The abbot of a monastery called a novice into his office and instructed him to give the homily at the next morning's chapel.
The novice was struck with fear. The next morning, chapel came. He stood in the pulpit. The brothers were there. His hands were trembling. His knees were knocking. His voice was quivering. There was a long pause before he first spoke, and then he asked a question. “Do you know what I'm going to say?”
They had no idea, so all of their heads went back and forth almost in unison, as if it were choreographed. He said, “Neither do I. Let's stand for the benediction.”
The next day was almost an exact repeat of the day before. All the brothers sat there before him. His hands shook. His knees knocked. His voice trembled. Long pause. “Do you know what I'm going to say?” he asked.
Well, after the previous day's experience, they had a pretty good idea. So all of their heads nodded yes.
“Then there's no need for me to tell you. Let's stand for the benediction.”
The abbot was angry beyond description. He brought the young man into his office and said, “If you do that again, you are going to be in solitary confinement, eat bread and water for thirty days, and receive any other punishment I can think of. Tomorrow morning, give the homily; do it right.”
The third day, chapel attendance hit an all-time high. Everyone was there to see what he would say, and it was almost an exact repeat. He stood, trembling, voice quivering, and after a long silence asked, “Do you know what I'm going to say?”
After three days of this, about half of them had a pretty good idea and they nodded their heads yes.
The other half noticed the switch from day to day, and they weren't sure what to expect, and so they shook their heads no.
The novice observed this and said, “Let those who know tell those who don't. Let us stand for the benediction.” (Leith Anderson, Preaching Today #165; www.PreachingToday.com)
When it comes to sharing their faith, some people, like that novice in a monastery, are struck with fear. Their hands tremble. Their knees knock. Their voice quivers, and they end up speechless. Even though they want to introduce their family and friends to Jesus, they’re not sure how and they fear rejection.
Does that describe you? Then turn with me to 1 Peter 2, 1 Peter 2, where the Bible shows us how to introduce people to Jesus, even those who may be hostile to Him.
1 Peter 2:4-5 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (ESV)
God is building a spiritual house, not with bricks and mortar, but with living stones, with people who believe in Christ like you and me. So if you want to overcome your fear to introduce people to Jesus...
KNOW THAT YOU ARE PART OF A HOLY TEMPLE!
Understand that, together with other believers, you are a magnificent cathedral designed to reflect the glory of Christ, especially to those who reject Him.
Now, Jesus is the cornerstone of this temple.He is the foundation piece that gives direction to the whole edifice, even though He is rejected by so many.
1 Peter 2:6-8 For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. (ESV)
Those who refuse to be persuaded by the word are destined to stumble over Christ. That’s literally the meaning of the word, “disobey.” It describes someone who refuses to believe or someone who refuses to be persuaded.
You see, people DO not believe in Jesus not because they CAN not believe. They DO not believe in Jesus because they WILL not believe. Faith is a choice, and those who choose not to believe in Jesus stumble and fall over Him. He is scandalous to them. He is offensive. But for those of us who choose to believe in Him, we find Him to be precious (vs.4), literally, to be honored or valued. That’s because He is the foundation stone, the cornerstone that gives stability and direction to all of us who trust Him.
When the Jews built the temple in Jerusalem, they did not want to desecrate that holy site with the ugly sounds of the breaking and splitting of rock. The building site was to be as quiet as possible. It was holy ground. So they required that all the stones for the temple be cut at another location. It required a tremendous amount of skill and precise measurements by the stone masons, but they did their job well and all the cut rock they sent to the temple site fit perfectly together with one exception.
That exception was an odd-sized rock that didn’t seem to fit anywhere. The builders on the temple site rejected it first, but then they discovered that the odd-sized rock was the cornerstone to the whole structure. It was the foundation piece that gave stability and direction to the whole building.
That’s who Jesus is for all those who trust in Him. In the Gospels, Jesus had said to Peter, “On this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). Well here, Peter identifies that Rock as Jesus. He is the cornerstone that gives stability and direction to the church. He is the cornerstone that gives stability and direction to all His people together who depend on Him.
As a result, believers will never be put to shame, verse 6 says. The original Greek uses a double negative here to indicate that it is absolutely impossible for those of us who depend on Christ to ever be put to shame while they look to Him for stability and direction. That’s because God is using them to put together a glorious temple founded on Jesus Christ Himself.
He is the cornerstone, and believers are the rest of the stones God is using to reflect His glory. They, like Christ, are living stones, rejected by men but chosen by God to make up His magnificent cathedral. Now, God is doing this for one purpose and one purpose alone. He is building believers into a spiritual house of holy priests to offer “spiritual sacrifices,” verse 5 says.
In other words, God wants you, as a believer, to bring Him something. God wants you to bring Him your very life. God wants you to bring Him all your words and deeds so He can use you to bring others to Himself.
