Passage: 1 Peter 3:13-17
When it comes to ‘good news’ the church doesn’t have a monopoly, because people are ‘evangelizing’ others with their ‘good news’ every day. It might be reporting that over 18’s can get the vaccine at Twickenham Stadium; a great superfood salad recipe they’ve found online; a new hoppy IPA from a local micro-brewer they’ve tasted; or the benefits of an annual car-park pass for Windsor Great Park. There’s no shortage of ‘good news’ out there, and this is the context into which we are commissioned by the Lord Jesus to proclaim ‘the good news’. Often when we venture into the area of telling others about Jesus, the immediate focus is on the ‘how-to’ of evangelism (techniques, strategies, courses, events etc), but what is often overlooked is the ‘want-to’ of evangelism. It is often our heart motivation (don’t want to) that is the biggest barrier to evangelism. Maybe we’ve had some bad experiences in the past, or feel a failure, or perhaps we’ve lost friends because we talked to them about Jesus or we were mocked because of our faith. We’ll happily talk about what we love, treasure and revere, whether it’s a sports team, a job, a relationship, our garden or our children. So the motivational key to evangelism is the Lord Jesus being foremost in my heart and affections so that I’ll want to speak of Him. This section from Peter’s first letter demonstrates this powerfully.
Peter is writing to Christians scattered throughout Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey), many of whom are suffering for their faith in Christ. There were ample reasons why they might keep their heads down and mouths shut when it came to evangelism. We’re not in quite the same environment, although anti-Christian sentiment is rising in the UK. The problem we encounter is not so much people hardened to the Gospel as it is people happy without the Gospel. Peter presents us with three timeless priorities in our lives that will keep our hearts rightly motivated for evangelism.
‘Doing good’ is a theme of Peter’s letter which should not come as a surprise given the Great Commandment to love God and to love our neighbour. Demonstrating love for others by acts of kindness, winsome speech, generous hospitality and sacrificial service is not an alternative to ‘the good news’ but are marks of an attractive life that might prompt others to ask, ‘so what makes you tick?’ Think about all the spheres of influence in your life- family, workplace, neighbours, community, hobbies- would people in each of these spheres see something distinctive about your life? Does your presence bring a smile to people’s faces or a groan in their spirit? As Peter has said earlier, ‘Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (2:12)
Over the years, I’ve noticed that when it comes to evangelism, there’s one barrier that always comes up for people- Fear. It might be fear of others’ response, fear of losing their friendship, fear of failure, fear of being mocked, fear of not being able to answer their question. This is understandable because it’s human nature. But Peter writes- “Do not fear what they fear (or as the footnote says, ‘do not fear their threats’); do not be frightened.” (v14). But then he tells us where our fear should be redirected to- “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.” (v15a) The Lord Jesus died and rose again in victory, defeating Satan, sin and death for us. He reigns over everything in this world, including all those attempts we make at speaking of Him. And, upon his return, “every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that he is Lord” (Phil 2:10-11). As followers of Jesus we must remember the truth that, Jesus Christ is Lord. Every single person’s eternal destiny is in the hands of God’s Son. That’s quite a thought isn’t it! He’s the one I’m to treasure, love and revere more than anything or anyone else.
So with an attitude of loving kindness and a reverence for Christ, I’m to go into each day ready. Peter says- “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (v15b) Christians often want to wait for the right time, right circumstances, right setting to speak about Jesus, but life isn’t like that. We don’t know what each day will bring, the encounters we’ll have or the conversations we’ll get into. Always and everyone doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room does it? It means we’ve always got to be ready for everyone! And do you see that the opportunity has not been manufactured by the Christian but has been initiated by the unbeliever who “asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” Maybe they’ve seen how you handled some setback, the kindness you showed to an unpopular colleague, or the humility you displayed when you got promoted. It is in such moments that we can speak of our ‘living hope’ (1:3). This is not a case of fingers-crossed but thumbs up! Through Christ we can know the hope of eternal glory and the reality of eternal life! It’s only through faith in Christ that a person can possess genuine hope in a hopeless world! This is not the cue for a well-rehearsed monologue or a canned Gospel presentation, but a reply with “gentleness and respect” (v15c). Every person is interesting because they’re unique, so don’t suddenly turn into an evangelism robot. Treat your unbelieving enquirer with great love and respect. Remember one day it was you who asked someone to give the reason for their hope!
This Pep Talk was based upon a chapter on ‘Witnessing’ in Tony Merida’s book, ‘Love Your Church’ (8 great things about being a church member).
Dear Lord God, forgive me for my neglect of those who are lost and perishing. May my life put the gospel on display for others to see. May my heart be full of Jesus that I’ll want to speak of him. May my gracious words point others to Jesus. Amen.