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The message today is on being ready to give an answer for the hope that is in you, and in particular, being ready to give your testimony. By God’s grace we are seeking to live together in this place and time such that we provoke questions and accusations, and we want the center of our answer to be a testimony of Christ in us.
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: having a good conscience; that whereas they speak evil of you, as of evil doers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ” (1 Pet. 3:15-16).
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
The first task of preparing to give your testimony is to sanctify the Lord God in your heart (1 Pet. 3:15). You most revere God there. You must honor Him as Your Lord and Master. It is that reverence that drives you readiness to give an answer (1 Pet. 3:15). Notice that the center of our answer is a “hope” that is in us (1 Pet. 3:15). Christian hope is not light and fluffy optimism. Rather, Christian hope is a joyful, gritty patience expectant for glory (Rom. 5:1-5, 15:4, 13). The answer we give is to be done with meekness and fear, which is what grows when you set the Lord apart in your heart (1 Pet. 3:15). Having a good conscience doesn’t mean sinless, but it does mean forgiven, clean, and put right (1 Pet. 3:16). And you know you’re doing this correctly when their accusations only fall back on themselves in shame (1 Pet. 3:16). If you are feeling shame, either you don’t have a clean conscience or else you don’t understand how God makes you clean (1 Jn. 1:9). And remember “a good conversation in Christ” has never stopped people from making false accusations (1 Pet. 3:16). Jesus said that the false accusations come precisely because you follow Christ (Mt. 5:11, Jn. 15:18-21).
SANCTIFY GOD IN YOUR HEART
As you know, your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19). It is holy space because God lives there. But our bodies are not generic temples, they are unique and varied. And think about your body as the shape of your entire life. That shape comes from God working particular stories of grace in each one. This is Paul’s testimony: “And last of all he [Jesus] was seen of me also, as one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Cor. 15:8-10, cf. 1 Tim. 1:14-16). The first task of sanctifying God in your heart is simply submitting to Him as a holy God, admitting your sin, and turning to Christ in principle. But then you have to do the same thing in particular with everything in your life: your parents, your childhood, your vocation, your spouse, your children, and everything else, including your failures, weaknesses, trials, and sin. Your testimony is telling how the holy God has been at work, how you have contributed sin, how Christ has forgiven and restored, and all by His grace in order to display His grace in you.
IN PRAISE OF BORING TESTIIMONIES
You have heard us say before that we are aiming for boring testimonies for our children in our community. What we mean by that is that by the grace of God, we want our children growing up in the faith of their parents and embracing it, with faithfulness passing from generation to generation like runners in an Olympic relay race. By faith and God’s great grace, we want our children growing up in Christ, which will often mean that they don’t remember the exact moment when they first trusted in Him. And by that same grace, we pray that our children will never know a time when they were not walking with God. It is glorious to always walk with God, to have no rebellious phases. Some Christian traditions so emphasize the dramatic conversion story (biker gang rebellion followed by Damascus Road experience), that it almost becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. And kids who grow up only hearing those kinds of conversion stories wonder how they could possibly be a Christian since they haven’t even started selling drugs yet. But Scripture is full of ordinary covenant conversions: John the Baptist was filled with the Spirit in his mother’s womb (Lk. 1), David learned to trust God on his mother’s breast (Ps. 22:9), Samuel came to know the Lord as young boy (1 Sam. 3), and Timothy was taught the scriptures from his youth (2. Tim. 3:15). We want a culture of cultivating and encouraging faith.
BUT NOT REALLY BORING
Nevertheless, and even celebrating the ordinary “boring” testimonies of our children, we really must run back around the other side and insist that there are no boring testimonies. This is because amount of sin is not what makes a testimony amazing or powerful, but rather, the amount of grace. How much grace was needed for your salvation? Every son or daughter of Adam deserved death and Hell, and therefore, every Christian was purchased with the infinite price of the blood of Jesus. There is nothing boring about that. And when we say “grace,” we mean the presence of the Father beaming at the work of His Son in you, sealed and secured by the Spirit. The Triune God is the most extravagant, adventurous, creative, brilliant, gracious Being of all. If He is present, nothing is boring, nothing is ordinary. To sanctify this God in your heart is to see the presenceof this God in your life. Every salvation is also a salvation to an unspeakable glory. Eye has not seen, ear has not heard what God has prepared for those who love Him (1 Cor. 2:9). The process of a Red Wood sapling growing up into a towering tree may not look explosive, dramatic, or glorious in any given snapshot, but if you could see the whole thing from God’s perspective – all the atoms firing over decades, it would make you close your mouth with awe. And that is the hope that is in you.
Everyone in this room who knows Jesus has a testimony of His grace. For many of you, it is a testimony of growing up surrounded by the grace of loving parents, sibling, teachers, and friends. But do not take that grace for granted. Perhaps you do not remember when you first believed, but you should absolutely remember times when you have believed more. Maybe you don’t remember the first time you were forgiven, but you absolutely should remember many subsequent times when you were convicted of sin, confessed, and were cleansed. Maybe you don’t remember the first answered prayer, but do you remember the many others? Maybe don’t remember the first time His word encouraged you or helped you during a trial, but do you remember many others? That is your testimony, that is the hope that is in you. Christ is in you.