Reason For Hope

Living A Godly Life Full of Hope In A Hostile Culture.

George Wright
Oct 25, 2020    46m
Have you ever felt marginalized for being a Christian? This timely message based on First Peter Chapter 3 examines how we can succeed in living a godly life full of hope in a culture that is hostile to Christianity. Video recorded at Columbia, South Carolina.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

George Wright: 00:00 Well, what a gift it is to hear just a snapshot of some of the giving testimonies that are alive and at work among the people of God here at Shandon. I'm so thankful for the opportunity to share a little bit of those stories, and I know there are so many other stories of God at work through your generosity, through giving, some things that you've seen God do, that could only be described as the generosity of God, responding to the faithfulness and obedience of what he has called us to, as it relates to giving. I'm so thankful for the chance to be reminded of God's provision, and all that he does to demonstrate faithfulness to his people.

George Wright: 00:46 Next Sunday is our pledge Sunday, and we have laid out a budget for the 2021 year. Hopefully, you've had the opportunity to see that, and hopefully, you've been able to grab a pledge card. We've got those available today, we'll have them available next week as well. We send them out to the church body at large, but we're asking everybody who calls Shandon home, to bring your pledge card with you next Sunday, to symbolically lay before the Lord, your commitment, and your desire to live by faith as it relates to generosity. And we're so grateful for the culture and the legacy of generosity and stewardship that is alive and well here at Shandon, and we look forward to seeing how God blesses our giving, as it relates to a new year of ministry.

George Wright: 01:37 We also want you to know next Sunday is the final Sunday to bring your filled Operation Christmas Child boxes back to the church, we are so thankful for the opportunity to, yet again, partner with the great ministry of Samaritan's Purse. We have had the privilege, back in the day, a long time ago, when we used to be able to travel, like back in 2019, a long time ago, you may remember those days. We've had the privilege to have mission teams on the ground in some of the remotest parts of the world, and as we've gone into little villages, we've seen these boxes in little huts, in little houses, in little apartments, where children have received these boxes all over the world. To not only show them a gift of generosity from a people of God that loved them, but to more importantly, show them the beautiful, good news of the gospel, and what God is so generously done for us. And so we believe in this ministry, we're excited to partner with Operation Christmas Child, and we would encourage you if you haven't already done so, grab some of these boxes, fill them this week, and bring them back next week.

George Wright: 02:48 And let me encourage you, if you would, to grab your Bible and we're going to be in first Peter chapter 3 this morning, first Peter chapter 3, we are continuing our series on hope. And in these final two Sundays before the election, and all this taking place in the next 10 days or so as it relates to our nation, and the future of the leadership of our nation. We want to make sure that we are standing firmly on the Word of God, and navigating this very strange and very difficult season, and navigating all this hostility that is swirling around us in our culture today,, through the lens of scripture. And so we'll be in First Peter this week, we'll be in First Peter next week as well, as we seek to prepare our hearts for this very important election that is coming up. I know many of you have already voted. I myself have already voted. We encourage you if you haven't done so, to make sure you vote, this is a freedom, and a privilege, and a gift to participate in, and so we encourage you to do that.

George Wright: 04:04 But let me turn your attention now to the scripture, First Peter chapter 3, I will begin reading in verse 13 this morning to get us started. I'd like to invite you to stand with me as I read from the Word of God, and we are reminded that the Word of God is the foundation on which the people of God stand. The Word of God lays before us, what God says is right, and good, and true, what we need to hear. Especially, in times of uncertainty, especially, in times of difficulty or struggle. And the scripture in First Peter speaks right to this reality, verse 13, "Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 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, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame." This is the word of the Lord, a word that I need to hear, a word that I believe we need to hear.

George Wright: 05:46 So let's pray now that the Lord would use this word to speak into our lives. Would you pray with me? Gracious God, how we need you. And in this very important, pivotal season in the life of our nation, we, as your people, come before you asking you, Lord God, to move in power for your glory. We recognize you are the one that holds the future in your hands, and we recognize that you are the one that is in control today, and on November the 3rd. And so we trust in you, and we pray that you would guide us to navigate such a strange and difficult season through the lens of the gospel. Lord, I pray it would be so for your people, that we would stand on your word in strength, and confidence, and in faith. But Oh Lord, how we need you, how we need you to stand in strength, and confidence, and faith. So please Lord, speak into our lives today, we need to be reminded of this beautiful message of hope, we need to be reminded of who our God is. So have your way among your people, and draw those who are not your people to the beautiful gift of the gospel. It's in Christ' name, we pray. Amen. Amen. You may be seated. Thank you for standing.

