a matter is to recognize that we are also sinners and are no better than our brothers and sisters in Christ. To overlook a matter means that we are invested in the welfare of our local church family to the point that we will not let anything get in the way of our unity in Christ. We will seek each other’s welfare.


I have always found it interesting to note that the greek word for hospitality is a compound word that literally means, “love of strangers.” We have a word, xenophobia which means fear of strangers. This word is, “philoxenos.” “Philia” is a Greek word for love. Xenos is the word for stranger.

Hospitality was regarded as a virtue in the ancient world. Listen to this from the Dictionary of the Later New Testament. “…hospitality is a social process by means of which the status of…an outsider is changed from stranger to guest. The process has three stages: the evaluation and testing of the stranger to see whether incorporation as a guest is possible without undue threat…; the incorporation of the stranger as a guest under the patronage of a host and in accordance with a…specific code of hospitality imposing obligation upon both host and guest; the departure of the guest as a stranger now transformed into either a friend, if honor has been satisfied, or an enemy, if honor has been infringed.” Hospitality was considered to be a duty of the community. We do not have this concept of hospitality.

And yet we all have an understanding of what hospitality is. It involves opening our homes to others. Usually we think of relatives who come to visit. Once in a while it might be a missionary or guest speaker who is coming to the church and needs a place to stay.

There is no question about it. Today with our busy lives, hospitality can be somewhat of an inconvenience. Today, people eat on the run. They are involved in many different activities and it’s not easy to host a guest that you don’t even know. Perhaps it wasn’t as convenient in Peter’s day, either, because he tells us to show hospitality without grumbling.

Now again, we must keep in mind that Peter is writing to believers. I don’t think Peter is suggesting that we just throw our homes open to whoever needs a place to stay. We want to do our best to know enough about a person so that we are not concerned for the welfare of our family and home. Imagine yourself a Christian in need of a place to stay in a city that is persecuting Christians. You would be so thankful for hospitality. It is important for us to cultivate a willing heart of hospitality. A hospitable heart is a Christian grace.

IV. MINISTRY.1Pt.4:10-11

The idea of spiritual gifts is found in Rom.12, 1Cor.12-14, Eph.4 and here in 1Pt. The basic teaching is that the Holy Spirit gives a divine enablement to every believer for the good of the local church. If you read these passages you will find examples of the kinds of spiritual gifts given by the Holy Spirit. Here Peter gives us two categories of gifts. There are speaking gifts and serving gifts.

Serving gifts would be gifts like administration, helping, giving, healing and acts of mercy. Speaking gifts would include teaching, preaching, counseling, singing, perhaps speaking in tongues or having a word of knowledge.

I do not believe it is imperative to know exactly what your gifts are. It is helpful but not critical. What is critical is being surrendered to the Holy Spirit and being willing to minister in the church family. Frankly I believe that any ability or skill that a Christian has ought to be surrendered to the building up of the church. I mean suppose the Holy Spirit gave you a gift of teaching and you also had the ability of administration. Would you say, “Yes, I will use my gift of teaching but not my gift of administration?” That doesn’t sound right. We lay all that we are and have at the feet of Jesus. Again while the Holy Spirit can give a gift that is completely foreign to our natural abilities, I believe he generally gives gifts that are consistent with who we are as people and he is the one who takes our abilities and adds spiritual enabling. Peter calls it “the strength that God supplies.”

Notice a few things. The gifts are for serving one another. Our spiritual gifts are not given to us for self-promotion. This implies that we have a role to play in our church family. It implies that we each take ownership of our church family. There are many professing Christians today who come to church as spectators. Even when they come to the worship service, they do not see themselves as part of a church family. They are basically there for themselves. It does not occur to them that their presence may have an impact on the rest of the church as an encouragement in worship. And what about these spiritual gifts given to every believer?

If you are a Christian, you ought to be involved in some kind of service with your fellow believers in the church, not because it’s your duty, but because it’s what Jesus would do if he were in your shoes. It’s how we live as Christians.

