Let me start with a little quiz and see whether you can recognize these famous people.

Mystery prize… Who is this? Answer: Phua Chu Kang. Mr Bean. Homer Simpson. Alfred E. Neumann. Now here’s a question for you: “Suppose that your Christian fellowship is invited to a meeting with the King (Yang Dipertuan Agong) to discuss some very important matters. Who would you send as a representative? Why? Would you send any of these guys to represent CDPC at that meeting? Why or why not?” Because these f’lers are weird… They could be rude (PCK picks his nose in front of the king), annoying and inconsiderate (remember the time Mr Bean created havoc in a church?), so blur (“Doh!”), offensive or proud (“Best in Singapore, JB and some say even in Batam”?). We basically don’t want our representatives to be fumbling clowns. Because if they represent us, it would reflect badly on us and people think we look like that. But like it or not, we are already representatives of Christ in our family, in our classroom, among our friends… Whether we know it or not, we are ambassadors for Christ. We represent the King and His Kingdom in a fallen world to share good news and do good works. People will hear what we say and look at our behavior and think, “Oh, he’s a follower of Jesus. So His Master must be like that also lah”. We will either attract people to see God or distract people from seeing God. And that’s a very high calling… Who could live up to that? But the amazing thing is God in His mercy invites fumbling, blur and offensive sinners like us to join in His redemptive mission for the world. We don’t have to be perfect. But God doesn’t want us to stay that way either. He wants to transform us to continue growing to be ambassadors for Christ who are humble, honest, thoughtful and winsome. So with that in mind, let’s turn to the passage of Scripture for today in 1 Peter 3:13-16 “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened." 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.” Tradition has it that the apostle Peter was writing from Rome to a church that is going through persecution. So he told them, “Don’t repay evil with evil. When you are insulted, respond with blessing”. In a hostile environment, Christians are to seek to live in harmony with everyone else. Peter goes on to say, “If you are eager to do good to others, who is going to harm you? But… But even if you suffer for doing what is right, even if you are persecuted for no good reason, you are still blessed.”


So don’t be afraid of opposition. Don’t be scared and keep quiet about the gospel. But in your hearts, set apart Christ as Lord. Do not be frightened into silence because Jesus is King. He is the Lord. Get ready to speak up when people ask. The truth that Jesus is the sovereign Lord of all gives us a deep, solid hope even in the face of intense opposition… It gives us hope to press on in doing good... Because ultimately Jesus is Lord and therefore, Caesar is not. We don’t owe Caesar our ultimate allegiance. The cure against the fear of man is the confidence that Christ is on His throne. He is Lord of all or He is not Lord at all. Again, the mind-boggling thing is: You and I are called to be ambassadors of this King and His Kingdom. The only question is: What kind of ambassadors are we? So I would like to draw out three key characteristics of what an effective ambassador looks like from this passage of Scripture. 1) An ambassador has a firm conviction in the Lordship of Jesus In those days, the Roman Empire was actually quite a tolerant place to live in. There were plenty of religions around so the government doesn’t really care what or who you worship. But to make sure everybody understands that Caesar is the king and everybody must remain loyal to him, you are required to go the Roman Imperial Temple maybe once a year to burn incense at his altar and swear your allegiance to him, saying “Caesar is Lord! Caesar is Lord! (kyrios)”. And Caesar was given divine titles like ‘Lord’, ‘Savior’ or ‘Son of god’. That’s all you need to do once in a while. Then you can go on practicing whatever religion you like. You can worship anyone you like as long as you worship Caesar as Lord. Sounds simple, right? But to the early Christians, offering worship to anyone but God alone is idolatry. It is giving to a creature what truly belongs to the Creator. Only Jesus deserves our ultimate loyalty and our highest worship. In their hearts they set apart Christ as Lord. Kyrios Iesous Christos. Jesus Christ is Lord. For this reason, they were persecuted and some were killed. In Malaysia, we also live in a multicultural, multi-religious, pluralistic society. It’s not that different today. For many Malaysians, you can believe anything you want as long as you don’t believe that it’s true. “It’s okay if you say this religion is true for you, but it’s not true for me. We are very tolerant and inclusive people but we won’t tolerate and include your belief that Jesus is the way and the truth and the life and nobody comes to God but by Him. Because that’s so intolerant and exclusive. You can believe in Jesus but only if you don’t set Him apart as the one and only Lord.” This very common and popular belief is nicely captured in a story about six blind men and the elephant. Have you heard of this ancient story from India? Once upon a time, six blind men encountered an elephant for the first time. One guy put out his hand and touched the side of the elephant. "How smooth! An elephant is like a wall." The second guy touched the trunk of the elephant. "How round! An elephant is like a snake." The third guy touched the tusk of the elephant. "How sharp! An elephant is like a spear." The


