Our Living Savior Gives Us Living Hope
A Hope That Makes Us Confident
A sermon based on 1 Peter 3:15-22
Sunday, May 25, 2014 – Easter 6A
"Umm… Hi… my name is… nevermind. You probably wouldn't like me anyway," said the teen in the school hallway right before he ran away from the girl and ducked into the men's room.
"I'm sure you probably have lots of other candidates for this job who are more qualified for the position than I am, but here's my resume," said the young woman as she snatched up her handbag and hustled out of the office.
"What do I believe? Well, I wouldn't want to bore you all that religious stuff," said the mom as she gripped her cup of coffee tightly and quickly changed the subject back to the kids playing in the other room.
"I don't want to die. I'm scared. I don't know what will happen to me after I die. I'm not a very good person," said the middle aged cancer patient as he spoke to the pastor, tears filling his eyes.
What do these four people have in common? They all lack confidence. It's one thing to lack confidence when seeking a date or a job. But it's an entirely different matter altogether when it comes to our faith. God wants none of us to be lacking in confidence at all. And Jesus' resurrection gives us confidence!
Our living Savior gives us a living hope—a sure and certain hope—that makes us totally confident! It makes us confident in our Baptism, that connected to Jesus' and his resurrection, our sins are forgiven. It makes us confident in our witness as we share that confidence with others. Listen to the confidence Peter had and that Peter gives which he describe in 1 Peter 3:15-22
15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 18 For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, 19 through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison 20 who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.
I. Confident in My Baptism
As of yesterday morning, 97,000 acres of forest burned on the Kenai Peninsula. That massive fire was only 20% contained. Homes have been threatened, planes have been dropping water and fire retardant, residents have been busy watering, not their lawns, but their homes, and prayers for rain are going up to God. Why? Because water saves lives.
Water saves lives when fires rage. Water saves lives when it washes away infectious bacteria. Water saves lives when it prevents dehydration. Water saved lives in the flood, not just drowning the wicked, but lifting the believers above the corrupting influence of the ungodly. While we normally think of the Great Flood as an act of judgment and destruction, it was also an act of grace and salvation. Noah and his family were spared from the increasing wickedness that would have surely robbed them of their faith had God not acted. Water not only destroys, but water saves lives.
And water saves lives in Baptism. Verse 21 is one of the sedes doctrinae—that is, one of the proof passages—for the truth that Baptism is not just symbolic, but salvific. Baptism saves: "This water [of the Great Flood] symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ." Water connected to the Word of God and applied to the human body saves.
And make no mistake: We need saving.
"In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord," Peter says, not as just some suggestion, but as a command with the consequences of failure being eternal. Set apart Christ as Lord of your Life. He is the master. Disobey and there is hell to pay—not just a fire that burns property, but that burns eternally.
But do you always set apart Christ as Lord? Peter didn't. Peter knew what it was like to deny Jesus. And so do you.
"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." Peter says. But sometimes I'm more prepared to dodge the question avoiding the discussion altogether. Always be prepared "to give an answer" is literally "to give a defense." Stand up for Jesus and defend him! Yet, too often I'm ashamed of him, as is evidenced by the way I don't talk about him.
And my silence betrays my lack of confidence in me: "Well, I wouldn't know what to say. What if I said something wrong?! What if they don't like me anymore?" But even more it betrays my lack of confidence in the Word: "It can't really do what God says. It does depend on me and on my presentation. And when I do speak up, I don't always see immediate results of my efforts. In fact, I rarely do. So, the Word must not work."
But the hymn writer put it well when he wrote: "Ashamed of Jesus? Yes, I may… when I've no guilt to wash away." (CW #347 v.4) But I 0have guilt. I have been ashamed to talk about my Savior. No wonder my confidence is often so weak. I am a horrible sinner, deserving of the flames of hell. And there's no room for any self-confidence.
Ah, but I don't need self-confidence. I have Jesus. He is my only hope. And he is my sure and certain hope.
"Baptism… now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ." Like the ark saved Noah and his family my baptism has saved me by connecting me to Jesus' death and resurrection, by delivering the grace Jesus won for the whole world to me personally. My Baptism has doused the flames of a guilty conscience. It has washed away the soot of my sin. Like the flood scrubbed the earth of sinful rebels, so my baptism has scrubbed my soul of my sinful rebellion. I am promised a good conscience by God.
I set apart Christ as Lord, not just as Lord of my life as I submit my will to his—for I do a miserable job at that. But I set apart Christ as Lord of my salvation. "For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous [that's him] for the unrighteous [that's me and you], to bring you to God." Jesus lived a perfect life in our place. He died an innocent death in our place. The righteous one became cursed so that we who were cursed might be made righteous. And the proof? The resurrection: "He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit."
