Dear radio friends,
Today I would like to call your attention to a very wonderful and great privilege that the child of God is given in the Word of God. It is the calling to witness of the hope that is within us. We read in I Peter 3:15, “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.” This is the calling that belongs to every child of God, old and young, male and female. It is the calling to defend the faith which is precious to our heart and to witness of the hope that lives within our souls and to live a Christian life so that others will take notice of us. Not only is this the calling of an elder, a minister – though they certainly are included. This is the charge of every child of God.
In I Peter 3 the Scripture is instructing us in our duty as we come before the opposition of the world. Peter has been speaking of those who suffer for righteous’ sake. He says, “Be happy and don’t be afraid; neither be troubled.” The Christians to whom this epistle was written were exposed to much reproach and injustice. Our Lord and Savior, while on earth, also was ill treated and His character was maligned. And He said, “If they have treated Me so, they will also treat you in the same manner.” All who live a godly life, then, shall experience in this world opposition and persecution.
But what are we to do? In I Peter 3 we read that we are not to retaliate, we are not to render evil for evil. Secondly, we must be guarded against the fear of man. We must not be afraid of their terror nor be troubled. Still more, we must sanctify the Lord God in our hearts and be ready always to give an answer of the hope that is in us.
This Word of God, then, very plainly is speaking about the life-style of the child of God – a life-style which is different from the world and which is going to bring questions and, often, ridicule.
Peter is talking about those who know the hope of eternal life personally and whose whole life is under the power of that hope. Their conduct as a Christian will show that and will provoke questions. What this is saying is that our life as a child of God must give a reason for others to ask questions of us. “Be ready always to give an answer,” we read, “to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.”
When the apostle speaks of an answer, the word, literally, is “apology.” Give an apology of your hope. That word does not mean to be sorry for it. There is no need to be sorry when you live as a Christian. Rather, the Word of God says, “Happy are ye.” But it means that we must be ready to give a defense of our faith. From this word “answer” or “apology” there is a course in Reformed seminaries called Apologetics. That course refers to a reasoned defense of the faith of the gospel. We read in Acts 24:10 that Paul, as he stood before the governor Felix, “after that the governor had beckoned unto him to speak, answered, Forasmuch as I know that thou hast been of many years a judge unto this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself.” Therefore, to give an answer or an apology for our faith means that we are ready, we are prepared to bring an intelligent, thought out, heartfelt explanation concerning our conduct and our belief.
When you are being mocked, then, because they say that you are too holy, you are out-of-touch, you will not look at those dirty pictures, then you must be ready to give an intelligent explanation of the hope that is in you. When you are belittled because you will not use the foul language of other children on the playground or when your parents call you and you come, then you must give an intelligent reason for your conduct – of the hope of Jesus Christ that is in your heart, which governs the way you live. When you are accosted as a mother with the question, “Why do you stay at home with your kids?” and “Why do you want to be the loneliest person on the block, because everybody else is gone?” then you give an answer, intelligently, from your heart, of the hope of Jesus Christ in your heart. When, perhaps at work, they say to you, “Why won’t you just smooth this over? Every company steals software. We’ve got to do it too.” You do not just say, “No.” But you tell why – because of the hope that is in you. You must defend what you do. You must explain carefully why you do it. You appeal to an authority higher than your own. You appeal to the authority of your God, of His Word. You say, “This is the explanation for my behavior and ought to be your behavior, too.”
Very obviously, the questioning or, sometimes, the ridicule that comes to the child of God comes exactly because the child of God is called to live a different life – a life different from the world around him, which catches the notice of others. The Christian is always being watched by an unbeliever. We need to be reminded of that. There is not much that a Christian does which escapes the notice of the world. There is a principle to be found there. The world, the unbelieving world around you, is always watching you as a child of God. The child of God is not inconspicuous to the world. God could say to the devil, “Hast thou seen My servant Job?” And the devil would reply, “Oh, yes. I have seen him alright. He is a beam in my eye!”
Now, according to God’s own will, this is the way it must be. This epistle repeatedly emphasizes to us the importance of a godly walk. For instance, in I Peter 2:11, 12 we read, “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; having your conversation (that is your life) honest among the Gentiles (the unbelievers); that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.” In this world of sin, you do not live a Christian life and wonder if people will notice. They will. The Christian’s experience is not like the experience of a housewife who sometimes wonders if anybody notices what she does. Oh, no. The world will notice the Christian. We need to emphasize that that is true. That is true especially when our witness and our walk is close to the truth of the Scriptures. A godly walk and a consistent witness of the truth of the sovereignty of God, of the truths of Scripture that God is God and salvation is all the work of God, these will invoke questions.
