The Defense Never Rests
God commanded the Israelites to teach His Word and Will to each new generation and to make use of His Word. They were to always keep the Word of God evident and active—always ready to include it in their conversations and apply it to their life’s circumstance.
Jesus has made us salt and light in the world. We have a role to play in “seasoning” the earth with righteousness and spreading the light of God’s Word for the salvation of souls.
I Peter 3:15 “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…”
In the name of our great God and Savior, dear fellow defenders,
F. Lee Bailey is one of the better-known American attorneys of the past century of any kind, though he’s been out of the limelight for awhile now. Many people over a couple of generations recognize him for some of the higher-profile, real-life courtroom dramas in our nation. Even students of history may recall that he was involved in the cases concerning Patty Hearst, the Boston Strangler, families of victims on a Korean Airline passenger jet shot down by the Soviets in 1983, U.S. servicemen charged with war crimes from the Vietnam War, and of course, more recently, the purported “Trial of the Century,” that of O.J. Simpson.
During the midst of this, some decades back, he wrote a book entitled ‘The Defense Never Rests.” No matter what we may think of lawyers of this nature, and the sometimes-outlandish arguments they may bring, one thing we can say: they always come prepared for anything & everything. They come to win and are satisfied with nothing less. They want their client alive, exonerated, & free.
By the grace of God, you and I have been called to faith. That faith will be under attack from time to time. It may be called into question from time to time, but our prayer is that it may at all times and in every situation be a witness to the Gospel and our Lord & Savior. The Apostle Peter encourages us along that line today as he reminds us:
“The Defense Never Rests”
I.) It happens by having God first in our hearts; II.) It happens by having a heart like the Saviors.
“Ah, dearest Jesus, holy Child, make Thee a bed, soft, undefiled, within my heart, that it may be a quiet chamber kept for Thee.” Some of you, like me, in earlier years probably memorized that verse in youth, buried down at verse 13 of 15 in the Christmas hymn “From Heaven Above to Earth I Come.” Wonderful words in a wonderful song! It’s asking the Lord to do the very thing that the LORD through the Apostle Peter is imploring Christians in 1st century Asia Minor (Turkey-Middle East) as well as us today to allow to happen in our text when he says: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts!”
For us to be a witness to the truth of the Gospel, a defender of THE and our own personal faith, God has to hold first place in our life. Just this past Tuesday was another election. Did your favorite candidates win? How about the Lord? Does He “win-out” in your heart and life (every day of the year)? Does He clearly hold down the pre-eminent position? Is the 1st place in our heart reserved for our (the true) God?
We are all aware of the dangers of jealousy. I shouldn’t want my neighbors’ wife. You shouldn’t want your neighbors' expensive car or his high-powered, high-salaried career--all “bad jealousies.” There is a good jealousy though. God in the midst of sending the commandments down the mountain with Moses reminded Israel that He is a “jealous God.” (God even used the word “sanctify” concerning the mountain and the priests at the giving of the law. There was something special going on here. It was a special place.) He didn’t intend or wouldn’t allow His glory, honor, holiness to be shared with another. He’s not interested in sharing the affections that we, as redeemed people of God, Christians, rightly owe Him alone. He doesn’t want to be tied for 3rd place in our life. We just came by the observance of the Lutheran Reformation once again. Luther himself once said, “Whatever is first in your heart is, in reality, your God.” Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, fellow believers! Keep it a holy place, set apart for Him! Give Him and Him alone, first place! We can’t be a true, effective witness to the Christian faith or defender of the Gospel if we ourselves are “waffling” on our loyalty to the true God vs. the other “things” in our life! ….How is this done, in practical terms? First…
You here at Immanuel have had wonderful opportunities to aid in this endeavor through many decades of maintaining a Christian, Lutheran school. As some of our synod school handbooks state, the purpose of this type of education is not simply or even mainly (& especially not only) to teach the necessary, standard courses or to be productive citizens of America. As the magnets on lockers here and on some of your own cars state: “Education Enlightened by God’s Word,” (or as a synod publication some years ago said it: ‘Education for the Real World.”) ! Our children can learn to read and do math and spell, memorize the periodic table of the elements, learn advanced algebra and study English & American Literature anywhere. Christian, Lutheran teachers could teach almost anywhere else, too, and probably for more money! So then, what are all of these sacrifices and efforts for? They are to also enable them to be witnesses of the Savior (having Him “sanctified in their own hearts”). One of the groups for the youth here is called “Young Ambassadors.” It’s important for them, not just now but throughout their lives, to be able to see the Lord Himself as the most important thing in life, as being integral to everything else they may ever do, and to also be able to express their faith in their dealings with others throughout their days! After they strike out on their own in life, or after you and I are gone, they will be the witnesses of tomorrow. The Defense Never Rests.
