Witness Starts in the Heart
Most believers can quote the second half of 1 Peter 3:15 by heart: “always be[ing] prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” Some may even know the next few words: “yet do it with gentleness and respect.” But oftentimes many do not recall the first part of this famous verse: “[but] in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy.”
This wonderful exhortation begins with the basics of faithful living. The concept of sharing the Gospel of truth, and doing it well and with integrity, begins in our own hearts by honoring Christ. We do so by equipping ourselves and delving deep into the fountains of truth the Bible exudes with. Our knowledge of God must lead us to an intimate relationship with the Eternal One, and therefore love that which he loves, give him the glory due to his name, and understand his divine will and holy desire, and our role in them. We honor the Lord by loving him, his word, his will, his kingdom, and his bride, the church.
A right understanding starts with grasping the salvation we have in Christ. Out of this understanding should come obedience, gratitude, joy, the conviction to live holy lives, and a deep desire for the fulfillment of the great commission. With this also comes integrity, which is the act of being undivided in the way we live privately and corporately. That which we profess should be manifested and vindicated by that which we do. To profess one thing, but not do it, means we are not true to that thing; this is the definition of hypocrisy. But Christians ought not be known as such. For we have been set free from being enslaved to the wants and needs of this ephemeral world, in order to be free to live for the Lord. Our obligation to sin has been broken (Romans 6:15-23). The enemy of our souls, the accuser, can no longer bring any charge against us.
Faithful men of old
In the book of Daniel, we find young men who are away from their home, their place of worship, their families, and even their own language. We find them in the middle of attempts to completely change their identities: they are given new names, taught a new language, placed within a group of foreigners, handed a different food, and given a new education. But in the midst of all such attempts, these men stay true to their faith. It would have been very easy for them to capitulate. No one back home might have ever known of the change that took place. Yet they themselves knew; and God knew. In the middle of adversity, those men prayed. They entrusted themselves to the One who judges rightly. They received the grace of God, even while realizing that their lives could be had. They understood that they were created for the glory of God, they were in Babylon to honor God, and the purpose of their life, even in exile, was to bear witness. Their faithfulness to honor the Lord was not cheap: it almost cost them their lives! Nonetheless, even when faced with questions and threats, with torture and death, they refused to dishonor their Lord by bowing a knee to idols. They answered the king with gentleness and respect, all the while they continued in their private and corporate exercise of faith.
Are we faithful?
What is our conviction to lead and witness? Where does it stem from? How is it sustained and powered? We cannot extend faith or spiritual reach to others if we do not have a depth of both, rooted in the unchanging Word of God. Do we live the same lives in private as we live them in public? Does it matter what we do or how we use our time if God alone is watching or if there are humans in the audience? Do they see Jesus in us? Does Jesus see Jesus in us when the world is not watching? May that which flows from our heart be holy and visible in our lives, at all times, in all places, under all circumstances. And may it guide our witness and acts of service.