Here’s a question I would like you to ask yourself. What would you like to do in the church? How would you like to serve? What would give you joy? What could you do to help build up the body of Christ? What are your strengths and abilities? The church is the people of God in this world meeting in a local setting. It’s the only institution that will continue into the new creation. When you stop and think about it, apart from investing in the lives of others for Christ, your investment in the local church family is the only investment that will have an eternal impact. It is laying up treasures in heaven. How are you involved in ministry?

I have in my mind the picture of a small child spending the weekend with grandparents. The child knows that on the next day mom and dad are coming to pick her up to go back home. So the night before she puts her clothes in the suitcase so that she is ready first thing in the morning. Then she spends much of the next day looking out the window to see if her parents are in the driveway. O she watches some television and plays, but always in the back of her mind is the fact that mom and dad are on their way. She doesn’t know the time of their coming and her sense of time is not well-formed yet. So she watches.

It is the same with us. We do not know the time of Jesus’ coming. Nor do we really have a handle on how to assess time in this regard, so we are watching and waiting. And as we watch and wait we are living for Christ. Whatever we do, in the back of our mind is the fact that Jesus is coming. But what are we to do while we wait? Do we pack our bags, so to speak, and just sit tight? Of course not. We are praying. We are loving one another. We are hospitable. We are ministering in our church family, helping one another to keep our eyes on Jesus. Amen


The Value of Persecution

September 18, 2016

Every month we see the insert called, “The Church Around the World.” If you read it you know that there are always stories of persecution. I am amazed at the amount of persecution going on these days. Persecution is taking place in China, Africa, Europe and the Middle East.

How do we respond to this? Well, of course we pray for these persecuted believers. But sometimes I wonder if we respond in the way Hezekiah responded when Isaiah told him that the day would come when all of his wealth would be carried to Babylon along with some of his sons who would be eunuchs in the palace of Babylon. In Is.39:8 Hezekiah says, “The word of the LORD that you have spoken is good." For he thought, "There will be peace and security in my days.”

Well, do we feel that way when we consider the persecution going on around the world. “O good, at least it’s not here in the United States.” Peter was writing to believers who were experiencing various kinds of persecution. He wanted to encourage the believers and he tells us that suffering for Christ reaps valuable reward.


I need to let you know at the outset that it is difficult to understand some of what Peter is saying in these verses. In the context Peter refers to suffering. The believers that he was writing to were experiencing various degrees of persecution for the sake of Christ. In v.17 we read, “For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil.” Peter wants to encourage the believers, so in v.18 he points to Jesus Christ as the example for us to consider. He did the same thing in 2:21-25. The basic idea in these verses is that just as Jesus suffered and was victorious over death, so those who suffer for Christ will also be victorious.

Before I go any farther it is important to pause for a moment to consider v.18. “Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.” As I was on my prayer walk this past Tuesday I was asking the Lord to open the hearts, eyes and ears of people that they might respond to the gospel message of life in the kingdom of God through the forgiveness of sins. The thought occurred to me that since we are such a consumer society and since we are so accustomed to hearing commercials which inflate the benefits of a product, I wonder if the gospel sometimes sounds like a glorified infomercial. We want to promote the benefits of knowing God through faith in Christ and it sounds like a commercial.

Men and women, at the end of the day we are accountable to God our Creator. You may not believe in God or you might believe in God but keep him at arm’s length. Whatever you think in no way changes the reality that God is our creator and we are accountable to him. What is more, the fact of the matter is that every person alive has a natural bent within their heart to refuse to honor God as God. We want to be our own god. We want to choose what rules we will follow. We want to be the center of our universe. All of this pushes God away. Our attitudes and behaviors at worst fully reject God and at best simply ignore God. We are sinners who have usurped God’s rightful place in our lives. And when we do this we separate ourselves from the author of life. And to be separated from the author of life is to choose death. But God loves us and sent his Son, Jesus to die in our place and rise from the dead. God has exalted Jesus to the highest place and has given him all authority in heaven and earth. Through Jesus we can come to God and receive forgiveness and new, eternal life. It is the very same kind of life that Jesus has. So if you are not a follower of Christ I urge you today to embrace Christ as the only Lord and Savior of your life.

