The following was preached at Bayside Baptist Church, Bay St Louis MS Sunday 28 Dec 2014

1 Peter 3:10-15

 For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile:

11 Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.

12 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.

13 And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?

14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;

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:

 

            I have entitled this sermon Where Does Your Hope Lie? I will be focusing in on verse 15 but let us take a running start at it by looking at verses 10-14 briefly.

 

            Peter begins this portion of his epistle by pleading with the brethren to do no evil. To avoid it (v11) to not speak it (v10) in fact we are to seek peace and to do good (v11) always.

 

            I believe the scripture points out two reasons for this directive. The first can be found in verse 12. For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers:…  Now I am a simple man of simple means but this is pretty clear to me. God is watching my every move. If I live a righteous, that is God honoring life, He will also hear my prayers. BUT, in this case the word is more than just a connection between two sentences, it is a clear warning, but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. Now I do not know about y’all but getting the all-knowing ever present, all powerful God of the universe mad at me is not high in my priority list.

 

            Peter next goes on to say something a little confusing at first. Do you see it?  Let’s look at verses 13 and 14 again:

 

13 And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?

14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye:

 

            Maybe it is just me but when I read that I am both encouraged and intimidated. Verse 13 implies that no one can harm the true chosen children of God. Then verse 14 says But and if ye suffer the Greek text suggests a better rendering to be nevertheless when you suffer. Now wait a minute I thought no harm can come to me.

 

            The problem here is my trying to interpret scripture of my own understanding. I read no harm and think physical pain while the text refers to spiritual security. Look at Romans Chapter 8 with me:

 

31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?

32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

33 Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth.

34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

            I hope you can see what both Paul and Peter are speaking of here. Nothing of this earth can separate a child of God from him. Christ said of His sheep (followers, chosen children of God) no one could remove them from His hand.

 

            I want to add a caution here for I believe there is one thing that can come between us and God. That thing would be ourselves. Maybe you have never experienced this, but I have. Gotten to a place where all is going so smooooth, that you think hey I got this and soon forget about God. We alone but barriers between us and God.

 

            Look back at main text in Peter. God is so merciful though that He does not leave it at that. No He tells us in the remainder of verse 14; be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled. Knowing that we would have times of trouble, trails and suffering God adds words of comfort.  I think the reason for that comfort and the second reason for the directive in verse 10 and 11 lies in verse 15; one of my favorite verses of scripture:

 

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:

            Remember I have titled this sermon Where Does Your Hope Lie? As the New Year fast approaches many of our friends and relatives will be preparing to make a New Year’s resolution in the hopes of changing something about their lives. Folks make these resolutions each year in the hope they can change for the better or find peace and comfort they are sorely lacking.    Ask a group of everyday folks outside Wally World or Lowes where their hope lies and you would get countless different answers. For some it is family, a job, or their “church”. Still others find it in bottles of booze or pills and sadly many would simply answer “hope what Hope”? As Sanctified Born Again believers we do not find any assurance in our own determination, our own will power to make changes in our lives. No we rest on the power of God to both change us. It is the comfort we have in that Hope, that Anticipation that indwells all true believers; a hope, those of the world are blind too. 

 

            I want to break verse 15 down into three tasks that I have labeled Acknowledge, Answer and Attitude.

 

            The first task noted in verse 15 is to Acknowledge or Sanctify God in our hearts. Now this is more than just admitting God exists for even the devil does this. No the Greek word translated Sanctify in the KJV entails so much more. I like the way the Amplified Bible translates this as: But in your hearts set Christ apart as holy [and acknowledge Him] as Lord

 

            We must confess God as sovereign ruler of the whole universe. Surrendering our all to Him and declaring His son Christ Jesus as Lord and Master of our lives. To do less and call ourselves “Christian” is to live a lie.

 

            This sanctification must not just be verbal; it must be in our hearts. Romans 10:10 tells us that with the heart man believeth unto righteousness. It must be a true deep rooted belief that is evident in both our talk and our walk. We cannot have one without the other.

