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Author:Rev. Mark Chen
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Congregation:First Evangelical Reformed Church in Singapore
Preached At:
Title:Hallowing God in Our Hearts in Difficult Times
Text:LD 47 1 Peter 3:13-17 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Trinity Hymnal Revised 1990, The Psalter 1912

TH 100 - Holy, Holy, Holy
Psalter 408 - Triumphant Joy in the God
Psalter 29 - Immortality and Resurrection

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

Hallowing God in Our Hearts in Difficult Times

HC LD 47, 1 Peter 3:13-17

Polycarp was the disciple of the Apostle John. He had been a Christian since young, but was only persecuted in his 80s. After being arrested, the Roman proconsul asked him to deny Christ - “Consider yourself, have pity on your own great age. Swear and I will release you; deny Christ.” Polycarp said, “Eighty and six years have I served him, and he never once wronged me; how then shall I blaspheme my King, Who hath saved me?” The proconsul said again, “Swear by Caesar!” Polycarp again said, “Since you still vainly strive to make me swear allegiance to Caesar, as you express it, ignoring my real character; hear me frankly declare what I am - I am a Christian - and if you want to learn Christian doctrine, give me a day, and you shall hear.” The proconsul threatened - “I have wild beasts; and I will expose you to them, unless you repent.” Polycarp said, “Call for them.” The governor again threatened, “I will tame you with fire since you despise the beasts, unless you repent.” Polycarp said, “You threaten me with fire, which burns for an hour, and it’ll soon be extinguished; but the fire of the future judgment, and of eternal punishment reserved for the ungodly, you are ignorant of. Don’t delay. Do whatever you want to me.” 

The proconsul had him led to the middle of the stadium and a herald proclaimed - “Polycarp has professed himself to be a Christian!” Everyone in the stadium shouted - “This is the pastor of Smyrna, the father of Christians, and the subverter of our gods; he taught many not to sacrifice to nor worship them.” The result? The people gathered wood and fastened him to the stake. They would’ve nailed him there, but he said, “leave me. God will give me strength to remain here to be burned by the fire.” And when they bound him, he prayed - “O Father, I bless you that you hast counted me worthy to receive my portion among the martyrs.” As soon as he uttered the word “Amen” the officers lit the fire. According to accounts, the fire arched up around his body, and didn’t consume him. So they stabbed him and it’s said his blood spilled out and quenched the fire as he died.

Dear folks, why didn’t he just blaspheme Christ to escape suffering? How could he praise Christ? Because he hallowed Christ. The Lord’s Prayer teaches us to pray - “Hallowed be thy name.” What does this mean? It means that we pray that God’s reputation would be holy. Now we know God can’t be made more holy or set apart. And his reputation is already a holy reputation. And God’s already infinitely holy and special. What this means, is that when we pray this, we’re asking God to help us think of him as most special - to honor, revere, and love him. We’re asking God to be everything to us. And the Catechism explains how - that we may know him, glorify him, and live for and not blaspheme him. So these will be our 3 instructions on how to hallow God as we examine 1 Peter 3. We hallow God by firstly knowing him, secondly, testifying of him, and thirdly, living for him.

Firstly, hallowing God by knowing him. The catechism says we hallow God when we rightly know him. Peter wrote his first epistle to Christians scattered all over the Roman provinces of Asia Minor. During that time, persecution was intense - especially under Nero. And he wrote to them as they faced the toughest fight of their lives. He told them not to rebel nor fight back; not to be immoral but to face persecution. He told them to sanctify or revere the Lord in their hearts, verse 15. This is the same word as “hallow” in Matthew 6. Jesus said - “hallowed, sanctified or revered be thy name.” Like Psalm 111:9 - “holy and reverend is his name.” They mean the same thing. When you face religious opposition, it’s easy to give up. “Why suffer? Why make life hard? Just deny Christ and live!” Which is why, sanctify, revere, hallow the Lord in your hearts. Know and believe that God is everything to you. This is why our catechism says grant us first of all that we may rightly know you. 

This was Peter’s exhortation. In the face of persecution, they were to know certain things. They were to know and be confident that God cared for them. Verse 13 - “And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?” This verse can be taken in 2 ways. Who can harm you if you do good? Christ assured his disciples that no man is able to snatch us out of the Father’s hand if we are in him. Any harm we experience has no eternal bearing. Fear not him who destroys the body, but fear him who destroys both body and soul. Our lives are safe until God decides it’s time for us to go. Polycarp was born just after Nero. But it wasn’t his time until it was! But this can also be taken another way. If you do what’s good, who would want to harm you? Proverbs 16:7 says, “When a man’s ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.” In God, we have peace. The Lord keeps us safe until it’s time to go. 

To know God also means to know his will his perfect. Verse 17 says, “For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.” Dearly beloved, trusting in Christ doesn’t mean we never suffer. 1 Timothy 3:2 says the godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. And so we honor God by being holy and to submit to his will. We’re not saved to be free from God; but saved to be his servants; free from our sins. And God’s will does include suffering for doing good.

To know God also means that we know our happy state in Christ. Verse 14 says, “But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled.” There’s a confidence that comes because we know God. When he is revered, we’re not afraid nor troubled. We’re happy. That’s why Polycarp was able to react that way. When we know our happy state we honor God. Why did Christ go to the cross? It was terrifying. In the flesh, he feared. But there between Jerusalem and Gethsemane, when he bowed down to pray in John 17, he said, “Glorify Your Son, that Your Son may glorify You.” With that assurance, he went to the cross. Hebrews 12:2 says,“for the joy that was set before him, [he] endured the cross, despis[ed] the shame, [because he knew he’d be] set down at the right hand of the throne of God - [the place of glory!].” Christ is happy.