Now in v.19 we read about how Jesus, “being made alive in the spirit, went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.” Well, what does this mean? This is one of those passages that no one knows for sure what Peter is saying.

There are a number of views that have been promoted throughout church history. Dr. Simon Kistemaker summarizes them well. I am only going to mention three. View #1 goes back to Clement of Alexandria, about 200 A.D. Clement taught that Christ went to hell in his spirit to proclaim the gospel to the souls of sinners who were imprisoned since the flood. But scripture does not teach on the imprisonment of souls condemned by God. Also Scripture does not seem to support second chances after death. View # 2 was offered by Augustine, around 400 A.D. Augustine suggested that the pre-existent Christ was actively speaking through Noah to the people who lived before the flood. But this view seems to ignore what Peter says. Peter doesn’t refer to the pre-incarnate Christ, but to Jesus who died and rose from the dead. View #3 teaches that the resurrected Christ, during his ascension proclaimed to imprisoned spirits his victory over death. Specifically Christ proclaimed victory in the realm of where the fallen angels are kept. In Eph.6 Paul refers to cosmic powers and spiritual forces of evil. In this last view the message that Christ proclaimed was one of victory over sin and death. The same victory that we enter into through faith in Christ

A second issue concerns v.21 where Peter uses the waters of the flood as a metaphor or symbol for baptism. Again, Kistemaker points out that, “…as the flood waters cleansed the earth of man’s wickedness, so the water of baptism indicates man’s cleansing from sin. As the flood separated Noah and his family from the wicked world of their day, so baptism separates believers from the evil world of our day.” But notice that Peter makes it clear that being baptized does not save a person. The waters of baptism cannot clean a person‘s heart of sin. Rather, as Peter points out, baptism is a symbol for the cleansing of sin through faith in Christ. Verse 18 clarifies that Christ’s death for sin and resurrection to life is our salvation. Baptism is a public statement that the believer has appealed, called out to God, for the forgiveness of sins which results in a good conscience. And at the end of v.21 Peter again refers to our resurrected Savior who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, having all power.

Now why is Peter writing this? I believe Peter is encouraging believers who are experiencing persecution. He wants believers to have assurance that their experience of persecution will not be in vain. Just as Christ suffered and is now reigning, so believers who experience persecution will also reign with Christ. Christ’s victory over death is our victory over death.

It is very easy to become short sighted when we are in pain and feel demoralized. Persecution does this. It demoralizes us and separates us from acceptance by society. We are Christians. The central focus of our life is found in our name. We follow Christ. We take the long view of eternity. In 1941 Alfred B. Smith wrote a little chorus. Smith, by the way, was Billy Graham’s roommate at Wheaton. The chorus goes, “With eternity’s values in view, Lord. With eternity’s values in view. May I do each day’s work for Jesus. With eternity’s values in view.” The values you keep in view throughout the day are important. Our values are shaped by Christ. As we live for Christ we live with the truth that a day will come, when all will be made right and we will reign with Christ.


For Christians, suffering not only leads to victory, but suffering aids in the process of sanctification, becoming like Christ in our living. Is Peter saying that all suffering leads the believer to make a complete break with sin?

I don’t think so. Christians respond to suffering in many ways. Some leave the faith, blaming God for their suffering. Some become bitter and of little use for any good. Instead the context found in 3:17 seems to specify the idea of suffering for doing good.

Let’s think about this. Peter is not saying that a person who suffers for doing good never sins again. No one was or is sinless accept for Jesus. We all struggle with sin. But when a person arms herself with the mind of Christ and chooses to do what is right and good out of obedience to Jesus, knowing that it might bring persecution, that person has made a break with sin. That person is putting Christ before all else. That person has eternity’s values in view. In fact, whenever we choose to honor Christ with good, moral, loving behavior we are often choosing to not indulge our own passions and desires. In v.2 Peter says as much. Suppose persecution suddenly stopped for these believers. Well as they continued to seek to honor Christ by doing good, they would continue to mature in Christ and turn away from sin.

