Hearts Ready to Channel Hope

August 27, 2023 Speaker: Jad K. Series: Crosstown Basics

Scripture: 1 Peter 3:8–17

Every year we return to the basic tenets of our church: gospel; community; mission. You’ve heard us say this before: we are saved by the gospel, into community, for mission. There’s continuity and intricate connectedness between these 3 aspects of our new life in Christ. If we neglect one, we find ourselves at a loss. Pursuing one of these alone is not complete without the others. A community without gospel is not a family of faith. Being saved but staying out of community or away from mission blunts the new life in Christ. Going on a mission without being saved is moot, and going on a mission without a sending community – as a lone ranger – is bound to failure and burnout. God has made it so that the new life we have in Christ is always better and fuller when combining these 3 elements together. The gospel gives us life and hope; community gives us love and a home; mission gives us purpose and joy.

Today, I will use the word “mission” broadly, meaning both ministry and gospel proclamation where we are, and also cross-cultural work and church planting. I will make a distinction later in the message when I speak of application to us here. But first, I’d like us to focus on the main themes of 1 Peter 3:15.

  • Mission starts in our hearts.
  • Mission needs preparedness.
  • Mission channels hope.
  • Mission requires gentleness and respect.

Mission starts in our hearts

God designed us for his worship and glory (Isaiah 43:7, 21), and to honor him as holy (Isaiah 29:23). The holiness of God is central to who he is, to our salvation, sanctification, glorification, and to our worship of him. Once we are saved, we are immediately called to obedience to Christ (1:2) and to live holy lives (1:14-16). It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking legalistically when we hear exhortations to holiness. But friends: once our hearts have tasted the goodness of God and experienced the overwhelming joy of the new creation, there must be in us a desire to both praise and obey the one who raised us from the dead and gave us life. And mission starts in such hearts of God’s people by honoring God’s name and giving him the worship that is due to him, for our hearts and minds are no longer set on the things of the flesh but on the Spirit (Romans 8:5-11). We are called to freedom in Christ as servants of God not as a cover-up for evil (2:16). We are called away from the passions of the flesh (2:10) and invited to live passionately for Christ our King.

There is a song that says: to love the Lord our God is the heartbeat of our mission (The Mission by Steve Green; 1989). And that’s very true: we will not take up the cause of one we do not love, and the more we grow in our love for him, the more we get on board with his plan to be generous to the world for whom he gave his own Son, and to which he has commissioned us to go and make disciples. He did not die to save me only from my sin, but to save us – the community of faith, the elect of God, the chosen people – and to put an end to the schemes of the devil and to the misery of sin that has infested all of creation since the fall.

Brothers and sisters: a wayward heart does not walk in the way of the Lord. A heart that is set on lesser things does not rise to the high honor of worshiping God. But the heart that has been transformed by faith in Christ seeks Christ first and his righteousness, and gives itself entirely to a life whose chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever, and to help others along the way also to glorify God and enjoy him with us. If we do not worship Christ as holy above all else, he does not diminish nor does his glory; but you and I do, and we lose sight of the joys that he set before us. The best first step of readiness for missions is to live holy undivided lives for Jesus.

Mission needs preparedness

Have you ever found yourself facing a task that you wish you would have been prepared for? Maybe it’s something at work, or an athletic event, or an unforeseen situation. You might think you can wing it and do ok. But let’s say you are about to have something done for you, and the one doing it is unprepared. Maybe you showed up for surgery only to find out that the surgeon and the team are not ready or do not have the proper equipment. What would your reaction be?

In a similar way, what would the reaction of the great cloud of witnesses that surrounds us be if we are not ready to share the hope that is in us? Hear me out: readiness does not only mean preparedness but also willingness. You must seek to know and understand the faith and the word well so that you can articulate them well. But let me tell you what the problem is – why most of us dread this: the issue for many of us is not that we have tried to learn the word and share the gospel and found it to be very difficult; the issue rather is that we assumed this to be difficult and we fear trying it. So we need both willingness and preparedness.

