Skip to content

A Guide to Gospel Conversations

June 21, 2015

“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. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” (1 Peter 3:13–17 ESV)

Observable Hope in our Pain/Mess

Imagine this with me. First century Asia Minor Christian Frank applies for membership in the local business guild. He is denied membership by the board of directors simply because of his Christian faith. A member of the board delivers the news. After sharing the news, Frank is surprisingly upbeat. The board member walks away wondering, what’s up with Frank?

First century Asia Minor Christian student Sally is at school. Everyone knows her family doesn’t worship at the temple of Zeus. Parents have warned their kids about Sally and her family. Sally isn’t exactly welcomed in social circles at school yet she seems pretty ok with it. It’s like her identity isn’t found in what the cool girls think of her. The other students wonder, what’s up with Sally?

First century Asia Minor Christian John is at the hospital. Why? He is very sick. The doctor and nurses see many patients over the day. Everybody’s sick. Everybody’s fearful. Everybody’s despairing. Everybody but John. He’s human and doesn’t want to be sick. Yet the nurses see in him something different. Those nurses have pain in their own lives, they wonder what John has that they don’t.

Rich. Poor. Religious. Atheistic. Powerful. Everyone suffers. We want to hide our sufferings and act like everything is OK. Peter urges us a different way. How so? Again we read verse 15, “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.”

Hope is like the stars; you only see them at night. When the sun is up, it’s hard to see the stars. When everything is great in life, hope is invisible. Hope becomes evident in the dark nights of the soul.

Peter urges us to be ready to give answers. This assumes that unbelievers are asking questions. Where do the questions come from? Their observation of our lives; not perfection or the projection of having it all together. Actually our attempts to appear perfect are counterproductive to this. It is simply real Christianity observed through real Christians dealing with real problems with the only hope in this world found in Jesus.

When unbelievers see hope, they ask about it. That’s verse 15. Our lives display hope and unbelievers ask about it. Be ready to give an answer when they do.

We have to see the brokenness of our lives as opportunities. None of us are exempt from experiencing the effects of a life and a world that is fallen:

  • We know what it’s like for work to be frustrating.
  • We know what it’s like for home, family and relationships to have conflict and strife.
  • We know what it’s like to have financial worries.
  • We know what it’s like to suffer loss and hurt
  • We know what it’s like to get caught up in our crazy, busy schedules
  • We know what it’s like to get discouraged and have doubts.

One of the most powerful ways we witness for Jesus is when we say to people, “I know exactly what you’re going through and this is where I’ve found the good news of Jesus to be powerful, helpful, freeing, comforting etc…” One of the reasons canned gospel presentations often fall on deaf ears is that they seem like abstract truth that mean nothing for life.

When you share how the gospel frees you to ask forgiveness of your wife and kids in your anger or how knowing Jesus allows you to be sympathetic, serve your difficult boss or neighbor, or how your hope in Jesus allows you to live with unfulfilled dreams or desires, that’s powerful to an unbeliever who is dealing with all the same things but without hope.

What is our country thinking about right now? Charleston, South Carolina. Nine people shot dead in a church. What did this church do two days after the murders? They forgave the murderer. That makes an unbelieving world sit up straight. Why? Forgiveness is not the natural response. Vengeance is. Might there be a few visitors to that church today? They’ve got something here that I don’t have. I want to check it out.

All of a sudden the hope of the gospel hits home. They see how this hope is working in you.

Speak with Gentleness

“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.” (Verse 15)

I was raised in a church with a more confrontational style of evangelism. People certainly were saved by it but how many people were turned off by it? Too often talk about religion turns into debate. These rarely end with conversions to Christianity.

Shouting doesn’t help but gentleness does. Gentleness is the way we say what we say. The tone. The sense of it which the other person perceives. When we are calm, kind, and conversational as we share our story of faith or maybe share the gospel of Jesus, the tone endears the truth.

What do we instinctively do when someone yells at us? Confronts us? Gets in our face? We take a defensive posture. We want to self-protect. But when we sense someone cares about us or is treating us kindly, our heart opens to them.

If you think condemning is the only way to go, check out how Jesus talked with the Samaritan woman at the well. He had the right to condemn her and her life of sexual sin but he built rapport with her and drew her toward the truth. When it was all done she rushed to her hometown and invited everyone else to go talk to him. That’s a sign of a good conversation. A tone of gentleness.

