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Making the Most of Every Opportunity

Hillcrest Chapel's philosophy of ministry has always been centered around the church as a force. Many people have come to know the Lord though everyday expressions of faith as the church has been scattered. In fact, the force of our church scattered in/on campuses, job sites, neighborhoods and through friendships has been used by the Lord to bring literally hundreds of people to Himself! I think it is time, however, to expand our evangelistic emphasis when the church is gathered, too. Wouldn't it be great if we put others before ourselves and our nurture, and emphasize outreach for the rest of this century? Because this will be our approach in different ways and various venues, we will add the following to our approach for the church gathered and scattered:

 

Church Gathered:

Seeker Sensitivity—evangelistic messages
Seeker Awareness—having a greater sensitivity to those in our services who don't have a relationship with God, or are at the beginning stage of their walk of faith.

 

Church Scattered:

We want to encourage you to add these priorities of sensitivity and awareness to your lifestyle during the week when the church is scattered.

 

To join us in this emphasis, you will have to think differently about church services and about your everyday life. Let me begin by showing the implications of a seeker-sensitive and -aware approach to Hillcrest Chapel. To lay some basic foundations for this coming year, and show you some of the biblical implications of an increased sensitivity to the pre-Christian, I want us to turn to two passages:

 

Colossians 4 points us in the right direction. In verses 2-17, Paul urges the Colossians to be involved in at least two commitments, each mandatory if we are going to impact our world.

 

A Commitment To Prayer

vv. 2-4—Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3] And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4] Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.
Three kinds of prayer are commanded and implied here. Paul would never write a letter without urging the recipients to be committed to pray. Why would he need to urge people to do something that is such a privilege? We all know the answer—sometimes it seems like our prayers are going nowhere; our lives seem spiritually dry, and it is easier to try and do something about our needs ourselves. (At least that's what we sometimes think.) How foolish! Oh, how we need to be urged to pray. The man who perseveres in prayer and is devoted to seeing God's solutions will ultimately not be disappointed and, above all, God's desire will be accomplished.

Three kinds of prayer are needed.

  1. Personal devotion to prayer while being watchful and thankful—v. 2.
  2. Prayer for open doors for our message—v. 3, for opportunities to share
  3. Prayer to proclaim our message clearly as we should—v. 4.
Only a person who prays this way will have effective ministry to others in the marketplace and in the church. This type of prayer sets up our antennas and makes us aware of opportunities to share Christ.

After the call to prayer, Paul continues with his instruction by focusing on those outside the church, i.e., pre-Christians. He asks the Colossians to have:

 

A Commitment to Act Wisely Toward Non-Christians

v. 5—Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.

There are those who foolishly contrast our lifestyle and our verbal witness (evangelism and social action), as though we could get by with one and not the other. Some advocate prayer and minimize personal witness/social action or vice versa. Paul doesn't. He puts it all together, and so should we.

What is specifically called for?

 

To be wise in the way we act toward outsiders—those who are not committed to Christ.

"Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders," i.e., those outside the faith who haven't made a commitment to follow after Christ. To be "wise" implies we use wisdom in the way we share our message, our life, our care, our friendship. To know the truth is not enough; we must also use wisdom in sharing the truth.

This passage makes it clear that we are not to make obnoxious, desperate attempts at making something happen. The gospel does offend on its own, but our character, lifestyle, and approach should not. In other words, our actions should not stand in the way of a clear presentation of the gospel.

Paul continues. More specifically, we are:

To be wise in every opportunity

"... make the most of every opportunity." This means to be wise in each opportunity afforded by time, and could be translated, "snap up every opportunity." J. B. Lightfoot offers this paraphrase: "Walk wisely and discreetly in all your dealings with unbelievers; allow no opportunity to slip through your hands, but buy up every passing moment" (Saint Paul's Epistle to the Colossians and to Philemon, Zondervan, p. 220).