When 12-year-old Jesus was found by his parents to be arguing with the teachers (Luke 2:41-52), I hope we are not under the assumption that Jesus in his divine nature was doing that. No, I tell you that Jesus even from his childhood poured himself over the word and studied it and was satisfied and saturated by it, being both prepared and willing to share it. He increased in wisdom by doing the work of preparedness so that he was ready! And you and I have no excuse not to be. We can create or make excuses, but if we are honest with ourselves, such excuses do not stand the scrutiny test. Our spiritual reach cannot exceed our spiritual depth. If we are not digging deep in the word of God, it is hard for us to reach out with the word of God.

No one is born knowing how to speak but we learn. No one is born knowing how to pray but we learn. No one is born (or born again) knowing the whole counsel of God or how to preach or how to proclaim the gospel. But the more we learn, the better we become, and we have the Spirit in us as our teacher who is ready to impart to us knowledge and gifts. Like Jesus, we too can grow in wisdom and favor with God and man. Preparedness means praying for the Spirit to open our minds to see wondrous things in the word. It means prioritizing time in Scripture and with the community of faith. It means trying to proclaim the word, and learning from mistakes, failures, and triumphs. It means seeking opportunities to speak the truth of the word of God. It means making opportunities. It means having our radars wide open to latch onto any hint that we can use for the sake of gospel proclamation. And when suffering is the overarching context such as here in this letter, and as it might be sometimes in our lives or in that of our brotherhood around the world, or when we are opposed, we take every thought captive for the sake of Christ. We may suffer for a while, but the joy that is before us must be a catalyst to proclaim the only thing that can transform this dying world: Jesus Christ, outside of whom there is no other hope for humanity. And we must always be ready to share this hope.

Mission channels hope

There are several marks of the Christian life. The fruit of the Spirit is one of the hallmarks. Believers can be known by their joy and by their love for one another. But one of the most unique things is the hope we believers have, that shows in how we face suffering, distress, illness, opposition, and the things that can easily cause fear in this life. I am not talking about being aloof to what is happening around us or even to us. I am not speaking of being indifferent from pain or of separating ourselves from suffering like some worldviews advocate. I am speaking of a steadfast assurance and a certainty of faith that the world around us can see in us and wonder at, and feels attracted to, or at least senses a desire to understand better. Hope is a great apologetic.

Those who have no hope cannot give it. Those who have no water cannot quench someone’s thirst. Those who have no food cannot alleviate hunger. That’s why the unbelieving world stands disarmed in the face of death and suffering. It might resort to moral grandstanding or to declare how offended it is. But when disaster strikes close to home, when breath nears its end, when life is in its last moments, when medical promises fade, we can see that those who have no hope have nothing to impart. In fact, they may try to do their best to remove themselves from the situation. Some by God’s providence may show compassion and care toward the weak and suffering. But hope cannot be given where it lacks. If the well is empty, it cannot quench anyone’s thirst.

But we believers have come to the fountain of living water; we have received life; we are one with Christ; we have hope that is sure and steadfast as an anchor (Hebrews 6:19). In 1:13, Peter says this to the elect: preparing your minds for action […], set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. And he follows this in v.21 by saying that our faith and hope are in God. So friends: our hope is as strong, steadfast, alive and eternal as the One in whom our hope is, the One who has given us this hope. And this hope is not only ours to keep; it is not merely for our benefit; hope is ours to give in the name of Jesus Christ whose word does not return empty. Gospel proclamation is the best apologetic, the best remedy, the best practice, the best hope we believers can impart to the world. The resurrection of Christ is the reason for the hope that is in us, and his word is the power of hope to proclaim freedom and light and life to all who have not yet been freed. Christ in us is truly the hope of glory for the world (Col 1:27).