Reverence God/Respect the Other Person

“…with gentleness and respect.” (Verse 15)

The Greek word for respect is phobos, we get phobia from it. You may say, finally a Greek word that helps me. I have phobia about sharing my faith. Actually, the phobia is to be toward God. That is why it is translated reverence or respect. It’s debated whether it’s toward God or the other person. Peter always uses this word vertically toward God. That’s probably the sense here, but reverence for God will show itself in respectful actions toward others.

Do you listen to people who disrespect you? Probably not. I think this speaks to a sense of dignity and dependence in this. If our sharing is a comedy act, we don’t have reverence for God. If our sharing is demeaning toward others, we don’t have respect for man. Peter is encouraging humble evangelism. Not vitriolic. It’s not, we’re better than you! What’s your problem? Instead, it’s respectfully and humbly telling how Jesus provides real hope and help in the struggles of life. People will listen to that.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

©2015 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

Living “Questionably” and Answering Hopefully

June 14, 2015

“Always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15)

Peter lays out a simple lifestyle approach:

  • Live a lifestyle of love and others-orientation
  • Hold Jesus in higher honor than what others think of you
  • Keep your gospel bags packed

Keep your gospel bags packed? What does that mean? Jennifer and I are expecting anytime the birth of our second daughter. Kiralee came a little early and many people have their second sooner. So about a week ago we got all our things together. Toiletries. Clothes. Snacks. It’s all in there. Why? We never know when this little girl will want to make her appearance. Whenever it is, our bags are packed. We can go on a moment’s notice. We are ready.

Have you noticed how opportunities to share about Jesus in your life generally come unexpectedly? We generally don’t know they are coming. That’s why Peter says that we should always be ready. Ready to do what? “To make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.”

If you read this to say, be ready with all your arguments to confront anyone with the gospel, you are misreading it. Look carefully, how does this conversation start? Anyone who asks you for a reason. Do you see what Peter is assuming? Our lives will create questions in the heart of the unbeliever. Peter is assuming a certain level of relationship where the unbeliever observes the way we live. This appeals to the Imago Dei in him and it prompts him to ask, what’s up with you? This isn’t to say there’s not a place for Mars Hill type preaching. But the vast majority of us aren’t going to do that or be good at that.

What Christian can’t love someone? Serve someone selflessly? Live the kind of normal Christian life that creates questions, wonderings, and holy curiosity.

Too often we give our answers when they aren’t asking questions and they aren’t asking questions because our lives aren’t creating them.

“For Pascal presenting someone with a list of proofs for Christianity or evidence for faith is probably a waste of time. If someone basically doesn’t want to believe, no amount of proof (or proof texts) can ever convince her. And even if she were convinced, then it wouldn’t be the Christian God she had come to believe in, but only what Pascal called “the God of the philosophers.” The crucial factor in persuading someone to believe, then, is not to present evidence, but first to awaken a desire for God in them. In other words, when commending Christianity to people, “make it attractive, make good men wish it were true, and then show that it is.” Such arguments as there are for Christianity can convince those who hope it is true, but will never convince those who don’t.” (Graham Tomlin, Total Church, p. 179.)

Peter says that there is one aspect of a Christian lifestyle that the unbeliever will be most curious about. Hope. “Always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15, emphasis added) What is hope? Confidence about the future that provides calm and assurance today. When is that most on display? When we are in a trial. When we are suffering. When our future is uncertain.

We can’t help but be optimistic about the future. Eternal life with Jesus is going to be great. The comforting work of the Holy Spirit in our trials is real. The world doesn’t have that and experiences devastation in their lives just like we do. As they see how we respond with hope, it pricks something in their ancient DNA. There is an echo of a truth in their conscience. Something about life lived in relationship with their Creator. A time when man’s entire being rested joyfully in God’s promise of provision.

I hear this often. I’ll ask folks, “How did you come to faith?” Often it is a story like, there was this guy at work, or this girl in my college dorm, there was something different about her. And they share a story of intrigue that the Christian’s life produced. That’s what Peter is getting at. When our life elicits a question, our gospel bags are packed and ready to share what? The reason of the hope within us.

Peter isn’t asking if we have answers but whether our lives are creating any questions. This assumes that we are in the community, in our neighborhoods, in proximity to unbelievers where such questions could even be asked. It assumes relationship within which observations can be made and questions can be asked.