God has invested in us a deposit of grace. It's essentially a spiritual bank account with which we can buy up opportunities. Some of us, however, are ignoring the deposit of grace He's given.

One author of a Colossians commentary says, "We are to actively seize every opportunity to do good to others—Gal. 6:10. To invest our lives, our energies, in the service of God and others. To be wise stewards of our time" (Trevethan, p. 144). I'm convinced we may have many opportunities every week to show God's love. We either don't notice, however, or we choose not to take advantage of them.

 

Here's a project: Inventory your recent opportunities and pray God will make you even more sensitive and wise toward others.

But that is not all the message Paul has for us. He now specifically turns to our verbal witness in the next verse.

To be wise in our conversations.

"Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone" (v. 6). Two elements should characterize our conversation:
  • Full of grace. Our conversations are to be held in a gracious, courteous way. Our speech doesn't need to be boring or obnoxious, but is to be kind and gentle—filled with grace (unmerited favor). "The message is the goodness of God that is directed toward undeserving and helpless rebels. It is not a prescription for self-help or for a human search for God. It is God's search for men and women" (Trevethan, p. 144). Our message then should also be filled with great joy, because the good news of God's grace is very joyous.

    We should communicate: "You can't do it (save yourself), but God can. You don't deserve it, but God doesn't give us (mercy) what we deserve; He gives us unmerited favor (grace)." We can start just by being nice! People don't see much grace at work in the marketplace, so just being gracious in a culture like ours will give us opportunities.

  • Seasoned with salt. Salt acts as a preservative, purifying and adding flavor to our food and creating thirst. This is a metaphor for instruction in wisdom by the rabbis of Paul's era (Martin, Colossians and Philemon, p. 128). Our presence should cause other people to be conscious of their language and have a purifying/restraining effect on sinful action and words.
The following guidelines expand on these concepts:
  1. Encourage Whenever Possible
    Jesus liked to encourage the people with whom He conversed. In Luke 10:28, he told an expert in the Law who expressed a good answer, "You have answered correctly!" He told an inquisitive teacher of the Law, "You are not far from the kingdom of God" (Mark 12:34). And when a Greek woman gave a witty response to Jesus' gentle probing of her faith, he responded, "Woman, you have great faith" (Matt. 15:28).

    When conversing with nonbelievers/pre-Christians, never miss an opportunity to tell them you agree with them, or that they have given a thoughtful answer. If you get an opportunity to deliver a sincere, genuine compliment (e.g., "I really like what you said."), take it. Enjoy the things people say well, find common ground, and you will find greater openness when you gently need to question inaccurate views about the Lord.

  2. Approach With the Right Attitude
    We must maintain an attitude that clearly shows we hold no malice toward the people with whom we are talking. They should get from us the feeling that we are genuinely interested in them and care about what they are saying. Remember, Jesus initially was immensely popular with the crowds, at least on many occasions. "The large crowd listened to Him with delight" (Mark 12:37). Clearly, Jesus' attitude did not turn people off.

    Of course, not everyone received Jesus' words well, but we never get the hint that His attitude was why people rejected His message. People reacted to and hated His words—in fact, they lined up to spar with Him. In the same way, as Colossians 4 says, we must have an attitude that manifests itself in grace-filled conversation.

  3. Keep Love and Truth in Balance—John 4:17-18
    When Jesus was sitting at the well, He quietly asked the woman to find her husband. When she responded with the half-truth that she didn't have a husband, Jesus responded with a gentle clarification. "You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true" (John 4:17-18).

    Jesus began and ended by kindly telling the woman where she was right—in other words, He showed grace. Yet He still uncovered the complete truth she was trying to conceal.As Steven R. Jones writes in an article entitled, "How to Initiate Spiritual Conversations Naturally,"

    "Practice the art of correcting false ideas in a way that expresses kindness (grace). We can't be so loving that we let error pass as truth. On the other hand, we must not be so impatient to correct error that others lose sight of our love as we insist on the truth.