fourth guy touched the leg of the elephant. "How tall! An elephant is like a tree." The fifth blind man reached out and touched the ear of the elephant. "How wide! An elephant is like a fan." And the last guy touched the tail of the elephant. "How thin! An elephant is like a rope." So the blind men began to argue amongst themselves. Each one thought that his own understanding of the elephant was correct. It was so loud that the Rajah or the king heard the commotion and came to them. "Stop fighting. The elephant is a big animal," he said. "Each of you touched only one small part. Let me tell you the whole truth. Actually, you are all experiencing only part of the same elephant." I like this story a lot. At first it sounds very humble and open minded because it says all religions are partly correct, they are all in touch with God. But what’s the problem with this story? If we look closer, our friend who tells this story is basically saying all religions are like the blind men touching different parts of God. The Buddhist is blind. The Muslim is blind. The Hindu is blind. The Christian is also blind. All of them are blind men. All of them didn’t get the whole truth. You see, our friend is actually making a very exclusive statement that no one else got it all correct except himself. If everyone else is blind, then who is he in the story? He is not one of the blind men. He’s not the elephant. He is actually claiming to be the all-knowing Rajah who sees the whole truth and reveals it to the blind men. Everyone else is blind except him! But how can you possibly know that when all of us are blind (including the storyteller)? If I am blind and you are blind, then how can you know what the elephant is really like? So this popular view commits suicide on its own logic. And the funny thing is, this story also contains an important truth. Because the only One who can see everything and know the complete truth is the King. It’s God Himself. No one else can do that. We are all limited and sinful creatures who can only see part of reality. There is nothing we can boast about because we are blind like everyone else groping around in the dark. We won’t know what the truth is like unless… unless the King has spoken. Unless the King who knows everything reveals Himself to us, reveals the truth and corrects our mistakes. And guess what, that is exactly what the gospel is all about. God has already revealed Himself in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ so we can know the truth. “I once was blind but now I see…” because God has revealed Himself personally in Christ. Therefore, in your hearts, set apart Christ as Lord. Jesus is not just one of many ways or one of many gods. He is the way, the truth and the life. 2) The ambassador for Christ has an informed mind, always ready to give a thoughtful answer to everyone who asks questions about our faith. The apostle Peter wrote: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” This command to be ready with an answer or apologia to seekers or skeptics who ask questions is for the whole church. It is not reserved for an elite group of scholars. All of us are called to be equipped to give our


