One of the things that I believe the Lord Jesus Christ desires for us as His children is that we would be fruitful in our service for the Lord Jesus. In fact in the 15th chapter of John’s Gospel Jesus says, “By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples,” (v.8 NASB). It is clearly Jesus’ desire that you and I, who claim the name of Christ, be fruitful in our service for Him. I think Peter in his first epistle gives us a very interesting verse that may be helpful for us in seeking to be fruitful Christians. In 1 Peter, Peter writes, “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asked you to give account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence,” (v.15 NASB). In the Greek language the word “sanctify” is in the aoist imperative tense which is a call to a decisive and a dramatic choice. We are to make a conscious decision to “set apart” the Lord Jesus Christ in our hearts and lives. This is not to make Him holy, but rather to regard Him as holy. We are to treat the name of the Lord Jesus with reverence and honor because He is the one that we are to yield all of our allegiance to. This is an urgent injunction that is needed for the day and age that we live in. Faithfulness and effectiveness in service depend on the depth of our spirituality in following the Lord Jesus Christ. A mere surface experience with Christ will produce very little fruit. The needs of our hour demand a full and complete commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives. The word “hearts” in biblical revelation represents the center or core of our being and our spiritual lives. When the center of one’s life is rightly related to the Lord Jesus Christ we will be able to respond properly to life’s difficulties and challenges.
In Peter’s first epistle (which we have been studying on Sunday evenings) we have seen that the theme is suffering for doing right. Do Christians actually suffer in our world for doing right? Well we can answer that question by considering our example the Lord Jesus Christ who suffered more than any person possibly could and only did that which is right and true. Jesus warned his followers that the road was hard and the way was narrow but He also assured us that He would go the whole journey with us. Christ has promised to manifest His presence, not in any particular building nor in connection with any material objects, but in the heart and lives of His children. He has sent the Holy Spirit to indwell us and empower us so that we may know Him and follow Him. When I started in Bible College back in the fall of 1981 my wife was pregnant with our second child and I was working a full-time job in the post office. I took one course in counseling ministries only because of my dark past in the world of drug and alcohol abuse. I thought maybe someday the Lord would give me an opportunity to help someone be delivered from those addictions as He had delivered me. I was not going to Bible College intending on pursuing a degree or planning on becoming a pastor. I just wanted to be equipped if God gave me further opportunity to serve Jesus. I could not have imagined that five years later I would graduate with honors from Phil. College of Bible with a bachelor’s degree in Bible and a minor in pastoral ministries. As I had never been a good student before I can only attribute my success to the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ working through His Holy Spirit in my heart and life. All praise and glory goes to our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. I also could not have imagined that within 2 weeks of graduating the Lord would call me to become the pastor of two small rural churches in southwestern Pennsylvania. But when I sanctified Christ as Lord of my life I yielded all of my allegiance and all of my desires to His direction and guidance. Saying yes to Christ as Lord of our lives is truly an amazing adventure.
We also see in the second part of verse 15 Peter’s admonition that we should always have a ready answer to give to people about the hope that we have in our hearts and lives. It is possible here that Peter is alluding to his own failure and denial of the Lord Jesus Christ in the courtyard as Jesus was on trial for His life. We need to have in a mental alertness to the opportunities that God sometimes sets before us. Sometimes it is difficult for us to grasp or apply spiritual things to common everyday life. But having an answer means that we need to have a reply or a forthright statement of belief and conviction about why we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Again this is very important in our day and age. Peter is not talking about having an excuse but rather having a defense. He speaks of the hope that we have. Hope is one of the three great Christian virtues, right up there with faith and love. Peter is in fact the apostle of hope. I believe he’s the apostle of hope because of his restoration in serving the Lord Jesus Christ. Because Peter is addressing sufferings and difficulties in trials we must have a reason for this hope that we have, even the times are full of darkness and discouragement. The hope that Jesus gives us is not just for seasons of sunshine and joy. The hope that is built on the salvation that is available through Jesus Christ is the assurance that this life is not all there is. Peter, who was an eyewitness to the risen Christ, knew that there was a hope that went far behind anything that we can imagine living in the here and now. He also tells us in this verse that we are to give our answer “with gentleness and reverence”. We are not to presume on our own wisdom or strength but we are to witness respectfully and reasonably. We are not to be arrogant or belligerent because no argument can convince someone to love God, but that is totally the work of the Holy Spirit. In the Greek culture of Peter’s day every citizen was expected to be able to join in the discussions of the state of affairs. Most of us today would prefer to avoid discussions the state of affairs in America because we know that there’s a great intensity and divisiveness of feelings these days. But that also affords us an opportunity to point out the greater hope we have in Jesus Christ. Believe me, the hope of America is not going to be found in the Republican Party or the Democratic Party or in a third-party candidacy but the only hope of America in these dark times is the Lord Jesus Christ. Just as the citizens in the Greek culture needed to know what they believed and why they believed it, we too must know personally the Lord Jesus Christ and why we believe what we believe concerning His love and sacrifice on our behalf. Knowing the Lord Jesus Christ and serving Him wholeheartedly should lead the great fruitfulness in our service for Him. I hope you have a desire to be a useable saint, I’m afraid way too many saints are sitting on the sidelines and they need to get into the ballgame.
Shalom in Jesus,
Pastor Rich Sivo