And then in v.3 it’s as if Peter is saying, “Look, you have had plenty of time living a sinful lifestyle like the Gentiles. In turning to Christ you have entered into a new season of life. It’s time to move on to a new way of living, the way of Christ.”

Now what do the Gentiles do? Well they live in “sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.” How does that sound to you? Peter is not talking about committing a sin here or there. He is talking about a sinful way of life that is focused on indulging one’s desires. It is a way of life that promotes self-indulgence in oneself and others. And when Peter talks about living for the will of God he is not just talking about being moral and nice. Living for the will of God is about letting Jesus Christ be the Lord of our lives. So do not think that just because you are a nice person that Christ is Lord or your life. Doing good is not just being nice. In the sermon on the Mount Jesus shows that Christian goodness flows out a heart and mind that is filled with Christ. So not only do we not curse the person who hurts us, we extend love and forgiveness to them. That goes beyond the world’s idea of goodness.

In v.4 Peter reminds us that when we choose to live like Jesus, our unbelieving friends will take note that we no longer join them in the flood of debauchery. And that’s when we are probably going to be maligned and mistreated. It may also be the time we are asked to give a reason for the hope that we have in Christ.

Now please allow me to say something here. I grew up in pretty conservative churches. As Christians there was a list of things that we did not do. We did not smoke, drink, curse, chew tobacco, go to movies and we did not dance.” As one old time evangelist used to say, “You will never find a dancing foot attached to a praying knee.” But this list sometimes became a cause for pride. I remember in elementary school, my dad wrote a note to my teacher asking that I be excused from square dancing during gym. Why? Well, because we are Christians and we don’t dance. As I grew up I began to realize that the list approach to Christian living is not a Biblical approach. A list approach tells you that you are okay as long as you don’t do certain things. Now it is good to not do certain things. But not doing certain things doesn’t make one a Christian. What makes one a Christian is putting one’s confidence in a certain person and living in accordance with that person’s character and conduct. Of course that person is Jesus. Our unbelieving friends do not just need to see what we don’t do. They need to see what we do do and come to understand why we do what we do. The source of our life is Christ, not some rule book. The reality is that all of the unbelievers in this world are going to be judged. They are going to give an account of themselves before God. This is why the gospel must be proclaimed. We are all going to die and without Christ we face God’s judgment. The world needs to see what knowing Christ is like.

One of the reasons I wanted to preach through 1Peter is because Peter is writing to believers who are experiencing persecution on various levels. Most of us do not experience any sort of persecution. But I believe we have entered into a time that could easily lead to increasing restrictions on the practice of our faith and has the potential to bring persecution. At all times we must recognize Christ as Lord. Because he is our Lord, we have victory in him and no amount of persecution can change that victorious outcome. Because Christ is Lord, we know that if we face persecution, God will use it in our lives to make us more like Jesus. Amen.

Prepared to Make a Defense

September 11, 2016

A recently published book is titled, “The End of White Christian America.” It is written by Robert P. Jones who is the CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute. Listen to a quote by Jones from a recent interview with the well-known PBS news anchor, Judy Woodruff.

“And what I think is going on is that…the anxieties that many particularly white conservative Christians are feeling is being driven by this real sense of loss and grief of this cultural world that they and their ancestors built and that used to hold sway in the center of American culture, and is now really passing from the scene.”

We are living in an increasingly Post Christendom society. For many years Christendom has reigned in this country. Protestants have played a commanding role in every facet of society and Protestant Fundamentalists and Evangelicals have enjoyed a great deal of power at various times over the years. But now we are coming to see that many of our methods of evangelism and our close cooperation with Political Parties is no longer serving the church or the kingdom of God very well.

How do followers of Christ practice evangelism in a post Christendom society? Peter is writing to believers who are experiencing various forms of persecution. And in 1Pt.3:13-17 he gives instruction on what evangelism looks like when Christians are not appreciated. In v.15 he tells us to be prepared to give a defense to anyone who asks about our faith. So let me ask you: Are you prepared to give a reasonable explanation for your hope in Christ?