  4. Draw Out Others' Viewpoints—Luke 10:26
    Jesus loved to ask questions, even in response to questions. To the one man who asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus responded with two questions of His own: "What is written in the Law?" and "How do you read it?"

    Sincere questions draw people out rather than make them feel defensive. If we show genuine interest in others' viewpoints, at the same time showing love for them, there will be an impact. This can't be manipulative, but must be sincere to encourage an exchange of views.

  5. Be Alert to the Holy Spirit's Involvement—Luke 19:19
    A wealthy tax collector named Zacchaeus was so intent on seeing Jesus that he abandoned his dignity and climbed into a sycamore tree. When Jesus came by, He astonished everyone by inviting Himself to Zacchaeus' house for dinner. Jesus knew that this was Zacchaeus' day, and He exclaimed, "Today salvation has come to this house."

    Likewise, the Holy Spirit is at work among people we encounter. If we want to make the most of every opportunity, we need to scan our crowds and look for the people whom the Holy Spirit has prepared to meet Jesus. He invited Himself to receive from Zacchaeus; but undergirding His request was an awareness that Zacchaeus was searching. There are many folks sitting on the periphery of our lives who are waiting to see Jesus. We need to be sensitive to spot them, because they're often in unlikely places.

  6. Whenever Possible, Season Your Conversation with the Salt of Wit
    The Greek comic writers used the word artyo ("season" or "seasoned") to refer to seasoning with the "salt of wit." But the word soon degenerated to refer to off-color jokes. I believe we need to redeem the word. We also need a little more tasteful humor (good stories, illustrations, good jokes) in our witnessing; i.e., we need to spice it up a bit.

  7. Rehearse Questions and Your Approach
    Acts 8:29-30

  8. Write Out Your Testimony and Practice It, Telling It Till You Feel Comfortable
    Acts 7:2-54

Paraphrase: Let your conversation with pre-Christians be a wise and gracious presentation of the gospel, but don't let it be tasteless or boring. Spice it up!

(Adapted from "Do Talk To Strangers," by Steven R. Jones, Discipleship Journal, 1997, p. 80)

 

What will happen when we share the Good News this way?

Colossians 4 shows us the consequences.

"... so that you may know how to answer everyone." v. 6

We will have to give answers to people's questions, because they will ask about our faith. In fact, we can expect our conversation and life will open doors for questions and comments—if we follow all the preceding instructions.

 


In affirmation of Colossians 4, turn to a complementary passage in 1 Peter 3:15-16. This section will help us to take inventory of ourselves and our witness.

 

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

The Prerequisites

Jesus as Lord...

Jesus must be Lord of our lives if we intend to see Him work through us as He intends—v. 15. It always amazes me the number of people who get upset with God because things are not working out like they thought, but are related to Him only as Savior, not as Lord. Jesus is not the Supreme Ruler of their lives. If we want the Lord's blessing in our lifestyle and witness, He must be honored as Lord!

 

Prepared to Answer Questions—v. 15b

How much study have you given to people's questions about life and faith, the problems of evil and suffering and the biblical solutions?

This is as much a command as the one that tells us to love one another.

 

Evident Hope

Does hope spill over in your talk and your walk?

 

Interior Qualities Needed for an effective and authentic witness to others

.
1 Peter 3:15d-16—But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

Gentleness and Respect

Our attitude and conversation is to be filled with gentleness and respect (that goes for public as well as personal conversations)—v. 15d.

 

A Clear Conscience

We need to keep a clear conscience so we won't be phony or manipulative, so we won't be hypocritical or turn others off to the message of Christ. If we are inconsistent in our lives and guilt-ridden because of our sinfulness, our message will not ring true and/or our lifestyle will speak louder than our words and betray our witness.