You must be prepared. How are you going to be prepared? We read, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts and be ready to give an answer.” We are to be ready to give an answer in the way of sanctifying the Lord in our hearts.
Now, what does that mean? Peter has his eye here on a passage in the Old Testament. That passage is Isaiah 8:12, 13. It was the time when Judah was being threatened by Israel and Syria, and Ahaz, the king of Judah, instead of trusting in Jehovah, sought to make an alliance or confederacy with the nation of Assyria. Then the Word of God says, “Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid. Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.” Isaiah was saying, “Judah, you are afraid. The king of Israel and the king of Syria have put you in fear. You look here and you look there and it is all panic. Instead of doing that, sanctify the Lord in your hearts.” That means, set Jehovah aside in your heart. Focus upon Him. The way to rise above the fear of man is by our mind and our hearts constantly sanctifying God, constantly setting God aside as separate and holy.
Sanctify God in your heart. Your heart is your spiritual center. That is the place where God has implanted the life of Jesus Christ by grace alone. Now, constantly and habitually and daily you must make that heart a sanctuary of God; you must remember that God is within you; you must reverence God; you must stand in awe of God. Do you? Young people, do you? Do you sanctify the Lord God in your heart through prayer, through the Word, through study, through meditation upon His Word?
Then, you see, the point is this: he who truly knows God, he who truly fears God in a reverence of love, this person need fear no one. True courage is to reverence God in your heart because that is where we are troubled with fear. Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled. Ye believe in God, believe also in Me.”
The hostility of unbelief is not easy to face. As humans, we dread rejection. We do not want to be viewed as different. We ask the question, “What will people think?” It is easy for us, in countless situations, to be intimidated and to be afraid to give an answer of our Christian hope. We become, then, ashamed of the gospel and we compromise our Christian walk and hide our light under a bushel. It takes spiritual courage and strength to face unbelief and give an explanation of the hope that is in us.
Where is that strength? Sanctify the Lord in your heart! Reverence God deep down in your hearts. You see, the boldness of a Christian witness and the clarity and the power of a Christian witness is not a matter of personality. It is not a matter of force of character. God says, sanctify Me in your heart. Cultivate a daily awareness of who God is and that He, by love, has saved you in His Son Jesus Christ. Fresh from the presence of God, when you are asked to speak why you live the way you do and what you believe, you will be prepared to give an answer.
Our hearts, then, must be guarded. Our hearts are guarded always by sanctifying God in our hearts.
Religion, then, is not to us merely pious talk. Religion is not something we have so long as it does not cost us something or involve denying our own will. There is nothing which brings more shame to the cause of Jesus Christ than those who confess to be Christians but whose hearts, rather than sanctifying God, are set upon earthly things and their God is their belly. Then they want to put God off into a corner and they want to attempt to appease Him with superficial service. They throw a few crumbs His way. Maybe they will come to a service or two on Sunday. But they refuse to put a dagger to their own sin and lusts.
We must ask ourselves: “Can the world see the hope of Christ in me? Can they see that my treasure is in heaven? Can they see that my heart is focused on Christ?” Do they see that you are a pilgrim and a stranger and that you are intent upon entering heaven? Or do they see that you, like them, are intent on keeping the things of the world? Does the world see that you are different, from your behavior, from your speech, from your activities, from your care for each other, from your dress? Do they see that you are the subjects of the kingdom of God, that your lives are not governed by the world that you see or by others around you, but that you have set your goals and your standards according to the holy Scriptures?
Married couples, are you noticed as children of God in this world? Are you ready to sacrifice for your confession? Do you refuse to work on the Lord’s day? Are you willing to set aside new furniture for Christian education?
Sanctify the Lord God in your heart. In the midst of the hopelessness and despair which so rule in the hearts of men today, we have this knowledge of the living God in the face of Jesus Christ: He is our God and Savior. Now, constantly be reverencing Him in your heart and you will be ready to give an answer to every man who asketh a reason of the hope that is in you. It will be a living witness. It is the hope of God to which we bear a witness.
And that hope is a glorious thing. According to Romans 5:5 it is that which will never make us ashamed. It is a hope that is in us, in our hearts.
The psalmist says of the wicked world: they set not their hope in Thee. Now, the wicked world has many hopes. They have many things that they desire and that they see as good and that they anticipate to have. They say, “Oh, I hope for more money, health, big home, car, pleasures, enjoyment.” And God says, “All of those things are vanity.” We read in Proverbs 10:28, “The hope of the righteous shall be gladness, but the expectation of the wicked shall perish.” But the hope that is in you, oh, that is a blessed hope. That is a hope in God. That is a confidence and a longing for all that God has promised to us and which one day, when Christ returns, will be perfected in glory. That hope is in us, for God has made us to hope. He has made us to desire, to pant after, to covet those things of our salvation. They are our treasure, our comfort, and our strength.
It is that hope burning in our hearts which becomes our witness, which catches the eyes of the world. Either the world comes in derision or they stop and ask, “What is it that is so different about you?” Then we bring a testimony, a living testimony of that hope. Someone at work asks you, “Why don’t you live like everyone else on the weekend? Why don’t you live like the rest of the world? You don’t curse at work. You don’t seek to advance yourself. You don’t undercut and operate like the rest around here. Your music that you listen to is different. You don’t get drunk.” Then you answer: “Because my eyes are fixed upon something beyond the earthly. I have a sure hope that I will stand in the presence of God. Christ now lives within me and I long for that day when that fellowship shall be perfect and complete. And having this hope in me, I want already now to be pure even as He is pure.”
There are others who might come to you and say, “Why don’t you lie to get out of it? Why don’t you just put the blame on someone else? That’s what everybody else does.” And, “Repentance? You repent from your sin? What’s that? Isn’t that just weakness?” says the world. “Isn’t that admitting that there is something wrong with you?” Then you answer: “I repent and I refuse to lie because my hope is in Him – that I might be like my Savior who has loved me and brought me out of my sins.”
As a young person, are you asked: “Why do you keep yourself chaste? You don’t play around. Why do you want to be holy? What’s the matter with you?” Do you answer: “Because I belong to Him, body and soul. And I keep myself for Him and for the man or woman whom God has given to me in marriage. My hope is His presence. My joy is Him. I give all things to Him.” Perhaps somebody asks you, “Why do you go to church – twice? Why do you pray? Why do you read the Word of God? You go to Bible study, too? You seek the companionship of fellow Christians? Why do you do all of that?” Then you say, “My hope in Christ cannot exist in this ungodly world without the oasis of the Lord’s day. I yearn and desire to hear His word and to go up to the house of God with all of His saints. I live my life in a spiritually polluted air. It chokes and stifles me. But then I can go to God’s house and I can have the fresh air of His word. I can see His people, and my hope in me can become bright and comforting within my soul. I want to do this.”
That means that our answer is going to be built upon an intelligent faith in the holy Scriptures. It will not be a wishy-washy sentimental testimony. It will be spoken with passion, for sure, but spoken clearly and consistently from the truths of God’s own Word. Not merely an emotional appeal. With all of our hearts, for sure. But the answer of the conviction of our faith. It will come from the Scriptures. It will come from an understanding of the Scriptures.
Did dust gather on your Bible this week? Do you learn, as a young person, your catechism? Do you personally study the Word of God? Do you read it? Do you pray? Are you able to show from the Scriptures your hope? Can you do that from the Scriptures? Are you able to explain, from the Scriptures, why you listen to the music that you listen to, why you keep yourself from fornication, why you will not practice lying and cheating at work? Are you able to explain, from the Scriptures, why you do that? You are to give an answer of the hope within you, with meekness and in fear.
That means that we are to do it in the proper way. Very briefly, that means that we do this relying upon God, looking to God in His face, having God before us, desiring first of all that we speak with sincerity, not putting on a face, not working ourselves up into what we think we ought to be, but out of that daily faith, we give an answer with meekness and fear. In this way, there is a living witness of the glory of God in this world, a living witness of the hope that God has placed within our hearts.
May God keep us faithful to this Word of God. May God prepare us each day by sanctifying Him in our hearts. And may God give us mouths to answer and to give a witness of the hope that is in us. Then we shall have a good conscience. And that, whereas they may speak against us as evil doers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse our good conversation in Jesus Christ. God grant it.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy Word. And we pray that Thy Spirit may apply it to our hearts. Amen.