In v.15 we read the word, “defense.” The Greek word is apologia. We get the word, “apologetics” from this word. Today when we talk about apologetics we think about intellectual debates and arguments. And often that is the case. But Peter is not writing to scholars. He’s writing to believers like you and me. When Peter talks about giving a defense of one’s faith he does not begin with arguments for the existence of God or with evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. He does not make a list of doctrines that a person must subscribe to. He does not begin with content to be communicated. Rather Peter begins with the important truth that Christ is Lord and Christians are those who honor Christ the Lord as holy.

What does it mean to honor Christ the Lord as holy? Well, it certainly implies that a person is in an ongoing relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. The Gospel is not just about a moment in time when a person prays a prayer to receive Christ as Savior. In the past we have sometimes reduced the gospel message to a once and done moment in our lives when we get saved. But really the gospel is about receiving a new life from Jesus Christ who is Lord of all. It is a life that we live out on a daily basis under the reign of Jesus the Lord. Salvation is not something that we take care of and then forget about. Being saved begins at a moment in time when we embrace Christ as Savior and Lord. But when we embrace Christ we enter into a whole new way of living. We live every day with Christ as our Lord.

Honoring the Lord as holy means that the Lord is the most important person in our lives. It means that we fear the Lord in such a way that we would never want to profane his name or bring disgrace upon his name. To honor the Lord means that we seek to obey the Lord in every way. And while we all struggle with sin, we do not give ground to sin in our lives. When we sin we confess it and move on. So if we are going to honor the Lord as holy, we will seek the Lord daily that we might walk in the light of his faithful presence through the Holy Spirit.

And then, honoring the Lord in our lives also means that we are committed to being a part of what God is doing in the world. What is God doing? Well, he is reconciling all things to himself through Jesus Christ the Lord of heaven and earth. He is seeking to show his goodness, love, and mercy through his church in order that many people will enter into the kingdom of God by confessing Christ as Lord by faith.

More and more I realize that many of us do not perceive that the lordship of Christ is a living reality wherever we may be. We get caught up in the events of our world and our lives as if what we see and experience in the world is all there is. But no, everywhere we go, in everything we do, in every relationship we have, Christ is Lord. And to honor Christ as Lord is to attend to and acknowledge the reality of his active presence within us and around us all day long.

Has your marriage fallen apart? Christ is Lord and desires to bring reconciliation in your marriage and as you acknowledge the Lordship of Christ each day you live with your spouse, the Lord will help you express his goodness and love to your spouse. Are you facing serious health issues? Christ is Lord and as you acknowledge his Lordship over your body, he will help you face your illness in such a way that he will be exalted in your body whether by life or by death. Is work dragging you down? Make it your aim to go to work with the knowledge that Christ is Lord at your workplace and wants to use you to be a blessing. You are not on your own at work. The Lord Jesus is always there. When Jesus sent the disciples out into the world he said, “I am with you always, even until the end of the age.”

So to prepare ourselves for witness we focus on honoring Christ the Lord as holy in our life and in the world. That will require intentional action on our part as we make space for God in our lives through the reading of his word, through ongoing prayer, and other spiritual activities. Pay attention to Christ the Lord. Surrender yourself to Christ the Lord.

II. BE HUMBLE. 1Pt.3:15

One of my challenges when it comes to witness is the need to be right and have the answers. And so when I am asked a question or presented with some viewpoint that I can’t clearly refute I feel that I am letting the Lord down, and I feel dumb. A week or so ago I was having a conversation with an acquaintance at Starbucks and he was talking all about a quantum field and finding your purpose in the quantum field and how you can call the quantum field whatever you like. You can call it God, Allah, or Buddha, etc. It’s all the same. This is a very intelligent man. Well some of what he had said I could agree with until he got to the quantum field and then I felt the need to be right, only I didn’t really know what to say. See, the need to be right is a problem when it comes to giving a reason for the hope we have in Christ. It reveals uncertainty or fear. Peter says nothing about having all the answers or winning the argument. Instead he says we need to be humble.

