June 27, 2021
When Peter wrote his first letter to the church, the world was very dark. It was open season on Christians. The world system and its rulers saw Christians as insurrectionists because they wouldn’t call Caesar “Lord” and as an economic threat because there was a fortune to be made in the idolatry business. The bright light of the Gospel was starting to extinguish that darkness. The godly lifestyle of the believers condemned pagan culture.
Thus, Peter asked in 1 Peter 3:13-16,
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. [Then Peter quotes Isaiah 8:12] “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” But sanctify [set apart] 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; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.
Peter’s quote from Isaiah is God’s word for us today: “Do not be afraid of their threats nor be troubled.” He tells the early believers how to conduct themselves as bright lights in a dark world when they are unjustly, unreasonably criticized.
What do we do in a time when there are those who want to terrorize us? Do we hunker down? Close up shop? Put our heads between our knees and pray, “Lord, keep us safe till the storm passes over”?
No, there’s never been a greater time to preach Jesus Christ than today.
We go forth armed with the Gospel and a mighty demonstration of love. We cannot be silent. If we do not speak out now, there will be no one left to speak for us.
Peter says we need two things: we must be real and we must be ready. (See 1 Peter 3:15.)
Do you want to shine as a bright light in a dark place? Can you give a reason for the hope that is within you?
To “sanctify [set apart] the Lord God in your heart” (1 Peter 3:15) means to have Him reign in your life above all else. It’s not enough to claim Him as Savior. You must make Him Lord.
Is Jesus Christ Lord in your life? Have you ever bowed the knee, taken the crown off your head, and put it on His?
The word “Savior” occurs only twice in the book of Acts, but “Lord” is mentioned 92 times. The apostles preached the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
You cannot have what Jesus gives unless you accept who He is. He is Lord. Has there been a radical change in you? Is Jesus Christ the Lord of your life?
“Always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).
In Acts 2, when Peter spoke to the crowd on Pentecost, they were stricken with conviction and asked, “What must we do?” Few people ask us that today. They haven’t seen anything in us that’s different! Has anyone ever asked you, “What is the reason for your hope?” If someone did, could you tell him? Can you defend your faith?
Is there anything about you that’s not explainable apart from Jesus Christ? You must be ready. Right now, our world is swimming in questions. People have some big questions, one of them being the problem of evil: “If God is a good God, why did He allow….? Either God could act and chose not to, or He didn’t have the power or will to act. Either way, God isn’t all-powerful or all-loving.”
Every sophomore in any university has heard this: “If God were good, He would destroy evil. If God were all-powerful, He could destroy evil. But evil is not destroyed. Therefore, there is no such God.” That’s their logic. Believe me, it’s being asked today. Are you ready with the answer?
There’s an answer in the Word of God. Jesus said in Matthew 22:37-40 that the greatest commandment is:
‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.
That’s the bottom line. This sums it up. When God made man, God made us free creatures because God wanted man to love Him and to love one another. Forced love is a contradiction in terms. For a person to be able to love, he has to be able not to love. If we were created where we could only love and do nothing else, it wouldn’t be love at all. We would be automatons; we’d simply be machines.
God gave man freedom of choice. We cannot choose to love unless we can choose not to love. Love is the highest good. For God to take away choice, if God were to destroy evil, thus not giving man a choice, then that act itself would be evil. God would be destroying the highest good.
No, God allows evil in this world. God does not destroy evil. God defeats evil by putting His Son upon a cross and taking that sin upon Himself.
We have the answers to people’s deepest questions.
“…with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15)
“Meekness” isn’t weakness, it’s strength under control. “Fear” isn’t trembling at what is happening around us; it’s a holy reverence for Almighty God.
This is no time for God’s people to strut in arrogance. It’s possible for us to be so arrogant we’ll win the argument and lose the audience. Many people think of followers of Christ as arrogant. They’ll call us intolerant, “hate mongers.” We must be careful not to use angry rhetoric when we respond.
“So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20).
Your anger won’t bring about God’s righteousness. Jesus showed anger against those who were persecuting helpless people and against the religious hypocrites of His day. But to those who were victims of sin—prostitutes, thieves, tax-gatherers—He showed love. He was a friend of sinners.
Early Christians faced horrific persecution. Many were placed on poles and set on fire at night to light the gardens for Roman banquets. They reddened the mouths of lions in the Coliseum. But through their meekness (strength under discipline), fear (holy awe for God), humility, and ability to suffer for Christ, they brought the Roman empire crashing down.
During one of the great persecutions in China, a student wrote these words. “Lies written in ink cannot obscure truth written in blood.”
Have genuine meekness and reverence. This is not the time to point fingers at anyone else. We need to confess the sins of the church—laziness, selfishness, pride, our refusal to live a separated life—and to share the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Bible says “judgment must begin at the house of God,” because the evil we see in our communities has happened on our watch.
Live in such a way that when we’re falsely accused, our lifestyle will be so superior they’ll be embarrassed by the falseness of their accusation.
Peter said in chapter 2, verse 12, that when Jesus comes again, they’ll have to say, “Those Christians were living a superior lifestyle.”
God forbid any of us would be caught up in any scandal. People should see your life standing out like a diamond in a coal mine. Out-love, out-live, out-give, out-pray, out-witness the people of this world.
If you want the world to believe our testimony about Jesus Christ, we must earn it. Let them see your good works.
When we live this way, others will ask about the hope in us.
Paul and Silas were worshiping God the night they were thrown in the Philippian jail. The jailer came and asked, “What must I do to be saved?” Their lifestyle was different in the midst of tribulation. The Bible never said you’ll not have tribulation. You may get cast into prison. Even there we must be bright lights in a dark place.
“And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” Be hospitable to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:8-9).
The tragedies of terrorism, violence, and civil unrest become the dark velvet against which the bright diamond of God’s love, seen in us, is reflected in a dark world. This is our opportunity to be bright lights, responding in love.
This is the age in which the church must demonstrate the love of Christ. To be bright lights in a dark world, we need to be known not merely for what we’re against but for what we’re for.
“the hope that is within you” (1 Peter 3:15)
The word “hope” here isn’t “wishing” but divine certainty, rock-ribbed truth based on the Word of God. However dark the day, we’re on the winning side.
Augustine said, “Whatever men build, men will destroy. Let’s get on with building the kingdom of God.”
Our responsibility is to stand for Jesus Christ here and around the world, putting our hope, faith, and prayers in His unshakeable kingdom.
Don’t cringe in a corner. Go out with flag unfurled. March under the blood-stained banner of King Jesus. God is our source of supply, the Holy Spirit our ally, Jesus our Commander in Chief. We’re brothers and sisters in this mighty army of love. May God help us in this day to be bright lights in a dark world.