Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sermon: Be Ready to Give an Answer for the Hope you Have

Listen to the audio Podcast of this Sermon via this player:

"It changed my life – or he changed my life. I was a teenager when I became a Christian at age 16. For me, this was absolutely revolutionary. It lifted me from a sense of meaninglessness and purposelessness to being passionate about living for Christ and making my life count for him and for his Kingdom. That has never left me, but has inspired my life. I do think we want to give our kids a vision of a high calling lived for Christ that is the greatest calling that you can have and so much more than this milquetoast moralistic therapeutic deism."  -William Lane Craig, Mutant Christianity

You must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong!

Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit 

1 Peter 3:15-18 NLT 
When Jesus Christ was born into the world he brought something very important with him: He brought hope. During this time of the year, we remind ourselves of the hope that Jesus Christ gave to us. It’s a candle burning. That’s a symbol. It’s a symbol that the word of God is true: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can’t overcome it. This was our situation before Christ came into the world. And before he came into our lives. Each of us could share how Jesus has changed us.

We were in the darkness. Then a light exploded in the midst of the night sky, and hope came into the world. And he came to save us from this fallen place. This place called Earth.

He set me free. From the clutches of darkness. Very truly, and very literally. Jesus Christ was the light, shining in the darkness of my past life.

Our Christian faith is a beautiful thing. It explains the entire world around us, while many walk vacantly through life. Why are we here? What is the human race? What is our purpose? What is the meaning of life? Every question is answered by our Christian faith. Our faith is something called a worldview. It’s how we see the universe around us.

The most important thing about our faith is that it’s real, 100% of the time. It doesn’t change. It’s not one of many ways to see the world. It’s the truth about life. It doesn’t change. It’s solid, fixed and objective.

We rest all our trust, all our hope, all our future, everything we do in life, everything we labor for, the safety of our families, our time, our money, and the very underlying reasons for how and why we live on Jesus Christ the God-man who came. He came claiming to be the son of God, two thousand years ago, came into human history. He died on the cross, yet he’s alive today. He is Lord, savior, helper, comforter, and the great shower of mercy on once hopeless losers like me. He is seated in majesty, glorified and resurrected bearing the scars of his victory over death at the right hand of God.

We live that by faith. Is that hard to believe? I don’t think so.

To me it seems obvious that there is a God. I didn’t always think that way though. I was raised Catholic myself, but I never really connected to it. I didn’t think it had any relevance to my life. My mom was enraged when I told her I didn’t want to be confirmed. I told her I didn’t believe the things they were telling me.

I think that’s probably more common that we might realize. Maybe we treat our faith as more of a tradition. Or a place where we’re family. I’m not saying those are bad things necessarily, but our faith is not just those things. It goes much further. As Chuck Colson said, “Christianity is a way of seeing all of life, every aspect of reality. It is a worldview.”

The scripture said,”You must worship Christ as Lord of your life.” Not just as a part or a segment, or a certain aspect. Christ is at the center, to be worshiped, honored, and served in all things. He is our traveling companion through this wilderness they call Earth. His Holy Spirit is with us too. He changes us, encourages us, tests us, builds us, and puts us through trials.

The light has shined in the darkness. He is with us. We’re the lucky ones in this world, the blessed one. Yet there are so many others! It’s on my heart day and night. The burden for the lost. So you and I must be something, and it’s sacred. We must be prepared! Be ready. Are you prepared to give an explanation of the hope you have? And are you ready for his return?

What is our hope as believers in the way? Our hope is the forgiveness of sins, our reconnection to God, and eternal life in joy with our creator.

Explain that one to a ruffion on a bar stool. He has no idea what your talking about! It doesn’t make sense to him. Tell that to a girl in a club, she’d probably laugh in your face. Which is why we must be prepared. We must be ready, as Peter wrote, to give an answer for the hope we have. The greek word Peter uses for an answer is “apologia” which means to give a defense.

Think of Catherine Booth in the bar in Paris. An apt analogy given the recent terror attacks in Paris. What would she say? What would she do? 

The artwork of her standing in a bar in Paris (1871) preaching the gospel has always been an inspiration to me. I think to myself, there is a woman I would be honored to call my wife. She’s taking a stand, she’s disturbing the moment.

In giving an answer, we’re disturbing the moment. The world is well on it’s way, marching away from truth. It always has been. They’ve created entire systems to circumvent the Christian worldview, they’ve added evolution, secular self help psychology, naturalism, the view that all things came from the physical world. All these systems to escape the roots of our country, of western civilization itself: the Christian faith. Christianity is what holds our civilization together here in the United States, and in Europe.

William and Catherine Booth broadly transformed England “darkest England” to radical changes in the moral climate.

We’re called to do the same today. Catherine Booth said,” If we are to better the future, we must disturb the present.”

I’m encouraging all of us, myself included, to disturb the moment; Be ready to give an answer. Give that answer, share the truth, but as Peter wrote: Do so with gentleness and respect. It’s so very important to do so respectfully, and lovingly. More so than anything the example of how we live will help convince a non-believer to follow Christ. They will know us by our love. But if there isn’t love within our midst, then they will not know us.

Yet someone can see how we live and still not understand the gospel. They’ve never been confronted with it. They’ve never, ever been told. We should tell them. And when they ask: Why? Why should I believe in Jesus? Why should I trust the Bible? Why do we even need a God to explain the universe when we have science?

You can say: Let me tell you a few things. And hear me out. I believe in Jesus Christ because he changed my life. And that change is real. I’m sure it’s hard for you to understand. But today there are over 2.2 billion Christians in the world. Are they all wrong? Have you read the gospels? Have you asked God to reveal himself to you through the scriptures? Aren’t you touched by the beauty of the message of the gospel of love?