He says do this in “gentleness and respect.” The word for “gentleness” is not easy to translate into English. Gentleness requires humility. Humility calls for being selfless, not demanding our rights, not having to have our way, not having to win the argument. Humility calls for patience and deference.

The word, “respect” is the Greek word for “fear”. We show respect to people when we acknowledge that they have something to say. They have much to offer. They are every bit as significant as we are. They have dignity and value since they bear the image of God. They are not just souls to save. They have a life, a story. We do not consider ourselves better because we are Christians.

In Christendom, the church has political and spiritual power and privilege in society. Power and privilege do not usually promote humility. People do not easily let go of power and privilege. In post-Christendom, Christians are probably going to lose power, privilege and freedom. In Peter’s day, the believers did not have power, privilege or freedom. They did not have the rights that we currently enjoy.

This is why Peter calls us to humility, gentleness. In fact, Peter is calling us to the way of Jesus. “A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.”

As I mentioned recently, I greatly value the religious freedom we enjoy. I pray that it will continue for all. Because Christianity has been the dominant religion in this country, it is first in the line of fire for those who do not acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus. We would do well to take to heart the words of Peter. As believers, as a congregation we want to be humble.

We can learn to be humble by acknowledging that Christ is Lord, trusting him to care and provide for us. When I spoke with my friend, it became more important for me to say something than to listen and ask questions. If I had done that I would have been in a far better position to know what to say.

In his book, The Allure of Gentleness, Dallas Willard writes, “Jesus tells us we are to be ‘as shrewd as serpents’ and ‘as innocent as doves’. The serpent’s wisdom, shrewdness, is timeliness based on watchful observation. And doves are innocent in that they are incapable of guile or of misleading anyone.” Often we are far too quick in witness instead of listening and observing, waiting to be asked for the reason for our hope. Clearly a posture of humility is required if we are going to gain the privilege of proclaiming the gospel.


Over and over in this letter Peter refers to doing good. Ten times he refers to doing good or having a good conscience. Some would like to confine witnessing to only doing good deeds. Saint Francis supposedly said, “Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.”

Well, Peter would not agree with that because in v.15 he tells us to be prepared to give a defense to all who ask. It takes words to give a defense. So why the emphasis on good deeds? Good deeds lay the groundwork for gospel conversations. In 2:15 Peter writes, “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.” Today it is very common for people to take the worst examples of Christians and apply them to every Christian. So we are often made out to be bigots, homophobes, and fanatics. But when people see our good deeds and know that we are Christians, it is far more difficult to malign. Peter seems to indicate that good deeds can even mitigate against persecution. Obviously there are no guarantees.

In addition to this in v.16 he refers to having a good conscience. In other words our behavior should match our claim to follow Christ. In this world we do not want to be known for un-Christ-like behavior. We certainly do not want to live in ongoing sin. Rather we want to be morally upright men and women. Well, since we are men and women it means that we will sin, and when we do we must have integrity to own it. We are always grieved to hear when a high profile Christian leader is publicly exposed for sexual or financial immorality. Many own it and try to deal with it. Still it does great harm. For the sake of our own lives and the gospel it is so important to have a clear conscience.

Now doing good and having a clear conscience imply that others see our lives. In order for others to see our lives, our lives must be visible. We must be engaged on some level with other people. God desires to use us to show the world how good it is to know Christ. This calls for gospel living and gospel conversation.

When it comes to witness, we often feel that we don’t know what to say or we are afraid that we won’t be able to answer difficult questions. And then we feel guilty because we have been taught that we are to be out there sharing the gospel, and we are not.

Well, if I understand what Peter is saying, when it comes to witness, the life we live is far more important than memorizing a certain formula for sharing the gospel or being able to answer all the questions. When people ask questions based on our Christ-like character, conduct and conversation, my sense is that it will be easier to witness because our witness is based upon our life with Christ and what he is doing in us. This is why our primary preparation for witness is honoring Christ the lord as holy, being humble, and doing good. Amen