Mission requires gentleness and respect

Within the context of this letter, believers are exhorted to face suffering with courage and hope. In the middle of trials, Peter calls his readers to faith and obedience; to holiness and to abstaining from passions; to seek peace and to avoid repaying evil with evil; to honor everyone and to submit to authorities. The whole counsel of God reminds us that we are always at risk of adversity in this world, and that if we desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus we will be persecuted (2 Tim 3:12). From a human nature standpoint, it would be very easy to answer in the same manner one is confronted with or maligned. It would also be very easy to retreat into fear and worry. But we are called to be ready, to give a defense, and to share the hope in our message to the world around us. The right response to suffering or persecution or questioning is not fear, but worship, readiness, and willingness to share the hope of Christ in which we stand.

Now, a large part of how the message is received can be found in how the message is delivered. Far too many a good advice or a positive recommendation go unheeded because the method of delivery is confrontational, cynical, or even asinine. How tragic it is for sick people to refuse treatment because the doctor did not explain it well, or was pushy, or indifferent, or a jerk? The world seems to love confrontation, drama and fighting. Yet the people of God are not called to be quarrelsome. We are called to follow in the footsteps of our Lord who was a Lamb. Gospel witness should not be a hammer. Nor should it be a one-way street. Far too many gospel conversations are one-sided and imposing. But respect might dictate that we hear the other person’s point of view and try to get to know him/her better by understanding where they’re coming from, hearing their story, learning their culture. Then we can gently and respectfully speak the truth with love, and do it again, and again, and again.

Surely, we are to be wise in the face of hostility, and discerning in the contexts we find ourselves in. Yet we are called to be gentle and respectful in all of our deliveries of the message of truth. Many have a sales approach to gospel proclamation where the goal is to seal the deal: you know, sow, plant, water, grow, hammer, lead in prayer, reap. But statistics suggest that a person might have to hear the gospel no less than 7 times before making a decision. This means that more than one individual – maybe even many – are likely to be involved in someone’s story of faith over a long period of time; some removing rocks, others tilling, a few sowing, several watering, one or two reaping. And we should all do our part in the work of ministry with meekness and kindness. There is no reason to be unkind, especially in gospel proclamation. And there is no reason to be hyper-Calvinistic declaring that we shared the gospel once and our job is done. If we truly care about people’s eternal destiny, we would do all we can to make use of every opportunity to proclaim Christ as the hope of the nations and the only answer to the misery of sin this world languishes in.

Nuancing mission and gospel proclamation

So far I have used mission and gospel proclamation interchangeably for the sake of the argument. But over the next few minutes, I will be making a distinction between them as I focus on the application of gospel proclamation for us at Crosstown.

Friends: the Lord has given the great commission to all believers. We are all to make disciples of all nations and to teach them to obey what Christ commanded (Matthew 28:18-20). Within this context, mission is a very specific subset where people are sent cross-culturally. This usually means going to a different country, living in a different culture, embedding in a different language. And if we want to be more precise, mission is typically a frontier gospel proclamation that might require a long commitment to learn a new language and translate the Bible into that language with the goal of planting and building healthy churches that eventually reproduce locally without outside governance. The goal of mission is church planting. People are saved by the gospel into a community – into a church – where they grow and are sanctified and multiply. The fruit of an apple tree is not merely apples; it is other apple trees that bear more apples. In the same way, the fruit of missions is not only new converts, but new churches that multiply and lead to more believers and even more churches. Not all of us have this desire for missions. Not all of us are equipped. But every church should have this as a priority of its ministry. And we all must pray for this end; learn more about mission and needs; give wisely and generously; mobilize, send and support well; welcome foreigners and returning missionaries among us; but also seek the Lord’s face whether he will give us a desire to go ourselves to the nations, and to use what he has equipped us with for the sake of cross-cultural missions and church planting.

So to be clear, our missionaries here at Crosstown are our goers whose goal is church planting. I do not want us to leave today and think: we are all missionaries wherever we are. We are not. But what we are is equally important: we are all gospel ministers and must be gospel proclaimers. OT Israel was chosen by God to be a blessing to the nations around it. Here, Peter is explicit in his teaching that the church of Jesus Christ – God’s chosen people – is the new Israel, with the same goal! 2:9 proclaims that we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession (all parallels to OT Israel), THAT we may proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light (cf. Psalm 67). Are you getting this? Not only Crosstown’s elders and ministers are gospel proclaimers; every one of us is. We are all the Israel of God, the new community of faith, the stewards of the word of God, whose purpose is to proclaim Christ and him crucified to the world around us.

Practical application

What does this practically mean for each one of us? We are chosen by God and given honor, glory, and a living hope with him who is our chief cornerstone and the chosen stone – precious and priceless – by whom we are both commanded and empowered to proclaim his excellencies and to shine his light in the darkness. We are the salt of the earth, a city on a hill. Wherever we are, we are to honor Christ and live holy lives, in private and in public. We must consider Christ better than all the treasures of this world and fleeting pleasures of sin.

We must also live with thanksgiving for all the skills and gifts he has equipped us with, any position we are in, any power we possess. We must see ourselves in every realm of life we’re in as specifically placed there by God, as ordained by God where we are. Because Christ is risen, no labor of ours is in vain (1 Cor 15:58). Not only pastors are ordained; not only government leaders are ordained; all of us in the new covenant are ordained as priests – royal priests for God – and commanded to proclaim the gospel.

Believers: this is not a suggestion or a recommendation. This is a command. We will give an account for this. Does this sound scary? You bet it does. But I don’t want us to leave here today afraid. I want us to feel empowered, encouraged and equipped for gospel ministry. Is it hard work? Yes it is. Is it worth it? You bet it is! So wherever you are, at home or at school, at work or at play, start thinking of people the Lord has put on your path. Write their names down. Share their names with your Mfam. Pray for them. Pray fervently. Be patient. Persevere. If there is animosity, pray for the Lord to soften your heart toward them. Do not only wait for opportunities to happen, but make them happen. Learn to use verbal queues that can help open up gospel conversations. Be trustworthy and be excellent in what you do so that people can also trust you and seek your help. Try to find activities to do together. Have meals together. Be hospitable and invite them to your home for dinner. Do not only tell your friends you will pray for them; offer them to pray for them right then and there when they share a struggle with you. Let’s give people a reason to ask us for the hope that is in us!

Friends: do not be militant about anything else more than the gospel. Whether it’s the environment, or finances, or America, or your political party, or your candidate, or your favorite cause, or your favorite team, or your favorite TV show, or your favorite sports activity… Be about the gospel of Jesus Christ who is the way, the truth, and the life. I am pleading with you to not waste your life over things that are not eternal, and to not fill your time with things that take you away from the pleasures of God. Do not hide behind the busyness of life, the demands of work, or even behind the cares of your family. The hope of Christ is ours to give wherever we are, and it is easier for us to do with the help of our community of faith where we encourage, equip, and exhort one another to obedience and maturity in Christ, and seek to partner together for the sake of Christ’s name around us and among the nations.

I will end this message on a sober note. I realize that we all face challenges, difficulties, and oppositions in our various spheres of influence. Peter was acutely aware of that, and his letter is written under an overarching context of suffering. You see, it was good for him to write this to believers so that they don’t turn cynical and become paralyzed from sharing the hope they had. Such was my experience: my family came to faith in war, and we were persecuted before and after believing in Christ. We were opposed for many years after. I had hatred in my heart toward those who opposed us and tried to kill us, and this unfortunately prevented me from sharing with them the same hope that saved me. But when the One who forgave me and gave me life reminded me of the need to forgive them, my heart broke in repentance, and I prayed for them. And the more I prayed, the more the Lord broke my heart and softened it toward them, and then grew in me a love that eventually led me to yearn to proclaim the gospel and hope of Christ to my enemies. This took years, and I wish all of that happened quicker, because I regret the many opportunities to channel hope that came along the way that I never took advantage of to proclaim Christ. And my prayer for you and me is that we do not keep making this mistake, but always be prepared to share the hope that is in us so that more people would walk from darkness into light, and from death to life, glorifying God and enjoying him forever.

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