#1: Have a hope to defend.
1 Peter 3:15
“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; yet do it with gentleness and respect,”
While recently conversing with an agnostic, I was struck by the impotency of our diluted faith. Through the agnostic’s eyes, Christianity does not change your life, it only offers an alternative way to explain life. Or, to put it another way, the Christian appears on the outside no different than the agnostic.
The world will not look at two faiths of the same appearance and wonder why they are so different.
If our hope…
- ultimately lies in ourselves,
- is focused on avoiding hell and going to heaven, not communing with the real God in a personal relationship,
- does not change how we handle to life situations such as conflicts and disappointments,
- lies in the same idols of the world, such as security, wealth, and comfort,
…then our faith commitment differs little from that of the world.
Do we handle life issues any differently than an atheist or agnostic?
There is a counterfeit hope, one that poses as Christianity but is an impostor.
Is “living to glorify God” our label for “living a moral life so that people look at us and think more highly of us”? Self-exaltation enrobed in feigned spirituality may rise to the heart’s throne if motives are never scrutinized. And this impostor is just self-enthroned, and is no real hope at all. It is the same as the world’s hope.
As Jonathan Edward’s 23rd resolution states: “Resolved, frequently to take some deliberate action, which seems most unlikely to be done, for the glory of God, and trace it back to the original intention, designs and ends of it; and if I find it not to be for God’s glory, to repute it as a breach of the 4th Resolution [to do all to the glory of God].”
If we are striving only, at heart, for our own self-interests (even if they appear spiritual), are we so different from the world?
Richard Wumbrand writes in his book, Alone with God:
“I remember the chill that went down my spine when I read the secret formula disclosed only to initiates during the third degree of Masonry: ‘Let my will happen in all things.’ The formula was not new to me. It tapped into the huge drive for self-assertion which we all have in us. It is just contrary of the teach of our Lord: ‘Whoever desires to come to Me, let him deny himself’ (Mark 8:34).
Human nature says ‘no’ to this command of Jesus. But if the grace of God comes and you are inclined to fulfill it, be aware that Satan can disguise himself and make of conversion to Christ an initiation into the satanic rite. If you were to express in clear words what happens in such a case, it would be as follows: ‘I must be a man with a very strong ‘I’ to be able to decide even the rejection of ‘I’, the only great treasure I possess. So let my will happen in religion, too. My will is to deny myself.’
Afterwards you can go to great length of self-denial. You can go even as far as giving away all your possessions and being burned at the stake for your ideal. It is the ‘I’ that will have chosen poverty or martyrdom. Without knowing it, you will have been faithful to the formula of initiation: ‘Let my will happen in all things-even in matters regarding my relationship with Christ.’
‘Deny yourself’ is one of the many command of Scripture. They have not been given to be fulfilled. As a man born in sin, you cannot fulfill them. You can only take cognizance of them, seeing in them, as in a mirror, how far away you are from what is beautiful and right. You then acknowledge your sinfulness, at which point Christ can work in you. He changes you from glory to glory. But every human work you engage in by yourself, even a very holy one, is extremely dangerous.
Every day I have to decide whether to yield to torture or not, whether to deny Christ or not. It might be not a consecrated attitude but a devilish one to say, ‘Let my will be done, and my will is that I should be a hero of the faith.’
The Lord wants some to be such heros but he also allowed Peter to pass through moments of cowardice and then return with repentance, thus giving an example throughout the centuries to Christian who might fall in times of persecution that they can rise again. (pg 103-104)”
The result is an impotent faith, because a deep relationship with the real God is not the driver of my spiritual life. And this impotent faith is difficult to defend to the nonbeliever, because it exudes hypocrisy with the undercurrents of pride.
Where is our hope?
Our hope is in:
The message of the gospel (Col 1:23).
The name of Jesus (Mat 21:21)
The promise of God, Eternal life (Titus 1:2, 3:7, Heb 10:23, Acts 26:6, Acts 24:15, 1 Pe 1:21)
Christ (1 Cor 15:19, 1 Thes 1:3)
Salvation (1 Thes 5:8)
The living God, who is the Savior (1 Tim 4:10, 1 Pe 1:3, )
How does this differ from the world?
This hope humbly ascribes no worthiness, power, or good to man.
At heart, the hope in the world and/or self fails us because man fails. Man is in need of a Savior, One to bring hope. A man in need of saving lacking hope can not be his own hope. A hope based in man is a hope as fragile and incapable as man. I need to be led to the Rock that is higher than I, a Strong Tower and Refuge. (Ps 61:2).
This hope brings me into a relationship with the Father, where I find One who stands ready to be my strength. I find a purpose outside of my self, a calling that does not disappoint.
Let the world see that hope in the way we live, so that we can give a ready defense for it.
Father, may our life reflect such a hope. Our hope is nothing to defend if it be found within ourselves.
May the eyes of our hearts be enlightened, that we may know what is the hope to which You has called us, what are the riches of our glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of Your power toward us who believe, according to the working of Your great might that You worked in Christ when You raised Him from the dead and seated Him at Your right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And You put all things under His feet and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. (Eph 1:18-23).
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