 

            The next charge in verse 15 is Answer. We are to be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you(us). This is the defining task, the crux of the matter if you will. We, who are true believer’s, must be ready always. Not just when we feel good and are having a really blessed day. No in the midst of trials and turmoil, on top of the mountain and in the depths of the valley we must be ready to give an answer or as the ESV translates it always being prepared to make a defense.

 

            The answer is not some theological gem, no, it is simply a reason of the {or for the} hope that is in you (us). If you will allow me to reminisce for a moment, when I first started down the path of Christianity I was attending a church that was always talking about witnessing. My first thought was these people are in court a lot. I mean my only association with witnesses was from Perry Mason TV series. Ok so I soon got over my ignorance and then came the in nervousness. How was I to witness to anyone? I barely knew the bible so surely God would not want me to talk about it our Him?

            Well somewhere along the way I came across this verse and I realized what witnessing (for most of us who are not called as evangelists) really is and what God expects. It is really quite simple. If you love God and He has changed your life. Taken you from HOPELESSNESS to FILLED WITH HOPE that is what you need to share. Being able to quote scripture left and right is all well in good. But people want to hear your story. What has God done for you? Using scripture in a personal manner has a far greater impact on those we share it with.

 

I like how John Calvin put it in his commentary on the verse: But it ought to be noticed, that Peter here does not command us to be prepared to solve any question that may be mooted; for it is not the duty of all to speak on every subject. But it is the general doctrine that is meant, which belongs to the ignorant and the simple. Then Peter had in view no other thing, than that Christians should make it evident to unbelievers that they truly worshipped God, and had a holy and good religion. And in this there is no difficulty, for it would be strange if we could bring nothing to defend our faith when any one made inquiries respecting it. For we ought always to take care that all may know that we fear God, and that we piously and reverently regard his legitimate worship.

           

Jamieson, Faussett, and Brown’s Commentary says of a reasonable account. This verse does not impose an obligation to bring forward a learned proof and logical defense of revelation. But as believers deny themselves, crucify the world, and brave persecution, they must be buoyed up by some strong "hope"; men of the world, having no such hope themselves, are moved by curiosity to ask the secret of this hope; the believer must be ready to give an experimental account "how this hope arose in him, what it contains, and on what it rests"

 

Webster’s 1828 dictionary has two definitions of Hope that I find helpful:

 

1. Confidence in a future event; the highest degree of well-founded expectation of good; as a hope founded on God's gracious promises; a scriptural sense.

A well founded scriptural hope is, in our religion, the source of ineffable {overwhelming} happiness.

 

2. To place confidence in; to trust in with confident expectation of good. Ps.43:5 remind us: Why art thou cast down, O my soul, and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God.

 

            What is it we can bear witness to? It is our hope, the resolve that God is greater than all our problems that His grace and mercy abound. It is in that alone we have indescribable joy and happiness.

 

            The final tasking is Attitude. We must approach life with a proper attitude. For some of us that is really, really hard.  Maybe you can’t relate to this but when my kids were young they would sometimes misbehave. Now I sure none of your children are like that but I remember saying more often that I can count “if you don’t change your attitude I am gonna change your altitude”.

 

            Now God does not threaten us to have the proper attitude (although I know He disciplines us). Peter, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit wrote our testimony must be done with meekness and fear.  This does not mean we are a push over, a door mat for all who wish to stomp on our parade. Nor does it mean we are to force feed our beliefs down others’ throats. The ESV translates it with gentleness and respect. Our attitudes can affect all aspects of our lives; none more so than our witness for Christ. Peter earlier in verse 4 of chapter 3 said this gentle spirit is precious in God’s sight.

 

            Remember the words of Paul :  Philippians 2:15 - That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; We must be that shining light in an otherwise dark world. Why is this so important? Christ tells us in:  Matthew 5:16 - Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.  If our testimony is damaged by our attitude how is God glorified in that.

 

            In summary why is it that true brethren; love life, refrain from evil, and do good? Because God has given us hope. Not just any hope but a hope like no other. A hope that one cannot find among those of the world for it is only given through Christ Jesus. It is a hope so strong and powerful than believer’s cannot but help share the Good News of what Christ has done for them.