“The world today, as we are all well aware, is not very ready to listen to us or to preaching. It tells us it has no interest in theology and dogma, and there may be some truth in that; the world has become psychological, not to say cynical, and it is not prepared to listen to what people say. But when it sees a life which is triumphant, a personality that is clearly victorious, then it begins to pay attention. The first Christians conquered the ancient world just by being Christians. It was their love for one another and their type of life that made such an impact upon that pagan world, and there is no question but that this is the greatest need of the hour—the Christian quality of life being demonstrated among men and women. That is something to which we are all called and something which we can all do.” (Clifford Pond, The Beauty of Jesus, p. 129)

That really is the encouragement here. If I said, to obey God’s Word today you must memorize this chart of questions and answers, we would all be discouraged. But what if Peter is really saying, live lives of love for others and then when they ask you, what gives? Tell them your story of meeting Jesus and the wonderful difference he’s made in your life. Who can’t do that? It’s just the story you’re living. Tell the story.

It’s not books and philosophical answers Peter is calling us to, it’s generous lives lived for others with the hope that naturally shows itself when Jesus is on the throne of your heart.

 

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

©2015 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

Gospel-Motivated Modesty

June 3, 2015

Gospel-motivated Modesty

May 31, 2015

“Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” (1 Peter 3:1–4 ESV)

What is Gospel-motivated Modesty?

So what is modesty? How about we define it by defining its opposite:

Immodesty is the self-focused motivation that uses the external to draw attention to self. It draws or allows attention to one’s physical beauty outside the confines of marital intimacy.

God gave each of us a body. The body is good. God made it. He will resurrect it someday.

God also made us sexual. He made our sexual parts too. By God’s design, those visual sensualities are to be reserved for the husband or the wife. Immodesty gives to others what is reserved for marriage. Immodesty uses the sensual power intended for the marital bedroom to draw attention and attraction in public. Why do you think advertisers use female bodies as they do? God made feminine sensuality powerful. Immodesty abuses that power for selfish purposes.

So hear this: modesty and immodesty begin in the heart. How should we feel about the woman who garnishes herself lavishly and sensually to gain approval? We should feel sad for her. That’s an empty way to live and relationships based on physical appearance are shallow and dissatisfying. Remember, Marilyn Monroe killed herself.

Modesty begins in the heart. With what? The humility the gospel requires. The gospel tells me that all my efforts to be accepted by God based on external measures are like filthy rags. The gospel tells me I am justified fully and completely by God based entirely on Jesus fulfilling God’s righteous demands for me on the cross. Because I am declared righteous I am fully accepted by Almighty God. My identity is in Jesus and through Jesus and because of Jesus. That’s what it means to be a Christian. “Modesty is humility expressed in a person’s dress.” (C.J. Mahaney)

What is modesty about? Modesty is all about him. My heart motive should be that everything in my life and body glorifies Jesus. I want him to be noticed. I want his grace in my life to be the thing that people find attractive. Peter says, your hair won’t evangelize your husband, but your attitude will. Your jewelry won’t attract attention to God, but your gentle and trusting spirit will. Focus on internal loveliness and a watching world and a watching husband will think, maybe there’s something to this Christianity.

Beauty Tips for Christian women (and Men Too)

Ask the right questions

Whenever you talk about appearance, legalists want lines and rules so they can feel self-righteous. On the other side of the spectrum are those who perhaps used to be legalists and now anything that sounds like talk about externals is repulsive. I can imagine all the “what about this?” questions that come from a message like this. Most of them are asking the wrong questions. Here are some right ones:

  • What is my heart motivation in this?
  • Who is being promoted by this?

 Gospel modesty doesn’t want to self-promote. It doesn’t want to magnify me.

  • How will this affect others?

You live in community with other people. Sisters, I really don’t believe you understand the male mind. What you think is cute or trendy often reveals body parts that don’t turn your brother’s thoughts to God. Since this is such a struggle and since you love your brothers in Christ, especially at church, men shouldn’t have to do the eye bounce. Could you love us enough to err on the safe side?

That’s not to say frumpy is beautiful (it’s not) or that godly women are as ugly as possible (they’re not). God wired you for adorning and beauty. Be fashionable without being sensual. Keep those sensual powers under wraps and then unleash them on your husband.