friends a reason for the hope that we have in Christ. And this discipline of preparing ourselves with a thoughtful answer for tough questions asked by seekers or critics is called ‘apologetics’. Apologetics doesn’t mean we should be saying sorry or apologize all the time. We don’t go around saying: “I’m so sorry but God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life”. It doesn’t mean we are trying to defend God because God doesn’t need our puny defense, thank you very much. No, Apologetics is the art of giving our friends the reason for the hope we have. It is part and parcel of being an ambassador for Christ. Has anyone asked you this question before, “Why are you a Christian? Why do you believe in God?” How would you answer? Very often we give a ‘how’ answer to a ‘why’ question. It happens to me as well. People ask us “why?” and our answer is often about how we became a Christian. Why do you trust in Jesus as Lord?” “Oh well, let me tell you a story. 2 years ago, I met this nice friend in class and he invited me to a Christmas party in church. The food was fantastic, people were so friendly, the music was great, the speaker was so-so but he’s cute. Slowly I joined the Cell Group and now I’m a Christian-lah.” Do you think that’s a good answer? Because that is telling people the process of how you came to know Christ, it doesn’t really say anything about why you trust in Him. And if that’s all we say in our testimony, it sounds to our friends that our decision to follow Christ is by chance. It is a random accident. If you happen to meet a nice Muslim friend in class, and he brought you to a mosque, then you’d be a Muslim rite? It sounds a bit like peer pressure when we answer ‘how’ to a ‘why’ question. I’m not saying we cannot use testimonies. By all means, tell your story but take care to explain why Christ makes a difference in your life. Don’t just give the process. Give them the reason. So what is the reason we have hope? We do not have hope ultimately because God has blessed us with health and wealth, wonderful though they may be. The reason for our hope is ultimately Christ Himself. He is the reason for our hope. And any answer that does not flow from and flow to the cross, the life, death and resurrection of Christ will not ultimately be helpful to anyone. And in order to help our friends when they ask us questions, we obviously need to know something about what we really believe and why we believe the things we believe. If we are to represent the King in a foreign land, then we need to know who is this King? We need to find out at least something about what is it that He wants to say to these people, what has He done for them, what does He demand from them? What’s the agenda of His kingdom? Imagine you are playing computer games with your friend at a cybercafé one day and he turns around and ask, “Eh, what is the meaning in life, ar? The Bible got answer or not?” How would you answer? If you don’t know, never mind, go home, look it up in books, ask the pastors, do some research and get back to him. But if he asks the same question 2-


3 times, and your answer is always “Duh! I dunno” then it just shows that this is not important even to you so “why should I bother”? I was told that bank workers were trained to recognize counterfeit money not by studying the fake currency notes. Instead they were trained how to handle the genuine article. They know the real money by heart so well that whenever they touch a fake they will know it immediately. In the same way, we need to be prepared and get ready and equip ourselves with the truth. Immerse ourselves in the Word. Then we’d be able to recognize the counterfeit when we see it. The best part is this: Equipping ourselves with biblical truth is not as hard as we may think. Canaanland, Evangel and SUFES bookstores have a whole range of books on apologetics. Do make use of it and let’s learn and practice together. If you want more details, let me know and we can discuss more. But what are the benefits of doing apologetics? Isn’t it just arguing with people? That’s not my cup of tea. Anyway only the Holy Spirit could touch a person’s heart to believe, not our arguments, right? So what’s the use of reason? To be sure, apologetics is not a competitor or substitute to God’s work of opening a person’s heart. But it can be an important way through which the Holy Spirit could use to open their hearts to the gospel. They work hand in hand. It’s like the ministry of transportation, bringing someone to a ‘physical place’ where they can hear the gospel. In the same way, apologetics bring someone nearer to a mental space where they can understand clearly the gospel by removing barriers or obstacles that prevent people from coming to faith. Sometimes, some friends ask me, “David, I have a brother or boyfriend who is a hardcore atheist. Can you come and talk to him?” I love listening to how others see life and think about God and the prospect of free dinner sounds irresistible, so I’d say, “Sure, let’s meet up and have a chat”. And soon enough, I found out that not everyone who asks questions do so out of stubborn unbelief. Sometimes people ask questions because they are serious about the truth. They often have some really good questions that prevent them from coming to Christ like “I think Christians are so nice people but how can you believe that Jesus is the only way? We are all blind men touching the elephant, right?” So giving a reason for our hope helps to remove these barriers to faith. And when people don’t agree with us, it’s ok to relax … There’s no need to be defensive or angry because only the Holy Spirit could touch a person’s heart to believe, it is not up to how good we are in debating. In our conversations, I see our job is mainly to be witnesses. Our job is not to be judges of their hearts. We patiently build trust, walk along with them in their journey, carefully questioning their wrong assumptions and allowing room for God to work in them. Sometimes all we need to do is to plant a seed and that’s ok… just leave him with something to ponder and think about… sometimes it takes years