To know God also means to know the truth about him and the gospel. Dearly beloved, what fueled Polycarp? Christ? Peter? Stephen? Paul? They knew the Scriptures. Verse 15 - “but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” Why was Polycarp able to say that Christ had not wronged him? How was he, in the face of death, able to defy Caesar? Why was he able to give a reason for the hope that was in him? It’s because he knew what he believed. God is hallowed in your heart when you know what you believe.

But secondly, we hallow God’s name when we testify of him. Verse 15 says very specifically that we sanctify God in our hearts by being always ready to give an answer to every man that asks. Our catechism says we are to sanctify, glorify, and praise God in all his works which declare his power, wisdom, goodness, righteousness, mercy, and truth. So what we know enables us to testify of God’s works. This is how we hallow God’s name. Not just to be a Christian in secret. But when we declare him.

We are to testify of his power - that Jesus has the power to save man from their sins and now reigns in heaven above. 1 Peter 3:18,22 - “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit…who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.” Why was Polycarp able to resist Caesar? He had seen centurions, the household of Caesar, and countless Roman nobles bowing their knees to Christ. He hallowed God in his heart. He knew that Christ is reigning.

We are also to testify of his wisdom. Paul said in 1 Corinthians that the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of man. Christ came to save us by being crucified. 1 Peter 1:18-19 says, “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” We are to speak of how this salvation saves us. 

We are to testify of his goodness - that God is good to us. And how we do this is not simply by speaking about it, but by demonstrating it. 1 Peter 4:9-10 - “Use hospitality one to another without grudging. As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” He has given us gifts, we are to use those gifts. We are to be generous one to another and to others as well.

And why are we full of good works? Because we have been saved. We are to testify of his righteousness. He is a just God who will judge. 1 Peter 3:18 - “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.” The unrighteous must die. Those who sin must suffer. That’s the justice of God. And here, Christ suffered for sins. He who was righteous was treated as an unclean thing to bear the righteous punishment of God. This then shows that we are also to testify of his mercy. That he would show mercy to sinners. 1 Peter 2:10 says of Christians, “Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.” The people to whom Peter was writing were Gentiles - they were not a people in time past; they were outside of the commonwealth of Israel. They didn’t bear God’s covenant sign on them. The didn’t have God’s laws. They didn’t understand the gospel in the sacrifices. They had not obtained mercy. But because of God, they gospel was preached to them - obtained mercy and became his people.

We are to testify of his truth. That all this is true. 1 Peter 1:25 says, “But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.” How do we show forth and declare God’s works? Dearly beloved - we can’t forget the context. Peter was exhorting them to testify of Christ in the midst of their persecution. It’s one thing to testify of Christ when things are going well - it’s completely another to testify of Christ when doing so would mean our lives. How are we hallowing God today?

By living it out. Thirdly, we are to hallow him by living out this truth. If we have been made righteous, we live righteously. If we have been shown mercy, we show it to others. By our goodness, we show forth the wisdom of God. We love not our lives unto death. Revelation 12:11 - “And they were victorious by the blood of The Lamb and by the word of his testimony and they did not love their lives unto death.” The catechism says we are to direct our whole life – our thoughts, words, and actions – that God’s name is not blasphemed because of us but always honored and praised. How can we show forth God’s mercy if we are not merciful? Or God’s goodness if we are not good? Or God’s justice if we are not just? Or God’s wisdom if we love the world? Or God’s power if we are anxious all the time? 

We are given some instructions in this passage on how to hallow God. We are to hallow him by speaking gently and respectfully. Verse 15 says to “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” Gentleness and respect especially in front of others who may be hostile toward the gospel. We don’t know how to do this. God sent down his Son to die. The way he did it was by preaching, showing mercy, and dying. We want to assert ourselves. If we can’t win them over with a shout, perhaps we can by a whisper. 

We are to live for him by pursuing what is good. Verse 13 - who will want to harm you if you pursue what is good? The Christian life is not just testified, it is lived. If we are good, people will see Christ in us. In the year 165, during the reign of Marcus Aurelius, an epidemic swept through the Roman Empire. This was likely the first outbreak of smallpox in Europe. During the 15 year duration, 1/4 of the population died. During the plague, when the first symptoms appeared, victims were thrown into the streets. Bishop Dionysius described what happened - “the pagans pushed the sufferers away and fled from their dearest, throwing them into the roads before they were dead and treated unburied corpses as dirt, hoping thereby to avert the spread and contagion of the fatal disease; but do what they might, they found it difficult to escape.” The Christians instead met the obligation to care for the sick rather than desert them. It is said that they provided food and water and Christian nursing reduced mortality by two-thirds. This did not go unnoticed. The emperor Julian, a pagan, exhorted the pagan priesthood to compete with Christian charities. He said, “the impious Galileans [Christians], in addition to their own, support ours, [and] it is shameful that our poor should be wanting our aid.”

We also live by suffering for righteousness sake and not for evil. Verse 14 - “But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye.” Verse 17 - “For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.” We also revere him if we have a good conscience and good conduct. Verse 16 - “Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.” It’s one thing to speak about the goodness of God and shut the door before those who are suffering; it’s completely another to open your doors. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.

Dearly beloved, how are we to hallow God in our hearts? Not simply by knowing God, but by testifying of him and living for him. Hallowed be thy name. 

Sermon Outline:

1. Hallowing God by Knowing Him

2. Hallowing God by Testifying of Him

3. Hallowing God by Living for Him

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mark Chen, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2021, Rev. Mark Chen

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