Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: to live out sensitive, relevant evangelism, “with gentleness and respect” I Peter 3:15

Bumper Stickers I have seen: Icthus, Honk if you love Jesus, In Case of Rapture this Car will be Unmanned, God is my Co-Pilot, Get Right or Get Left, Turn or Burn, My Pastor Deserves a Raise

o I have a problem with some of this. For starters I just don’t care for bumper stickers. But you didn’t come to church to hear my personal preferences preached from the pulpit did you?

o Don’t get me wrong, I think some bumper stickers are just fine, but here is my concern—for far too many Christians today, their bumper is the only outward sign that might indicate they belong to Christ.

I have a problem with bumper sticker Christianity. The attitude that says, I am not sure I am brave enough to tell my neighbors about what Jesus has done in me when they ask, but I am willing to paste a trite message on my bumper. Again, if you have a bumper sticker this morning, I am not singling you out as much as I am the attitude that some have toward evangelism.

What do I mean? Bumper Sticker Christianity has some problems:

1. Evangelical failure—some say it is a silent witness to my faith, and indeed it is. But let me ask you this morning, have you ever heard of anyone coming to Christ because they read a bumper sticker?

Earlier this summer, Melody and I visited my parents in Florida. And on the causeway, everyday there was a converted VW bus covered in Christian bumper stickers. It had a huge hand-painted sign that said “Prayer Station” with a few folding chairs. And I thought to myself: at least they are out there. But we drove by them at least 10-15 times at all different times of the day, and there was never anyone who took advantage of the opportunity. There were lots of people on the causeway, but no one was stopping.

Unless you and I step it up a notch, and begin to engage others around us, our church will be a nice homey place where no one ever gets saved because no one ever got invited because at least we pasted on our sticker. If putting a bumper sticker on our car is the only evangelical thing we do, our mission is not completed. Shame on us. But we can learn from that VW bus. As odd as it was, at least they were trying to engage people.

2. More concern with proclaiming how right we are than loving people. Don’t get me wrong, we have the truth, and we do need to share it. What are we trying to do? Paul met the intellectuals on Mars Hill and showed them the truth of the gospel. He didn’t take pot shots at them as he walked through town—he engaged them—had enough respect and concern for them to share the truth of God’s Word.

Are you more concerned with winning moral arguments with co-workers, or are you gently standing up for God’s positions, but not being drawn into useless squabbles? What is the point unless we are doing all we can to draw them to Christ right?

3. Bumper sticker Christianity does not prepare us to give an answer for the hope we have in Christ. Too many believers functionally live in this place that says I go to church; I am doing the best that I can with God. I know I am supposed to share what God has done in me—so what if it is only on my bumper? I guess that’s probably enough--all I can do. Really?

Our theme verse for this series is I Peter 3:15 “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.”

We have talked in this series that being ready to share the hope that we have in Christ means many things.

o It means that we have to be on our toes spiritually.

o It means we have to have ethics in the workplace, at school.

o That our word need to mean something

o That we have to not lean on the legalisms of the past

o That we watch our drift toward sin

o That we keep in step with the Spirit—when you and I do this, our lives remain on target

Today I want us to look at this passage in I Peter 3, particularly at the end of it. Peter says be prepared to give an answer about the hope you have in Christ, “with gentleness and respect”.

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