The Expository Files.

Sanctify Christ as Lord in Your Hearts

1 Peter 3:14-16

Jesus isn't very pushy when it comes to His relationship with His disciples. Oh, He is very interested in a deep relationship, but He realizes it takes two so you will not find Him forcing the door of your heart open, wedging His foot between the door and the frame the way a pushy salesman would and trying to push His way in.

Instead, you will hear Him knock and wait for you to open. He will invite and encourage. He will seek for your permission to "come in." But He will not enter without your invitation. And once in, He will not stay if you want Him to leave. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me." (REVELATION 3:20).

The heart of the faithful disciple is a dwelling of God. It is to be a sacred place. Jesus enters our hearts as an invited guest, but more than that, as our king and Lord. If we refuse to allow Him to sit down on the throne of our heart, then He will not consent to be our guest. Many try to limit Him to being their guest, sort of like a Sunday visitor you would have over for dinner. Come Monday, He's expected to leave until next Sunday.

It cannot be this way! The text for this article is found in I PETER 3:15; "...but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone that asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence..."

"But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts..." (I PETER 3:15). There is a textual variation here with which to contend. Some of the Greek manuscripts say, "Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts" while others say, "Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts." The question is which of these is an accurate rendering of the original  document. Fortunately, there is no doctrinal problem created by either rendering; both are true; and either both happen together or neither does. You cannot sanctify God in your heart apart from His Son.

I believe that "Christ" is probably the correct rendering. One reason is contextual; the next verse continues the thought by talking of our "good behavior in Christ." Also, this is Peter's writing, the very one who first announced that God the Father had made His Son Jesus "both Lord and Christ" (ACTS 3:36).

What does it mean to "sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts"? To "sanctify" means to "hallow" or to "make holy." The point is to make Jesus at home in your heart. Put Him on the throne. Give Him honor and glory. Love and obey Him. Allow nothing to crowd Him from the throne. Jesus said, "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon." (MATTHEW 6:24).

Do not hesitate to give Jesus such a command over your life. He deserves it. He will not lead you the wrong way. Too many try to serve two masters; they invite Jesus to sit on one throne and materialism to sit on the other. Problem is; there is only one throne. There are not two. Jesus said it was simply impossible to serve both, so do not try. Instead, sanctify Christ as Lord in your heart!

Note something else here; this is a command! Sanctification is not something God does for us in spite of ourselves. This is not something the Holy Spirit irresistibly does to us apart from our own intentions. It is not an accident. It is an act of our own wills. We make the decision to "sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts" or not.

"But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled." (I PETER 3:14).  Sometimes, sanctifying Jesus in our hearts will result in our suffering for the sake of righteousness. Because Jesus is sanctified in our hearts, we act and speak righteously. Our words and deeds exalt Him. Sin is cast down in practice as well as in word. Satan reacts through those that serve him in the world in the attempt to get Jesus out of the heart. He will try to intimidate you into compromising your faith, or at least to neglect it. The Lord tells us not to be afraid, for even in the midst of suffering for righteousness, the man or woman of God is blessed abundantly. Our Lord provides much more for us than the world provides for its own. Be a light, and realize that a light shines the brightest during the darkest hour (cf. MATTHEW 5:10-16).

"...always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you..." (I PETER 3:15). Why? Why would two  prisoners, fastened in stocks in a dungeon, spend the evening away singing songs of praise (ACTS 16:25)? It is because of "the hope that is in (them)." When asked why you can be so positive in such trying times, with Christ sanctified as Lord in your heart, you will have prepared yourself to give a good answer.

One does not automatically become prepared to give these kinds of answers. We do not receive these answers by direct inspiration. If we did, we would not need to be concerned about making ourselves ready. In fact, tragically, many are not concerned about it who ought to be! Members of the church sometimes become slothful when it comes to making themselves mentally, emotionally and spiritually equipped for life's trials with a reasonable faith. When pressed, their defense is weak because their efforts have been weak, and their questioners are allowed to think that they have proven that faith is worthless.

"...yet with gentleness and reverence." (I PETER 3:15b). These are two characteristics that ought to accompany our answers as well as our lives. "Gentleness" means meekness or mildness. Truth is not determined by who shouts the loudest, or by who is the most overbearing or insulting. While our answers need to be confident, they should not be cocky.

The second characteristic is "reverence." This means to have a proper respect for the topic at hand; "the reason for the hope" within us. We are talking about the holy things of God to those who may not share our reverence for Him. Though they might mock and ridicule, we are serious. Though they might seek to lower the dignity of the conversation, we seek to maintain it. Those who may be listening for a message of hope in a dark world need to know that a serious answer is being offered.

"...and keep a good conscience..." (I PETER 3:16a). What is necessary in order to "keep a good conscience"? One must be trying to do his or her best. He or she must be sincere in the things said, living what is taught. Be able to hold your head up and look people squarely in the eye and proclaim that your faith is valid and be able to tell them why. If you are seeking to live honorably and righteously, then with a clear conscience you will be able to make your defense of the gospel. But if one is lethargic, hypocritical, uncommitted and/or without dedication, then it will show.

" that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame." (I PETER 3:16b). Christians will sometime receive the brunt of the harshest of criticism and be treated unfairly. The best answer to these false accusations is to have been living a godly life. Your honesty and good will is known by others. Your love for God and your fellow man has been obvious. Your dedication to principles of righteousness has been evident to all. You have openly made known your faith by both your words and actions. In truth, you have sanctified Christ as Lord in your heart.

By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 1.12; December, 1994