But it’s not just while in the confines of a Christian school that these things should take place. I didn’t have the advantage of going to a school such as this, but certainly had a similar influence. As I’d ride around from field to field in the trucks and pickups with a grandfather, he’d comment on situations going on in the news or in society and what God in His Word had to say that applied to it. Maybe it’s the same for some of you & your children. It’s the same thing the LORD instructed His people of old to do, isn’t it, when He said: “ And these words, which I command you this day, shall be in your heart: and you shall teach them diligently unto your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up.” (Deut. 6:6,7) Let it be the same for you, let your youth-& others-see that you have sanctified the Lord God in your hearts. Talk of our God & the marvelous things He’s done for you, them, and all mankind when you are at the table, when you are in the vehicle, when you’re on a family vacation seeing distant wonders of God’s creation, in general, in anything and everything you do as you carry out day-to-day life! (He’s the reason for “the hope that’s in us,” as we’ll hear more of later.) Let them see that, for you, the defense never rests, by seeing you sanctifying God-having Him 1st & front-center--in your heart & life! May our God not be just a “Sunday morning God” to us, but our God for every day & at all times & in all things!
However, some of us here today aren’t in school anymore, haven’t been for some time. The kids are gone, maybe you are even retired. It’s still important, even crucial to sanctify the Lord always in your heart as well. It doesn’t matter our age, we can ill-afford to rest on our theological laurels. It was this same writer, Peter, who spoke in that well-known verse of the devil being a roaring lion. The Christian faith isn’t something that long remains static. We need to, through a steady reading, hearing, and studying of the Word of God, continue watering it lest it wither on the vine! You see, the devil knows that anyone he can get sidetracked is one less worker in God’s harvest. Who knows the souls that may have been reached by the one who himself forsook the faith or treated it is just as a little slice of their life? No matter our age, if the Christian decides to rest…the “Father of Lies” will be there, nipping at the heels again of anyone who is willing to open their heart up to his deceit. There’s no bigger and brighter “feather in the hat” of that Old Evil Foe (Satan) than the longtime but now former Christian who has had all the advantages mentioned and given it all up for the nebulous nothingness of his lies found on every front. How sad those cases are! May God keep us ever near Him! Let the LORD continue to “tune up” our faith by “tuning in to” His Word. Again, the defense must never rest. Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts! 2ndly, it is “always ready” in the midst of an unready generation.
II.) The times were certainly becoming difficult for those whom the Apostle Peter was writing to the first time. You are aware of the saying, “Nero fiddled while Rome burned?” This is the time period when that was all about to begin. Times they were changing…. For several decades, as the persecutions under various Roman emperors took place, holding to the Christian faith was something that could get a person’s life taken. Yet, in the midst of all of these concerns, do you remember some of the other things the Apostle had reminded them of? “..not returning evil for evil, but, on the contrary, blessing….The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, & His ears are open to their prayers..& who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed & do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” & then , right after our text for today: “for it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil…For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit.”
Amidst all of these difficulties & as they looked ahead to the pressures to come, Peter points them again to the Savior. He reminds them again what God had done for them in the Savior Jesus, and even for those who were making life so difficult.
Certainly our situation is somewhat removed from the times of those 1st-century Christians (time and circumstance). We live quite comfortably and safely in comparison. At this point, our faith in the true God brings no threat of physical hardship. A defense of the Gospel, a defense of our own personal faith does not carry the consequences that it did for many of them. But think of this: if the Lord God has been sanctified in our hearts, if He’s in first place there, our Christian faith will always have opportunity to express itself in word and deed. You have the TRUTH, fellow believers: it’s your own faith in the crucified, risen, & ascended Lord Jesus! This--our faith--will always then “be ready” in the midst of an unready generation, & they’ve probably never been more unready than now...
Sociologists like to use categories to describe the various generations. We had the “Baby Boomers,” & more recently we’ve had “Generation X,” & now “The New Millennials.” But I think we’ve been in the “Whatever Generation” for some time now! You know that word-WHATEVER!- that gets used for almost anything, by young and old alike. It used to be for things like what kind of bag you wanted your groceries in or what kind of movie you wanted to rent. But now, “Whatever” can well describe pretty much what much of mankind believes—or doesn’t—in lots of things in life, and most tragically, even in regard to religion & personal faith! You’ve heard some of it before: ” I’m spiritual, not religious!” Whatever! Do you believe in God? Which one? “Whatever!” What is your hope of eternal salvation? “Whatever!” The disciples of old got a variety of answers when Jesus sent them out, and they returned, and He asked, “Who do the people say that I , the son of Man, am?” Remember the answers? “Elijah, John the Baptist, Jeremiah, one of the ancient prophets.” Would that the answers could still be that good! Friends: who do people NOW say that Jesus, the true God is? A prophet, (goes downhill from here) a great teacher, a moral leader, a nice example to follow, a historical figure, a fictional character…..& on & on…WHATEVER. The Defense can never rest! It’s in the midst of an “unready generation.”
