Get Defensive for Jesus! (I Peter 3:15)
Topic: Evangelism Passage: 1 Peter 3:15
Get Defensive for Jesus!
I Peter 3:15
(One Mission: I am Not Ashamed)
March 26th, 2017
I. Do You Get Defensive?
Okay, be honest: are you the kind of person who regularly or easily gets defensive? Here are a couple dictionary definitions of defensiveness:
The quality of being anxious to challenge or avoid criticism.
Constantly protecting oneself from criticism, exposure of one's shortcomings, or other real or perceived threats to the ego.
When we talk about someone getting defensive, I think that's what we typically have in mind. Now, getting defensive is a common human reaction. God's ideal is that we pursue humility and teachableness, but all of us know what it feels like to get defensive.
But this morning, I want to encourage you, I want to exhort you, I want to strongly urge you to 'get defensive'; not for you, but instead, for Jesus. How can I say that, in light of what we know about defensiveness and God's ideal? Well, the Apostle Peter himself encourages us to 'get defensive' in our main verse for this morning, I Peter 3:15.
Let's look at that verse together and see if we can make sense of what Peter is talking about.
II. The Passage: “Always Being Prepared” (3:9-16)
So was we normally do, and always should do, let's consider verse 15 in light of the larger context of chapter 3 and the letter as a whole. This morning I want us to start in verse 9. I think we can break the passage into four parts, four parts that give us a fuller sense, not only of what it means to 'get defensive' for Jesus, but also to be part of God's One Mission, number four of our Four Essentials.
Just over two years ago we worked together through these same four points from I Peter 3. But they are so critical to being sent ones for Jesus, they are definitely worth another look. So first of all, look back to vs. 9-12. We see there that being on One Mission means having a...
1. A Life Full of Love (vs. 9-12)
Listen to Peter's words in those verses:
Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.  For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit;  let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.  For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
So what we see here is actually a beautiful expression of the Great Commands that Jesus talked about in Mark 12, a passage we studied in January. Do you see that? Not only should our words and action be in obedience to God, but we should also strive, because of our love for God, to be a blessing to others; to “love your neighbor as yourself”. As Peter writes in verse 9, this is the very thing to which we have been called. We were called to bless.
But look at how Peter builds on this call to live a life full of love for God and love for others. He reminds them in verses 13-15a, that such a life requires...
2. A Heart Full of Christ (vs. 13-15a)
We read in those verses:
Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?  But 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...
First of all Peter wants to remind them that in general, in most cases, being passionate about the Great Commands is the best way to build bridges to those around us. But Peter is not naïve. He knows full well there are some who want Christians to “suffer for righteousness' sake”. There are some who want label our love as “hate”, our teaching as “intolerance”, our holiness as “arrogance”, and our devotion as “fanaticism”.
Peter knows that if his readers find themselves under the weight of such persecution, they need to stand firm. We know from 2:8 that Peter had been thinking about Isaiah chapter 8. But here again, at this point, two verses from Isaiah 8 come to his mind. Listen to those two verses. This is Isaiah 8:12, 13. We read...
“Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread.  But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.” (Isaiah 8:12-13)
Aren't those the very words that Peter, at the end of verse 14 and the beginning of 15, aren't those the words Peter has adapted for his audience? Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy... Isn't it interesting that Peter has no trouble replacing Yahweh with Jesus when he alludes to that passage from Isaiah?
But what does it mean to “honor Christ the Lord as holy”? Well, notice the contrast with the “them” of verse 14. We are not to think of our persecutors as “set apart” in terms of their power, and thus, be afraid of them. We are instead to affirm that Jesus is holy, that He is set apart, and thus, to revere Him. We are to stand, not in the fear of man, but the fear of God.
And so as our lives full of love intersect with those who desperately need Christ, we must meet them with hearts that are full of Christ.
And if our hearts are full of Christ, then Peter tells us in the middle of verse 15, that we should also have...
3. A Defense Full of Reasons (vs. 15b)
Listen to how Peter instructs them as we move on to our main verse, chapter 3, verse 15...
...but 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...
We talked many time before about the idea that central to our One Mission as followers of Jesus is this goal of living the kind of life, empowered by God's Spirit, that inspires questions, generates conversations, and opens doors for the gospel of Jesus.
And that's exactly what we see here. If we read between the lines a bit, Peter assumes that when Christians demonstrate “hope” under fire (remember the context here, and really of the whole letter, is dominated by the the theme of suffering...so when they demonstrate “hope” under fire), that will pique the curiosity of their persecutors, or at least of those who are witnessing the persecution.
But it's precisely at this point where we understand what it mean to 'get defensive' for Jesus. According to Peter, to 'get defensive' FOR Jesus, is the same as “be[ing] prepared to make a defense”? Well, in terms of the term “prepared”, or we could use the word “ready”, I think there are two related ideas: 1) it means be prepared in regard to the task, and 2) it means be prepared in terms of the timing.
Think about it this way. If I tell you I'll give you a ride to the airport tomorrow and to be ready by 3:00pm, then that means you will have to do two things. First, you will have to do things like pack your bags and print out your boarding pass. Those are the kinds of tasks that will make you ready. But you will also have to expect me, right? You can't do those tasks and then go to the movies around 3:00pm.
In the same way, Peter wants his readers to think carefully about how they can tell others about the source of their hope. What reasons would you give for the hope people see in your life? What reasons would you give for why you serve others? What reasons would you give for why you pray, why you give to those in need, why you live out the Great Commands? If our reasons are to be biblical reasons, then we have to always be prepared to talk about Jesus. He is THE reason.
