Summary: Hope is the opposite of despair; how can I "sanctify" Christ in my heart so I can defend the Gospel in this despair-filled world?

but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; 1 Peter 3: 15 (NRSVA)

Hope is the opposite of despair. Charles Swindoll tells the story of a missionary who was sitting by her second-story window when she was handed a letter from home. As she opened the letter a crisp, new, ten-dollar bill fell out. She was pleasantly surprised, but as she read the letter her eyes were distracted by the movement of a shabbily dressed stranger down below, leaning against a post in front of the building. She couldn’t get him off her mind. Thinking that his financial need might be in greater than hers, she slipped the $10 in an envelope and wrote on it DON’T DESPAIR! She threw it out the window. The stranger below picked it up, read it, looked up with a smile and tipped his hat as he went away.

The next day she was about to leave the house when a knock came at the door. She found the same shabbily dressed man smiling as he handed her a roll of bills. When she asked what they were for, he replied: "That’s the sixty bucks you won, lady. Don’t Despair paid five-to-one!¨ [1]

There are two commands, imperatives for the Christian believer in Peter’s words:

A. To sanctify Christ in your heart. Sanctify means to set something apart from the common thingsKgive it a priority. NASA has a "clean-room¨ approach to their space equipment environmentsKyou clean everything off before you get inside. This is the purity Peter is asking for; sanctifying is putting Jesus on the throne of your heart, with nothing else in sight.

B. To be ready to defend the faith. An apologia is not giving an excuse, but literally "answering back¨ when someone questions you about your faith in Christ. It means we are to be ready to engage the culture on behalf of Christ’s Gospel.

Obeying those commands requires more than understanding, or knowledge; it requires a decision and commitment to follow-through. In ancient Athens, birthplace of much of our democratic ways, every citizen was expected to join in the debates of state. Every Christian believer should be just as ready to defend the faith.

The question before the house this morning, then, is:

How do I sanctify Christ in my heart so I can give a good defense of His Gospel in this world?

The question is answered by addressing three related questions, beginning with a definition of the hope, understanding the destination of the hope, and then tackling the transformation by that hope.

What IS the Hope?

The "hope¨ that is within is the reality that Jesus did just exactly what the Bible says He didK [2]

He was God’s son,

He came to die for us and did, and

He rose from the dead and is coming again.

This is the Gospel; it is what places hope in our hearts when we trust that Jesus did that because we couldn’t do it for ourselves.

To choose that hope requires understanding of what is truly hope, and what masquerades as hope. The "major¨ religions of the world are full of false hope.

Islam, like Christianity, offers a paradise after this life, but it is a religion filled with hate.

Humanism and Atheism are "religions¨ that offer nothing past this life.

Buddhism, Hinduism and the New Age Religions offer love as a way to live, but generally present the afterlife as annihilation or absorption into some ethereal, nebulous existence like you are a droplet of water in an unending cloud.

Christianity is the faith that speaks of love as a way of life, and receiving love back from the God you serve. If you have any sense of faith in order in the universe, you know that we are created to be like that V to love and be loved. It is the only faith that gives hope, a purpose for existence.

So, the bottom line here is that, for me, it is either that the Gospel is true, or there is nothing that makes any human existence worth living. And the Gospel is true, and that explains then, this great hope of the Christian faith that lays beating in my heart! This leads us to the second great question about this hope:

Is "IT¨ (the hope) Really there, in my heart?

According to Scripture this is the easiest of questions, although it seems to give so many people a hard time. The hope is there if God put it there. If you believe in God, and trust that Christ did die for your sins, and you’re willing to turn away from those sins to Christ, the Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit places that hope within.

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