Pastor Walther / 1 Peter 3:15-22 / Preparing by Doing God’s Will / Easter 6 / May 17, 2017
I was infuriated. I was lost. I was confused. I wanted to know and understand “Why?” so badly, but I never got a straight answer. The best answer I could get was, “Because.” But why? Why did the Romans decide to make the language of Latin so difficult? Imagine a 14 year old Peter Walther coming into Freshman year of High School attempting to learn Latin for the first time. And maybe if you have studied really anything, especially a foreign language, you will find yourself asking, “Why? Why do they do it this way?” When studying Latin, the best answer I got was, “Well that’s just the way it is, and the way you’ll have to learn it. It’s not the place for a 14 year old to change the way things are done.”
That same 14 year old would often question other things, like why do we have to make a point to go to church? Why can’t we sleep in once in a while? What is the big deal when I hear that two people who aren’t married are living together? What’s the big harm with looking at pornography? Why can’t I use some bad language once in a while? Why can’t I always get what I want? And I know that those questions aren’t just the questions of a 14 year old Christian, but those are often the questions directed at Christians, and they make us think, why? Why DO we do the things that we do?
The apostle Peter wrote a letter that was directed to Christians, instructing them in how they should live. Why would Peter make a big deal about the way Christians should live? What is the purpose? What is the reason? God gives to us many reasons why we serve him like showing our love and thanks to him, but we have a very different and important reason today. God gives to us the What, the How, and the Why of doing God’s will and living Christians lives. Peter is writing to people who were going through difficulties and people hating on them because they were Christian. Peter looks to comfort them and encourage them. He gives these words: Always be prepared to give an answer…In other words, be ready to give the reason to “why” you do things: why you live Christian lives, and why you go to church. That is the “what” God wants us to do: to be prepared to explain why. But that doesn’t answer our question, because not only are we trying to figure out why we do things, but now we have people breathing down our neck asking the same question!
Well, maybe I’ll take a stab at the question of why we follow God’s will. I’d answer, “Well, because that’s just what Christians do! That’s what we WELS folk do!” Unfortunately that answer is about as good as the teacher who answered my question about why Latin has to be so difficult, and they just said, “Because.” God doesn’t say to us New Testament Christians “Thou must live a Christian life because I said so!” No, God gives several important reasons as to why we live a Christian life, but the answer is not “because I said so.” As we look at what God wants for us, He says that part of Christian living is that he wants us to be prepared to talk to other people. We are seeing that my Christian life isn’t always about me, but it is about others.
When that 14 year old Peter Walther went into the gym to shoot hoops around by himself, he was the best player ever around. Every shot, in. Bank shot, no problem. Sky hook, no big deal. But when one person would come in and see me playing, I immediately thought about what I was doing, and realized I was actually terrible. That’s why I’m not in the NBA today. But it was for the sake of others and their pride, that I didn’t play basketball, so I didn’t embarrass them. But really, I say this tongue in cheek to help us realize that our Christian living is bigger than ourselves and that other people witness it, maybe to some strangers’ agreement, to some distaste for Christianity, maybe to some people’s interest in which they question, why? Why do they live that way?
When I start seeing how I live from other people’s perspective, I start wondering if I’m prepared like the apostle Peter speaks of here. Am I always living a Christian life that conveys the gospel in its truth and purity? Or am I leading people down a path that confuses what the Bible says rather than clears up the question why? Do I always see that going to worship is a beautiful thing that strengthens my faith and builds other people up too? Or when people see me, does it look like church is a chore? Do I see that living together before marriage can ruin marriage for other people or cause other people to sin by talking behind their back? Or do I simply let it go because it’s a personal choice? Do I see the damages that pornography causes to the relationships around me and even the people in the videos? Or do I simply think that it’s not hurting anyone, so what’s the big deal? So what if I use bad language once in a while? No one cares. Are we always prepared, like the apostle Peter requests, or do we ruin the gospel and Christianity for other people?