Well, I’m “preaching to the choir” when I say that our God is not a “Whatever God!” We inside these walls are acutely aware & firmly believe—thank the true GOD—that He and He alone has come down to this earth and rescued us from the depths of sin, brought us to faith, and set us on a path that is bound for glory! We don’t confess a “Whatever salvation!” Rather, we believe in a God , Jesus Christ Himself, the One who shed His blood for a world of lost sinners. We & all mankind need Him! We confess with the hymnist in that old tune Rock of Ages: “Not the labors of my hands, can fulfill the Law’s demands; could my zeal no respite know, could my tears forever flow; all for sin could not atone; Thou must save, and Thou alone.” We cling to The One who is, as He proclaimed, “I am the Way, the Truth, & the Life. No one comes to the Father BUT BY ME!” We rely on a God who said, “I am the Narrow Gate.” “I am the Door.”
Hear that? One Gate! One Door! Jesus said nothing about an entire bank of doors that lead to everlasting life. It’s not like at a ballgame and you pick the appropriate door to the restroom. At the infamous, fictional, ‘Pearly Gates” there’s not one for the Hindus, one for the Buddhists, one for the Christians, one for those that are “alright the way they are,” etc. “Here, I’m a Mormon, I’ll take this one.” “There, that one reads, 'Followers of Islam, enter here!'” We aren’t all “on different paths or ways that lead to the same end.” Jesus alone is the Way to eternal life! We aren’t all on “separate roads that lead to the same destination.” We live amidst an “unready generation!” We have always been in a religiously pluralistic nation, but more and more it seems that Christianity is just one more of a broad array of equal religions. We’re all alike in this: we all need the rescue effected by the Savior Jesus! We certainly live in a world born & lost in sin. Many individuals still are. In the place of saving faith, they rather have: unbelief, misbelief, no belief. Whatever! We do live amidst an “unready generation.” And so the defense never rests. It is “always ready” in the midst of an unready people.
Most of you have seen a few pastoral installations. It’s common at that time to hear the I Timothy: “Be instant (ready), in season and out of season..” passage used quite frequently. Called workers certainly are enjoined to employ God’s Word with those in their spiritual care, but Peter is telling all of us much the same thing here, isn’t he? Peter says, “Always be ready to give a defense….” We can all be “light and salt,” in whatever circles we are a part of in life. After all, we find ourselves in a wide variety of circles—especially in our “non-church” lives, don’t we? “Yes,” you say, “but they are all Christians!” Are they? Maybe you literally run (or walk). How about those 3 girls that join you? Who do they say that Jesus is? A prophet? The God of their salvation? Whatever?! Maybe you play golf or shoot or bike or bowl? Who do they say that Jesus, the true God, is? How about that guy at work? Maybe you are older and don’t get off of your block except to church. What about the guy around the corner? Who do they say that Jesus, the Son of God, is? The Defense Never Rests when it’s in the midst of an unready people.
Peter speaks about “the hope that is in you.”We all use the word “hope” all the time. “I hope my candidate wins the election.” “I hope my favorite team wins.” Mine usually don’t. Peter rather is talking about the sure and certain salvation we have based on Christ Jesus. “My Hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus' blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ, the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand!”, says the hymn. That’s hope! & how about that great verse we so often hear at funerals:(I Thess.) "We don’t sorrow as others that have no hope!” To the neighbor, coworker, or friend that sees you going to a funeral or a hospital or returning, or hears of a bad health situation you or one of your family are going through, you have a message of hope! How can you be optimistic in the midst of personal heartache or hardship? You have a God who knows, cares, & is in control of all things here in earth, right down to the hairs on your head! Jesus said, “Because I live, you shall live also. I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am , there you may be also.” And, in His good time, You have a Savior who is going to take you to be with Himself as well someday., and wants them to come along too. Friends, you & I certainly have a message of hope in the midst of an “unready” generation.
If you are like me, you know of a few particular opportunities you would like to have back. I have a few I pray I can meet again at some point before the Lord ends their time of grace. Pray the Lord gives us the words to use in the meantime with those whom we are in contact with. In conclusion, three things we pray for are a “God-first” attitude of our own heart, a continuing growth in the Word, and also the Savior’s own heart of compassion for those still “unready.”