Creative Accounting

Published: Monday, 22 May 2017

This sermon is part of the biblical series in the first letter of Peter. It was delivered by Geoff Pound at ABC on 21st May 2017. The sermon manuscript is followed by questions for personal study and group discussion. (It is a short, textual sermon because we had a full service, including an interview on work in Malawi and this was followed by a Church Meeting and lunch.)

Scripture Reading: 1 Peter 3:13 - 22 creative accountingB GP

The American pastor, John Claypool, told about a significant experience in his development. As a 10 year old, one Sunday afternoon, he was playing in the backyard with his neighbour who was a new boy who’d lived in many countries of the world.

When John’s mother called him to come in his friend was upset because their play was disrupted. The boy from next door asked why John had to leave.

Without sensing he was walking into a landmine, John said, “I’ve got to go in and get dressed to go to church”. At the sound of that word his face darkened and he said, “Church. Do you believe in that stuff? My father says that anyone who thinks there is a God is just a plain fool.” 

John was absolutely flabbergasted. He’d been brought up in a Baptist church under the protectiveness of the Bible belt. He’d never heard words like this before. Here was a real live atheist in his own backyard!

So, in his panic he did what we humans usually do—he struck back in anger. He said, “Well, my father believes there is a God. I think your father is the one who is a fool.” And with that word of loving witness John went inside to get ready to go to church, to learn how to witness to pagans.

But something happened that afternoon that John couldn’t dismiss from his mind. Later that night he remembered thinking, “Here I am, believing that there is a God because my father says there is one, and here is my friend doing the same thing, only he is coming to the opposite conclusion”.

So, it began to dawn that there are many different beliefs and there had to be a better reason for one’s own religious convictions than the opinion of somebody else. So as of that night, John Claypool became a young man with questions.

“Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; 16 yet do it with gentleness and reverence.”

We’ve seen in our series in 1st Peter that his readers are suffering. They are maligned for their faith and treated as ‘aliens’ and ‘outsiders’. Peter encourages them to let their lives speak. Let your actions and attitudes speak eloquently for Christ.

But in today’s reading Peter recognises that there may be times when believers will be called to speak about their faith and this is his advice:

Don’t fear. (v14)

Don’t be intimidated. (v14) and we could add, ‘Don’t try and intimidate others’.

Don’t, like young John Claypool, go on the attack.

Sometimes they must have often felt they were in the lion’s den because doesn’t this sound like they were being hauled before the court?

“Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; 16 yet do it with gentleness and reverence.”

Always be ready to make your defense. Prepare like a lawyer.

Cases are won in chambers’, so let’s do our homework.

Learn to give your testimony—your story.

Present like an accountant as Peter says, “to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; 

What are you like at presenting a financial statement? Are you as good as our church Treasurer?

Can we speak winsomely about the benefits of your faith in the Profit column?

Can we speak with honesty about the costly items in the Loss column?

Can we present the themes of our faith truthfully and tantalizingly?

It can be hard to put our faith into words but let’s try to do some creative accounting like one pastor.[1]

He was on a plane out of Heathrow. He sat next to a woman and he said ‘Hullo’. She said: ‘Hello’.

And he said: “Where are you going?” and she said “I’m going to Singapore”.

She said: “Where are you going?” He said: “I’m going to Australia.”

He said: “What do you do” and she told him. Then she said: “What do you do?”

He said: “Well! I work for a global enterprise.”

She said ‘Do you?’

He said: “Yes I do. We’ve got outlets in just about every country of the world.”

She said: “Have you?”

He said: “Yes we have. We’ve got hospitals and hospices and homeless shelters.”

He said: “We do marriage work, we’ve got orphanages and feeding programmes, educational programmes.”

He said: “We do all kinds of justice and reconciliation work. Basically we look after people from birth to death and we deal in the area of behavioural alteration.”

She went: “Wow!”

She said: “What’s it called?”

He said: “It’s called the church. Have you heard of it?”

If we’re followers of Jesus, we may sometimes feel, lonely and under attack, yet we have a challenging and significant business.

We have a global mission. Let’s be proud that we’re a part of it.

Like a confident and persuasive barrister, let’s be prepared to tell our story.

Like an able accountant let’s give an accurate and attractive account.

“Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; 16 yet do it with gentleness and reverence.”

Prayer

Loving God,

We thank you for the guidance of Scripture, the encouragement to live out our faith with honesty, joy and love even in the midst of rejection.

As we’ve heard today stories from ancient Turkey and modern day Malawi, now enable us to be your people in this city and in all the many places where we will find ourselves this week.

Through the spirit of Jesus Christ,

Amen

Study Questions

“Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; 16 yet do it with gentleness and reverence.”

1.How frequently have you had the opportunity to speak about your faith in Jesus Christ?

“Always be ready…”

  1. What are the hallmarks of the witness you have heard from others that have attracted and inspired you?
  1. How ready are you to share your faith with others and even if you adapt it for the context and the hearer/s, what are the important themes of your witness/story?
  1. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you….

 One gets the idea from this verse that the context for such a witness is not always warm and welcoming. What does Peter say in verses 14 - 15a about what is needed in giving a word of witness in a hostile environment?

“…to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; 

Can we (like an articulate accountant) ‘speak winsomely about the benefits of our faith in the Profit column’?

  1. What are for you the major benefits of following Jesus?
  1. ‘Can we speak with honesty about the costly items in the Loss column?’

What are for you the costs and sacrifices (losses?) in following Jesus?

‘Can we present the themes of our faith truthfully and tantalizingly?’

  1. How can we best learn to do this?

16 “yet do it with gentleness and reverence.”

  1. Why are these qualities commended and are there any other qualities that you have found especially important as you have shared your faith?

Prayers

Turn what you have been discussing into prayers to God.

Pray for each other that we will have a sense of readiness and an expectation that God will use our words to commend Christ.

 

[1] Pastor J John, ‘How to explain what you do, when you’re a pastor’, TBN.