The Holy Spirit Prepares Each of Us for Mission!
O Lord God, our dear heavenly Father, today I am entering into Your presence for worship. I am joining my fellow believers, Your sons and daughters by faith, in order to consider Your commission to share the good news of salvation with all people. Impress upon my heart the needs of lost sinners. Fill my mind with the truths of Your word. Open my eyes to any and all opportunities to share those truths with others. I ask for these blessings in Jesus’ name. Amen.
The LORD chose Jeremiah already in the womb to be “a prophet to the nations.” He placed His word in Jeremiah’s mouth and urged him not to be afraid, for He said, “I am with you to deliver you!” The LORD has chosen each of us here today to be His child and urges all of us to be ready to share His gospel message with others!
Text: 1 Peter 3:15
Every word of God is pure, All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is useful for our instruction in righteousness. Our Mission Sunday text for consideration this morning is a single verse from Peter’s 1st Epistle. It is a text that clearly points each of us to missions. It shows us that personal evangelism is a part of our lives as Christians. We who have been given a certainty of salvation, all have a part in sharing the good news of the gospel to the world around us. Our text is also fitting for this Lenten season of repentance as we are now especially mindful of what God has done for us in Christ Jesus!
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 1 Peter 3:15
Dear fellow redeemed, Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
Imagine for a moment that you are at the bedside of a loved one who is dying. As you try to bring comfort she reaches out for you, looks into your eyes and says, “I don’t know if I have been good enough.” Or, you are at work, it is very busy and a young coworker comes up and says, “My university professor says the Bible is really a collection of myths, isn’t it?” Or, another individual says to you “You are a blessing, that other Christian used to always want to point out our sin, he even told one man who is gay that he was going to go to hell. You don’t seem so narrow minded.” Or you are on the phone with your brother or sister who you do not see often and they say, “I’m not a Christian!”
Thankfully most questioning of our faith is not with a gun pointing at our head demanding a renunciation of our Savior. Something that sounds so unlikely here in the United States, yet possible for all of us and does still happen with frequency throughout the world.
What do we say, when our faith is questioned? What should we do? The work of Missions is not always as easy as preaching a sermon, or presenting a Bible class. In those opportunities there is usually plenty of time for prayer and preparations. When it comes to personal evangelism we might find ourselves at a loss. Even to the point of not saying anything at all.
Perhaps my examples sounded familiar. Or maybe you already have answers for people in those situations, with just the right verses. Or maybe you are reminded of similar situations where you thought you had opportunity for the Lord, and believed you failed miserably.
This verse viewed as law only brings us to realize we do all fall short. Our hearts are full of many things crowding the Lord God out. Our defense of Christ is lacking, and as far as meekness and fear go we often would rather win the argument satisfying our pride than be used humbly to win the soul for Christ.
Peter is our example. He had the perfect confessions. “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” and “to whom shall we go Lord You have the words of eternal life.” Yet Peter also seemed so full of himself. We all know of his denial of the Lord, and his defense was with a sword to the ear. Just as Peter was restored from his prideful sin, we too live in the assurance of the gospel and are reminded through these words that the Holy Spirit Prepares Each of Us for Missions. Through Christ alone we are pure, fresh and sinless in God’s eyes. Living in this blessed assurance we may be ready to be a part of the Lord’s work.
Peter is writing for encouragement. His original hearers were scattered and he is writing to prepare them for persecution. All Christians of any time are encouraged by Peter’s letter. Within the context of our short verse Peter brings encouragement for Christian living. Living in such a manner as we would reflect Christ in our lives. The words just prior to the 15th verse sound familiar to Jesus’ words in the sermon on the mount. After encouraging godly living (8-13), in verse 14 Peter says, But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “and do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” Peter is quoting Isaiah 8:12. He is saying, don’t fear men and the terror and trouble they may appear to bring.
Our verse for today shows us this is not an empty encouragement, or not merely a situation of mind over matter, but rather how the Holy Spirit Prepares Each of Us for Missions.
I. With a right heart.
Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts Sanctify (Christ as Lord) in your hearts. NASB
How do we sanctify the Lord God? He is already holy! Isn’t it He who sanctifies us? In the first chapter of this epistle Peter quotes Leviticus 11, where God tells us: Be Holy, for I am Holy. (Lev. 11:44)
We sanctify the Lord God in our hearts in the same way that we hallow His name in the Lord’s prayer. “God’s name certainly is holy all by itself, but we pray in this petition that we also keep it holy.” When we consider sanctifying the Lord God in our hearts we know the Lord God is indeed holy in and of Himself, but we pray the Spirit of God would lead us to keep Him holy also in our hearts.
Why would a Christian need to be reminded of this? Remember Peter is speaking to Christians. One who is not a believer is dead in trespasses and cannot in any way make themselves holy, or choose to make Jesus Christ Lord of one’s life. The Holy Spirit prepares us for missions by calling us to sanctify the Lord God in our hearts. That way when we speak of the hope that is in us we are speaking about a hope in us from what He has done for us and not a hope in anything we have done for Him! And when our Savior is Lord of our lives our testimony for Him is genuine.
On account of our sinful old nature we still need to be reminded daily..... of God’s grace. To sanctify the Lord God in our hearts means to reaffirm our faith in Him every day. Such hearts are thankful for rescue from hell and speak gratitude and conviction about our Savior. The Holy Spirit prepares us for mission with Peter’s words of encouragement and admonition to sanctify the Lord God in your hearts! To be rightly related to God with a heart fixed on Christ. As we continue setting Christ apart, giving Him first place in our lives we are able to respond to what we may face.
