Monday, November 23, 2009

The Hope That I Have – 1 Peter 3:13-18

Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. (NIV)

Peter knew full well that Christians were being harmed for no reason. They were trying to do good, yet they were being persecuted. It is still happening today as it has always been. David ran into this problem .Ps 38:20 Those who repay my good with evil slander me when I pursue what is good. (NIV) Jesus warned us that it would happen to us simply because we belong to Him. John 15:18 "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” (RSV) The main reason is that when we do good, it reminds others that they are not a right standing with God and therefore want to remove anything that convicts them of that. John 15:22-23 “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father also.” (RSV)

I realize how intolerant it is to tell someone or even show someone the errors of their ways. Today, everything is a matter of one’s own judgment. Therefore I deserve to be ostracized or even worse if I point out that certain behavior is actually wrong based on an absolute standard that is not within my own judgment, i.e. God’s. However, isn’t that being intolerant of my belief? The only way I can suffer for what is right and know that I’m doing right is to have a standard that supersedes what others believe to be right based on their own desires and dreams.

What do “they” fear? Most people fear death more than anything else. That is most often the threat of severe persecutors. They believe that under the threat of death, Christians will recant their faith. It burns them to no end when it doesn’t work. It only makes them madder and they often carry out their threats.

How can I not be frightened under those circumstances? By setting apart Christ as Lord in my heart. If I really believe Him, then death is not the worst thing that can happen to me. Rev 1:17-18 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” (NIV) When I belong to Jesus, I am promised eternal life. Jesus rose from the dead and defeated death. He now holds the key to death so that when I die, I’ll be brought into his eternal life and live with Him forever. With that view, the threats to succumb to the world’s standards of right and wrong are pure foolishness. The temptations to live life for today and worldly pleasures are overcome by the knowledge that something far better awaits me.

This is the hope that I have. The tough part is letting others know about it with humility and respect. I’ve been accused of being arrogant because I know where I’m going and most people don’t think anyone can know that. But that is what God’s Word tells me. 1 John 5:13 I write this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. (RSV)

Sometimes I just want to thump a person on the head and yell, “Wake up!” (Not very respectful.) Many people have their own ideas of who God is. Their ideas are based on their own wishful thinking. They somehow think that thinks and acts just like they do so they do as they please. Ps 50:21 These things you have done and I kept silent; you thought I was altogether like you. But I will rebuke you and accuse you to your face. (NIV) Even though God will rebuke and punish them for those ideas and actions, they think it is totally wrong for me to warn them. They’ve heard that Jesus is only one way and they don’t like it. The excuses are plentiful – everything from thinking that Jesus didn’t really mean that, to simply ignoring it and saying that they believe there are many roads to heaven. Don’t they know that there are many roads to hell and only one to heaven? They have the same excuses for ignoring that as well.

So they slander Christians as being intolerant among other things. However, they will still see the good things I do and realize that they are wrong even if they don’t want to admit it.

Yeah, there are some who call themselves Christians and do some pretty horrific things. They will suffer for their wrongs, sooner or later. Some claim to be martyrs but the truth is, they are getting what they deserve. But that’s not where I want to be and it isn’t where God wants me to be.

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