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Author:Rev. Sjirk Bajema
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Congregation:The Reformed Church of Oamaru
 Oamaru, New Zealand
Title:Christ In Your Heart Is His Witness To The World
Text:1 Peter 3:15-16 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Mission Work

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Sjirk Bajema, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

1 PETER 3:15-16

(Readings: 1 Peter 2:4-3:7; 3:8-17)


Christ In Your Heart Is His Witness To The World



Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ…


            Could the apostle Peter be asking too much of us in these words?  Are we “always prepared” to tell about our faith to others? Don’t we feel so inadequate when we meet a Christian who seems to be able to share their faith so easily?

            Actually, when we think this way we misunderstand these words of Peter. Verse 15 has even been misused for something which it was never intended. It has been used to make a Christian feel guilty about what he or she doesn't do.

            Especially in this whole area of witness none of us can ever really say we've done enough.  After all, there are so many people out there who still don't believe!  And we haven't possibly done everything we could to tell them the good news about Jesus - have you?

            That answers the question, doesn't it?  We feel quite inadequate.  And there are those who have played on our feelings of insecurity by heavily promoting methods or programs they claim have worked. The idea is that if you take on this 'new' and 'latest' way it will literally bring in the masses.

            So when Peter mentions a phrase like "always being prepared to make a defence" they quickly grab it and use it to show how right they really are.  Because, do you always know what to say? Haven't you been often caught out when you couldn't think and speak back straightaway?

            See - you're feeling guilty. They've got you - and somehow you just know you should buy what they're selling.

            They are wrong, though. Did you notice where? Look at the verses above and see how the idea of always being prepared to give an answer cannot be used this way.

            Can you see? This is not all that the text goes on to say. Verse 15 actually states, "…always being prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you."

            Those who promote those certain methods of evangelism have taken the text out of its context. As a well-know quote goes, "A text without a context is a pretext." And a pretext is when they have used it just the way they wanted to - not the way the apostle meant it.

            A wider look at the context is needed to see precisely what the apostle meant. And as one does this, a general question of interpretation is helpful, this question being: ‘How do we understand what a passage in the Bible means?’ When a passage of scripture is studied a key factor in seeking out its meaning is in realising what it would have meant for the original hearers or readers.

            So, do these verses mean all those early Christians had just completed the latest copyrighted and heavily syndicated outreach program from Petros the Rock Ministries? Had they taken the course which had really made the church at Jerusalem discover the Ten Key opening phrases to tap into an unbelieving neighbour?

            It couldn't be the more opposite!  There was not any one particular thing which had made the difference - the difference now was in everything!  Whether it's setting apart Christ as Lord in our hearts, in the translation of the NIV, honouring the Lord as holy in the ESV, or sanctifying the Lord God in our hearts, as in the NKJV, the effect is the same, because it does affect everything!


It is who is in your heart which really matters.  In the words of the first aspect to the text, this is about, HE WHO’S IN YOUR HEART.

            This is the point Peter has built up to after dealing with all the different possible human relationships - whether how we're meant to relate to the government, to our employers, or to our spouses. This is about the One we have to relate to most of all - and unless we do, unless he is at the very centre of our being, unless he is the fibre which holds us altogether, we cannot be the witness to him.

            Those Peter was writing to would have been very familiar with the Old Testament Scriptures. As a largely Jewish readership, there was in their upbringing the knowledge of the witness that Israel was once meant to be to the Lord God.

            But that physical nation had been a disgrace, showing only how much they desperately needed the Lord himself to save them. And save them he did, in the person and work of his own dear Son.

            So, how much didn't being God's chosen people in him make it all so different! Now each of them was called to be the blessing Israel was meant to be. It is tremendously rich, covenantal language, using words and a symbolism only Jews then would have fully known.

            The phrase just before our text in verse 14 confirms this. There the apostle quotes from Isaiah. Isaiah – the prophet who is so full of the Messiah; Isaiah, who, in the passage quoted, is appealing to God's people to be afraid of the One who is the most awesome!

            And this "awesome" is no "cool" word, as it is often used today. Rather, it means something to be deadly scared about, someone to be very afraid of!  As Isaiah goes on to say after these words quoted, "The LORD Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread…"

            But he also adds, "…and he will be a sanctuary (Isaiah 8:13-14)." And that has come true, for setting apart the Lord – making him holy – in our hearts, will make our souls his temples.

            Another apostle, Paul, said the same, with asking the rhetorical question in 1st Corinthians 6:19, "Don't you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you've received from God?" The body is what holds the soul, and as the believing soul by the Holy Spirit carries Christ so our bodies show whose really in control. This is about HE WHO’S IN YOUR HEART.


And so it is we come to a second aspect to our text. Here we note, HE WHOSE WORDS YOU SPEAK.

            This is the way the theme is developed into the second part of verse 15. Here is a phrase we noted earlier, because of the way it has been misused, and how believers have abused through it. Though now consideration is given to its proper use: What does it mean to be always prepared to give an answer to those who ask?

            Or, to turn it around: How could it happen that people don't ask about your faith?

