Did Jesus Go to Hell?
1 Peter 3.13-22
Dr. Jim Denison
Today’s message can be the shortest you’ve ever heard, or the longest. Here’s the short version: “Did Jesus go to hell? No.” We’re done, and we can all beat the Methodists to lunch.
If you’d like to know a little more about this incredible text, understand first that living out the truths of what you’ll hear today will require the rest of your life, making this the longest sermon you’ve ever heard. And one of the most important.
Let me explain.
Are you involved or committed?
Perhaps you heard about the Kamikaze pilot who flew 50 missions. It’s been said that he was involved, but not committed. Can this happen to Christians? To us?
The great preacher Arthur John Gossip described Christianity of 1924 this way: “We have all been inoculated with Christianity, and are never likely to take it seriously now! You put some of the virus of some dreadful illness into a man’s arm, and there is a little itchiness, some scratchiness, a slight discomfort—disagreeable, no doubt, but not the fever of the real disease, the turning and the tossing, and the ebbing strength. And we have all been inoculated with Christianity, more or less. We are on Christ’s side, and we wish him well, we hope that he will win, and we are even prepared to do something for him, provided, of course, that he is reasonable, and does not make too much of an upset among our cozy comforts and our customary ways. But there is not the passion of zeal, and the burning enthusiasm, and the eagerness of self-sacrifice, of the real faith that changes character and wins the world.”
What would Dr. Gossip say of north Dallas Christianity in 2001?
For much of my Christian life, I tried to live in two worlds. Perhaps you know what I mean. Church on Sunday, school or work on Monday. Sunday friends and Monday friends. Sunday priorities and Monday priorities. Sunday success and Monday success. Sunday spirituality and Monday secularity. Involved but not committed.
It’s a common lifestyle. Recent research indicates that self-described “born again” Christians are just as likely as non-Christians to buy a lottery ticket, to believe in horoscopes, to go to R-rated movies, or to experience a divorce. The same number of Christians as non-Christians believe that money is the main symbol of success in life, and that you can tell how successful a person is by examining what they own.
Apparently many of us know how to be involved while avoiding commitment. We know how to live in two worlds, and look like each of those worlds when we’re there.
But God wants Monday Christians. People who will live as fully for him tomorrow as we do today. God is calling for people who will make Jesus their Master, Boss, and Lord, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. How do we do this? And why should we? These are the two questions our text answers for us today.
Are you standing for God? (13-17)
First let’s learn how to move from involvement to commitment, then we’ll learn why we should. Measure yourself by four questions our text asks of us today.
First, are you passionate about your faith? (v. 13). Peter speaks of being “eager to do good.” His Greek is stronger than our English: “become zealots of the good.”
Are you that passionate about your faith? When was the last time you were truly excited about prayer and Bible study? The last time you were overjoyed to worship God? When did you last sacrifice your time or money for God with emotional enthusiasm for such privilege? How passionate is your faith today?
Second, are you willing to suffer for your Lord?
Verse 14 says, “Even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.” Verse 17 adds, “It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil” (v. 17).
Are you willing to do this? To stand for Jesus if your commitment costs you friends, or respect, or money? To give to Jesus of your time or abilities or finances at personal cost? When did you last suffer for your Lord? Will you?
Third, can you defend your faith?
The command of v. 15 is clear: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” “Always,” all the time, on Monday as well as Sunday. “Be prepared” is a present tense imperative, a command to be obeyed now. To “everyone,” regardless of the cost. A “reason” for your faith, meaning a reasonable explanation for what you believe and why.
Can you explain your faith to someone else? Can you tell them how you became a Christian, and why? Are you telling people? Who was the last person to hear about Jesus because of you?
Fourth, does your lifestyle glorify Jesus?
Words without lifestyle hurt more than they help. So Peter hastens to add, “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” (vs. 15-16).
“Gentleness” means to be controlled by the Holy Spirit; “respect” means to be gracious to the person who questions or challenges your faith. In all things, keep a “clear conscience,” living for God in every part of your life. Character is what you are when no one is looking.
And the result is that those who gossip or slander you for your faith will be ashamed of themselves, and Jesus will be glorified. So, does your lifestyle glorify Jesus? In the words of the old question, If you were put on trial for following Jesus, would there be enough evidence to convict you?
Will you be rewarded by God? (18-22)
Why should you be? Why not live in two worlds, getting along with your God on Sunday and your society on Monday? Why do whatever it takes to be passionate about your commitment, sacrificial for your Father, prepared to explain your faith, and godly with your life?