Date: June 24, 2018
Pastor Ryan Ackerman
Title: Practicing the Discipline of Evangelism
Text: 1 Peter 3:8-17
Wellspring Church, Springfield, Ma.
SCRIPTURES: Psalm 119:97-120. Acts 26:12-32
1 Peter 3:8-17
8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9 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. 10 For
“Whoever desires to love life
and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from speaking deceit;
11 let him turn away from evil and do good;
let him seek peace and pursue it.
12 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.”
13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 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, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil
BIG IDEA: Practicing the Discipline of Evangelism
Pastor Ryan has had a humbling stretch of life recently. His wife is pregnant with their 4th child. To get ready for the baby, one task is to swap the bedrooms around so the two oldest children will share a bedroom and the two youngest children will share a room. Several weeks ago, Ryan spent the day lugging cans of paints and furniture upstairs. By Tuesday morning, it was a slow roll out of bed for Ryan. He sat up and his arms were on fire and his legs ached. Apparently his body was not prepared for a day of light painting! Is this what it has come to, he wondered.That’s what happens when you are out of shape. Research shows that we should have 150 min of aerobics each week. When you include other kinds of exercise, it turns out that we should exercise 30 min each day. Here’s the thing – the discipline of exercise is not just physically necessary it is spiritually necessary.
7 Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; 8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 1 Timothy 4:7-8
Spiritual exercise is valuable. Spiritual disciplines such as prayer, Bible reading, corporate worship, etcbuild up the wealth of Godliness in us. Another one is evangelism. The people who Peter is writing to in 1 Peter are suffering as God inspires Peter to put pen to paper. He is writing to 1st century Christians living in Asia Minor who are suffering for their faith. These persecuted Christians are living out their new identity in a hostile world. The hardship of the journey does not excuse us from living out our life for Him always being ready to share the reason for our hope.
Point 1:Discipline ourselves to walk the walk
Consider verse 8.This is how the Christian life ought to look. It is a portrait of the heart. God wants their attitudes to look a certain way. These adjectives describe what the Christian looks like as they walk through life:
• Commitment to Jesus
• Commitment to His word
• Sympathy: share the same feelings as others
• Support each other through trials
• Brotherly love
• Tender heartedness
• Humble minds: Phil 2 – Jesus example of humility. This was not valued in the Greco- Roman world
These traits to look different from the world need to be exercised and will require God to shape our sinful life. Peter is not done. He also calls them to also be a blessing to people (v9).
Imagine that you hear a car door slam every day at 5:30 PM when your neighbor arrives home from work. He usually has this look on his face that portrays a bad attitude. He doesn’t save the grumpy stuff for his car door. Your smiling hellos are met with eye rolls. Then one day and he is doing yard work and he seems really upset. He is looking at trees that are on your side of the line. He stomps off to the shed and blows all the leaves into your yard. You walk out and ask him if he is OK. This ends in name calling and accusations and his finger is in your face calling you a jerk because these are your leaves and now he has to deal with it and he stomps off in anger. He spends the rest of the afternoon sending brush and debris into your yard. These first century Christians have been berated by their neighbors. Evil has been done against them. Yet God has told them and us how to live among these evil doers. We are not to retaliate. Don’t repay evil with evil. Don’t tear him down. Don’t insult in return. Life among our neighbors will certainly be difficult. What if the next day you finish up his yard work and bake a batch of cookies and leave them at your neighbors door with a note. So when you hear the car door slam at 5: 30PM he finds that he has been blessed by a neighbor who loves him. A neutral response is not our charge. We are to return evil and reviling with blessing. You mean these neighbors who are making my life miserable – you want me to bless them! You want me to actively seek their good. You want me to clean up the yard and bake the cookies and God through Peter says yes with hearts full of sympathy and brotherly love. This is our calling. While God blesses those who come to Him with eternal life; God continues to bless those who walk with him. In verses 10-12 he is referencing Psalm 34; God pours out his blessing on those who do good. Peter implores them to live as righteous ones. That blessing includes that the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous. God pays watchful attention to his people. That blessing includes that the Lord’s ears are open to the prayers of the righteous. Blessing doesn’t mean earthly prosperity. It doesn’t mean there will be no suffering. It does mean that God will establish us as we suffer. Jesus saysthe same. Here’s what we are doing – displaying Jesus to our neighbors. What an amazing testimony it leaves in the neighborhood. We can neighbor like this because Jesus did it first. In 1 Peter 2:21 we read:
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.
When Jesus was reviled what did he do? He blessed them. When we trust in Jesus, He frees us to live to righteousness and we are to follow His example. It’s going to take discipline. It’s going to mean that we discipline those evangelism muscles so when these tough neighborly moments happen we are less sore the next day. Exercise your hearts. Train yourself.
Point 2: Discipline ourselves to talk the talk
There’s a whole lot of rich exhortation around this in this passage. Begins with an attitude (v13). Remember Peter’s readers are being persecuted. He is saying who can harm you eternally. Don’t let the temporal suffering erode your love for God. Surrender to God and fear God rather than fear the suffering. In v17 God tells them and us that it is better to suffer for doing good. These are two massive pillars of support that hold us up in evangelism with our neighbors: A) It is better to suffer than not suffer and B) Christ will bless those who suffer for Him. These two promises hold us up when we fear what others will think.
This text can be translated sanctify Christ in your hearts. Love Him; cherish Him, worship Him alone. As our hearts are steeped in submission to Christ, it will flow out of us to share. Did you catch this – he is not saying take the weekend off. He didn’t say just huddle together. He says always be ready to give defense for the hope in you.
Back to your neighbor. He sees you and he is a bit more curious. He says so what’s the deal – why did you treat me like this when I treated you so poorly. If you are a Christian you know the answer – because Jesus is my savior, He has done the same thing for me – let me tell you about Him. Share the truth with your neighbor. We have sinned against this holy God and we cannot be good enough to earn God’s good favor. Jesus came and lived a perfect life and pays the penalty for our sin on the cross. When the sinner turns to Jesus He forgives and takes his righteousness and covers that person with His righteousness. Jesus ushers that person back into relationship with God. This is the gospel – you tell them what Jesus means for a sinner. Share your own story. The gospel is the content; grace is the manner. As we talk the talk and point our neighbors to Jesus, we are humble, gentle and respectful. We are not trying to make them feel dumb. We are clearly relaying the good news with humility. Always – this means always. Always be prepared – this requires discipline. It takes practice, repetition and a whole lot of time in prayer and with God. The tricky part is that we never know when these moments will happen. We need to be ready.
Exercise the muscles of obedient living so that when the time comes to clean the yard and bake the cookies; those evangelism muscles are fit and strong.
Point 3: What can we do?
Here are some things we can do now.
A. Prepare your heart. Remember who you are in Christ. Have the fear of God not fear of man. Cultivate the heart condition layed out in you..
B. How can you bless your neighbors? Get to know them. Create platforms that might lead to deeper relationships.
C. Study the gospel – if you don’t know the gospel rehearse it until you can work your way through it without stumbling through it. We have the discipline for work and school; shouldn’t we also have the discipline to prepare to share the reason for our hope.
D. Pray every morning – Lord give me opportunities to share the truth of Jesus with my neighbors. Are we praying this?
It is important for us to exercise spiritual muscles like evangelism. If we are going to honor Christ it is so good for us to practice the discipline of evangelism.