 

Prepared For Slander

We need to be prepared for malicious attacks or, in some cases, rejection which may include slander. Don't be surprised or let it deter you. We have the prospect that if we have been gracious and respectful, and if we have a clear conscience, some will be ashamed of their slander—v. 16c. Most importantly, some will respond to the Good News and will want the hope we have—v. 15b.

 


Conclusion:

Here are some principles, applications, and questions that tie this passage together and help us apply it specifically. They are followed by a number of questions.

 

Doors are opened through prayer.

  1. Are you praying specifically for open doors to witness? Where? With whom? When?
  2. If the church was filled with your converted friends, acquaintances, family, neighbors, enemies, fellow students, and workers, what would it look like?
  3. How might you pray for that?

 

How we act opens doors of opportunity.

  1. What wise actions have you taken that has opened the door to share with others?
  2. What unwise actions have you taken, or seen others take, that have closed the door of opportunity?
  3. Besides prayer, what door-opening actions do you think you need to take now?
  4. What action are you going to take to open the door for outsiders in your church service?
  5. How does your conversation and greeting open or close the door to outsiders in your church service?

Confinement or opposition does not need to limit our proclamation, e.g., Paul in prison and in chains. Our chains can be a megaphone in the life of a dedicated servant.

  1. What makes it difficult for you to share Christ with others?
  2. What excuses will you eliminate for your lack of sharing Christ with others?
  3. What weakness, healing, and/or circumstance has taken place in your life that has opened the door to share with others?

When the doors open, we need to be prepared to proclaim our message clearly and specifically.

  1. Do you have a number of verses memorized that present the gospel to others?
  2. Do you have a formal presentation of the gospel that you have memorized, or do you use a different approach each time?
  3. What approach do you use most of the time when you share Christ?
  4. Are you ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within you?
  5. What kinds of questions from non-Christians do you feel nervous about or unprepared to answer?
  6. In the place where you have the greatest potential for influence, which of the following effects of salt do you want to see accomplished by your testimony and actions—to purify, preserve, flavor, or create a thirst? Explain.

Making the Most of Every Opportunity


Making the Most of the Last Year of the Century

by Pastor Robert C. Stone

Introduction:

Hillcrest Chapel's philosophy of ministry has always been centered around the church as a force. Many people have come to know the Lord though everyday expressions of faith as the church has been scattered. In fact, the force of our church scattered in/on campuses, job sites, neighborhoods and through friendships has been used by the Lord to bring literally hundreds of people to Himself! I think it is time, however, to expand our evangelistic emphasis when the church is gathered, too. Wouldn't it be great if we put others before ourselves and our nurture, and emphasize outreach for the rest of this century? Because this will be our approach in different ways and various venues, we will add the following to our approach for the church gathered and scattered:

 

Church Gathered:

Seeker Sensitivity—evangelistic messages
Seeker Awareness—having a greater sensitivity to those in our services who don't have a relationship with God, or are at the beginning stage of their walk of faith.

 

Church Scattered:

We want to encourage you to add these priorities of sensitivity and awareness to your lifestyle during the week when the church is scattered.

 

To join us in this emphasis, you will have to think differently about church services and about your everyday life. Let me begin by showing the implications of a seeker-sensitive and -aware approach to Hillcrest Chapel. To lay some basic foundations for this coming year, and show you some of the biblical implications of an increased sensitivity to the pre-Christian, I want us to turn to two passages:

 

Colossians 4 points us in the right direction. In verses 2-17, Paul urges the Colossians to be involved in at least two commitments, each mandatory if we are going to impact our world.

 

A Commitment To Prayer

vv. 2-4—Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3] And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4] Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.
Three kinds of prayer are commanded and implied here. Paul would never write a letter without urging the recipients to be committed to pray. Why would he need to urge people to do something that is such a privilege? We all know the answer—sometimes it seems like our prayers are going nowhere; our lives seem spiritually dry, and it is easier to try and do something about our needs ourselves. (At least that's what we sometimes think.) How foolish! Oh, how we need to be urged to pray. The man who perseveres in prayer and is devoted to seeing God's solutions will ultimately not be disappointed and, above all, God's desire will be accomplished.

