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November 11, 2012, 12:32 PM

Sermon Text: Being the Way

Evangelism 101:  Sermon #6 of 7  Text:  1 Peter 3:8-18


Once again, we review where we've been and preview where we are going today.


Why?  Just Go!Matt. 28:19  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.... (ESV)

What?  God's Love!  John 3:16  For God so loved the world.... (ESV)

Where?  Here!  1 Cor. 14:25  Worship God and declare that God is really among you. (ESV)

How?  Along the Way!  Acts 8:27a  And [Philip] rose and went. (ESV)

Last Week:

How?  Showing the Way.John 12:21“Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” (ESV)

1. Means showing enthusiasm

2. Showing does not mean having all the answers

3. Means showing personal relationship

Today, we will look at another angle of the question of How?  It is this:  Being the Way.  What does sharing the Good news of Jesus Christ require of you, personally?  By “being the way,”I want to suggest that it means that you are in the process of making the changes and adjustments in your own mind and heart that need to be made so that you will magnify and shine the light of Jesus Christ in your life.

The words that we use when we share the Gospel must be genuine.  Our lives must match our words.  Our words must resonate in our own hearts.  Jesus Christ and the life he brings is not a political point of view or a mere opinion or talking point that may or may not be right.  It is all that we have in this life.  It is our life.  So it means that in evangelism, we must in some sense of the word, be the way that we proclaim.

And so, I want to share with you three ways that we can indeed “be the way” in evangelism.

1)  Being the Way means Being Longsuffering

As I searched for an appropriate word to use here, I finally settled on longsuffering.  Accordingly, the definition of this word is "patiently bearing continual wrongs or trouble" and/or "patient endurance of pain or unhappiness."

As you heard the scripture read this morning, you were probably wondering how in the world I was going to talk about evangelism from this passage!  The context here in I Peter is one of persecution and suffering on the part of the early church.  As Peter writes this letter, the followers of Jesus are not only feeling heat from the Jewish establishment, but they are also seeing serious blowback from Rome.  Worshiping King Jesus was not the in thing to do in those days.

Peter says, even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy and it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil. (3:14-15, 17 ESV).

There is real persecution going on here.  Bad things were happening to good people.  Real pain being experienced by these early Christians.

But I am struck by Peter's concerns here.  Sure, he is concerned about the suffering, and he knows that God cares about his people; but Peter is also concerned with how God's people will respond to the tough times.  Will they yet praise God?  Will they be able to point to their tormenter's greatest need in Jesus Christ?

He says, Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.  Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called....Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? (3:8-9, 13 ESV).

After all, Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.... (3:18 ESV).

Now to be real, Christians in the United States of America are not in quite that precarious of a situation.  However, I think there is yet application here for us.  When you share Jesus Christ, there are many more times than not that it seems as if your appeal or thoughts hit the wall of indifference and go no further.  Sometimes it feels like everything that we cherish about following the Lord Jesus is belittled in the society at large.

And yet the message from Peter is to shine brightly and persevere anyway.  I am always encouraged when I talk to ministers who've been on the beat far longer than me.  It inspires me to hear them say things like, "You know, all I want to do as a pastor is make sure that everyone who sits in the pews on a given Sunday morning understands that God in Jesus Christ died for them, and that when they stand before God one day, they will know that the only way that they can be there is because of what Jesus did for them."

Be longsuffering for the Gospel, my friends.

2)  Being the Way means Being Prepared

For this second point, I want to zero in on a particular thought in this passage.  Peter says, ...in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.... (3:15 ESV).

There is a trend within churches today and the culture at large that is, at least to me, quite alarming.  Let's call it the law of diminishing moral returns.  It goes something like this:  Our grandparents lived on the Faith that was taught to them by their parents.  Our parents lived on their Faith that was taught to them by their parents.  Our kids will live on the Faith that we teach to them.  And our kids will teach the Faith that they received from their kids.  And so on.  And as you go on down the line, the Faith gets a little diluted at each family stop.  If I were to be crass here, I would call it the dumbing-down of the Faith.

And why?  Because there is little to no investment on the part of each generation.  Each generation.  Each individual must, as Paul says to Timothy, Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Tim. 2:15 ESV).

And as Peter says here, we must always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks...for a reason for the hope that is in [us].

I remember one of my preaching labs in seminary where the professor said, "Your delivery will improve just by the sheer repetition of the exercise; but you need to study anew every week to keep it fresh."

In order to be the way, you must know the way.  In order to be the way, you have to have some sense of familiarity and facility and ownership of the Gospel.

3)  Being the Way means Being Gracious

As the final point this morning, let me finish Peter's thought in 3:15.  Verse 16, ...in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. (3:15-16 ESV).

Peter told the Christians who were being persecuted to share the Faith; to be the Faith with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience....  That way, if anyone was then going to accuse them of something; or slander the message of the Gospel, then they would rightly be put to shame.  It would be exposed and the Gospel would be proved true.

My friends, as I think about our own context again -- again, worlds away from the original context -- but every bit as necessary.  When we share the Gospel in word or deed, it must be in gentleness and respect.

The Gospel is the Good News.  It is the message of life.  It is about what God has done in the world.  It is about what God is going to do with the world.  It is a message of hope.  But this message gets lost if we grow arrogant or mean or self righteous.  It gets lost if we come across as know-it-alls.  It gets lost if we approach people as if we didn't need the message ourselves.

I like another perspective that the apostle Paul gave to the Colossian church:  Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.  Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (Col. 4:5-6 ESV).

As we go along the way, and God opens up divine appointments along that way.  As we see those opportunities.  As we prepare for those opportunities.  Can we keep these things in mind:

1. To not only show the way to Jesus Christ; but may we also be the way in our longsuffering.  Looking past disappointments; rebuffs; and all of the other things that would discourage us from the calling of being ambassadors of the Good News.  Look, as I read the Bible, especially the NT, there is nothing that says that the Good News will necessarily be good news for everybody!

2. To begin to take ownership of the Faith that has been handed down to us.  Not being content with a belief grounded in hearsay.  Not being content to just have a passing, superficial understanding of who God is and what God is like and what God wants to do in this world.  Being prepared, in season and out of season.

3. And, to learn what it means to be gracious in sharing Jesus Christ.  Learning how to be gentle and respectful in all of our interactions.  To be a sweet aroma.  To live with the truth that all people are created in the image of God, and Jesus died for the  world and he wants the world to know that!

You have heard the Word of God, now consider it so very well.   Amen.

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