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The right answer about our hope

Better things are coming (Series Title)

Scripture Readings

  • Psalm 34
  • 1 Peter 3:8-18

Introduction

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

One thing about a Christian is that the direction of his/her life completely changed when Jesus Christ appears on the scene.   One day the apostles were professional fishermen, the next they became followers of Jesus Christ. leaving everything behind.  On one day Paul was on his way to Damascus to arrest Christians, the next he was worshipping the same Jesus he tried to stop.  The Ethiopian was on his way back to Ethiopia, probably expecting to continue his life the same way he had done before, but when he met Christ his life changed.  Paul, Peter and the other disciples in the end chose to die for the One who saved them from eternal hell to bring them to God. It still happens today.  I want to read parts of a report :I received this week.  It’s about Christians in Syria.  The Syrian ministry workers in those villages chose to stay in order to provide aid in the name of Christ to survivors.

“I asked them to leave, but I gave them the freedom to choose.  Every time we talked to them, they were always saying, ‘We want to stay here—this is what God has told us to do. This is what we want to do.’ They just wanted to stay and share the gospel.”  The 41-year-old team leader, his young son and two ministry members in their 20s were questioned at one village site where ISIS militants had summoned a crowd. The team leader presided over nine house churches he had helped to establish. His son was two months away from his 13th birthday.

“All were badly brutalised and then crucified.They were left on their crosses for two days. No one was allowed to remove them.”  The women, ages 29 and 33, tried to tell the ISIS militants they were only sharing the peace and love of Christ and asked what they had done wrong to deserve the abuse. The Islamic extremists then publicly raped the women, who continued to pray during the ordeal, leading the ISIS militants to beat them all the more furiously.  

As the two women and the six men knelt before they were beheaded, they were all praying.  “One of the women looked up and seemed to be almost smiling as she said, ‘Jesus!'”

She knew her hope.  These people knew Christ, and they knew their hope.  They died in with honour, and the doors of heaven were opened for them.

The Christian understands and fully believe his position in Christ: pardon and acceptance with a reconciled God; fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ, and constant grace and peace out of his fulness; the preserving and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit; victory over death and hell; and an everlasting possession of heaven as a inheritance gift.  By hope he understands it all, anticipates it all, enjoys it all.

The world has no idea

Why does the Christian turn his/her back on this world?  Why allow good prospects of career advancement pass you by just because you are a Christian?  Why does the Christian choose to be the odd one out to not laugh when bad jokes do the round, or when the outcast is ridiculed?  Why not grab take the bribe and go on the promised holiday?  Why give some of your income to support the poor or missionaries far away, while you can enjoy it yourself?  Why not allow the white lie to go through if the truth is going to hurt your chances in life?

These questions and the answers and Christians give stuns the world.  Are you out of your mind?  Grab the day!  No one is going to pick you up when you have fallen.  No one is going to stand in for you when you tell the truth and get fired.  Wake up to yourself!  Get real!

The Christian answers, not with any smugness or self-pity, but with gentleness and respect,  “I have never been more real in my life!  See, the difference in Christ!”

For this the Christian is more often than not excluded from friendship circles,; they are not invited to parties anymore; they are not included in deals anymore; they sometimes become lonely; they become the outcast, the weird, the dumb, the stupid.  When they resist temptations to immoral activities, when they stand up for the sanctity of marriage as God intended it to be, when they speak up against abortion and one night stands or any change in the definition of marriage, they are condemned as unloving, bigots and downright evil.  That’s when we know that evil has become good and good ahas become evil.  Woe to you when men speak well of you, our Lord said.

Christians are not welcome in the world

When we did our series from John we heard our Lord said:

If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (John 15:19, ESV)  

When Jesus called his disciples He warned them:

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11–12, ESV)

The prophet Isaiah prophesies about these things:

Hear the word of the Lord, you who respect what He has to say! Your countrymen, who hate you and exclude you, supposedly for the sake of my name, say, “May the Lord be glorified, then we will witness your joy.” But they will be put to shame. (Isaiah 66:5, NET)

Our chapter takes us to Psalm 34 to teach us how we should react to the hostilities of this world and even those who proclaim to be Christian, who are not.

Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. (Psalm 34:12–14, NIV)

Who said these words?  David.  When?  Although Samuel anointed David as king, he was nevertheless forced to become a refugee before Saul. David, the elect of God, was forced to suffer on the earth as an exile.  Twice during those refugee years David had the opportunity to take Saul’s life. On the first occasion David cut off a corner of Saul’s robe when Saul had come unknowingly into the cave where David was hiding.  After Saul arose and left, David called to him from the opening of the cave, and Saul replied:

“Is that your voice, David my son?” And he wept aloud. “You are more righteous than I,” he said. “You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly.  When a man finds his enemy, does he let him get away unharmed? May the Lord reward you well for the way you treated me today. (1 Samuel 24:16-17, 19, NIV)

On the second occasion David spared Saul’s life while he slept in his own camp. He did not take Saul’s life, only his spear and helmet.  Saul then said:

The Lord rewards everyone for their righteousness and faithfulness. May you be blessed, David my son; you will do great things and surely triumph.” (1 Samuel 26:23, 25, NIV)

Our chapter says of those who are wronged by this world while they submit to the Lord:

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Peter 3:9, 12, NIV)

God knows our struggle and our loneliness when we are rejected and would, if things were in our hands, love to see retribution:  His eyes are upon the righteous, and his ears listen to our prayers.

When the time comes and people want to know why we act differently, and why it sometimes look as if we don’t have any backbone to stand up against those who would love to tread us underfoot, we regroup, we fix our eyes upon Christ, we reaffirm our submission to Him – we set Him apart in our hearts as our Lord – and we take his Name as the sweetest of all names on out lips as we stand firm for his glory; we pray that He will give us his gentleness, and we look at those who want to ridicule us as God’s own creatures – with respect -; we pray that Christ will keep us from falling and so defile our own conscience before Him and those who falsely accuse us – because we only want to see glory of our Lord on display – and we tell them of Him who called us our of darkness into his marvellous light.  He gave us a hope which cannot fade, an inheritance which cannot be spoiled, now already put away for those who hope in Christ in heaven.  And we leave it to God to use our testimony to the salvation of the lost, or to the hardness of heart of those who revile our Lord.

This is how Jesus set the example

Peter continues in his letter:

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. (1 Peter 3:18, NIV)

He was reviled and denounce, mock and spat upon.  They hated Him to the point that they stripped Him naked, put a crown of thorns on his head and nailed Him to a cross, all they way mocking and jeering the Son of God!  He was willing to take this treatment to bring up to God.  So, we should not be surprised if those of the same spirit do the same thing to us.

But, and this is the great BUT, He was made alive.  Peter records something which is hard to understand because it is only here we read about Christ preaching to the spirits of the disobedient.  We don’t know when it happened, and we don’t really know who the disobedient spirits were.  What we know is that their disobedience is connected to Noah and the flood.  These people probably thought old Noah was some stupid and off his mind when he, the righteous preacher warned them of the pending judgement of the Lord upon their sin – they thought they had the last word – but they were wrong!  the victorious Christ who was raised by the Spirit of God did not go to preach to them any message of hope as Noah would have done; no, his message as the Victor over death, hell, sin and Satan was to seal their condemnation – forever!

And, united by faith to Him through baptism – and we can say today, through the sacrament of wine and bread, we share in his victory.

Conclusion

Truely, the Bible teaches us today that better things are coming.  So, my dear friend, when the hard times come, or when you face the ridicule of this world because of your testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ, follow the example of David’s Son – Jesus Christ.  Take it on the chin, but never, ever forget this:  victory is ours through Jesus Christ.  We have a hop which cannot spoil of fade, kept in heaven for us, shielded by the power of God.  In the meantime, follow in the footsteps of our Saviour:  submit to all authority, but never disobey or disown your Lord.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on 11 October 2015

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