 

            Where is your hope today? Do you have that hope? The Hope that only God can give? Are you a child of God today? It really is a simple matter. There is no special prayer no magic words. You only have to ACCEPT you are a sinner; CONFESS your sinfulness and BELIEVE Christ died for your sins.  The bible says that is all that is needed to inherit the kingdom of God and the glorious hope of eternal life.

 

            In closing I wish to express my desire that the coming year will be full of hope for you and yours.  Christian artists Bill and Gloria Gather summed up and shared their hope in Christ when their son was born in this song:

 

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!

 

In HIS Service

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Response to Brokenness Continued

 

4 And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,

           

            Nehemiah 1:2-4

 

           

            Last week we learned the first responses of Nehemiah to the news of Jerusalem being in a state of brokenness was to weep and mourn. We explored a number of biblical reasons for weeping and mourning. Many of these were because of some illness or tragedy, yet we also learned that there are equally as many reasons for us to weep tears of joy.

 

            This week we will examine the second part of Nehemiah’s response when he fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven. Because of the scope of this short phrase I am going to look at fasting today.

 

            In the bible fasting is mentioned over 70 times. The practice of fasting is not taught in the first 5 books of Moses where God lays down the Law. One can infer then that fasting is not commanded of God to His children. However it is found in the historical books, Psalms and the prophet’s writings. From that one can easily surmise that while God does order the practice neither does He forbid it.

 

            The Hebrew word found in our text that is translated as fasting is Tsuwm  (Tsoom) which means to abstain from food. Thus biblical fasting is the decision to abstain or go without food but to what reason and end must be explored.

 

            In many evangelical churches today fasting is almost never spoken of, or if it is in a rather negative context. I think this comes from the warning Christ gives in Matthew 6:16 Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. In an effort to not appear puffed up, many have completely ignored fasting as an effective tool in our personal spiritual tool boxes. But note Jesus is not telling them to avoid fasting, no he is saying avoid doing it wrongly.

 

            Let’s us look at some of the tradition of fasting. As noted there are some 70 references to it in the bible. In addition the following historical church documents speak of it:

 

“The Westminster Confession spoke briefly of fasting in the context of public worship:

 

The reading of the Scriptures with godly fear, the sound preaching and conscionable hearing of the Word, in obedience unto God, with understanding, faith, and reverence, singing of psalms with grace in the heart; as also, the due administration and worthy receiving of the sacraments instituted by Christ, are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God: beside religious oaths, vows, solemn fastings, and thanksgivings upon special occasions, which are, in their several times and seasons, to be used in an holy and religious manner (21.5; emphasis added).

 

In the Larger Catechism this is put more strikingly: “What are the duties required in the second commandment? The duties required in the second commandment are . . . religious fasting” (Q&A 108).

 

In the Assembly’s Directory for the Public Worship of God, an entire section was taken up with “Public Solemn Fasting.” The context is either a time of trouble or a time of seeking God’s blessing:”

 

            Let us look at when fasting is appropriate:

 

1) Upon hearing sad and distressful news as in our main text. Nehemiah hears of the troubles in Jerusalem and not only weeps and prays but also fasts. His grief over the brokenness of his fellow Jews is so intense that tears and prayer alone are not sufficient to appease his mind.

 

2) For Guidance And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed. (Acts 14:23)

            Grand decisions require grand advice and no one can provide better advice than God. Before choosing to ordain (or commission) elders/pastors the Apostles prayed and fasted seeking God’s advice on the matter

            The Israelites sought the Lord through fasting when they had been defeated in battle by the tribe of Benjamin. They were asking for guidance on what they should do and how to proceed (Judges 20:26-28).

            Today we too should seek God’s advice in life’s BIG decisions. In fact it would do us good to seek it in all decisions. The choice is yours to fast or not.

 

3) Help in Prayer! Have you ever had trouble praying? I know I have had periods in my life that seemed like deserts where prayer was concerned. Fasting may be a solution for that.