George Wright: 08:05 Professor Glenn C. Loury is the Merchant P. Stoltz Professor of the Social Sciences and Professor of Economics at Brown University. We've got a picture of him that we can put up on the screen, 72 years old, one of the most respected academics in the conversation of economics. Before landing at Brown University, Dr. Loury served as Professor of Economics at Boston university and at Harvard University, where he was the first black tenured Professor of Economics in the history of Harvard. Dr. Loury also happens to be a born again follower of Jesus Christ, a man who holds a biblical worldview, and a conservative position as it relates to cultural issues. And so this means, needless to say, he is a minority in virtually every sense of the term. And he comes under constant scrutiny and criticism, even though his resume is to be respected above all else in his field, he is constantly criticized for his beliefs. And even as his research and academic work is some of the most revered in his field, he is constantly mocked, or belittled, or ostracized, for what he believes.

George Wright: 09:49 I recently listened to a fascinating conversation between Dr. Loury, and Dr. Albert Mohler, who is the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, one of the most respected institutions in our denomination. And at the end of this conversation, Dr. Mohler asked Dr. Lowery this very simple question, as it relates to academia and higher education. We'll put this on the screen for you to see, this is what Dr. Mohler asked Dr. Loury, he said, "You've taught at Harvard, and Brown, and many other leading universities. So how possible would it be now for someone who's a young Glenn Loury to be hired to teach at Brown, or Harvard, or for that matter, the University of Michigan or anywhere like that?" And look at how Dr. Loury responded, and look at what this says about our current context in our culture today. He said, "If that person were a professor of English, or History, or Sociology and they were trying to get hired, the number would be zero. They would have no chance whatsoever. They would be peripherally excluded. No one would even bother to consider them because it is just beyond the pale. It would just be considered unspeakable." Regardless of the resume, regardless of the qualifications, regardless of the level of intelligence, it would just be unspeakable to hire a professor, at one of our higher education universities or institutions, who holds a biblical worldview and stands solidly on the good name of Jesus Christ.

George Wright: 12:06 That's the culture we live in today, and I know you're not surprised that those who follow Jesus, and hold a biblical worldview, and hold a conservative stance, as it relates to cultural issues are being more and more pushed to the side. And more and more are being seen as unacceptable, and more and more for the culture to associate with someone who holds a biblical worldview, would just be seen as an unspeakable, not permissible at all. For we know, we live in a culture that wants to claim it is tolerant and inclusive, when the reality of our culture is, it is only tolerant and inclusive of those that agree with or support what the culture says is acceptable. And so more and more, this means that the culture is going to be at odds with the Christian faith. So what do we do? What do we do when people belittle, or ostracize, or marginalize, or push to the side, or even attack because they disagree with our faith.

George Wright: 13:51 Please hear me, I want to say this right up front in this hostile, volatile election season. I'm not talking about those who disagree with your politics as a whole, I'm talking about people who disagree with your faith. And certainly faith should influence and shape politics, no question about it. No question about it, but you can disagree with politics all day long. I'm talking about those who disagree, who mock, who belittle, your faith. Even on a more basic level, I'm asking, how do we respond when someone comes against us, or slanders us, or perhaps gossips about us, because they don't agree with or hold the same position that we hold. What do you do?

George Wright: 15:00 Thankfully, thankfully, we have the Word of God. And in First Peter chapter 3, Peter is speaking specifically to those who may slander, or mock, or attack, or even persecute, because of the faith. The scripture is saying the hope of the gospel must be our foundation. And when the hope of the gospel is truly the foundation of those who say they are the people of God, it will allow, and invite, and empower, the people of God to respond in a way to a mocking, or a slandering, or a suffering, or a persecution, that is completely shocking to the world around us. Because the way we respond should be completely different than the world around us. This text is all about our reason for hope, what we've been talking about these last few weeks, our reason for hope that flows out of the good news of the gospel. And this text is reminding us, that our reason for hope will impact the way we interact with others, including those who are opposed to us, who are against us, who slander the name of Jesus, who mock us for our faith, who seek to push us aside, because of our beliefs. If our hope is truly secure on the good news of the gospel, if this reason for hope really is the foundation for our lives, it will be revealed in the way we interact with others.