“Modesty wants God to be noticed.” (Tim Challies, Modesty Matters: Imperishable Beauty, Challies.com, November 13, 2013) That means when you are considering that new outfit, new hairdo, new tattoo, new whatever, you should ask, Is this going to draw attention to me or will it be a distraction from my goal of drawing attention to Jesus? Can I wear this to the glory of God? It’s one thing to dress culturally appropriate, it’s another to be culturally obsessed.

I think the goal is for dress and style to be a non-issue. To go unnoticed because it is neither ultra-stylish nor ultra not-stylish. One application for me is frankly what I wear when I preach. For years I always wore a coat and tie. Styles changed. I have too. I don’t really care that much because I don’t want anyone to leave the church thinking about my fashion or what I wear. I don’t want my style or lack of style to be a distraction. So I try to dress rather non-noticeable. I don’t want our church to get the idea that I think fashion and appearance are ultra-important. They are not. They only become important when they distract from the gospel.

Teach our sons and daughters early

If God doesn’t look at the outward but rather looks at the heart, what does that tell us about where our parenting emphasis should be? I feel this especially for our daughters who are growing up in a culture that objectifies them as sexual objects for men. Porn obviously does that, but normal and accepted teen culture does as well.

Sexting is a huge issue right now. Teenagers take pictures of their private places and send them to one another. It is the logical outcome of worth based on sensual appearance. This is why Miley Cyrus and Brittany Spears end up taking their clothes off for the camera. A sexualized identity inexorably leads them to do so.

So parents, how are you going to raise your kids to value what God values instead of what the culture values? Can I offer at least one guideline? Celebrate what God celebrates. Don’t celebrate what he doesn’t. As an example, we are coming off prom season at the local high schools. While thankfully there are many exceptions, it is dismaying to me to see Facebook pictures of young ladies in our church wearing outfits clearly designed to show off their body. Then parents post pictures celebrating their daughter’s immodest dress. With that much cleavage on display, what can even a godly young man help but think about? Trust me, that teen boy doesn’t need any help to think that way.

The real problem isn’t the dresses or the pictures; these are symptoms. Once a girl finds her worth from boys in her appearance, she will seek that approval in increasingly sensual ways.

The battle starts long before prom in what we praise and celebrate and how we form their self-identity. Yes, health is important and our bodies need to be cared for as good stewards. But body is not identity. Help your children find worth and value in the internal and eternal. In beautiful attitudes like kindness and love. Celebrate them in your home and reward them. Post those pictures on Facebook. Talk them up. Model Christian modesty yourself and your son and daughter will catch on.

For our sons, we need to mold their understanding toward character-based love. Dads, be careful how you speak of women and the things your son sees your eyes enjoying. Praise your wife and daughters for spiritual qualities more than physical. Then pray a lot.

Jesus is more beautiful

“How passionately are some foolish men in love with the external beauty which they see in some women? The exact symmetry of parts, and comely proportion of the body? The amiable features and lovely mixtures of colors in the face; the beauty of the eyes in their spirit, their quick and graceful motions, and amorous glances? How does this ravish the hearts of some fond lovers, although the most beautiful body in the world is no better than painted clay, dirt, and corruption enclosed in a fair skin, which sickness will cause to look pale and wane, death will quite mar and spoil? But the amiableness and beauty of Christ is more transcendent and permanent and, therefore, a more fit object for your love. Christ is fairer than the children of men. He is all fair, without any spot, altogether lovely, without any blemish or deformity.” (Thomas Vincent, Love for the Unseen Christ, p. 34.)

Gospel modesty…Let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. (1 Peter 3:4)

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

©2015 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

A Husband By Design

May 17, 2015

Because God saved her, loves her, and eternally treasures her

 “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” (1 Peter 3:7 ESV)

Peter says, “Husbands, wake up!” Do you realize who you are married to? That Christian woman is loved by the Almighty. Jesus loved her to the cross and willingly died in her place to secure her salvation. God has promised her an exalted and eternal status in eternity as a co-heir with Christ of the inheritance promised to God’s children. Daughter of God. Friend of Jesus. Fellow recipient of grace. A woman who, if you could see the glory that will be hers in eternity, you would possibly be tempted to worship her.