            That puts a different light on it - doesn't it? When unbelievers don't notice our faith could it be because we are not showing that faith? They do not see that Christ is Lord in our hearts.

            This is a good test for where you're standing with the Lord now.  Think about this question: Do those around you notice you are a Christian?

            There is a helpful example of this at the beginning of chapter 3. In guiding us with our marriages Peter says, after having presented the supreme sacrifice of Christ as the ultimate example, "Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives…”

            No words - just action! Peter explains that the behaviour of those wives shows their unbelieving husbands "your respectful and pure conduct."

            This was illustrated by what happened in one American church. Through the faithful witness of the members some five ladies were brought into the Kingdom. In the midst of that joy, however, there was deep concern for their husbands who continued to worship their sport and television.

            In response to this five men from the congregation took the time to go with these men to their football games on the Saturday, and that way build genuine friendships with them. After a while, those unbelievers began to ask questions.

            To be ready to answer is so vitally important! Whenever an opportunity arises it must be utilised.  There must be intentional attempts to get next to unbelievers - and where better than where they like to get next to others socially?

            If Christ is being set apart in our hearts as Lord, just as he is the Lord of the Church, so we most show that he needs to be set apart also as Lord of this world! Faith doesn't stop with us, for just as those Jewish believers knew now that while Old Testament Israel failed to live up to being the light to the nations it should have been, in Christ, the true Light, they couldn't help but shine before others.        


In this way we come to the further words of verse 15 and of verse 16, "…yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behaviour in Christ may be put to shame.” Here we consider a third aspect: HE WHOSE LIFE YOU SHOW.

            There is a need to not only treat other Christians respectively, but especially unbelievers.  At the end of the day we have to be able to say in our own minds and hearts, "Well, they may not have agreed with me, but they have seen the difference my faith makes."

            It is like the believer who was being asked by his work mates if he was going to the funeral service of a former worker. The man who had passed away was a worker those men had so bitterly despised when he had worked there. Now, though, those men were going to pay their "last respects."

            To that invitation the Christian replied, "I don't need to go to his funeral to pay my last respects; I paid my respects to him while he was still alive!" Those other workers knew this. If there was anyone who treated his fellow worker with respect and dignity it was this Christian.

            Perhaps you might think that that Christian was a little sharp to those men. Yet they knew him. It was because of how he was keeping a good conscience that made him stand out.

             And what is a good conscience? A good, clear, conscience is knowing that you are doing God's Will. You have nothing to be afraid of, in the end, because you've stuck with him, and you’ve stuck to him.

            This echoes what the apostle wrote about earlier in this letter. In 1 Peter 2:12 he said, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honourable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”

            Congregation, our children may have those other children living in their streets taunting them, with such words as these, "You gotta have rocks in your head to go to church!" And at state schools and universities and in a society full of the emptiness of secular humanism we are taunted because of what we believe and how we live. We are accused of being narrow-minded and bigoted, when we are simply making a stand for the faith. We have scripture twisted against us.

            Dear believers, be encouraged to not let it get us down. It might seem a strange way of doing it but those unbelieving children and those around us are actually asking the question. They have seen the difference Jesus makes in our lives, because they have noticed the lifestyle we have. They notice the purpose and meaning believing in the Triune God gives.

            Let’s help our young people to respond, with a reply like this, "You're right, I have got rocks in my head. That's why I go to church. There's someone there who takes them out!"

            And when it is thrown up at us as to how bigoted we are, challenge them right back. Say to them, “How can you know what is bigoted without a sense of right and wrong? So where do you get your concept of the truth from? It’s from God’s Word you get your sense of injustice from.” Let’s be able to turn it back on the unbeliever in a calm and yet exposing way.

            Just think: Those other children and those others accusing us may have been looking for a harsh reaction to prove themselves. But they didn’t get that. Instead there was cold water poured on their heads. As the apostle says in Romans 12:20, by this being kind to those so strongly opposed to you you heap burning coals upon their heads. It is these burning coals which symbolise judgment. And so it is our right response to those who do us harm which allows God’s own power and judgment to fall upon that person.

            It could well make them think. Where they go to after that lies with the Holy Spirit. He is the same Spirit who helped you to answer back. He is the Spirit who will keep helping us because we're trusting in Jesus Christ.

            You are praying to the Lord. You are reading his Word. You are fellowshipping with the people of the Word. And you are taking him at his Word - every day.

            It is the only way - to trust and obey. Today and every day – in every way - we have to be Christians pointing this world to the One who is the truth, the life and the way! Amen.



Let’s pray…

            O Lord Jesus, we bow before you - before you whom we must set apart as the Lord of our hearts. And we plead that you, by your Spirit, will do exactly that. Then we will be your instruments in this world, the clay pots to hold out your treasure to a desperate and dying world.

            Oh how much we need to see that Lord! There are billions of souls out there on the motorway to hell, caught in the seducing sound and dazzling sights of this world. And we have to cry out the Gospel’s clarion sound to call your call over the tumult of life’s restless sea.

            In your Name, the Name above all names, we humbly pray, Amen.


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Sjirk Bajema, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
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