so don’t feel pressured that you must get to the sinner’s prayer and close the deal every single time… because somewhere down the road another person will come along and water it… another person will plow the ground… another person will reap the harvest… It’s a community project. One conversation at a time. Ultimately it is God who causes the seed to grow and bear fruit. So apologetics and dependence on the Holy Spirit work hand-in-hand together. Another benefit of apologetics is that it helps us to compare and test other religious claims. Especially in Malaysia where we live in a multi-religious society, there are many ways of answering the big questions in life – Where do we come from? Who am I? Why on earth am I here for? Where am I going? These are big questions that every thinking person asks at some point in their life. Apologetics help us to show how biblical answers for our origin, our identity, our meaning in life and final destiny are much more compelling and satisfying than all the alternatives out there. Not only that, apologetics also helps in giving our friends some powerful clues or positive evidences for why we believe that God exists, that Jesus resurrected from the grave and that the Bible is God’s word. These beliefs are firmly grounded in facts and history. They are not superstition. Some people are Christians because it makes them happy, it looks cool, because a boy or girl in church is cute. But it won’t last. The kind of faith that endures and transforms is faith that is based on conviction… not because it feels cool, but because it is true… And because it is true, it radically changes our priorities and goals in life. So be prepared, be ready with a meaningful answer for those who ask us questions. 3) The third characteristic of the ambassador for Christ is he or she has a winsome and attractive character. Peter says “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”

Do you know of people who can win arguments but lose the soul they are trying to reach? They can debate like champions but offend everybody with a rude, proud, know-it-all attitude. People are just put off. But good ambassadors for Christ are humble, gentle or respectful to others. They speak the truth but they speak the truth in LOVE, with gentleness and respect to those who may disagree. There is a patient, attractive and winsome character because the ultimate apologetics is love. When people see in our lives compassion for the weak and needy, forgiveness to those who persecute and slander us, it will raise profound questions for our friends “Why are they so different? What is the reason they behave like that?” The ambassador is sensitive to the real concern behind the question. Sometimes when people ask “How can God be fair when there is so much suffering in the world?” they may or may not want a philosophical answer that God gave us freewill or there is a greater meaning for suffering. There may be underlying reasons behind the question: Maybe because they are suffering personally and the question is really asking for our 6

understanding, our presence or a shoulder to cry on. Be a good listener and try to find out the question behind the question. Sometimes we may have the facts, and our motive is good (we mean well) but we don’t say it in a way that people can understand. Or we say it in a way that people easily misunderstands. There is a saying: “It is not what you say, but HOW you say it that makes or breaks the case”. I’m not talking about packaging or some marketing tricks. It is about effective communication. The gospel message is eternal, unchanging but the ambassador learns how to gently adjust his method depending on the person/situation so the gospel is heard in a clear and compelling way. For example, we need to be careful of Christian jargons or lingo that we use. It makes perfect sense to believers but doesn’t mean anything or worse, it means the wrong thing to someone who is not a believer. Like, “You need to be washed in the blood of the Lamb”? Huh? Sounds scary… “You need to be justified, sanctified and mortified before you can be glorified”. Is there a way to rephrase that in a lingo your friends understand? Last but not least, don’t be an answering machine. Sometimes we think we must always be the one giving all the answers. But if you look at Jesus, He very often answers a question with another question. Question: Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? Response: Why do you call me good? Only God is good. Question: Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Response: Whose picture is on the coin? Question: On what ground shall divorce be permitted? Response: What did Moses command you? Question: By what authority do you do these things? Response: Answer me this – by what authority did John the Baptist do what he did? Questions and more questions… But why did Jesus do that? Is it because he doesn’t know the answer? No. Because questions are very powerful stuffs… Questions can open up hidden assumptions: Many people say, “I can’t believe in Jesus without being 100% sure that it’s true.” The hidden assumption is I need 100% certainty before believing in anything. So I asked, “But what decision have you ever made in life based on 100% certainty? Cross the street. By asking this question I hope to show that it is unreasonable to demand that kind of certainty when making any choice.” Questions help us gather more information and clarify someone’s beliefs (ie Hinduism). Then, if he is polite, you get to share your own views later. Conversation: Not so preachy.


