Defending Our Faith, Part 3

“Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;” – 1 Peter 1:13

As the Apostle Peter was well aware that spiritual warfare is carried out largely in the battlefield of the mind, which is connected to the heart, he wisely calls God’s people to manage both well by girding up the loins of our minds, to get and keep our minds ready for action. As the runner and warrior would gather in their loose garments to run and fight respectively, Peter calls us to gather in our minds and affections and not allow them to be loose and neglected so that we are ready and active in obedience. He also calls us to be sober, or alert and watchful. Peter calls us to have a keen eye against all spiritual dangers and enemies. For it’s when we are in a mental and spiritual stupor that we’re more vulnerable to lures and snares. When we’re in such a stupor, we’re more vulnerable to the attacks of Satan as he roams and roars, seeking whom he may devour. (1 Peter 5:8) When we’re in such a stupor, we’re vulnerable to be worn down and fall down in the face of challenge from other worldviews and false gospels.

Last week, we considered Peter’s instruction regarding the reality of the hope we have within us being a living hope. It is a lively and quickening hope that is grounded in the strong foundation of Christ’s resurrection. In 1 Peter 1:13, notice that our hope is to be one that is fully rested on the grace of Jesus Christ manifest at His return. Beloved, we have complete trust in Christ and the grace that is offered to us in the Gospel. Again, this is a wonderful hope that encourages, comforts, and helps us in the defense of our faith now!

As we walk and talk with those the Lord connects us with, may we be mindful of another way in which our defense must be conducted – with meekness and fear (1 Peter 3:15). We must defend our faith with gentleness and respect. We do so in the fear of God, knowing that we’ll have kind conversation with some, and others may respond to our words by reviling or mocking us. Yet, though there are times and occasions to go on the offensive “pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God” (2 Cor. 10:4-5), we need to be mindful to not return attack with attack. Our defense of the hope that we have in Christ must be done with a winsome focus, desiring to persuade them by the grace and work of God. It must be done with respect and good conscience. (1 Peter 3:16a)

Why must this be true? Peter says, “that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed” (v.17). For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” (1 Peter 3:16b-17) Thinking about this, we all know that the Christian life gets harder, rather than easier. When we’re defamed and reviled, especially when that happens to our face, retaliation in response can be a strong, tempting reaction. This is exactly why Peter says what he says here! We need the grace and help of Spirit in bearing the fruit of self-control and gentleness in the midst of persecution. Remembering what is true of mockers’ hearts and minds, of the bondage they are in, will help us not be shocked, respond well, and maintain gentleness. Doing so will help keep the hairs on the back of our necks calmer, and our thoughts and emotions from becoming mental and verbal fists. By grace, we’ll be moved to pray for them and their salvation, and God’s using us as instruments of grace to them.

Take Peter’s words regarding failure in having “good conduct in Christ” to heart. If we retaliate, if we return evil for evil, this isn’t pleasing to Christ. Our conduct doesn’t show that the accusations against us are unfounded, if we do so. Our defense wasn’t carried out in a Christ-like way. Those who defamed and/or reviled us won’t be ashamed. We did evil, rather than good. Yet, Peter says if it’s God’s will that it happen, it’s better to suffer for doing good and our faith. Never forget that unjust suffering is within the providence of God. We don’t pray for suffering, but we pray for His grace to endure that which He has ordained, knowing it’s for our good and His glory. “Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:19).