George Wright: 17:10 So that's the introduction. With that in mind, let's step back into the scripture, and I want to lay out four things that we see in this passage, four ways that our reason for hope impacts the way that we live, and impacts the way we interact with other people, if we hold true to what the scripture reveals about, hope.

George Wright: 17:37 Number one, our reason for hope impacts the way we treat others in the body of Christ. Our reason for hope impacts the way we treat others in the Body of Christ. Go back up in First Peter chapter 3 to verse 8, where this section of this letter starts. Look at what the scripture says, "Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind." These characteristics of one who is a follower of Christ. Finally, Peter is saying in his letter, as he's talking about the struggles and the difficulty of those who are navigating a world that is in opposition to their belief in Christ. He says, "Finally, all of you." Church, all of you. "All of you who are followers of Jesus, all of you who are the church of Christ, all of you who are believers, all of you who have hope in the gospel, here is how you should interact with one another. For this hope will lead you to treat others in the body of Christ a certain way. What is that way? The way here in verse 8, "To have unity of mind, to have sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.

George Wright: 19:14 And as I read these qualities, I think to myself, who would not want to be a part of a church like this? What a beautiful thing to consider, a people of God that are living with a unity of mind, what does that mean? It means they are together on what matters most, even when they have differing opinions, even when they have differing ideas, even when they have differing personal preferences, they are committed to what you unites them in the good news of what matters most. What a beautiful expression of the people of God, to have unity of mind, to think about that which unites us in the beautiful gift of the gospel, and the mission that God has called us to.

George Wright: 20:23 Peter says, in addition to unity of mind, live with sympathy for one another. Sympathy that says, I am genuinely concerned about others in the Body of Christ, and their needs. I genuinely feel it when my brother or my sister is hurting, or has been wronged, and I want to care for them in their need. That's sympathy, Christian sympathy. Peter then says, "Brotherly love." And we know, we know that brothers can fight. I'm the oldest of three boys, man, we can fight tooth and nail, and we can disagree on a lot of things, but brothers stick together, and brothers speak up for one another. And brotherly love is quick to reconcile and forgive, and stand up for what matters most, as it relates to the family, Peter then says, "A tender heart." A tender heart, is kind, and compassionate, genuinely concerned for one another. A tender heart, looks out for others and genuinely cares. And then he says, "A humble mind." This is the most beautiful, and frustrating, of all of the character qualities listed in this verse. For a humble mind says, even in light of the things I know, I know I don't know it all. And even though I am convinced I am right, I really need to listen to what you have to say. A humble mind is absolutely essential for a people of God to interact with one another, according to the Word of God. A humble mind is a quality of one who is standing securely on their reason for hope, that is the gospel of Jesus Christ. These beautiful qualities are what we long to experience, and Peter is saying, as we navigate difficult situations and scenarios in the world around us, we must first recognize how important it is that we allow our reason for hope in the gospel to impact the way we interact with one another. How in the world could we be prepared to interact with the world, if we don't know how to interact with one another in a way that is God honoring and Christ exalting?

George Wright: 24:00 And so he starts with how this reason for hope guides us in the church, and then he turns and begins to talk about how this reason for hope impacts the way we interact with those who might be against us. This is the second thing we see in the scripture, our reason for hope impacts the way we treat others who have wronged us. Look at First Peter chapter 3 verse 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." Do not repay evil for evil, but instead bless. This should be shocking to the world, this is so counter-cultural. What is this scripture saying here? The scripture is saying here, that sin is not an excuse to sin. When someone sins against us, it is not a free pass for us to then respond with sin. If you try to fight sin with sin, the only possible winner will be sin, every time. You cannot fight sin with sin. And so instead the scripture says, "Do not repay evil with evil, but bless those who wrong you."

George Wright: 25:46 Flowing straight out of the message of Jesus for his disciples, flowing straight out of the writings of the Apostle Paul, look at Romans chapter 12 verse 14. Look at what it says, "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them." This runs all throughout the scripture, and this is one of those base level foundational beliefs that Jesus lays out for his disciples. If you are going to be a follower of Christ, you have been called to bless others, even those who persecute you, even those who wrong you.

