Calvary Road Baptist Church

“QUESTIONS TO ASK A CHRISTIAN”

First Peter 3.15

 

Turn in your Bible to First Peter 3.8. When you find that verse, please stand for the reading of God’s Word:

 

8     Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:

9     Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.

10    For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile:

11    Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.

12    For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.

13    And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?

14    But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;

15    But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.

 

This is a wonderful and encouraging passage of Scripture, rich with wisdom and advice from the inspired pen of the Apostle Peter, and worthy of study and prayerful meditation. As he rounds third base and heads for home to conclude this short but important letter, notice in passing Peter’s comments: Things that enhance unity among believers are found in verses 8-12, with the suffering that is part and parcel of being a child of God is mentioned in verses 13-15.

My text for this morning is First Peter 3.15, a verse that I have referred to frequently when standing before you, but have only used as a sermon text on one occasion before this morning. Read it with me once more: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” When Peter writes, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts,” it is likely that he is reminding the Jewish Christian readers he is writing to of Isaiah 8.13, which reads, “Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.”

Commenting on this phrase, Matthew Henry writes,

 

“We sanctify the Lord God in our hearts when we with sincerity and fervency adore him, when our thoughts of him are awful and reverend, when we rely upon his power, trust to his faithfulness, submit to his wisdom, imitate his holiness, and give him the glory due to his most illustrious perfections. We sanctify God before others when our deportment is such as invites and encourages others to glorify and honour him; both are required, Le 10:3.”[1]

 

So, in the face of spiritual opposition and even persecution, remember to fear God and keep His commandments instead of fearing men, even men who try to frighten you. Thus, the stage is set for the last portion of this verse, “and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”

Typically in the past, I have made reference to this verse by applying Peter’s command (“be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you”) to the necessity of professing Christians being both willing and able to justify to me why they think they are Christians, upon what basis do folks claim to be a child of God, and how they know that they know Jesus as their Savior. Every pastor should seek such answers, especially from hopeful converts. However, this command of Peter’s is even more directly applicable to the situation in which a person is challenged, not by a pastor who seeks his spiritual welfare and wants either to confirm that he is truly converted or to guide him to Christ, but when an enemy of the gospel seeks a Christian’s destruction, or to the curious person who knows someone professing to be a Christian. My friends, this command to give an answer for the hope that lies within you speaks directly to the Christian sitting in a college classroom who is suddenly accosted by a professor or a fellow student. It speaks to the Christian in the workplace who is set upon by an antagonist in the break room or at the lunch truck. It also speaks to a guy like I used to be, who once dated a supposedly Christian girl in high school, and who on occasion drove her to churches where she would play the piano and sing, but who not one time ever invited me to any of the services I drove her to. Imagine my curiosity as I sat in my car in the church parking lot, with people walking past me into the auditorium. There I sat outside, as the service started and the congregation sang. Then Carol would sing her special (she was an extremely good pianist and singer), get up from the piano and walk out the front door, and we would drive off. Not only did she not stay for the entire service (very weird if you ask me), but she never invited me to attend any of those services.

As I look back on that period of my youth, it strikes me that I never considered her a Christian, and she never spoke to me about church, or the Bible, or Jesus. However, your experience may be different from mine. Perhaps you know someone who professes to be a Christian, claims to be born again. If so, then this message is for you. We know from our text that Christians are commanded to respond to legitimate questions about their faith. As well, listen to a comment by a wonderful 17th century preacher named William Bridge:

 

“True grace loves examination. It loves to examine, and to be examined: for it is sincere, and sincerity is much in examination. In the Greek it is called by a word which signifies that it holds up all its actions to the sun and light. Unlike false, counterfeit, common grace, it loves the work of examinations.”[2]

 

This all ties in perfectly with my activities of this past week, in which I attended an advanced seminar on interview and interrogation techniques, taught to military intelligence and law enforcement personnel. During the seminar, it was strongly emphasized that the truthful person and the deceptive person handles questions and the whole scenario of seeking information completely differently. The truthful person has every intention of telling the truth, anticipates telling the truth, looks forward to telling the truth, and typically is expansive in his words and gestures when given the opportunity to tell the truth. The deceptive person, on the other hand, wants to conceal the truth, anticipates seizing upon opportunities to deceive and mislead, does not particularly want to engage in a discussion of the topic, and if he speaks at all tends to speak in a muted and clipped manner.

It was a wonderful opportunity for me, in that I learned how to be more receptive to people who want to tell the truth, and who look forward to responding to questions about important experiences in their lives. Allow me, then, to bring together what the Bible commands every Christian to do, what Puritan William Bridge testified about the work of grace in a Christian’s life that makes him eager for examination, and the corroborating testimony of men with decades of experience in dealing with people, some of whom want to tell the truth and others of whom do not want to tell the truth.

The Bible directs Christians to answer questions about their faith. A notable Puritan explained that the workings of God’s grace in a Christian prompts him to want to be questioned and to want to answer questions about his faith. Then, we find that those who train professionals to interview and to interrogate to discover the truth are persuaded those who are innocent of wrongdoing, which are truthful, are eager to be questioned and to be given an opportunity to relate to others important events in their lives. It is therefore safe to say that there is nothing wrong with asking questions of a professing Christian, and that professing Christians are not only commanded to answer questions about their faith, but should be expected to be eager to entertain questions that give them a chance to tell their story. The guilty, the criminals, the deceptive, the fake and the fraud, on the other hand, will not want to talk about it.

Your question to me might be, “Pastor, why are you preaching this sermon?” Glad you asked. Imagine how much more messed up you will be if you think a person is a Christian who is not a Christian than you already are? I was messed up when I dated Carol. Every lost eighteen year old is messed up. However, imagine how worse off I would have been if I thought for a moment she was a Christian? I might have wanted to be the kind of Christian she was, a lackadaisical and nonchalant pretender. This sermon will serve as a guide for you who know someone who you think might be a Christian, someone who professes to be a Christian, or someone who is willing to let you assume he is a Christian.

Five questions to ask that so-called or supposed Christian:

 

Question #1: “WILL YOU EXPLAIN TO ME WHEN AND HOW YOU BECAME A CHRISTIAN?

 

Your authority for asking this question is our text, First Peter 3.15: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”

When you ask this question, I might suggest several things to keep in mind: First, let the person you are asking know that you have plenty of time. This is not a question that can be answered in sixty seconds, but typically takes a truthful person anywhere from ten to thirty minutes to properly address. As well, make sure you are facing the person you are talking to, since honesty and sincerity is most frequently indicated when the person you are talking to maintains good eye contact, without staring. Deceptive people tend to either stare or avoid eye contact. Then there is the attitude. Peter refers to “meekness and fear.” This would not be an abrupt dismissal: “I don’t want to talk about it.” As well, this would not be something like, “What’s the matter? You don’t think I’m a Christian?” Christians do not react like that to this line of inquiry.

If you are anything like I was, you will likely not be able to evaluate the content of the answer very well. However, you still need to make sure that person is giving you details, time and place, feelings that were felt, and not making a bunch of stuff up to blow you off. My friend, this is your life we are talking about, and I want God’s best for you.

 

Question #2: “WILL YOU EXPLAIN TO ME HOW YOU ARE DRAMATICALLY DIFFERENT NOW THAT YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN?”

 

Turn to Second Corinthians 5.17, where the Apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” Let me be very careful to say that there is no such thing as a sinless Christian. Every Christian commits sins.[3]

Paul, in this verse, is not claiming that Christians are perfect. What he is claiming is that Christians are different than they were when they were not believers in Jesus Christ, dramatically different. Drunkards are no more drunkards after they become Christians. Adulterers are no longer adulterers. Thieves are no longer thieves.[4] The profane become people whose speech is cleaned up. The lazy become diligent, and the whiners are transformed into men and women who take responsibility.

This person claims to be a Christian? Fine. He or she ought to be eager to seize the opportunity you have provided to not only tell you how and when that conversion to Christ took place, but what effects that conversion has had. How is he now different? What marked personality traits have since her conversion emerged for all to see? This is a reasonable question to ask, and should not evoke a negative reaction unless you ask someone who is not really a Christian (except, of course, if that person is here this morning).

 

Question #3: “WILL YOU EXPLAIN TO ME HOW YOU BEHAVE LIKE A CHRISTIAN WHEN YOU ARE NOT AT CHURCH?”

 

It is assumed that Christians go to church. Hebrews 10.25 clearly distinguishes Christians from non-Christians by their faithful attendance in the church’s services: “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”

What you will want to know, presuming this professing Christian attends the services conducted by his or her church, is how this fellow or gal is distinctively Christian at work, at home, at school, or during the in between times of life. Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven,” Matthew 5.16.

After all, anyone can put on the false face at church and be a good boy or a good girl in front of the parents who pay for the meals and provide the nice room, and perhaps even a car to drive. Would Christian parents reward a son or daughter with room and board, clothes and a car, for staying home from church services, or for misbehavior? I don’t think so.

Therefore, the real test is when the parents are not around. Ask him, or request that she, tell you how her away-from-home-and-church behavior is distinctively Christian. And don’t let that guy give you some lame response like, “I don’t know.” You see, living the Christian life is not accidental. It happens on purpose, with discreet choices that have to be made every day. Therefore, if this person is a Christian, this person can provide the specifics you ask for, and will be only too glad to provide specifics, if he or she really is a Christian. Believers typically welcome inquiries, since they are given a chance to talk about their Best Friend.

 

Question #4: “WILL YOU EXPLAIN TO ME WHERE YOU THINK I WILL GO IF I DIE AS SOMEONE WHO DOES NOT KNOW JESUS?”

 

This is a very tough question to ask, and an even tougher question to answer, because a truthful answer may make you very angry. Mad is not what your friend wants you to be. However, this question is profoundly important for you to ask. You see, Christians believe the Bible, and the Bible teaches that everyone has an eternal destiny. There are only two eternal destinies, heaven or Hell, with your destiny determined solely by your relationship with Jesus Christ, Who died on the cross to pay the penalty for your sins. If you have never become a Christian by believing in Jesus Christ, then you are not a Christian. It is that simple. If you die and pass on to eternity in the condition you are in, you will not go to heaven, which is reserved for Christians who have believed in Jesus. Instead, you will go to Hell.

If your professing Christian friend goes wobbly on you at this point, starts severely hum hawing, it is not likely he or she really is a Christian, or is a pathetic and cowardly Christian. Turn to Second Thessalonians 1.7-9 and read with me:

 

7      And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,

8      In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:

9      Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.

 

Therefore, you see, it is very clear that Hell awaits those who are not Christians, which is why the Lord Jesus Christ was so adamant that His followers should share the gospel with everyone. You are not a Christian; therefore, you are not going to heaven when you die. So long as you do not know Jesus as your savior, your eternal destiny is Hell. There. I’ve said it. I hope you can deal with the truth. The Apostle Paul asked, “Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?”[5] It is important that you know whether your professing Christian friend will be truthful with you.

 

Question #5: “WILL YOU EXPLAIN TO ME WHY YOU HAVE NOT ENCOURAGED ME TO COME TO CHURCH AND TALK TO THE PASTOR ABOUT BECOMING A CHRISTIAN?

 

This is a very important question. If what a person says he or she believes is truly important to you, you will not hesitate to ask. To the Christian, one’s soul is all-important, and where you go when you die is the most crucial of all issues one faces in life. In Acts chapter eight, when Philip asked the Ethiopian eunuch, “Understandest thou what thou readest? . . . he said, How can I, except some man should guide me?”[6] God’s plan is not for people to be left to figure out for themselves how to be reconciled to Him through faith in Jesus Christ. So, why does this professing Christian you know not think it is important for you to become a Christian?

I have my own opinions, based upon thirty-five years of experience dealing with all kinds of people from every walk of life. Why would a guy not want his girlfriend to talk to the pastor about becoming a Christian? Why would a gal not want her boyfriend to talk to the pastor about becoming a Christian? Why would a colleague not want a coworker to come to church and eventually talk to his pastor? Answers will vary, and some answers truly are valid, while other answers are not valid, but do expose one’s selfish agenda. The point that I seek to make is that a Christian who has your interest at heart will want you to come to church to hear gospel preaching, and will also want you to talk to the pastor so that your concerns about Jesus and about becoming a Christian can be addressed.

There are mostly counterfeit Christians in churches these days. We are in the apostasy, a time when Satan has wrought confusion by what defensive football coaches call flooding the zone, placing so many in one area of the field that it cannot be defended. Satan has provoked so many to claim to be Christians that the clutter is confusing to most people. Just remember that counterfeit money copies the genuine, and in like manner, fake Christians prove that there are real Christians. Fake Christianity proves that real Christianity exists, if you know what to look for.

 

God is. He is real. He is also invisible, and cannot be perceived by means of the five senses. He has chosen for us to deal with Him by means of faith, the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. Two thousand years ago, God sent His only begotten Son by means of the virgin birth to become a man, yet without sin, and to suffer and bleed and die as a Substitute for the wrath that was rightly ours to suffer, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.

Jesus did for us what we cannot do for ourselves. He died on the cross, was buried, and rose from the dead before ascending to His Father’s right hand in heaven, where He is presently enthroned until the time of His return to this wicked old world to set things straight once and for all. Jesus is a sin forgiving and a life transforming Savior, Who makes a difference for all who know Him. I do not want you to buy into the cheap brand of fake Christianity that is promoted by fake Christians. I want you to know the real Jesus, Who really does forgive sins, Who truly does alter destinies, Who really does reconcile sinners to God, and Who really does transform lives.

If that professing Christian you know is a genuine Christian, then you have a valuable friend who will pray for you and seek your salvation. However, if the person you know is a clown who only pretends to be a Christian, or who is a snake who has allowed you to make erroneous assumptions, the questions you ask should expose the charlatan to you. It is more important that you find a Savior than it is for you to keep a friend, especially one who is a counterfeit Christian. Therefore, to help you, I have prepared a card for you to carry that will remind you what questions to ask. It is certainly not fool proof. The deceitful can be very clever. However, with it you will be better equipped to avoid being tricked than you were an hour ago.

 

If you would like one of these cards, send an email with a mailing address and I will send one to you by return mail. As well, if you would like to communicate with me about the issues raised in this message, please feel free to contact me by going to the bottom of this web page and filling in the appropriate blanks.



[1] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary On The Whole Bible, (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), bible@mail.com

[2] William Bridge, A Lifting Up For The Downcast, (Carlisle, Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1961 reprint of the 1649 edition), page 100.

[3] 1 John 1.8

[4] 1 Corinthians 6.9-11

[5] Galatians 4.16

[6] Acts 8.30-31



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org