Three kinds of prayer are needed.

  1. Personal devotion to prayer while being watchful and thankful—v. 2.
  2. Prayer for open doors for our message—v. 3, for opportunities to share
  3. Prayer to proclaim our message clearly as we should—v. 4.
Only a person who prays this way will have effective ministry to others in the marketplace and in the church. This type of prayer sets up our antennas and makes us aware of opportunities to share Christ.

After the call to prayer, Paul continues with his instruction by focusing on those outside the church, i.e., pre-Christians. He asks the Colossians to have:

 

A Commitment to Act Wisely Toward Non-Christians

v. 5—Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.

There are those who foolishly contrast our lifestyle and our verbal witness (evangelism and social action), as though we could get by with one and not the other. Some advocate prayer and minimize personal witness/social action or vice versa. Paul doesn't. He puts it all together, and so should we.

What is specifically called for?

 

To be wise in the way we act toward outsiders—those who are not committed to Christ.

"Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders," i.e., those outside the faith who haven't made a commitment to follow after Christ. To be "wise" implies we use wisdom in the way we share our message, our life, our care, our friendship. To know the truth is not enough; we must also use wisdom in sharing the truth.

This passage makes it clear that we are not to make obnoxious, desperate attempts at making something happen. The gospel does offend on its own, but our character, lifestyle, and approach should not. In other words, our actions should not stand in the way of a clear presentation of the gospel.

Paul continues. More specifically, we are:

To be wise in every opportunity

"... make the most of every opportunity." This means to be wise in each opportunity afforded by time, and could be translated, "snap up every opportunity." J. B. Lightfoot offers this paraphrase: "Walk wisely and discreetly in all your dealings with unbelievers; allow no opportunity to slip through your hands, but buy up every passing moment" (Saint Paul's Epistle to the Colossians and to Philemon, Zondervan, p. 220).

God has invested in us a deposit of grace. It's essentially a spiritual bank account with which we can buy up opportunities. Some of us, however, are ignoring the deposit of grace He's given.

One author of a Colossians commentary says, "We are to actively seize every opportunity to do good to others—Gal. 6:10. To invest our lives, our energies, in the service of God and others. To be wise stewards of our time" (Trevethan, p. 144). I'm convinced we may have many opportunities every week to show God's love. We either don't notice, however, or we choose not to take advantage of them.

 

Here's a project: Inventory your recent opportunities and pray God will make you even more sensitive and wise toward others.

But that is not all the message Paul has for us. He now specifically turns to our verbal witness in the next verse.

To be wise in our conversations.

"Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone" (v. 6). Two elements should characterize our conversation:
  • Full of grace. Our conversations are to be held in a gracious, courteous way. Our speech doesn't need to be boring or obnoxious, but is to be kind and gentle—filled with grace (unmerited favor). "The message is the goodness of God that is directed toward undeserving and helpless rebels. It is not a prescription for self-help or for a human search for God. It is God's search for men and women" (Trevethan, p. 144). Our message then should also be filled with great joy, because the good news of God's grace is very joyous.

    We should communicate: "You can't do it (save yourself), but God can. You don't deserve it, but God doesn't give us (mercy) what we deserve; He gives us unmerited favor (grace)." We can start just by being nice! People don't see much grace at work in the marketplace, so just being gracious in a culture like ours will give us opportunities.

  • Seasoned with salt. Salt acts as a preservative, purifying and adding flavor to our food and creating thirst. This is a metaphor for instruction in wisdom by the rabbis of Paul's era (Martin, Colossians and Philemon, p. 128). Our presence should cause other people to be conscious of their language and have a purifying/restraining effect on sinful action and words.
The following guidelines expand on these concepts:
  1. Encourage Whenever Possible
    Jesus liked to encourage the people with whom He conversed. In Luke 10:28, he told an expert in the Law who expressed a good answer, "You have answered correctly!" He told an inquisitive teacher of the Law, "You are not far from the kingdom of God" (Mark 12:34). And when a Greek woman gave a witty response to Jesus' gentle probing of her faith, he responded, "Woman, you have great faith" (Matt. 15:28).

    When conversing with nonbelievers/pre-Christians, never miss an opportunity to tell them you agree with them, or that they have given a thoughtful answer. If you get an opportunity to deliver a sincere, genuine compliment (e.g., "I really like what you said."), take it. Enjoy the things people say well, find common ground, and you will find greater openness when you gently need to question inaccurate views about the Lord.

  2. Approach With the Right Attitude
    We must maintain an attitude that clearly shows we hold no malice toward the people with whom we are talking. They should get from us the feeling that we are genuinely interested in them and care about what they are saying. Remember, Jesus initially was immensely popular with the crowds, at least on many occasions. "The large crowd listened to Him with delight" (Mark 12:37). Clearly, Jesus' attitude did not turn people off.

    Of course, not everyone received Jesus' words well, but we never get the hint that His attitude was why people rejected His message. People reacted to and hated His words—in fact, they lined up to spar with Him. In the same way, as Colossians 4 says, we must have an attitude that manifests itself in grace-filled conversation.

  3. Keep Love and Truth in Balance—John 4:17-18
    When Jesus was sitting at the well, He quietly asked the woman to find her husband. When she responded with the half-truth that she didn't have a husband, Jesus responded with a gentle clarification. "You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true" (John 4:17-18).

    Jesus began and ended by kindly telling the woman where she was right—in other words, He showed grace. Yet He still uncovered the complete truth she was trying to conceal.As Steven R. Jones writes in an article entitled, "How to Initiate Spiritual Conversations Naturally,"

    "Practice the art of correcting false ideas in a way that expresses kindness (grace). We can't be so loving that we let error pass as truth. On the other hand, we must not be so impatient to correct error that others lose sight of our love as we insist on the truth.

  4. Draw Out Others' Viewpoints—Luke 10:26
    Jesus loved to ask questions, even in response to questions. To the one man who asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus responded with two questions of His own: "What is written in the Law?" and "How do you read it?"

    Sincere questions draw people out rather than make them feel defensive. If we show genuine interest in others' viewpoints, at the same time showing love for them, there will be an impact. This can't be manipulative, but must be sincere to encourage an exchange of views.

  5. Be Alert to the Holy Spirit's Involvement—Luke 19:19
    A wealthy tax collector named Zacchaeus was so intent on seeing Jesus that he abandoned his dignity and climbed into a sycamore tree. When Jesus came by, He astonished everyone by inviting Himself to Zacchaeus' house for dinner. Jesus knew that this was Zacchaeus' day, and He exclaimed, "Today salvation has come to this house."

    Likewise, the Holy Spirit is at work among people we encounter. If we want to make the most of every opportunity, we need to scan our crowds and look for the people whom the Holy Spirit has prepared to meet Jesus. He invited Himself to receive from Zacchaeus; but undergirding His request was an awareness that Zacchaeus was searching. There are many folks sitting on the periphery of our lives who are waiting to see Jesus. We need to be sensitive to spot them, because they're often in unlikely places.

  6. Whenever Possible, Season Your Conversation with the Salt of Wit
    The Greek comic writers used the word artyo ("season" or "seasoned") to refer to seasoning with the "salt of wit." But the word soon degenerated to refer to off-color jokes. I believe we need to redeem the word. We also need a little more tasteful humor (good stories, illustrations, good jokes) in our witnessing; i.e., we need to spice it up a bit.

  7. Rehearse Questions and Your Approach
    Acts 8:29-30

  8. Write Out Your Testimony and Practice It, Telling It Till You Feel Comfortable
    Acts 7:2-54

Paraphrase: Let your conversation with pre-Christians be a wise and gracious presentation of the gospel, but don't let it be tasteless or boring. Spice it up!