George Wright: 26:26 And Peter takes it to another level, he says, in this, in blessing those who wrong you and not returning evil with evil, you obtain a blessing. What does this mean? Well, Peter then quotes from Psalm chapter 34, it's a direct quote from Psalm 34. Look at what he writes in First Peter 3 verse 10 through 12, this is quoting Psalm 34, beginning in verse 12. It says, "For whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. 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.” Peter is showing us the stakes here. He says, I want to be clear, I don't want you to be confused by this because I know the calling to not repay evil with evil, and instead to bless, is a very difficult calling to live out. That is counter-cultural, that's not our knee jerk reaction, that's not what normally flows out of a sinful heart. And so I want you to understand what is at stake here, if you choose to repay evil with evil, and you choose to speak deceit, instead of pursuing peace with others, you are resisting the blessing of God in your life. You are actively working against God's blessing for you. This is not my words, this is God's Word, you are working against God's blessing.

George Wright: 28:22 Why does the Bible say this? Well, let's just put on our practical hat for a moment. Just think practically, when you repay someone evil with evil, when you speak evil or deceit, instead of pursuing peace, what are you doing? You are allowing bitterness to infiltrate your heart, and bitterness is one of the most destructive tools of the enemy of God. Bitterness is a slow I.V. Drip of poison that kills us from the inside out. And when bitterness is growing in our heart, please don't miss this, when bitterness is growing in our heart, we are actively fighting against the blessing of God, because the blessing of God flows out of forgiveness. The blessing of God flows out of forgiveness, right, this is gospel 101. To be made right with God, you must receive forgiveness from God through what Christ has done for us on the cross that we don't deserve. The blessing of God flows out of forgiveness, and you are fighting against that blessing, if you are holding on to bitterness, or paying evil with evil, and speaking deceit. Forgiveness is God's path to freedom, and forgiveness is God's breakthrough to blessing, and that all flows out of our reason for hope. And so Peter says, if you stand firmly on this reason for hope, that is the gospel, it will impact the way you interact with those who have wronged you, it will lead you to live differently than the world around you, a it relates to those who have wronged you.

George Wright: 30:41 Third, let's go back to what the scripture says. This third reality that flows out of our reason for hope, I believe we're going to throw it up there. Yes. our reason for hope impacts the way we make a defense. When Peter takes us on this journey here, and he says, look, I want you to speak up, but here's what I want you to say as someone who's coming against you, and here's how you should say it. Look at First Peter 3 verse 13, again, this was our texts for today. It says, "Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness sake, you will be blessed. So have no fear of them, the scripture says, nor be troubled, 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."

George Wright: 31:48 Our reason for hope impacts the way we make a defense. Verse 13 poses a very interesting question, who is it that can harm you if you are zealous for good? What is the answer to that question? The answer to that question is two-fold, anyone can harm you, and no one can harm you. If you are zealous to do what is good, anyone, at any time, can attack you from any direction. Be it through jealousy, spite, envy, greed, pride selfishness, the attack can happen at any time, when you least expect it. But Peter says, even when you suffer for doing good, have no fear, do not be troubled, you be blessed. Thanks a lot, Peter, that's real helpful. What in the world is he talking about here? How in the world is this possible? He guides us to remember our reason for hope. When people attack you, especially when people attack you for what is good, remember our reason for hope, and remember that while it may be true that anyone at any time can attack or hurt, no one can destroy what God has given you in Christ. We might be hit, but we are not crushed. We might be struck down, but we will not be destroyed.

George Wright: 33:36 Remember what the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 8, this beautiful, beautiful passage of scripture that shows us of our hope in the gospel. Romans 8 verse 31, "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (This is what Peter wants us to see.) He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." This invites us to make a defense in a way that is very different from the world around us seeking to defend their position, or defend what they want. Peter is showing us to be ready to make a defense, a defense that is rooted and grounded in the reality that even though we may be attacked, there is none that can destroy what God has done through Christ. And when that is the foundation of your life, and that is your reason for hope. Peter says, your defense should look different because of the hope that you have.

George Wright: 35:44 What does verse 15 say? "Yet, do this with gentleness and respect." Our hope impacts the way we make our defense about our hope. The scripture is saying here, because of what Christ has done, you can make a defense for your hope, listen to this, without being defensive. You can make a defense, you can make a case for the reason for hope that you have, without being defensive. You see there's a big difference in trying to win an argument, and trying to win someone's hearts Think about when you first fell in love. Those of you who are married, my guess is, husbands, you are doing some things actively to try and win the heart of this lovely lady that you were falling in love with. And my guess is, after many years of marriage, when you enter into an argument in your marital relationship, it's probably a very different strategy when you're trying to win an argument versus when you were trying to win her heart, right?

