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July 1, 2012

Apologies Not Accepted

One of the great joys of my life is engaging in discussions with my children about our faith in Jesus.  Each of them challenges me to think through what I believe and why.  They ask some really good questions.  The answers are not always easy to come by.

Peter writes, “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.”  (1 Peter 3:15)

“Be ready to give a defense” carries huge implications.  In Peter’s day, crowds in the thousands could gather in the Coliseum of Rome to cheer as Christians were being torn apart by wild animals.  As each Christian died they gave testimony of their faith in Jesus (consider the 7 Questions for New Converts [page 8] and your life).  Can you hear Peter’s words for you, “Be ready to testify in the circumstances of your life” - whatever they may be—even death.

How do we prepare for that?  First, Peter tells us to “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.”  A loose translation would be:  “Keep the Lord God holy in your hearts.”  Put Christ first.  No person, no activity, no though or desire must occupy a greater place of priority in any part of our lives than Jesus Christ.  24/7/365 He needs to be the Lord of my family, finances, work, inner thoughts and life—everything.  If we live that way, then in whatever life throws at us (even death) we will testify of Him by the way we follow Him through those circumstances.

Second, Peter tells us to give an account of our hope, “with gentleness and reverence.”  That means not hitting people over the head with our Bibles—pounding home our point and winning arguments based on our “extensive” knowledge of God and His word.  We’re all sinners and the people that we share our hope with struggle in life just as we do.  We’re not superior to them.  Its only by God’s grace, as we go through the circumstances of life, that we live with hope.  Peter’s point about “reverence” reminds us that we should be in awe of God who is so gracious towards us.

“A ready defense” means preparation both of my life with God and of my understanding of God.  Without both life and understanding, I will end up apologizing for Jesus—weakly speaking of what I believe—lacking credibility and conviction. 

Paul writes, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of God” (2 Timothy 2:15).

To apologize for our hope means that we are ashamed of our faith.  It means that we have not been diligent to do our “homework” as a follower of Jesus.  Apologetics (the defense of Christianity) is boldly giving a defense of what we believe which answers the questions of God’s critics and ultimately brings glory to Him.  In the context of my family, that means that as a father I am able to speak credibly and intelligently of why I believe and live as I do.  And, to challenge my children to follow Jesus as they become who He has created them to be.

What is the basis of what you believe and for how you live?  Why do you believe what you believe?  Can you articulate it?  Or, is it something you’ve backed into perhaps by growing up as a Christian or by believing what others have told you?  How does what you believe effect how you live?  How will you pass your faith on to others if you are ashamed by your lack of understanding and of how you’re living?

Let me encourage you—do not compromise with the need for personal preparedness and diligence.  Get into God’s word and study.  Go deep.  Seek His answers.  Spend quality time with Him in prayer.  Engage in discussion and study with fellow believers.  Grab a good book on theology or church history and read.  Seek to understand how others have grabbled with understanding and living out their faith.  Don’t settle for something less than what God has for you.  Be ready to defend the basis for how you are living your life.  To God be the glory.