As far as the Bible, I do believe you can trust the Bible. I know there is much skepticism about the Bible today. But let me share with you these facts: First, the Bible is considered by the vast majority of historians as a reliable, factual, historical document. The events in the Bible are trusted and historically accurate. Even outside sources matched with the Bible history fit with the sequence of events perfectly. Archaeological discoveries time and again have proven to verify the scriptures.

The Bible was compiled in the form of ancient manuscripts. Did you know there are over 25,000 partial and complete manuscripts of the biblical documents? Did you know they all match one another with 99.7% accuracy? Do you realize how astounding that is? You can trust the Bible, despite the skepticism of today.

“Do you believe in the existence of Socrates? Alexander the Great? Julius Caesar? If historicity is established by written records in multiple copies that date originally from near contemporaneous sources, there is far more proof for Christ’s existence than for any of theirs.” –Dinesh D’Souza, What’s So Great About Christianity, p. 296.

Where did the universe come from? It can’t pop into existence from nothing, can it? Of course not, that would be foolish. The universe is not eternal either, Einstein proved that by viewing the red shift of planetary bodies via the Hubble telescope. It proved that the universe is expanding. This indicates that the universe began to exist at some point in the past. Scientists suggest a big bang, but they leave out the obvious question: Who banged it? Who caused it? A bang can’t bang from nothingness can it? Of course not. Something can’t come from nothing. Even a toddler knows that.

God created the universe. It’s the obvious conclusion. People don’t want to see that though. But it’s true. Look at the harmonious complexity of the universe. Look at the beauty of the universe.

Take a look. There it is. This is not something someone made on their computer, this isn’t digital art. This is a photograph, taken by the deep space imaging array known as the Hubble telescope. They pointed the Hubble into deep space and snapped photos, and this is what they saw.

Look at it for a moment. That’s the universe God made. He made it so it would be beautiful just by looking up at the stars and the moon. Yet thousands of years later, we look at the universe through a telescope and we find just the very same truth as the sky shares: The Heavens declare the glory of God. They pour forth speech. This majesty, this beauty speaks to us.

Did you know our planet is set at the perfect distance from the sun to allow for life? Did you know if the moon wasn’t there life couldn’t exist? If any of these distances were adjusted even slightly there would be no life on Earth.

We live in a moral universe, we know that. God exists and he asks us to live differently than the world around us. Our sins, our wrong doing had separated us from God. We’ve all lied, we’ve all stolen, we’ve all wanted things we couldn’t have, we’ve all been selfish when we should’ve thought of others, many of us have done much worse too. All of those things, those sins, over our lives are the separator between us and God. Which is why we need a savior, to remove our wrongs, and change us from within. That savior is Jesus Christ. He is the God-man, who came into human history to offer himself as a gift for the redemption of his people. The scriptures say the universe was made through him and his power, and that he holds the universe together.

“Discoveries of the last half of the 20th century have brought the scientific community to the realization that our universe and our planet in the universe are so remarkably unique that it is almost impossible to imagine how this could have happened accidentally, causing many agnostic scientists to concede that indeed some intelligent creative force may be required to account for it.” –Dr. Walter Bradley, Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A & M University

Most of us believe the Bible is true. We believe Jesus Christ is really our Lord and savior. But I’m sure there are a few reading who don’t really know if they can believe that. And I’m talking to you now: You can believe this. You can put a reasonable faith in Jesus Christ, based on the hard facts of life, and confidently follow him. I would encourage you to do so.

So we know Jesus. Our lord and savior, whose character and beauty of personality is unparalleled in human history. His influence goes from 2,000 years ago to today. A.D. and B.C. time itself centers around his life. Amazing.

Jesus came, he gave us a way to life. And he returned to God the Father. But Jesus is coming back. He is returning to set the world right. And we ought to live in patient reverence, carefully waiting for his return.

Matthew 24: 45-51 NLT says “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them.  If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward.  I tell you the truth, the master will put that servant in charge of all he owns.  But what if the servant is evil and thinks, ‘My master won’t be back for a while,’  and he begins beating the other servants, partying, and getting drunk?  The master will return unannounced and unexpected, and he will cut the servant to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Though we are saved, redeemed, reborn children of God by the life,death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.. it matters how we live. We want to make sure we are ready, standing firm, remaining in the hope we received from Christ. We have hope for eternal life. And we live in a world where hope is fading. We hold in our midst the answer to death itself. The fountain of youth is here, among us.

I see so many young people, young adults who desperately need Jesus. The sad thing is many don’t even care, they can’t understand it and they want to go their own ways. We can’t force it on them. But we can engage with them in the area of ideas. We can have reasonable discussions with people, as long as we’re polite and gentle. We can befriend the lost and confused.

This hope that we have in Christ is unlike anything the world has ever known. I wish young people could understand what I’ve found in Christ. He set me free. He gave me hope, when I had none. 

All of us must be ready to give an answer for the hope we have as believers, but remember to do so with gentleness and love. Stand firm in this hope day in and day out friends. Stand firm until Jesus returns, because he will. We can believe it, it’s true. We can see through the illusions of this physical existence to the spiritual truths behind everything that happens in this world. 

The Bible is a message from the real God who made the universe.  Jesus Christ is the God-man, and though he died he is alive today.  And he's coming back.  Be ready for his return, and be prepared to share the hope you have. Amen.

I shared this message originally on 11/29/2015 at the Salvation Army of Escanaba church service.  

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