Remember, this is not a suggestion. It's a command: “always be prepared”. The task for us is thinking about how we can express our faith in Jesus and our love for God. But we also need to remember readiness in terms of the timing. As we serve and bless those that God has put in our circle, we need to expect that God will open doors. That shouldn't catch us off guard. In fact, we should be praying fervently for those kind of opportunities, and then be ready to take them when they come.
Paul was also concerned about this when he wrote to the Colossians. Listen to 4:5, 6 of Paul's letter to the Colossians...
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. (Colossians 4:5-6)
Notice that like Peter does, Paul talks to them about “how [they] ought to answer” outsiders.
In that verse, Paul emphasized the need for “gracious speech”. And that's exactly where Peter goes in I Peter 3. If we have lives full of love and hearts full of Christ, and if that generates opportunities to give a defense full of reasons, then Peter reminds us that we need to speak in...
4. A Manner Full of Grace (vs. 15c, 16)
Peter points this out at the end of verse 15. “Always be prepared to make a defense...”
...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.
Isn't it interesting how the context here makes is so clear that 'getting defensive' in a worldly way is the exact opposite of 'getting defensive' for the sake of Jesus?
You see, Peter is not encouraging Christians to “get up in the faces” of those who are slandering them. He knows full well that followers of Jesus can be tempted to argue with and talk down to unbelievers. He understands that pressure-filled situations can tempt us to fight back, to get defensive in a worldly way, not in a way that models the character of Christ.
So Peter brings them back to the same principles he started with in verse 9. Look back at what it said there: Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless... At the end of verse 15, that translates into giving a defense, providing an explanation of your faith, in a manner that is both gentle and respectful. That is a grace-filled response, isn't it. Peter wants them to give their persecutors the opposite of what they deserve.
And if they do that, do you know what happens? That gentleness and that respect end up adorning or beautifying the gospel of Christ, the very message that tells us how God offers us the opposite of what WE deserve.
III. Now for Then
Okay, so let's stop and take inventory. So if we are followers of Jesus, those sent on Christ's One Mission, then we should go with a life full of love, a heart full of Christ, and a defense full of reasons, doing that in a manner full of grace. This is what it looks like, what is involved in, what it means to 'get defensive' for Jesus.
Now, upon hearing all this, it's right for me to ask, “Does this interest you?” No, honestly. Does any of this interest you? I mean in regard to your life; not in an abstract, good Bible knowledge, something-for-everyone-else kind of way. Does it interest you in terms of actually learning to 'get defensive' for Jesus? If it didn't interest you, you wouldn't be alone. I would guess the majority of professing Christians feel that way.
They really don't have an interest in praying for those in their circle who are without Christ.
They really don't think about living for Jesus before the eyes of those who so desperately need Him. They really don't look for open doors to share. I would guess the majority of believers simply do not intend to obey God in this area. Remember, Peter has given us a command here; a divinely inspired command.
But I believe most confessing believers put this command in the 'maybe' or 'once in a blue moon' or possibly the 'God will find someone better' box. Why are they not interested? Why do they avoid it? There's probably a whole host of reasons: “I don't know how”, “I wouldn't want to offend anyone”, “that's not my gift”, “it makes me uncomfortable”, “it's not my problem”, “I don't need more drama”, “I'm too busy”, “I have my own issues”, “the people in my circle seem okay”, “I don't want anyone to think I'm a fanatic”, “”, “God hasn't dropped anyone in my lap”...”I don't feel led.”
Do you have any interest in what we're talking about? About living the kind of life, empowered by God's Spirit, that inspires questions, generates conversations, and opens doors for the gospel of Jesus. About praying regularly for that very thing? About seeing men and women, teens, boys and girls, rescued from a Christ-less eternity of suffering for their sins and rescued for new life with God, forever?
Listen, every single one of us gets anxious about this subject. That's normal. We should expect that. God knows we do. What God is looking for this morning are followers of Jesus who WANT to obey Him in this area. Who want the heart of Jesus for those separated from Him. Who are willing to live for Him in every way, without being ashamed, and consequently, are ready to speak when God opens doors as your life shines.
Do you want that? Do you want to want that? Remember, the only command in verse 15 is the command to “be prepared”; to “prepared to give a defense to anyone who asks you for reason for the hope that is in you”. Are you prepared, right now? What if I asked you right now? Are you prepared to share something, to share anything?
If you want to obey God in this area, let me encourage you to join me in taking an extremely practical step. On our website, if you click “Blog”, you will find a post entitled “Now for Then”. If you click on that, you find a short encouragement about being prepared NOW for the THEN of an open door when someone asks you or begins a conversation about your faith.
What I would like you to do there, after prayerful consideration, is write down what you would say if asked. It could be a one sentence springboard to a larger conversation. It could three simple points like our ABCs of New Life. It could be a paragraph-long version of your own testimony. Whatever you would want to say when someone asks, write in the COMMENTS section of that blog post. Wouldn't it be wonderful to see what our brothers and sisters share? Wouldn't it be wonderful to learn from one another?
And above all, wouldn't it be wonderful to have opportunities to share those very words with those who need to hear them most. I understand some of you are not interested in doing that. And I get it. But please know I will be praying for you. I will be praying for all of us, including myself, that we would remember that a heart like Jesus, a heart “to seek and save the lost”, is a heart that always springs from deep appreciation for being sought and saved yourself; for gratitude for the person who spoke to you; who was prepared. I asked at the outset, “Are you the kind of person who regularly or easily gets defensive?” May that be true of us...for His sake and the sake of those separated from Him.
More in The Essentials: One Mission
August 6, 2017Then the End Comes (I Corinthians 15:22-26)
July 23, 2017People-Pleasers Make the Best Evangelists (I Corinthians 10:32, 33)
April 23, 2017When You're Anxious (Philippians 4:6, 7)