Life Sunday – 2018 LSB #575
Text – 1 Peter 3:15-16
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 & respect.
“Hope” is an interesting word in the Bible. When you & I talk about hope, we say something like, “I hope it doesn’t rain.” What we mean is: “I think it might rain, but I really wish that it wouldn’t.” With this kind of hope, there’s always a possibility that we might not get what we want – what we are “hoping” for. That’s not how the word “hope” is used in the Bible.
In Holy Scripture ‘hope’ is a word describing confidence. “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood & righteousness.” The hymn lyrics express a “confidence” in the blood & righteousness of Jesus for our salvation. In 1 Peter 3, he writes:
“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 & respect.” What is the hope he’s writing about? God, the Father, out of love for us, gave His eternal Son to bridge the gap that separated us from Himself.
Jesus is the chosen One who suffered & died in the place of sinners. He satisfied our Father’s wrath against human sin & effected true reconciliation between God & mankind. In rising from the dead, Jesus conquered sin, death & all the powers of Satan. By this grace, extended to humanity through Christ’s death & resurrection, we share in our Lord’s victory.
This is our hope, our confidence! Through Jesus Christ, we can come before our heavenly Father because we are clothed in the righteousness of the Son of God.
St. Peter’s 1st epistle was written to believers who were facing persecution. As such, Peter’s call to “always [be] prepared to make a defense” meant that believers should be ready to answer objections to Christianity. When the Christians in Peter’s time were charged by the Roman state with atheism, & ordered to recant their faith, they were to be ready to defend their hope in Christ in spite of the threats of prison & torture. Peter’s instruction in 3:15 meant that believers should have already reflected upon the answer for their faith in Jesus.
St. Paul wrote in Philippians 2:15 that we live in a “crooked & twisted generation.” We live in a culture of death, but Paul goes on to say that we “shine as lights in the world.” We have a hope that is in us! In a culture where death is preferred over life, in a culture where death is considered a friend, we have a hope that is in us & it’s full of life!
We have life in Jesus Christ, the Lord of life! That is our identity. We identify with the Living One, the One who once was dead but now is alive forevermore! In a culture that promotes death as an answer, there’s no hope for those who have no identity in God.
Without knowing the Lord of hope, there’s no identity as parents or spouses. Without a heavenly Father, a fetus loses its identity & then it’s simple to choose abortion if the baby is not wanted. Without a Creator, the elderly have no identity; so when they feel like they aren’t productive anymore, it’s not that difficult to opt for assisted suicide.
Our identity as children of God gives us hope & life. From where do we receive them? Through hearing & studying God’s Word! You have been prepared through your memorization of the catechism to know what you believe. But you need to stay ready. That means you shouldn’t let your catechism or Bible gather dust.
It means you should take advantage of what God regularly provides to prepare yourself for those opportunities to give an account for the hope that is in you. You come to worship on Sundays to be reminded of God’s great love for you in Christ Jesus, in spite of your sins. You attend Bible study at church to learn more about God & how His love works in your life. In those ways, God is preparing you to make a defense of the hope & the confidence you have in your Savior. Not that Jesus needs defending. He doesn’t! He didn’t even defend Himself before the chief priest, or before Pilate or Herod. Our Savior willingly accepted His sentence of death on the cross, & gives us the privilege of sharing the incredible hope we have because of it.
With anyone who asks why you believe what you do, you have the privilege & honor of making the case for salvation through Christ’s death & resurrection. In advance, God has prepared those opportunities in your daily life. The neighbor next door who seems to be depressed needs your witness of the amazing identity God has prepared specifically for him.
That young lady you know, who seems to be looking for love in all the wrong places, she needs to know that in Jesus there is waiting for her all the love & fulfillment she needs, & God will tailor it to her needs. In any case you can be sure your witness will be a credible one. Why is that? Because Yahweh Himself is faithful. Here are two of His related promises.
Hebrews 10:23, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” (ESV) There, God tells us specifically to hold fast to our hope without wavering, because He is faithful. Then, in 1 Thessalonians 5, He goes into more detail:
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, & may your whole spirit & soul & body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.” (5:23-24 ESV) There, He makes the point that even if we mess up our witness, the God of peace will keep us blameless at the coming of Jesus Christ.
You have nothing to fear, & no reason to be afraid. Just share the hope that you have in the once dead, but now risen, Christ Jesus. He is faithful to His promises! The Word of God, Baptism & Holy Communion empower you to live as God’s child & to be a powerful witness of the Christian faith that will encourage & inspire those around you to want what you have. Invite your friends & neighbors to church so that they will get to hear the sweetest words they’ll ever hear this side of heaven – words we too often take for granted. They will hear their heavenly Father say to them through His called & ordained servant: “I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father & of the Son & of the Holy Spirit!”
Those words give us a living hope which also has an eternal future. That is far better, especially being in Michigan, than living with words of helpless hope such as “I hope it doesn’t rain.” Amen!
My Hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood & righteousness; no merit of my own I claim but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. His oath, His covenant & blood support me in the raging flood; when every earthly prop gives way, He then is all my hope & stay. When He shall come with trumpet sound, Oh, may I then in Him be found, clothed in His righteousness alone, redeemed to stand before His throne! On Christ, the solid rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand. Amen. LSB 575:1, 3-4.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet