Alfred Place Baptist Church

6:15 The sandals of peace

Ephesians 6:15 “and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.”

What the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, has done is to have achieved peace with God. This is what the Bible affirms in many places, for example, in Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is something every Christian possesses. Paul joins himself in solidarity with the entire Roman congregation of believing men and women, slaves and free, the illiterate and the poets; he assures them, “All of us now have peace with God and it’s through our Lord Jesus.” It wasn’t because of Paul’s blameless Christian living and years of self-denying service that he had peace with God. It was only because of the life and death of the Lord Jesus. The Son had propitiated the wrath of God which is revealed from heaven against our ungodly and unrighteous lives, and he has done this by taking our sin and dying under the judgment of God upon the cross. Think of the Saviour’s scorn of the Pharisees; how he warned them, “Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites.” He was so angry with the way they heaped burdens on the lives of poor people while giving them no energy to carry those burdens. There was no peace between Jesus and those wolves. They were under his condemnation. Or think of the greedy thieves who had cornered the market for selling animals and exchanging money in the precincts of the Jerusalem temple – a very lucrative business with lots of payoffs to Sadducees and the high priest’s family. These crooks were stealing from religious people who were making sacrifice for their sin and worshipping the God of grace. There was no peace in the attitude of our Lord towards them; Jesus made a whip of cords and drove them out of the temple upsetting their tables. God is angry with the wicked every day. He looks at the child being abused by a man and he is utterly indignant. He looks at the torturer and the wife-beater and the cheat and the murderer and the Lord blazes in his wrath towards them. He is no evil indifferent Buddha. God is light and in him is no darkness at all.

But we are not interested in God’s judgment hanging over others but over our lives, for what we have done and said and thought and not done. Remember how a certain cheating, greedy tax-collector working for the Roman-occupying power was crushed by his own sin. He went to the Temple to pray but there he couldn’t look up to God. He looked DOWN at the dirt and he struck his own chest; “God be merciful to me a sinner.” Here is a man conscious that there was no peace between him and the Holy One of Israel. So what did he do? The only thing left for him to do, he cast himself on the mercy of God; he confessed his sin to God; he asked for forgiveness. The gospel tells us that all men are invited to do that because the Son of God has borne our sins on Golgotha . He has taken responsibility for all our guilt and answered God’s demands in his own body by his life and death, and God is totally and completely satisfied to look on Jesus and pardon us. His anger towards us has been replaced by peace. He now loves us with the same love with which he loves his own Son, because he sees us in his Son, clothed with the righteousness of his Son, as blameless as his Son, as lovely in his eyes as his own dear Son. There is peace with God though the achievement of Jesus Christ alone. That is the message of Christianity. You can know the peace of God and the love of God though your sins are uncountable. But you must face up to that guilt. You mustn’t play games with God pretending everything is fine and that your sins have only been little pink sins and that “it doesn’t matter to God how men live, and that it’s his job to forgive us.” It is not like that with you. It is not like that with anyone. It has never been like that nor ever will be. Your sins are as red as scarlet when the thrice holy God looks at them. The very angels hide their eyes in his presence, but you were born in sin and shapen in iniquity. You’ve never done anything wholly free from sin, and while you are rejecting the Son of God you will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on you (Jn. 3:36). Your only hope is to cry mightily to God. He may hear you today. He may give you assurance of his forgiveness today. But there is certainly no peace with God without Jesus Christ. Look to him! Pray the publican’s prayer until you know you’ve been forgiven, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”

So this is the peace that our verse is talking about. It is not our feelings of peace but the good news of peace with God through Jesus Christ for every sinner who trust in him. That is the message of the gospel; “there is peace for you brother, and peace for you sister; there is peace for the vilest offender; there is peace for the chief of sinners as long as they confess their sin and cast themselves on the mercy of God. Come from the war-zone of your daily life; come from the tension and guilt of not doing what you ought to do, and doing what you should not be doing. Find peace with God through the person and work of his beloved Son, Jesus Christ. Cast yourself on the merits of Jesus the great peace-offering.” That is the message of the Christian soldier. That is the gospel of peace.

The late James Montgomery Boice of Philadelphia was born the same year as myself, and I was always impressed with this pastor’s disciplined life and great achievements. I would always buy his books of sermons if he has written on something I’m preaching on. He has a set of sermons on Ephesians and his judgment is that, “The most awkward phrase in this list of the Christian’s armour is the one about feet: ‘with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.’” Why is it complicated? To begin there is no mention of the specific piece of armour. Everyone accepts that Paul is thinking of the caliga, the half boot of the Roman legionary. It was made of leather; it left the toes exposed; it had thick studded soles and was tied to the ankles and shins with straps. With these boots the legionary marched from Rome to Wales and stood solidly on them while engaged in warfare with the ancient Brits! Shoes have to be fitted individually on the feet of soldiers. One style, officially issued, and provided by the powers that be – your own trainers or loafers are strictly forbidden – but the sandals are all different sizes and get creased and worn in different ways. You understand the analogy? There is one gospel of peace with God through Jesus Christ. One only-begotten Son of God; one Mediator with God, the man Christ Jesus; one name under heaven given amongst men whereby we must be saved; one way, truth and life; no man comes to the Father but by him alone. So there is only one gospel boot for every Christian to put on, but all of us are different personalities with different gifts. We have come to God from different backgrounds at different times in our lives. When I look at a congregation I don’t see a page of postage stamps, rows of identical people all looking back at me. Everyone is different, but no one may say, “Well. I think of the gospel like this . . .” The Christian gospel has been defined for us once and for all in the Bible and we have to adjust and shape ourselves to receive and serve it. Our feet are ‘fitted’ with one style of gospel boots, but each one of is different, with different gifts and abilities.

So what is this “readiness” that Paul speaks of here? You notice that the apostle doesn’t urge us to “put on the shoes of peace.” It is more interesting than that. We are being urged to be fitted with “the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” You see advertisements for perfume or clothes and they suggest that you will possess a poise if you put on this product. It is not just a garment you are wearing but confidence and style, so that you enter a room wearing this and people’s heads will turn and you will be surrounded by fascinating people. That is the gimmick of the advertiser to encourage you to purchase his product. Paul is not selling us anything here; these are not Nike half-boots, but he is telling us that receiving this gospel of peace as your gospel gives you the only foundation for a successful life as a Christian. It will make you ready for the challenges and opportunities in this fascinating pilgrimage of being a Christian. You will be fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. Now what does he mean by this?

i] GOSPEL SHOES MAKE US STEADFAST.

These Roman soldiers’ shoes helped them to grip the ground when they fought. So the Christian too must have stability; you have a foundation of peace with God through the Lord Jesus on which to build your entire life. The hymnist Edward Mote affirms that truth in these familiar words,

“His oath, His covenant and His blood,
Support me in the ‘whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.”

Men without God are facing the quicksands of life without any stepping stones. You take away Christ and on what foundation are you going to erect your life? Remove this infallible teacher and this Lamb of God who has made atonement, and this Good Shepherd who protects and keeps us – man, you are on your own. We live in the midst of a people who are all on their own in deciding what to do in life; how they should live; what is the good life; what is death and what lies beyond. They have no external foundation on which to erect a life. They have built on their own feelings and ideas. Friedrich Nietzche has had enormous influence over European though during the last century. He was a fierce anti-Christian philosopher who died over a hundred years ago but a fascinating thing about him was that he mocked the bourgeoisie who said they were giving up faith in Jesus Christ but planned still to live a moral life without him. He made this observation, “When one gives up Christian belief one thereby deprives oneself of the right to Christian morality . . . Christianity is a system, a consistently thought out and complete view of things. If one removes from it a fundamental idea, the belief in God, one thereby breaks the whole thing to pieces: one has nothing of any consequence left in one’s hands.” Let’s compare it to cutting a segment out of a ball; one isn’t left with a 90 per cent ball, one has nothing of any consequence left in one’s hands. If you abandon the Christian God you abandon the right to Christian ethics. If you reject the Christian view of Christ then you must reject the Christian view of man. Everything is relative. Everything become pick’n’mix and you alone arbitrate in what you choose. You yourself are the ultimate authority for truth and error, right and wrong. You decide; you are the ultimate boss. Bertrand Russell, for example, argued that Hitler was wrong to murder six million Jews, ‘by my own feelings.’ That is the only foundation he had.

There is a man called Peter Singer who is a passionate advocate for anti-discrimination, even against animals discrimination is wrong, so he said. To favour your child over your pet is to be guilty of what he calls ‘speciesism’. In other words he says that for him there is no real distinction between a human being and a rabbit. He argues that until the baby is 28 days old parents should have a life or death choice over their new baby. It has no inherent right to life. Yet Peter Singer could not live with his own philosophy. When his own mother came down with dementia he began sinking into the quicksands of relativism; he refused to consider euthanasia for her. He couldn’t say, “Give her the lethal dose.” You shoot a horse with a broken leg, don’t you? But a woman made in the image and likeness of Almighty God . . .?

God has given us some fine stepping stones through the quicksands of life. The first is that God is, and that he is love and that he grips this world and so our lives have a purpose. Another is that he has spoken to us by prophets and apostles and his Son so we know his mind. Another is that God has told his creatures what is right and wrong; he has told us how we should live in ten great stepping stones. There are more; he has told us what he has done through his Son Jesus Christ to make us right and that we need to entrust ourselves to him. There is no need for any of us to sink. There is another great stepping stone; he has put the Spirit of truth within us, and so with what he has given us in his wise law, and what we have within our hearts in a biblically enlightened conscience it is like having a permanent personal foundation to stand on day by day. I go to work and face all the moral dilemmas of relationships with other people, and there are moments when I feel out of my depth. I am going under, but no, God gives me a foundation; it is the sandals of the gospel of peace, on which I can stand secure day by day. You can stand your ground. You have a wonderfully strong but maneuverable and flexible foundation.

In Pilgrim’s Progress Part II Christian’s wife and children set off after him to go to the Celestial City and one of the first obstacles they meet was the same one he met, the Slough of Despond. Bunyan is saying, “Don’t be surprised if early on in your Christian life you hit a bout of discouragement – you are in the quicksands” But unlike Christian his wife and children all cross it safely with few struggles. How was that? They looked out for the stepping stones that were always there. What were they? The promises of God and these new Christians stepped on each of them. They were saved from spiritual discouragement and depression by trusting in God’s written promises.
A mother had a problem one day as her youngest son asked if he could go to the pictures with some friends. “I’d rather you didn’t,” his mother told him “Oooh! Why not?” he asked. She explained to him that it was a film in which occult practices were made to seem both fun and right. She said, “Even though you and your friends know it’s fiction, the story and the images are suggesting that you can win in life by using occult rituals to get supernatural power. I’m not happy with that; you know the Bible tell us occultism is evil, it also shows how it destroys people.” She read him some verses from Deuteronomy 18:9-13.
He said earnestly to her, “But I’ll put on the armour,” and she loved him, but she said, “It won’t help. When you go somewhere that you shouldn’t, you disobey God and you lose the breastplate of righteousness. You’re never safe going to a place Jesus wouldn’t want you to go.” David got the message and he stayed home happily his mother having explained things to him. They all went to see the Narnia Chronicles later on. David knew that by himself he was no match for occult forces. That family had a foundation; they were steadfast because they were wearing the sandals of gospel peace.

ii] GOSPEL SHOES MAKE US ABOUNDING IN GOD’S WORK.

You wear these boots of the gospel of peace and then you can advance like a regiment going into battle. The hymnist puts it like this: “Like a mighty army moves the church of God .” You see it throughout the 20th century wherever this gospel has been preached. It is filling the continent of Africa, and Korea has been transformed by it so that they are sending out preachers all over the world. Brazil ’s evangelicalism has spread everywhere in that vast nation. Islam is so afraid at the sight of this that it punishes mercilessly any Muslims who fall in love with Jesus Christ. The most stringent penalties forbid the spread of the Christian message in states where Islam is in the majority. Everywhere I look in the evangelical world I see a mobile people abounding in God’s work. I see gospel pulpits everywhere in Britain preaching Christ; I see publishing houses and magazines; I see camps and conferences; the only form of vibrant Christian witness in the universities is the UCCF. I see Christian book shops; I see missionaries going out from the UK all over the world. There is dynamism and liveliness.

But if you neglect the gospel of peace then there is no good news to tell anyone. There is declension and death. Modernism has produced no evangelists and just a few politically religious orators like Lord Soper and Bishop Tutu. It has presided over the emptying of the churches and the closing down of theological colleges. It has no sandals of peace. It is going nowhere. It is humanism using religious language. But the Christian who is shod with these beautiful sandals is on the move. I see young couples who met here who today are serving the Lord in a hundred churches all over the world. I see them still excited about what the gospel does. I get their family letters at Christmas time and they speak of their involvement and support of their churches and their children’s commitment to them.

There is an abundance in the work of the Lord if you have this foundation of the gospel of peace, and it is absolutely essential. If we are going to be successful in our evangelistic outreach we not only have to watch for the enemy, we have to be ready to counter his every move, to thrust and parry and overcome him where he is, not where we think he should be. Dr. Lloyd-Jones is helpful here as he says, “This whole notion of readiness, quickness, watchfulness, mobility is inherent in the image and picture which is employed here by the Apostle. In other words, I am emphasizing the importance of tactics. I am not so much dealing with strategy as with tactics. It is just in this realm that this whole matter of mobility is of first importance.

“What then is the spiritual application? The point, clearly, is that we must not be slow, we must not be heavy-footed, there must be no dragging of the feet. There is nothing which is so fatal to successful progress as a sluggish, lifeless Christian. Ask the average man in the street why he doesn’t come to a place of worship, why he is not a Christian, and you will find that the answer he is most likely to give you is that it is all so dull, and so dead. He says there is nothing in it, no life. And of course there is much to justify what he says. You have but to compare and contrast a typical sample of worldly people with a typical sample of Christian people to see the basis on which he makes his statement. Look at the enthusiasm and the vitality of people who watch the football on Saturday afternoon in the winter, or the people who go to the races. Listen to the shouting and the excitement! Look at those people who go after their sports or whatever they are interested in! They want to be there in time, they want the best seats, and they want the sport to go on and on, and are disappointed when it finishes. Contrast that with Christian people who seem to think they are doing something wonderful by going to a place of worship on a Sunday morning. They are not quite sure whether they will go or not when they wake up in the morning, but at last, as a matter of duty, they decide they will go — hoping the service will not be too long. Isn’t that the position?

“Do we give the impression when we come to our places of worship that we are doing the most wonderful and thrilling thing in the world? Are we alive, are we rejoicing? How do we compare with these other people? A staid, lifeless Christian is a denial, in many respects, of the Gospel at its most glorious point. To be heavy-footed, slow-moving, lethargic, having to be whipped up and roused constantly, and urged to do this and that instead of running to it, and rejoicing in it, is a sad misrepresentation of Christianity.

When I speak of the biblical gospel which our fathers held – going right back to the apostles themselves – this divinely revealed truth – I am not pleading for old-fashioned language. I am not pleading for old hymns; I plead for grand hymns, old and new. I don’t mind singing hymns written in the 20th century to tunes written in the 21st century. I don’t use old-fashioned language in preaching. I am mobile enough, or my gospel is mobile enough to include references to rap music and Nietzsche and children going to the cinema and the temptations of the occult. In other words I apply the eternal truths, and use them, in a manner that is quite up-to-date. Of course I deplore trendiness and gimmicks and the devices of the flesh. The New Testament tells us we are to approach God with reverence and godly fear for our God is a consuming fire. Our God! I enjoyed reading these words of Dr. Lloyd-Jones on this very text. This is what he said: “Forgive a personal reference. I am going to do what the Apostle did in the eleventh chapter of his Second Epistle to the Corinthians. I am going to be a fool, and to say something about myself. I remember how, in the very first year when I began to preach, I was preaching in a service with an old preacher who was over eighty years of age. Having listened to my feeble effort, and having heard me for the first time, the old man made this comment which encouraged me very greatly. He said, ‘Though you are a young man you are preaching the old truths I have been trying to preach all my life’. He went on, ‘You are preaching the old truths, but you have put a very modern suit on them’. That is what I am trying to say. We need the old truths in a modern suit. You must not clothe them in the old staid terminology or manner or method that was appropriate in the past. Then we are already defeated, because we have missed this whole principle of adaptability.”

iii] GOSPEL SHOES MAKE US EVANGELISTICALLY SUCCESSFUL.

There is a “readiness” which Paul refers to here that comes from the gospel of peace. Nothing equips a man to help other people like that gospel. Your own heart is at peace because you know that you are right with God. In William Gurnall’s The Christian in Complete Armour he says, “It wouldn’t help a condemned man on the road to execution if you put a fragrant rose in his hand and advised him to smell the flower and feel better about everything. He would still see the gallows just ahead. But if a messenger from the Prince should press a pardon into his hand he would be overcome with joy. That is the only thing that could change the man’s heart. Anything short of pardoning mercy is as insignificant to a troubled conscience as that flower would be in a dying man’s hands.” We have from the King of kings the offer of pardon to dying rebel sinners.

Receiving that pardon is the foundation of our peace, in other words, knowing that all is well between us and God. Only then is the church ready to be the light of this dark world. Let me give you a picture of the Western World in all its restlessness today. It is here in the Bible and it is quite remarkable in its designation of the modern mind. If you are in rebellion against God, says the Bible, “The LORD will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart. You will live in constant suspense, filled with dread both night and day, never sure of your life. In the morning you will say, ‘If only it were evening!’ and in the evening, ‘If only it were morning!’ – because of the terror that will fill your hearts and the sights that your eyes will see” (Deuteronomy 28:65-67). I am to die, and I am filled with despair. Don’t those words describe the men and women of our own town? Inner turmoil as a symptom of being at odds with God? “There is no peace,’ says the LORD, ‘for the wicked” (Isaiah 48:22).

But “our feet are fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” You are ready for action. You are standing on this great objective reality that it is well with your soul and God. Peace with God is crucial to inner peace. I say to you that if a man is torn up inside by guilt feelings, God’s pardon alone can bring him peace. If you’re full of anxiety and despair about the future, I say that God’s strength alone can give you energy to go on. Lack of peace with God is a dangerous state to be in; it can sometimes move you to do things that are self-destructive or harmful to others. Something inside us tells us that if something is wrong, somebody’s got to pay for it – so we either put ourselves through needless suffering or we make other people suffer by being cruel to them. But once you know that Jesus has suffered for you and paid the price to give you peace with God, then you can have this inner peace. It passes all understanding. Guilt is replaced with assurance, anger with compassion, fear with courage, despair with confidence.

When God makes a peace treaty with you and you feel his peace in your heart, you become a soldier for God. Satan loses his ability to intimidate you. Satan will attack your heart, but you keep working for your master. You fall into various sins, but you confess them to God each day and you keep working for the Lord. If your feet are fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace, your inner peace will help motivate to keep working for him.

There is a great exhortation of Peter in his first letter about this readiness to speak the gospel of peace. What are the methods he suggests? Is there some surefire, copper-bottomed, guaranteed way of witnessing so that whenever I speak people become Christians? No there is none of that, but he mentions essentials that we dare not ignore. “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,” (I Pet. 3:15&16). What does he say? Five things:

Firstly, to make sure that in our hearts Christ is set apart as Lord. Our religion isn’t one interest among many to be picked up and laid down as the mood takes us. We don’t embrace Christ for a time, just while on our way to something else which is more important to us. Christ is set apart to a special place in our life and that special place is his Lordship over us. He is Lord of every part of our beings, our time, our desires and ambitions, our possessions, our relationships, our enthusiams and pleasures. Christ is total and absolute Lord of our lives, and if we find something coming in and taking over and easing him off the throne of our hearts then we hear all sorts of alarm bells ringing. We will never be effective in spreading the gospel unless Jesus Christ is set apart in our lives as our Lord. There is that earlier incident in the life of Peter himself that he might have been reflecting on here, when God gave Peter a vision of a sheet coming down from heaven with all kinds of animals on it, and God said to him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” And Peter’s response was “Surely not, Lord!” (Acts 10:14). “No . . . Lord!” You surely see the impossibility of that attitude. If he is your Lord then it must always be, “Yes.” Either the lordship is going to end the disobedience or the disobedience will end the lordship. Peter eventually does what his Lord says and then he is able to go to the house of Cornelius and preach the gospel to the Gentiles. Christ must be set apart as supreme Lord of your life for any success in evangelism.

Secondly, Peter says to be always ready to answer our questioners. We may be ready to answer when we have attended a particularly helpful meeting. We may be ready to give a reason for our faith the week after we have attended a weekend course in how to witness, but when we are lying on the floor of despondency, overwhelmed by our sense of failure, conscious of how poor we are as believers, that we have served God so unprofitably, then when the questioner says, “Don’t you go to church? Why do you go?” Then are we ready? Is the gospel true on a wet February Monday? Is there peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ when our hearts are as cold as refrigerators? We have to be always ready because we don’t know when a question about our faith is going to be asked. We can’t tell when the conversation is going to move around to faith and church and Christianity, and we cannot dictate that it has to be at our best times and on our terms, and so we have to prepared always. Our feet must always be fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.

Keep the standard flying. Keep smiling. No matter the hostility of the audience, and no matter the overwhelming sense of your own unfitness and incompetence, no matter the constant lack of success, be ready to speak, at whatever level you are witnessing, whether in the pulpit or on the road, or in your place of work. Hold the faith fast and be ready to speak.

Thirdly, Peter says, with gentleness. Amazing! Here is a soldier in all his armour and with his sword in his hand, but he is not like other soldiers, he is gentle. Why does Peter say this? He is reminding us of the personalness of the testimony. Always remember it is a human being you are speaking to; always consider his worth and his dignity. Always remind yourself that though this man is not a Christian that does not give you the right to speak to him from a position of conscious assured superiority. You know only too well that he may be a human being in the depths of degradation – it may be that – but you know that there but for the grace of God go you. Your attitude to men and women is that you esteem them better than yourself.

It seems to me exceedingly important – even psychologically – that those to whom we are speaking have the true impression that they are very important to us, that they matter to us, and our regard for them is very high. We are not approaching them with any presumption, far less with any consciousness of our superiority, but we approach them with gentleness, not sectarian pride or intellectual arrogance, but meekness, considering our own weakness and unworthiness.

Stuart Holden was in Egypt and met a sergeant in a Highland regiment. “How were you brought to Christ?” he asked this bright Christian. “There was a private in the same company as myself who had been converted in Malta , and I gave him a terrible time. I remember one night in particular when it was very rainy and he came in wet and weary from sentry duty. Yet, as usual, he still got down on his knees before going to bed. My boots were covered in mud and I threw them both at him and hit him twice on the head. He kept kneeling and praying. The next morning when I woke up I found my boots beautifully cleaned and polished at my bedside. This was his reply to me and it broke my heart. That day I was brought to repentance.” What if he had got angry, and thrown the boots back, or reported him? “Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city” (Provs. 16:32). The City of Man is always besieged and taken by gentleness.

Fourthly, Peter says, with respect, or literally with ‘fear’ or awe. I don’t think that it means that we witness with a fear of those to whom we speak – it’s not the fear of cowardice, or the fear on a human level of the person to whom we are testifying. It is the fear of which Paul speaks about on other occasions when he says, for example to the church in Corinth , “I was among you in weakness and fear and much trembling.” Now Paul wasn’t frightened of the people of Corinth one little bit, so where did the fear come from? He was overwhelmed by the greatness of his responsibility, that knowing the momentousness of the issues it should be up to him to bear witness to a living soul. Our hearers will live for ever in either heaven or hell and this may be the only chance they have of hearing of Jesus Christ. How solemn and fearful that is, and how great the issues. Or again, knowing the glory of these truths and the marvel of this salvation that his lips should be permitted and obliged to declare the truth – extraordinary! Sometimes we think that being afraid to talk about Christ to someone actually disqualifies us from doing so. Why in the world should it? Isn’t it essential and oddly powerful when speaking to another person not to be slick, and glib, and not to present him with some formulae we’ve memorized, but rather to share with him something very important to us that we find so difficult to speak about? Isn’t a stammering tongue, a downcast eye, a blush and sense of embarrassment mighty in speaking of your faith to another?

Fifthly, Peter says, you keep a clear conscience. If you are a hypocrite, witnessing from under layers of fresh guilt and failure, then you are not going to speak with any conviction about the saving and keeping power of the Lord Jesus. You confess your sins to God; you put things right with the people you have offended.

Peter tells us this is the way to readiness and evangelistic success. It is very disappointing isn’t it? No ‘three laws’ or ‘four methods’ or a course of study and a meal in which to win people for Christ. Rather, gentleness, fear, a clear conscience and Christ as the Lord of our hearts. This is the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. How very searching, that these are the means God blesses to present the gospel of peace to others. This is how the kingdom of God advances.

29th January 2006 GEOFF THOMAS