(Adapted from "Do Talk To Strangers," by Steven R. Jones, Discipleship Journal, 1997, p. 80)

 

What will happen when we share the Good News this way?

Colossians 4 shows us the consequences.

"... so that you may know how to answer everyone." v. 6

We will have to give answers to people's questions, because they will ask about our faith. In fact, we can expect our conversation and life will open doors for questions and comments—if we follow all the preceding instructions.

 


In affirmation of Colossians 4, turn to a complementary passage in 1 Peter 3:15-16. This section will help us to take inventory of ourselves and our witness.

 

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

The Prerequisites

Jesus as Lord...

Jesus must be Lord of our lives if we intend to see Him work through us as He intends—v. 15. It always amazes me the number of people who get upset with God because things are not working out like they thought, but are related to Him only as Savior, not as Lord. Jesus is not the Supreme Ruler of their lives. If we want the Lord's blessing in our lifestyle and witness, He must be honored as Lord!

 

Prepared to Answer Questions—v. 15b

How much study have you given to people's questions about life and faith, the problems of evil and suffering and the biblical solutions?

This is as much a command as the one that tells us to love one another.

 

Evident Hope

Does hope spill over in your talk and your walk?

 

Interior Qualities Needed for an effective and authentic witness to others

.
1 Peter 3:15d-16—But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

Gentleness and Respect

Our attitude and conversation is to be filled with gentleness and respect (that goes for public as well as personal conversations)—v. 15d.

 

A Clear Conscience

We need to keep a clear conscience so we won't be phony or manipulative, so we won't be hypocritical or turn others off to the message of Christ. If we are inconsistent in our lives and guilt-ridden because of our sinfulness, our message will not ring true and/or our lifestyle will speak louder than our words and betray our witness.

 

Prepared For Slander

We need to be prepared for malicious attacks or, in some cases, rejection which may include slander. Don't be surprised or let it deter you. We have the prospect that if we have been gracious and respectful, and if we have a clear conscience, some will be ashamed of their slander—v. 16c. Most importantly, some will respond to the Good News and will want the hope we have—v. 15b.

 


Conclusion:

Here are some principles, applications, and questions that tie this passage together and help us apply it specifically. They are followed by a number of questions.

 

Doors are opened through prayer.

  1. Are you praying specifically for open doors to witness? Where? With whom? When?
  2. If the church was filled with your converted friends, acquaintances, family, neighbors, enemies, fellow students, and workers, what would it look like?
  3. How might you pray for that?

 

How we act opens doors of opportunity.

  1. What wise actions have you taken that has opened the door to share with others?
  2. What unwise actions have you taken, or seen others take, that have closed the door of opportunity?
  3. Besides prayer, what door-opening actions do you think you need to take now?
  4. What action are you going to take to open the door for outsiders in your church service?
  5. How does your conversation and greeting open or close the door to outsiders in your church service?

Confinement or opposition does not need to limit our proclamation, e.g., Paul in prison and in chains. Our chains can be a megaphone in the life of a dedicated servant.

  1. What makes it difficult for you to share Christ with others?
  2. What excuses will you eliminate for your lack of sharing Christ with others?
  3. What weakness, healing, and/or circumstance has taken place in your life that has opened the door to share with others?

When the doors open, we need to be prepared to proclaim our message clearly and specifically.

  1. Do you have a number of verses memorized that present the gospel to others?
  2. Do you have a formal presentation of the gospel that you have memorized, or do you use a different approach each time?
  3. What approach do you use most of the time when you share Christ?
  4. Are you ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within you?
  5. What kinds of questions from non-Christians do you feel nervous about or unprepared to answer?
  6. In the place where you have the greatest potential for influence, which of the following effects of salt do you want to see accomplished by your testimony and actions—to purify, preserve, flavor, or create a thirst? Explain.