There’s a husband reading this saying…not my wife. That says more about you than it does her. You see her weakness, her sin, her failures and it makes you want to compare her to other women or wonder why you married her. God sees her sin even more clearly than you do. Yet, he loves her. God’s love for her says something about how you should treat her.

I’m a long way from my daughter going on a date with any young man. I’ve already been thinking about it mostly in terms of electronic surveillance and what caliber ammo to buy. That boy is going to fear for his life. She will not go out the door with any boy that I don’t sense fears for his life. Besides fear, what does he need to know and respect? How much I love her. I expect him to treat her according to my love for her, not his. Not his lust or hormones or foolishness. Not his stupidity. My love and care for her will be the measure of how he treats her. He needs to see that she is my daughter first, his friend or girlfriend second. Then we can get along without bloodshed.

Isn’t that what God is saying to the Christian husband? You are married to a co-heir of the grace of life. She’s really, really special. Notice it is the “grace of life.” Grace. She’s a sinner. She needs grace. She didn’t earn this status as a Christian. It was given to her just like it was given to us. She has it by faith in Jesus. She has it because of God’s electing and adopting love. She is really, really special and will be forever because of God’s love and grace to her.

Treat her accordingly. Don’t exploit her. Don’t ignore her. Don’t fail to meet her needs as much as humanly possible. Don’t live in your man-cave. Dwell with her. Seek to understand her. Honor her even when she doesn’t deserve it. Do it with the same grace you received from God that allows you to be a co-heir of the grace of life with her.

Pursue her. Lead. Love. Fulfill your call as a servant leader by leading in love and sacrifice. Guess what happens when husbands love and lead their wives in this way? That feminine and delicate beauty flowers under the protection of your masculine servant leadership. Your death to self allows a resurrection of a new you, a Christ-like you, a you who has at your side a friend, lover, and companion.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

©2015 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

A Wife in Exile

May 10, 2015

The Attractional Beauty of a Submissive Spirit

“Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.” (1 Peter 3:1-2 ESV)

The culture of the day required that a wife follow her husband’s religion. A wife that became a Christian would be perceived as a woman in rebellion. (See Karen Jobes, 1 Peter: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, p. 203.) Peter wants the wives to counter that perception by affirming with their attitude that they willingly accept the leadership of their husbands.

God created marriage and designed it to function with servant leadership by the husband and willing submission to that leadership by the wife. That goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. Sin has created husbands who don’t lead and wives who don’t follow. So when the New Testament talks about marriage redeemed it always calls us back to God’s original plan of serving-leading husbands and wives submissive to that leadership. “Submission is an inner quality of gentleness that affirms the leadership of the husband.” (Wayne Grudem, The First Epistle of Peter: An Introduction and Commentary, p. 196.)

Even unbelieving husbands are still wired to find this attractive in their wives. Let any husband have the choice between gentle and submissive or abusive and combative, submissive wins every time. The angry, fighting, nagging wife will do little to draw her husband toward faith. But a wife whose spirit is gentle, even in disagreement or conflict, will amaze the perceptive husband. Over time, it says something powerful to him.

It’s so powerful that Peter says a wife can win her husband without words. That doesn’t mean the gospel in words isn’t known by the husband. A wife will no doubt share her beliefs. This is life enforcing and enhancing the claims of the wife’s Christianity. He sees her life up close including how she responds to her own failures and it garnishes her faith.

The Attractional Beauty of a Holy Life

“When they see your respectful and pure conduct.” (1 Peter 3:2)

This is a day-to-day challenge, even for wives of mature Christian men. It’s one thing to say it; it’s another to put it into practice. What would this look like? Peter lists two qualities to aim for. Respectful and pure. I take this to be morally pure and we see that submission has its limits. It never includes any behavior that would displease God. If a husband requires it, a godly wife must stay no.

But in all other categories to strive for, her walk is to be consistent with her talk. No wife will do this perfectly or even close. It’s not perfection but direction. Is the direction of the wife’s life toward a lifestyle of respect and purity? In public? In private? If there are children, as a mother? All of these priorities should reflect a woman who is morally upright in life and a respectful friend, lover, and companion to her husband.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

©2015 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

So What Do I Do When I Am Unjustly Treated?

May 3, 2015

“He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:22–25 ESV)

What Jesus Did

Entrusted the wrong to God

“But continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” (Verse 23) Jesus “continued to entrust” himself to God. Notice this is not a one-time action but an ongoing activity. He continued to do this. Over and over. What did he do?