Hebrews 13 says, “Through [Jesus]… let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. [And] do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (Hebrews 13:15-16). Your words and good deeds, when offered in dependence upon Christ, are sacrifices which are acceptable to God.
But not only that, you yourselves, your very bodies, when offered to God, are holy and pleasing to Him. Romans 12:1 says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God….”
When you bring your words, your deeds, and yourself to the Lord, then God in His grace uses you to bring others to Himself. In Romans 15, the Apostle Paul says, “Because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:15-16).
Your words, your deeds, your body, and the people who come to faith in Christ through your witness: these are the kind of sacrifices God wants you to bring; these are the offerings that are acceptable and pleasing to Him. That’s why He is building all of us into a holy temple – so we can honor Him with our lives.
On December 4, 2017, 400 musicians gathered in the 23rd Street Armory of Philadelphia to perform "Symphony for a Broken Orchestra" by David Lang. The orchestra included amateurs, professionals, and even members of the storied Philadelphia Orchestra. The youngest performer was a nine-year-old cellist; the oldest, an 82-year-old oboist. It might have been the most diverse orchestra in America.
The 400 brought with them broken instruments: a trumpet held together with blue painter's tape, a violin with no A string, a bow that had lost most of its hair, a cello carried in multiple pieces. The government had cut funding for music programs in public schools, and many school instruments fell into disrepair. But Lang made something beautiful of them.
As the musical piece opened many of the instruments were silent, but gradually they found their voices—while a trumpet might not be capable of a sound, the keys could tap a rhythm; the scraping of a bow over the silhouette of a violin body could add an unusual element. At one point, a cellist made noise by turning a stringless peg. As the 40-minute symphony progressed, the instruments roared to life. Some musicians struggled, like a clarinetist who could get out only short spurts of sound and a French horn player who kept losing his mouthpiece. But together, the orchestra produced rich harmony.
Joshua Barone of the New York Times said, “The music was playful and joyous.” Then, as the performance wound down, each section bowed out one-by-one, until all that remained was the humble squeal of a broken clarinet. (Joshua Barone, “A Symphony Breathes Life Into 400 Broken School Instruments,” The New York Times, 12-4-17; www.PreachingToday.com)
Like that symphony, the church is made up of broken instruments. The best that you can do may be to tap or squeak, but with other believers, you can make beautiful music under the hand of your Director.
Or to use the metaphor Peter uses here in 1 Peter 2, you may be just one ugly stone, but with other believers, you are part of a glorious temple designed to honor God Himself. Please, don’t forget that. If you want to overcome your fear to introduce people to Jesus, know that you are part of a Holy Temple. Then…
KNOW THAT YOU ARE ONE OF GOD’S SPECIAL PEOPLE.
Understand that you are not only part of a holy temple. You belong to a holy nation constituted to declare God’s virtues to a world in darkness.
1 Peter 2:9-10 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (ESV)
All of this was once said of God’s special people in the Old Testament – the nation of Israel. In Exodus 19, from fiery Mount Sinai, God said to them, “You shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:5-6). And in Hosea 2, God said about Israel, “I will sow her for myself in the land. And I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’” (Hosea 2:23). And in Isaiah 43, God said about them, “I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise” (Isaiah 43:20-21).
The Israelites were God’s special people in the Old Testament, gathered together to be a positive influence on the godless nations around them. But they forgot who they were. Instead of seeing themselves as God’s special people, they imitated the godless nations around them and adopted their practices. They blended in, lost their influence; and today, Israel has no temple or priesthood.
Now, God calls His people in the church to be what He wanted Israel to be. We don’t replace Israel, because God will restore them some day (according to Romans 11). But in the meantime, He calls us His special people to be His light in a dark world.
Please, don’t forget who you are! You, along with other believers, are designed to be living advertisements for the virtues of God as His holy temple and his special people. And as such, let your life reflect the wonderful light into which He has called us.
A couple of years ago (2019), Mr. Jay Speights of Rockville, Maryland, was doing some research on his family history and discovered a surprise. He is a prince in the small West African country of Benin even though he grew up in New Jersey, lives in an apartment, and does not even own a car. His family had been trying to learn the African side of their lineage for decades, and at last, he had an answer. So naturally, he got on a plane.
When he arrived at his long-lost country, he saw what looked like a festival, hundreds of people dancing and playing instruments and singing. It took him several minutes to realize it was a welcome party—for him.
The royal family had prepared a festival for his homecoming. They hung up banners. They held a parade. And because the prince had no experience with prince-ing, the royal family sent him to a so-called prince school.
After his visit, the prince resolved to start working on projects to improve the quality of life in Benin, wanting to create better access to running water.
Speights says, “[To] know more about yourself is empowering. To point at a spot on the map in Africa and say I'm from here, it makes you feel good.” It feels good, even though now Speights is back in America, where he is no longer treated like royalty. (David Greene and Steve Inskeep, “Maryland Man Submits DNA and Discovers He's a Prince,” NPR Morning Edition, 3-6-19; www.PreacingToday.com)
You too can feel good no matter how people treat you, because you ARE royalty. God Himself tells every believer in verse 9, “You are a chosen race, a ROYAL priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” – literally, a people unto obtaining or preserving. In other words, God preserves you exclusively for Himself.
You are royalty! Your neighbors may not suspect it, nor those you work with day in and day out, but you know who you are, and that knowledge changes you. Don’t ever forget it like Israel did. Know that you are a living stone in God’s Holy Temple. Know that you are one of God’s special people, designed to be a living display of His virtues.
Then BE who you ARE!
BE THE WITNESS GOD HAS CALLED YOU TO BE.
Live your life in such a way that even your accusers come to see Jesus in you.
1 Peter 2:11-12 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. (ESV)
This is how you influence people who are indifferent or even hostile to your faith. You do it by the kind of life you live that reflects who you are in Christ.
In the Second Century Athenagoras wrote a letter to Diognetus (c. AD 120-200), which described the early Christians. He writes:
The difference between Christians and the rest of mankind is not a matter of nationality, or language, or customs. Christians do not live in separate cities of their own, speak any special dialect, not practice any eccentric way of life… They pass their lives in whatever township—Greek or foreign—each man's lot has determined; and conform to ordinary local usage in their clothing, diet, and other habits.
Nevertheless, the organization of their community does exhibit some features that are remarkable, and even surprising. For instance, though they are residents at home in their own countries, their behavior there is more like transients…
Though destiny has placed them here in the flesh, they do not live after the flesh; their days are passed on earth, but their citizenship is above in the heavens. They obey the prescribed laws, but in their own private lives they transcend the laws.
They show love to all men—and all men persecute them. They are misunderstood and condemned; yet by suffering death they are quickened into life. They are poor, yet making many rich, lacking all things, yet having all things in abundance… They repay [curses] with blessings, and abuse with courtesy. For the good they do, they suffer stripes as evildoers. (James Bryan Smith, The Good and Beautiful Community, IVP, 2010, pp. 28-29; www.PreachingToday.com)
These Second Century believers suffered much, but by the example of their lives, they turned their world upside down! Just a little more than a hundred years later, Christianity had reached the highest levels of government – the Emperor of Rome himself – and the world was never the same after that.
In the summer of 1805, a number of Native American chiefs and warriors met in council at Buffalo Creek, New York. They were there to hear Mr. Cran from the Boston Missionary Society present the Good news about Jesus. After the sermon, Red Jacket, one of the leading chiefs, responded. Among other things, the chief said:
“Brother, we are told that you have been preaching to the white people in this place. These people are our neighbors. We are acquainted with them. We will wait a little while and see what effect your preaching has upon them. If we find it does them good, makes them honest and less disposed to cheat Indians, we will then consider again of what you have said” (Warren Wiersbe).
Your life itself is a witness to a watching world, and they’re just waiting to see if Jesus makes a real difference in you.
If you want to overcome your fear of introducing people to Jesus, then just KNOW who you are and BE who you are. Know that you are part of God’s holy temple and that you belong to God’s special people, designed to be a living display of His greatness. Then LIVE that way. Live your life in such a way that even your accusers come to see Christ in you.
In his book Choose Love not Power, Tony Campolo writes about working with a young doctor by the name of Elias Santana. Campolo says:
This bright and dynamic Christian graduated from medical school (and was) living in the Chicago area. He could easily have earned a small fortune by setting up a medical practice that took care of middle-class Americans. Instead, Elias regularly traveled to Puerto Rico, where he performed surgery for those who had the money to pay high fees for his services. He then would return home and, with the money he had earned in Puerto Rico, buy medical supplies. He would then give out these supplies for free to the poor in the slums of Santo Domingo.”
One day Campolo went with this servant of God to one of the worst slums in the city. Campolo stood by throughout the day, watching Dr. Elias santana freely serve those who had no means to pay. He gave away expensive medicines to those who could not afford to buy them.
Then, In the evening, Elias climbed to the top of his truck and yelled for the people to gather around. He preached the gospel story and called people to surrender their lives to Christ. At the edge of the crowd, Campolo saw a young man named Socrates, the head of the Che Guevara Society, the leftist student organization in Santo Domingo. He knew Socrates to be a good-hearted person.
So he went over to Socrates, jokingly nudged him, and said, “Socrates! Elias is winning converts! If he keeps this up, he will sway this crowd to being Christian, and there will be nobody left for you to convert to (Marxism).”
Campolo says he will never forget Socrates’s answer, “What can I say? Elias Santana has earned the right to be heard.” (Tony Campolo, Choose Love Not Power, Baker Books, 2009, p. 20; www.PreachingToday.com)
You do the same. Earn the right to be heard. BE who you are in Christ, and reflect His love to a dark and broken world.