And the benefits of Jesus' work have been delivered to us through faith given at our baptism. "Baptism… now saves you.." So remember you baptism daily, friends. If you know where your baptismal certificate is, display it prominently in your home—somewhere where you'll see it every day. And if you don't have that piece of paper, no worries. There are other reminders everywhere. In fact, every time you shower, notice the grout in the tile. Notice how it forms a cross everywhere four tiles meet. And remember that just as the water of the shower washes the dirt and stink from your body, so too the water of "baptism… saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God."
And with this reminder, you can be confident that your sins are forgiven. That you know what will happen to you when you die. That you are a good person—a perfect person!—through Jesus life, death, and resurrection for you. And when satan comes nagging you with your sin, answer him boldly: "You've got nothing on me! Sure I'm a sinner. But so what?! I'm also baptized. My sins are forgiven in Christ. I'm clean as a whistle." And be at peace.
But then this confidence in your baptism that your sins are forgiven, also gives you confidence to give an answer not just to satan, but, "to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." This confidence in sins forgiven makes you confident in your witness too…
II. Confident in My Witness
Not long ago you felt the 5.5 earthquake shake you awake at 6:15 in the morning. It was a good reminder to be prepared for a really big one. This week we've seen a 97,000 acre fire sweep through the Peninsula, reminding us to be prepared for any disaster. This year, finances have been tight, reminding us to be prepared for another depression, to be prepared for retirement. We want to be prepared for what might come because we know the consequences of being unprepared can be disastrous.
But this morning Peter doesn't encourage us to be prepared for a disaster, but to be prepared to share our faith… so that others might be prepared for Judgment Day, so that that day isn't a disaster for them. The consequences of being unprepared are eternal.
And Peter spoke from experience. Peter wasn't really prepared to share his faith on Maundy Thursday. Intimidated by the fear of persecution he not only clammed up, but swore up and down that he didn't even know Jesus.
But Jesus' resurrection changed everything for him. Once he had the confidence that his denial of Jesus was forgiven, he could boldly and fearlessly proclaimed the truth to an audience of thousands on the Day of Pentecost. And he kept preaching after that even when it meant prison or possible execution. Even when it meant crucifixion, he had a confidence in Jesus that made him bold to share his faith.
And we can learn from Peter. You and I may suffer for sharing our faith. We may be persecuted, or executed, even crucified for sharing our faith. But so what? We're prepared for it through our Baptism. We know where we're going. And so we find the confidence to boldly share our faith, come what may.
So be prepared "to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have," and to "do this with gentleness and respect…"
Be prepared by staying in the Word, by regularly remembering your Baptism, by regularly receiving the Lord's Supper. Then be prepared by living a life that's different from co-workers, neighbors, and friends, by living a life that is so kind and generous and loving that it makes people wonder what makes you different. And when you do, some will ask you and will give you an opportunity to tell them the hope—the sure and certain hope—that you have.
So be prepared for the question. Be prepared by studying the Word. Be prepared by practicing talking about your faith. And let me help you to be prepared. That's what you've called me to do.
Here's something new I want to try with my sermons. I want to help you to take what you learn from God's Word each Sunday and to put it into practice Monday through Saturday. So every now and then I'm going to give you a "Weekly Challenge." It's homework, if you will. You don't have to do, but I hope that Christ's love for you will make you want to. So here's this week's challenge: Let's come up with a plan together to reach a friend or family member, a neighbor or co-worker that needs to hear of your confidence of sins forgiven in Jesus. Let me help you to come up with a plan so that you're more confident in your approach.
Sometime this week go to www.GraceLutheranKenai.com/WeeklyChallenge and fill out the form. There you'll target one specific person with whom you can share this confidence that we have of sins forgiven. Just give me some basic information about that friend or co-worker, son or daughter, neighbor or even spouse, and I will help you come up with a strategy to share the gospel with them. Together we'll come up with a plan to help you confidently witness. Go to www.GraceLutheranKenai.com/WeeklyChallenge or, if you're already signed up to get the sermons in email, you can find the link there.
And whether the person that you're trying to reach with the Gospel responds the way you pray they will or not isn't up to you. Leave that to the Holy Spirit. But confident of the forgiveness you have in Christ, delivered to you in your Baptism, which connected you to his resurrection, you can be confident in your witness, as you boldly "give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." In Jesus' name, dear friends, amen.