 

            Note in 2 Sam chap 12, King David fasts and prays for his son that he had with Bathsheba. David knew he had sinned against God and wanted intense prayer to intercede on behalf of his son. We know God did not grant David’s petition yet two things are noteworthy. First David did not complain, he was satisfied and content with God’s decision to let David’s son die. David knew he had screwed up and through repentance he also knew there are consequences to our poor decisions. David manned up and acknowledged the sovereignty of God. Secondly you would think the bible would have pointed out David’s acknowledgement and atonement for his sins. Instead we are led to believe it is a given that a true believer will always do so.

 

 

4) To Humble Ourselves Before God, sometimes as an act of repentance, remorse or even apology prayer may not seem enough and we can fast as an act of contrition.

 

But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom. PS 35:13

 

When I wept, and chastened my soul with fasting, that was to my reproach. PS 69:10

 

            I am sure we can all think of many more reasons to humble ourselves before God maybe the best is a reminder of just who HE is.

 

5) In our Worship of God,

 

            Fasting can be a way to worship God. By fasting we can give God what he desires:

 

 For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.

 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise PS 5116-17

 

6) For Spiritual Strength, I would venture to say that all of us have some weak points in our spiritual amour. To deny this is to deceive ourselves and invite the devil in. As hard as we try to repair the weak area we sometimes fail and that can be a good time to fast and pray.

 

            In Luke 4:1-11 while Jesus faced the temptation of Satan, He fasted for 40 days. Did HE the living God have to fast to defeat Satan? No of course not but there is a principle of spiritual strength that is demonstrated in fasting that we find in the life of Christ.

            These are all good reasons to fast but we cannot forget that all must be done with a proper attitude.  At the beginnings of the sermon I quoted Matt 6:16 where Christ warns of fasting as a hypocrite. He goes on in verse 18 to say: That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.

            Fasting (even corporate/family) should always be done as an act between you and God alone. When a friend or co-worker asks why you are not eating today there is no need to announce “I am fasting for God” no an appropriate answer is simply I am just not eating today. Fasting for biblical purposes should ALWAYS draw us closer to God. Any other result and we have wasted our time.

            No discussion on fasting would be proper without a warning! Always seek medical advice before fasting. Some folks like me take certain medications must be taken with food. So fasting for me might not be the same for you. There are any number of reasons why fasting can be spiritually helpful and just as many where it can be physically harmful to the unprepared.

            I would like to point out that there are many reasons folks today ignore fasting in there walk with the Lord. Some legitimate (health and lack of spiritual urging) many just plain bogus. John Calvin in his commentary on the book of Joel (14:45) says it is all spiritual laziness. . . . this practice {FASTING} has not been abolished by the gospel. And it hence appears how much we have departed from the right and lawful order of things; for at this day it would be new and unusual to proclaim a fast. How so? Because the greater part are become hardened; and as they know not commonly what repentance is, so they understand not what the profession of repentance means; for they understand not what sin is, what the wrath of God is, what grace is. It is then no wonder that they are so secure, and that when praying for pardon is mentioned, it is a thing wholly unknown at this day. But though people in general are thus stupid, it is yet our duty to learn from the Prophets what has always been the actual mode of proceeding among the people of God, and to labor as much as we can, that this may be known, so that when there shall come an occasion for a public repentance, even the most ignorant may understand that this practice has ever prevailed in the Church of God, and that it did not prevail through inconsiderate zeal of men, but through the will of God himself .

            This most common excuse toady may be “I am too busy”.  I know I my life there are days that seem overwhelming. I have so much on my plate I feel like I need a crane to lift it. But an old Army saying of mine applies “The maximum effective range of an excuse is zero meters” Do you really want to stand before God someday and tell Him “I was too busy for you”?

            Finally we as a people are spiritually ill-informed or uninformed about the subject. We have decided fasting is not for us based not upon our own research or wise counsel of elders. No we heard something from someone who knows little or nothing about much of anything yet that is who we are base our opinion on.

            In closing I am not advocating everyone begin fasting. I am advocating that like Nehemiah when we need the strong counsel of God we should not neglect this method of drawing closer to Him.

 

In HIS Service