Questions can expose the heart issues or logical problems in a person’s views “There is no truth.” “Really? Is that true? Is that absolutely true?” “You can’t be sure of anything when it comes to God”. “Oh. Are you sure about that?” Learn the right answers but also learn to ask right questions. Some time back I came across an article called “The Theology of Calvin and Hobbes” by a guy called Fred Sanders that talks about what we can learn about communicating the gospel from it. Many people love to read Calvin and Hobbes. This successful comic strip appeared in the newspapers from 1985 until 1995. Thousands of people enjoy its cleaver and sometimes dry humor, its beautiful drawings, the heartwarming friendship between a boy and his imaginary tiger friend, and how it quickens us to think of profound questions about truth and life. But have you ever wondered why you can find Snoopy mugs, Garfield T shirts, Mickey Mouse shoes but it is very hard to find or buy legal Calvin and Hobbes merchandise? If you have a Calvin and Hobbes T shirt at home, it’s probably a fake/ciplak one because Bill Watterson its creator refused to let others exploit Calvin and Hobbes by making products out of it. Why did he do that? Is he crazy? He could make tonnes of money if he just say yes and do nothing. The reason he said ‘No’ was because he believed licensing Calvin and Hobbes will cheapen and destroy the spirit and integrity of this work of art. You may say, “Come on lah, Bill… It’s just a comic strip”. But he explains – yes, it’s easy to transfer the essence of a simple funny comic strip from the newspaper page to a t-shirt, a mug, a greeting card, and so on. The joke reads the same no matter what it’s printed on. Nothing is lost.But Calvin and Hobbes works differently. It has a funny punchline but the strip is about more than that. The humor is found in a context, a particular situation, and it often works based on a series of episodes (part 1, part 2, etc). It relies on conversation and the development of personalities and relationships between the characters. He says, “These aren’t concerns you can wrap up neatly in a clever little saying for people to send each other or to hang up on their walls. To explore character, you need lots of time and space. Note pads and coffee mugs just aren’t appropriate vehicles for what I’m trying to do here. I’m not interested in removing all the subtlety from my work to condense it for a product. The strip is about more than jokes… I have no aversion to obscene wealth, but that’s not my motivation either. I think to license Calvin and Hobbes would ruin the most precious qualities of my strip and, once that happens, you can’t buy those qualities back.”When I hear that, I really admire his courage to stick to his principles. Here is an artist who understands his work so well and will not compromise the integrity and complexity of his message when he knows that the wrong kind of medium will distort the message. So what can we Christians learn from Calvin & Hobbes? Fred Sanders suggest, “If the subtle message of Calvin and Hobbes doesn’t fit on t-shirts, bumper stickers, and mugs, then it seems unlikely that the message of the Christ does. That the almighty and entirely holy God would undertake the costly work of reconciling sinners to himself - that one of 8

the Trinity died on the cross for us and our salvation - that the Spirit would be poured out and dwell in a created temple without consuming it - who is sufficient for these things?” Is it possible to condense this glorious gospel in a bumper sticker? Maybe you have seen bumper stickers or T-shirts that say, “Honk if you love Jesus!” or “Jesus is the answer!” (Maybe you have one in your car) Yes, Jesus is the answer but what is the question? We need first to listen and learn, “What are the questions asked by this generation? (or fellow Malaysians)” We need to be careful of the medium that carries our message. The good thing about slogans like that is it’s short and catchy, but the problem with slogans is that it’s so vague and can de-sensitize people from the real gospel. We need to be careful. If that is true, what medium is suitable to communicate the gospel of Christ? “The only appropriate media for communicating the gospel are lives and words.Christians have to wrap themselves up in the good news of Jesus Christ, live that mystery together in the fellowship of the church, and give the world something worth seeing. And they have to explain it in the form of sound doctrine, explaining biblical truth, making the message clear as only words can. There is a strong temptation these days to seek refuge in the claim that “my life is my testimony,” as if preaching is replaced. But the gospel is wordy, just as it is lifey. It just isn’t very bumper stickery." (Fred Sanders) Let me leave you with a Final thought: The Gospel is offensive enough because it deals with idols/sins/habits in people’s hearts and in our own hearts. We dare not make it any easier by watering down the Gospel. In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. At the same time, don’t add any more offense to it. Don’t make it harder than it already is. We need to communicate the gospel clearly, lovingly and compellingly by being thoughtful, informed, honest and humble ambassadors for Christ. We embody the gospel with our lives and declare the gospel with our words. We need to show the world a community worth seeing and a faith worth thinking about.