George Wright: 37:13 And Peter is reminding us here, there is something more at play, because when we make our defense, we are making our defense, not simply to win an argument, we are making our defense prayerfully to win the heart of one who is longing for hope. That's why they're asking, what is this hope that you have? Even when you're attacked and slandered, what is this that's going on in your life that doesn't look like the world. We're not trying to win an argument, we're trying to win that heart, to see the hope that we have in Christ. Our reason for hope impacts the way we make a defense.

George Wright: 37:54 And then finally, number four, where this passage of scripture leads us is, our reason for hope impacts our witness to the world. And we see this here in First Peter chapter 3, verses 16 and 17, I realize I'm going pretty fast, I'm trying to wrap this up. First Peter chapter 3 verses 16 and 17, I think is the next piece of this, but I'll just read it, because I've got it right here. First Peter chapter 3 verses 16 and 17 says, "Having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil." Our reason for hope impacts our witness to the world.

George Wright: 38:51 I know this goes without saying, but I believe we need to be reminded of it. Especially, with an election less than two weeks away. People are watching how we respond when we have been wronged, or when others come against us. So the question is, what are we revealing in how we respond? Are we showing people that we have a reason for hope that is beyond anything that this world can offer? Or are we showing people exactly what they would see in the world around them, by lashing out, and fighting back, and trying to fight evil for evil? What are we showing? What is our witness when people disagree? What is our witness when people form against what we say we believe? What is our witness when people attack us specifically because of the faith in which we stay? Our reason for hope should impact our witness to the world.

George Wright: 40:17 I'm going to read a quote from Warren Wiersbe in his commentary on first Peter 3, to wrap this up. I love this statement that Wiersbe makes, he says, When Jesus Christ is Lord of our lives, each crisis becomes an opportunity for witness. Every Christian should be able to give a reasoned defense for his hope in Christ, especially in hopeless situations. A crisis creates the opportunity for witness when a believer behaves with faith and hope because the unbelievers will then sit up and take notice." Here's my question, are people in the world sitting up and taking notice because of the way we are responding to the struggles, to the crisis’s, to the attacks, to the hostility, to the difficulty that we face in the world today. Are we showing the world anything that is worth seeing? Are we saying to the world, anything that is worth hearing?

George Wright: 41:50 We have been given this beautiful opportunity for such a time as this. I believe it is a tremendous privilege to be a follower of Jesus Christ in the church of Jesus Christ in the United States of America right now, today, for such a time as this, because one thing I see all around us, one thing I see all around us is my country is longing for hope. My country is crying out, someone help us, save us, unite us, bring us together for something greater. Who can do it? His name is Jesus. Let's show the world around us, the reason for the hope that we have because of what Jesus Christ has done.

George Wright: 42:53 Let me pray for us as we close our time together this morning. Heavenly Father, as we think about an election, oftentimes we don't think about an election from the perspective of being a witness, we often think about an election from the perspective of what we want, we think about election from the perspective of what's at stake, we think about an election from the perspective of what we're afraid of, what we're concerned about, what we're worried might happen. But Lord, I pray, I pray you would give us eyes to see an election from a perspective of a witness, one who knows the way the story has already been written in the end, one who knows that we're gardenless of who is in the highest office in this land, our God is still on his throne. And we have been given reason for hope, even when the world may attack, even when those around us may slander or speak deceit, we have been given reason for hope. So, Lord, I pray that your church would stand, stand firmly and securely in the hope that we have through Jesus Christ.

George Wright: 44:29 And it is my prayer, that some are joining us today, or watching online, even now, this service. and are longing for hope, and they've never experienced the hope of the gospel. It is my prayer that you would see and hear this witness, this testimony, of the good news of the gospel from the Word of God. That Jesus Christ is our hope because he went to a cross for our sin, and he defeated sin and death in the power of his resurrection, and he has invited us into new life, through the gift of salvation. And I pray there would be some today that would know, that invitation is for you as well. Jesus is offering to be your hope, your hope above all else. A hope for today, a hope for tomorrow, and a hope forevermore.

George Wright: 45:35 Jesus, we look to you. we are certainly praying in passion that you would move in power in this nation. And I believe as you move in power in this nation, it will be specifically connected to your people standing up and speaking hope in gentleness and respect, to demonstrate the love of God in a world that is desperately longing for hope. I pray for opportunities, even this week, where we get to point to the reason for the hope that we have because of what Christ has done. We love you, we need you, and above all we trust you. It's in Christ' name, I pray. Amen.

Recorded in Columbia, South Carolina.
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Shandon Baptist Church
5250 Forest Drive
Columbia, South Carolina 29206