The Holy Spirit prepares us for missions:
II. With a ready defense
Being prepared is a wonderful thing. Not being ready for anything makes us uneasy. When it comes to personal evangelism it is a great thing to have some idea of what it is we would want to say when we are questioned about Christ. When we are ready, we are eager. When we aren’t prepared we hope we are not asked, or we just keep our mouths shut.
Peter writes for us to always be ready. One of the profs at seminary spoke of a man he met one time who was a retired pastor. He happened to meet him when the man listed a used car for sale. He said the man got to talking about the ministry he had been a part of. He told of how he would on visits make sure to ask his members what was the reason for their hope. Not a bad idea. Helping members to think seriously about the faith they profess. And also helping members to think about what they would tell someone who would ask them about Jesus. Have you ever taken time to think ahead about what you would say if someone were to ask you about the hope that is in you?
So often when it comes to missions we think only about those who live a great distance from us. People we send missionaries to. Or closer to home we think about those people we need to go out and find. We can forget about people we are around every day. People who may be asking questions quite often about the Lord and we don’t even realize it, or we aren’t prepared at the time to say something. Each believer is a part of God’s mission work. We support with our prayers and resources mission work that takes place on the other side of the globe. But each of us also has a part in missions right where we are as we are, always being ready to make a defense of our faith.
Our defense or apology is a clear answer about sin and grace that we can give regarding our assurance of salvation. When we say an apology we are not talking about an excuse, but making known the cause for our joy. Within the context of our verse this joy comes even in the midst of suffering and persecution. Those who have no understanding of Christianity are confused when they hear responses unlike that which they and the rest of the world expect.
Our verse shows us we can be prepared to respond to everyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is in us. Prepared to respond to all, any, everyone for Christ! It would be a good thing for each of us to think about who we will want to speak to…about Christ. People we know: Family, friends, coworkers, classmates, and teammates. Then there are people we see often but really don’t know: people in the neighborhood, stores, restaurants, gym and the park, doctors and dentist’s office, repairmen. We could go on and on thinking about specific people we come in contact with that we could be sharing Christ with. But what about always being prepared, just as our text says; and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you,
What is that reason for our hope? Peter begins this epistle speaking about that hope we have.Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 8 whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls. 1Peter 1:3-9
When we consider the sin that once separated us from God, the salvation of your soul is a most wonderful hope. A hope made certain by our living Lord and Savior: Who lived a perfect life so that He would be a perfect sacrifice for the sin of all mankind. Jesus died for all sin, yours, mine and everybody’s who has ever lived. Our Savior died for us making full satisfaction for all sin, and three days later rose again defeating sin, Satan and even death once for all. The reason we may be so excited about the hope that is in us is that God’s word makes it clear we are included. —Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool. What a promise! —For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. What a Trade! —for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. What Assurance!
We have a great reason for the hope that is in us! Like the title of the hymn that we sing says: We are Redeemed, Restored and Forgiven! As we answer one who asks us of a reason for the hope that is in us we have a great opportunity to tell them: Christ also did this for you! He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. The confident expectation we have living in Christ’s kingdom of grace now, and waiting for His kingdom of glory, gives us great opportunity to ‘give an answer’ to any who ask a reason for our hope!
The Holy Spirit also prepares us for missions:
III. With a gentle spirit
These last words of our text are so important. Being reminded that genuine witness is with meekness and fear! We can spoil the message if we make it look as if our hope is on account of ourselves. Self-righteous, high minded attitudes won’t point others to Christ! Nobody wants to listen to someone who’s a know-it-all, who only talks all about himself. The Holy Spirit prepares us for missions with a gentleness in evangelism that is willing to listen. How can we possibly have any answers for people we don’t know, or care to know about?
When Luther spoke of the gentleness and reverence we use to approach questions about our faith he said, “When you are challenged and are questioned with regard to your faith, you should not answer with proud words and act defiantly and violently, as though you wanted to uproot trees. No, you should conduct yourself reverently and humbly, as though you were standing before God’s tribunal and had to give answers there.”
We shouldn’t be so bold in ourselves thinking we are so wise and learned in Scripture that we would have all the right answers remembering the right verses at the right time. Peter’s denial helps us to see how we too could fail. He had been so bold. God may also allow us to stumble in our pride to humble us. Just as the Holy Spirit is the one who prepares us for missions, it is also He who provides the right words for us..... also in the time and circumstances in which He provides. Sanctifying the Lord God and His Word in our hearts we may with meekness and fear give a true witness for Christ.
In this we are again reminded of Jesus’ words from the sermon on the mount. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Our witness is to point men to heaven and not to ourselves!
Many make a claim for the gospel. This past winter I even heard one former athlete speaking about how excited he was to be bringing the gospel (good news) of his sport. Even within Christianity there seem to be many approaches to missions. Well intended programs for friendship, leadership, feeding, clothing, housing, and entertainment. But the real good news is about God’s provision of a Savior for all of fallen mankind! We can get caught up in methods of personal evangelism and miss the message. Isn’t it great to know that God just calls us to be faithful? Our witness is not dependent upon our effort but the power of His saving Word, and the work of the Holy Spirit.
When we consider missions today, it’s not a faraway thing, or something we are called only to support. As we have seen from this one verse. The Holy Spirit prepares each of us for missions; With a right heart, a ready defense, and a gentle spirit. But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear. Amen.
—Pastor Ed Starkey