Hello and welcome to Tuesday’s foundations podcast. It’s great to be with you again today.
Our passage is 1 Peter 3: 13-22. We are going to focus our attention on verses 15 -16:
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…
These are well known verses indeed but it’s important to remember the context. Peter is writing this letter to believers across Asia Minor (what we’d know as modern day Turkey) who were experiencing persecution for their faith in Christ. Peter’s letter doesn’t try to gloss over this fact. His message to the believers there is that if they choose to follow Jesus, suffering will follow with it. Following Jesus was never, and never will be, the easy option. Jesus tells his disciples…. if you want to follow me, you first must deny yourself, pick up your cross and then follow me. There is great sacrifice in laying down our lives and walking in the ways of Jesus. Indeed baptism – which this passage later on speaks of – signifies dying to our old life and rising to new life with Christ. The freedom his love brings us does come at a cost.
Each of us, in our way, has to count that cost, and to some extent had to suffer because of our faith – be it things that have been spoken about us or said directly to us, relationships that have been impacted, big decisions we’ve had to make in the light of our faith or simply through holding fast to our God in the midst of challenging circumstances around us.
Peter’s letter is not blind to this and offers the believers great encouragement in spite of their inevitable suffering for their faith. Here are three of them – diving down a bit deeper into verses 15 and 16…
Firstly, the encouragement to look up. Peter encourages the believers to ‘revere Christ as Lord’. Verse 22 of today’s reading speaks of Jesus sitting at God’s right hand – the place of total authority with everything – both that which is seen and unseen, in submission to Him. Jesus is Lord. Peter is reminding the believers here that although suffering is coming, Jesus is coming too. And that he reigns above it all and will return to establish the new heaven and new earth which, through his death and resurrection, we, by his grace and mercy, will also inherit too. We are to look to Him. And as we see Him, it’s not that our troubles and struggles suddenly disappear but it’s that…as the old hymn goes…the things of this world grow pale and fade in the light of his glory and grace.
Whatever this day holds we are to remember to look up…. but also as we do so to look around us. Peter tells the believers to ‘always be prepared’ because people are watching us. Peter’s expectation is that by living and responding differently in the face of suffering, others will take notice. As has been discussed much on this podcast recently, how we respond as Christians to the challenge of lockdown, to the recent protests surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement, to the economy almost certainly entering into recession… says a huge amount about our faith in Jesus. What do others see in these days when we’re seemingly under a lot of pressure? When we discover that we’ve got another three months of homeschooling to sort out, when our job role is being re-evaluated or when our university course is up in the air? How do we respond in these testing times? Do we continue to live and act as hope-filled people trusting the one who holds it all or do we respond as the world would have us do – becoming increasingly introspective, selfish, giving in to fear and hopelessness?
It’s a huge challenge but Peter’s encouragement is that as we remain faithful in the challenging times others will notice, doors of opportunity will open and people will begin to ask why. And it’s in those moments, where we should also look within. Holding on to Jesus means we have will have opportunities to speak of Jesus. We can only speak of what we know. And if our lives reflect that, as it says in verse 16, if we keep ‘a clear conscience’ and continue to trust in our saviour we will have opportunities to ‘give an answer for the hope that we have’ in Him.
There’s loads we could talk about here as to how we share our faith but one the key things I guess I’ve been grounded in as part of this church family here at STC is the importance of knowing my story – a testimony of God and his power at work in my life. Moments where I can look back and testify to God’s faithfulness, provision and breakthrough. But also in the here and now, what God is doing and working in me at this time, during this season. We each have a beautiful and unique story of his grace to us. I have always been encouraged to learn it, know it and trust that Jesus will then enable me to tell something of it – maybe over a socially distanced garden party or maybe in a minute whilst I’m stood on another’s doorstep dropping something off.
So let us, church at STC, look up and trust in the unshakeable one during these great times of challenge and change; look around us knowing that we are an ambassador for Jesus in these days; and look within taking the opportunities presented us – often when we least expect them – to speak of the hope that we have in Him.
Jesus, thank you that in you we have an eternal hope which cannot spoil or perish. Fill me today Jesus with the knowledge of that hope, that I might find rest and strength in that, amidst the challenges that this day brings. Empower me by your Spirit to stay faithful and to walk in your ways. That I may be given opportunity to speak of your goodness with those you place around me. Amen.
BIBLE READING: 1 Peter 3:13-22 (NIV)
Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. ‘Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.’ But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits – to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolises baptism that now saves you also – not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience towards God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand – with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.