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Pastoral 2012

Sanctify The Lord God In Your Hearts

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The Apostle Peter in his first epistle exhorts all Christians, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts” (1 Peter 3:15). Christians are urged to render their full devotion to the Lord. The word “sanctify” (in Greek, hagiazo) depicts the act of separating from all profane things and dedicating solely to God. Not to wholly dedicate to the Lord can mean desecrating the holiness of the Lord who indwells His children.

Only a whole-hearted dedication befits the Lord. A half-hearted devotion would mean one is trying to have two masters, the Lord and the Devil, or the Lord and the world. Jesus already declared that it shall never be possible to serve two masters. “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24).

It is absolutely incongruous that one should receive the Lord Jesus Christ into his heart and then continually yield to sin and falsehood. It is never possible to hallow the name of the Lord in a heart that lie desecrated with sin. The Lord will not claim ownership of a heart that has no desire to keep it sanctified for Him. A habitually sinning heart is not ruled by the Lord. The Apostle John does not mince his words in warning those who continue in their sin. He wrote, “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother” (1 John 3:4-10).

The following two pieces of advice derived from Peter’s exhortation should not be neglected so that we may sanctify our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in our hearts.

Avoid alliance with the ungodly or their falsehood

The immediate context of Peter’s command to “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts”, i.e. the last part of verse 14 and first part of verse 15, has allusions to Isaiah 8:12- 13. Peter wrote: “and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts” (1 Peter 3:14c-15a). In Isaiah 8:12-13, we read, “Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid. Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.” The setting of Isaiah 8 is significant to the understanding of the implications of Peter’s allusion. Ahaz, king of Judah, faced a crisis in the impending invasion by the Assyrian army. The kings of Israel and Syria wanted Ahaz to join their alliance to fight against the Assyrians, but Ahaz refused. Behind the scene, Ahaz made a treaty with Assyria. But Isaiah the prophet warned Ahaz against his ungodly alliance. He told Ahaz neither to fear the ungodly alliance of Israel and Syria nor the invading Assyrian army, and also not to form a confederation with any of them. Instead, Ahaz would have to fear the Lord and stay by Him for help and protection.

Fight off fear that assails your heart

A Christian should not be given into fear of the world’s hostility. In times of opposition, he must fear God rather than those who oppose him. Fearing the Lord more than anything else will help a believer tremendously to face opposition with courage.

That is why Peter said in the beginning of verse 15, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts.” This is similar to Isaiah’s words, “Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself.” This is a call to magnify or exalt God over all other things. The believer who sanctifies the Lord in his heart exalts Him as the object of his fear, love and service. Such a believer will be able to submit himself gladly to the Lord’s will. Submission to God’s glory and will channels courage and boldness into the heart of a believer who is faced with hostility.

Peter himself, being terrorized by fear, had once denied the Lord. Soon after denying the Lord, his heart was filled with sorrow and deep contrition at his failure but he eventually repented. So now he says, “If ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled” (1 Peter 3:14).

On that never-to-be-forgotten occasion, Peter had been afraid of the “terror” of the wicked. In Pilate’s palace, the fear of man brought him a snare. But in our text, he announces the divine remedy for deliverance from the fear of man that defiles our hearts.

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts.” In the light of its setting, this means, first of all, to let the awe of the lordship of Christ possess your hearts. Dwell constantly on the fact that Christ is Lord. Because He is Lord, all power in heaven and earth is His; therefore He is the Master of every situation, sufficient for every emergency, able to supply every need. When a Christian trembles in the presence of his enemies, it is because he doubts or has lost sight of the faithfulness and power of Christ.

You may be intimidated by the scorn and distancing of your worldly friends. You may be threatened with ostracism by unbelieving family members, friends, employers or those in authority. The thought of losing their help may leave you with a sense of fear about the future. So Peter exhorts us, “If ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled” (1 Peter 3:14). Peter also says, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts.” The motive for obeying this precept should not be our own peace and comfort, but His honour and glory. To guard against the threats of man, the saint is to cultivate the fear of the Lord, that Christ may be magnified. The Lord Jesus is glorified when His persecuted people preserve a calm demeanour and an immovable fortitude in the face of all opposition. But this is possible only when our hearts are occupied with Him, and particularly with His lordship.

 

Pastoral Exhortation