When we see “What” God wants for our lives, we wonder “How?” How do we go about doing that? The apostle Peter says to “Set apart Christ as Lord” or “revere.” In other words, we regard him as important, as holy, as the coolest thing ever. Setting apart Christ as Lord is to give Jesus first place in our hearts, not putting the things we want first, or putting what we think we should have first, but it is to give everything over to him, who graciously has given to us all things. Really, it would be more natural here to say, “Keep on setting apart” and would capture the scope of what Peter intends to say. Peter is not commanding a one time or limited action on our part. He fully expects the “setting apart” to be an ongoing activity of every Christian.
But in order to set him apart in our hearts, we need to see more about what he has done and what he says. We know Jesus died and rose for us, but look at everything else Jesus did for us. Peter goes through a list of things that Christ did simply for our sakes, just like we confess in the creeds. In fact, this bible passage is where we are enlightened on the fact that Christ descended into hell. He descended into hell to proclaim his complete and utter victory right to the powerless face of Satan. Christ had a message: victory. Christ puts us all on an equal playing field because Christ died for all people. Not just the good people, not just the bad, but all people.
We see what Christ has done for us on the cross and even in the waters of baptism. Baptism is an amazing gift that God has given to us which connects us to the life, death, and resurrection of our Savior. When we remember our baptisms, we remember that we must continue to drown our sinful nature with daily repentance, but we also remember the love God has shown to us as we set Christ apart in our lives. Instead of relying on our own timid hearts for strength and help to live a Christian life, we keep our hearts fixed on Christ as our source of strength. So Peter Gives to us What we are to do as Christians, and the How, but also gives the Why, the question we are often wondering: Why do we live Christians lives? Why do we need to be prepared?
In a world where we are so connected with what is in front of us on a screen, we often neglect what is around us. We’ll take a call or a text message right in the middle of a meeting or a conversation with someone, belittling the person you were having a meeting or conversation with. Even social analysts see this problem with the way we are focused on ourselves and our needs. The apostle Peter says that we are to be different as Christians. We started to see that our Christian living is bigger than just ourselves, but that it is about others. The apostle Peter helps us to take our eyes off of ourselves and our screens and to simply be prepared to give an answer. Here, Peter gives us the answer to why. Why do we live this way? Why do we do the things we do? It is because everything we do is in preparation for sharing the gospel! Everything! Everything we do is to lead up to answer that question: why? Why do we do this? We don’t we do that? Our Christian living gives us the opportunity to answer those questions with the gospel!
Now, the word “answer” in verse 15 really is the word for an apology, in other words “a defense.” I wonder, do we apologize our beliefs or do we apologize for our beliefs? In other words, do we prepare to defend why we do something, a defense, or do we prepare to say I'm sorry for what we believe in? How do we respond? Are we embarrassed that we are Christian, or are we embarrassed because we don’t know how to defend ourselves?
But when you make Christ your number one, you are prepared. When you listen every day to the Savior’s voice through his wonderful Word, every day praying for strength to stand up for the truth, and when your own heart is full of gratitude for being rescued from death and hell, you will be prepared to speak, and your speech will have depth and conviction. Some people may choose to reject that wonderful message. Peter reminds us of that reality that some may insult, threaten or even harm us if we do what is good and share God’s Word. But even if we should experience suffering for the good things we do in Christ, there is no reason for us to be afraid of such threats. It is better to suffer at the hands of people who despise you for doing what is pleasing to God than to suffer deservedly for doing what is evil. But thank God that there are some people who will see you living your Christian life and will wonder that question “why” and they may be that much more inclined to hear your message.
You have a hope because your faith is in Christ, the one who atoned for the sins of the world. That hope is a living hope, something that can’t help but express its love for it’s savior. That’s an important message. The hymn writer Frances Havergal wrote in her hymn “Lord, speak to Us that We may Speak:”
“Oh, fill us with your fullness, Lord, / Until our very hearts overflow / In kindling thought and glowing word / Your love to tell, your praise to show.”
Peter gives to us the How, the What and the Why of doing God’s will. May God continue to remind us that one of the best reasons why we listen to him and why we live Christian lives is because it prepares us to share the gospel. Amen