The word here means, to hand something over. Here is the action: I have something; now I give it to you. By giving it to you, I’m not responsible for it anymore. It’s like I don’t need to worry about it anymore. Why? Because it’s out of my hands now. It’s not my responsibility. I don’t have to feel the need to make it right. “Jesus kept ‘handing over’ to God every dimension of his life, including the fate of his enemies.” (Thomas R. Schreiner, The New American Commentary: 1, 2 Peter, Jude, p. 144).

What did Jesus do when Judas came walking to Gethsemane with the mob to arrest him? Kiss him on the cheek? How would you feel to be betrayed in such fashion? What might you want to do as Judas leaned in for the kiss? Pow! Only as God, POW!!! Talk about injustice. Jesus felt the emotion—the same emotion as us, same sense of betrayal—but he did not retaliate. Instead, he gave that wrong to God. Is this some kind of mind game?

No, look at the rest of the phrase, “to Him who judges justly.” (Verse 23) Here is the absolute key. Jesus’ holy character did not allow any sin to go unpunished. No sin ever will. Hear me. Nobody gets away with anything! There is payday someday. Every sin will be paid for. God’s holiness and justice require that every wrong against his holy character will have its just punishment. As Hebrews reminds us, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31)

Jesus knew that. Jesus knew hades and hell. Jesus knew the absolute justice of God. Jesus had full confidence in his heavenly Father’s commitment to punish fully and eternally every wrong, every sin, every violence, every betrayal, every unjust suffering. That confidence in the justice of God freed Jesus from seeing his personal need to right every wrong. Rather, He knew God the Father had his back. He would take care of it. Paul picks up this point in Romans 12:19—Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’”

When does God pay back the wrong? Some of it he builds into this world. The reward for sin is the consequence of sin. Or as we have said, We don’t break the Ten Commandments; they break us. The person who is sinfully wronging us is living a broken and selfish life. It has its own bitter rewards.

Primarily though, this is in the future. Nobody gets away with anything. There is a coming judgment from God in which every injustice done will be punished—Severely. Eternally. Jesus knew this. He didn’t need to punish Judas or Caiaphas or the Roman legion or Pilate or whoever goes down in history as actually driving the nails through his hands. God’s got it. Instead, what did he do? He consciously handed that offense over to his Father.

So if right now we could peer into hell and see Hitler, Judas, Mao, Stalin, Dahmer, and the 9/11 murderous terrorists, and we were asked after seeing their present condition, “Did they get away with it?” We would say, “No way.”

You may say, They were unbelievers. But there’s no condemnation for Christians. What if the people wronging me are Christians? They don’t go to hell. And yet they have done this or that, aren’t they getting away with it? Here is Peter’s response: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)

This sobering verse tells us what happens to unjust suffering caused by fellow believers. The tree highlights the Old Testament statement that “a hanged man is cursed by God.” (Deuteronomy 21:23) Jesus was cursed for us. His body became the spiritual reservoir containing the guilt of our sins. He bore those himself.

By his wounds.” (1 Peter 2:24) The KJV says, “by his stripes” you have been healed. Each of these clauses emphasizes that the one who had committed no sin was made sin for us; our atoning substitute. The one who had committed no crime was made the criminal for us. The one who had not caused a single unjust suffering himself suffered the guilt for the unjust pain inflicted by other Christians.

So we discover that all the wrongs done by anyone against anyone are made right. Where? For unbelievers, in hell. For believers, on the cross. Since I am myself a transgressor and my guilt is part of what he bore, now I can see other peoples’ wrongs against me as no worse than any wrong I have done against God. “The suffering of Christ was the recompense of God on every hurt I have ever received from a fellow Christian.” (John Piper, Future Grace, p. 268)

Was Jesus’ death for that wrong sufficient for what Tom did to me? Was Jesus’ death on the cross a sufficient payment for the sin that Jane did against me? Or must I add to the punishment by retaliating; by taking matters into my own hands? Was the cross sufficient payment or not?

The Christian response to injustice is to let God take care of it. Hell or cross. Either way, it’s out of my hands and I am emotionally detaching myself from bitterness, anger, and revenge. God’s got it.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

©2015 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 149 other followers

%d bloggers like this: